It was every Sabres fan's worst nightmare.
As expected, their team was bad - one of the worst in the league, in fact. Things were all coming together for the team to draft McEichel, and then all the pain, all the...suffering... would be worth it. But over the course of the season, it seemed like the Sabres kept winning games - close games that they would have lost the season before. Games that kept pushing them higher in the standings. Games that kept pushing them further from their ultimate goal.
The "problem" started in net. Jhonas Enroth grabbed the reins of the starter's job and turned in a season some thought he wasn't capable of. While his numbers didn't look amazing, he stole an incredible 10 shootout victories to earn the extra points that would ultimately doom his squad, and provided just enough in net for the team to squeak out a few more one-goal victories. Michal Neuvirth proved a capable backup, who finished with the best numbers for a Sabres backup goaltender since the days of Biron.
Enroth wasn't the only problem, though. A combination of new leadership in Brian Gionta, a resurgent season from Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart, and a few young guys who just didn't know any better helped lead the Sabres to late-season wins over Boston, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim. In a crucial April home-and-home with Ottawa, the Sabres swept the hapless Sens without even breaking a sweat.
They were starting to believe. But their belief was unbelievable, unthinkable for a fanbase that signed up for dreams of so much more. Looking back on it, the last few weeks of the season were nothing more than a blur. The shrill voice of Rick Jeanneret stung like Cactuar's 1000 needles every time he announced another Sabres win. The smiling face of Ted Nolan in postgame press conferences mocked the very fans he proclaimed to praise. Tim Murray, shrouded in shadow in the press box, was nowhere to be found as reporters and fans searched for answers in a season where winning moved the Sabres further from the promised land.
When the dust settled, and with Buffalo sitting 25 points higher than they did the previous year, we knew the bitter taste of failure. As we watched the Senators and Flames draft the two prospects Sabres fans coveted, we wondered how the powers above could be so cruel - the Sabres had finished with 77 points...and the third worst record in the league.
This dramatic interpretation of a video game simulation was brought to you by NHL 15's season sim, which I pray is excessively generous to certain bottom-dwelling teams.