Last year's Montreal Canadiens team finished in 15th place in the East - dead last. This year's Canadiens team is currently sitting in first place - an amazing turnaround.
The Sabres are sitting in 14th place at the moment, and many fans have hoped that they can turn things around next season much like Montreal did this year. But if we dive in a little deeper, can that hope really turn in to reality? Let's examine a few reasons why the Canadiens were able to turn things around, and compare them to Buffalo's current situation.
New GM, New Coach
Marc Bergevin replaced Pierre Gauthier as Montreal's GM, and he hired Michael Therrien to replace Randy Cunneyworth as head coach. Their results speak for themselves.
On the Sabres side of things, they've already gotten rid of Lindy Ruff, and I think it's highly unlikely that Ron Rolston will stick around past this season. GM Darcy Regier is still here, but he's on the hot seat, and his fate may be determined by the trade deadline and how the team finishes.
Sneaky Good Penalty Kill and Goals Against Numbers Last Season
In 2012, the Habs ranked 2nd on the PK and 11th in goals against, showing that they had a defense better than the last place team should. They've gotten a boost this year offensively from some returning players and new additions, and that still-strong defense has carried them through a mediocre Carey Price season to the top of the East.
The Sabres currently rank 20th on the PK and 25th in goals against, and though things have improved slightly under Ron Rolston, those are pretty putrid numbers. They also happen to be as bad this year as Montreal was last year at scoring goals, but even with more offense next season, that type of defense won't do them any favors.
The Return Of Andrei Markov
Markov is a great defenseman, when he's healthy. Unfortunately, he's only been able to play 65 games in the past three seasons for the Habs. This season, he's returned with a vengeance, scoring 18 points along with playing strong defense, and sparking PK Subban in the process.
For the Sabres, they're depending on Tyler Myers to live up to his big contract and Calder hype in order to turn things around next year. When Myers is on his game, which admittedly hasn't happened much over the past few seasons, he's a fantastic two-way defender, and could act as a sparkplug for Christian Ehrhoff. He needs to recapture that magic if the Sabres expect to succeed next season.
Drafted Alex Galchenyuk
The Canadiens landed the #3 overall pick in last year's draft thanks to their abysmal record, and drafted big center Alex Galchenyuk, who has made a modest debut with 13 points.
The Sabres landed their own highly touted rookie last season in Mikhail Grigorenko, and look to be in line for a very high pick in the upcoming draft.
Added Armstrong, Prust For Additional Grit
The Canadiens were a pretty small team last season, and added some much needed sandpaper in the offseason in the forms of wingers Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust.
The Sabres added their own sandpaper last offseason in the form of Steve Ott and John Scott. Big John has been an extremely marginal player for the team, but Ott should contribute nicely on the third line for the next few years.
Bought Out Scott Gomez
Gomez, the most overpaid player in the league, was addition by subtraction.
Ville Leino is still the #1 candidate for the Sabres amnesty buyout.
So what do you think, Sabres fans? Can this team pull the same turnaround Montreal did? Or is the talent level/production just not high enough?