Over the past few days, there's been some worried rumblings on this site and the internet in general about the Buffalo Sabres three-game winning streak. Things like "they're ruining the tank" and "Goodbye McDavid" have popped up now that the team is merely tied for last place with Edmonton and Columbus and have seen their six-point cushion disappear.
However, I'm here today to try and convince you that this team is indeed the worst in the NHL, and that Sabres fans rooting for the tank shouldn't have too much to worry about.
Let's begin with the team's recent three-game winning streak. The Sabres earned impressive wins against San Jose, Washington, and Toronto, outscoring their opponents by a combined 12-4. But despite the considerable score differential, in those three games Buffalo was still outshot by a 108-75 margin. In fact, the Sabres are once again getting outshot at a league-worst rate this season, and it's not even close.
If you're a believer in possession stats like Corsi, the Sabres sit in dead last in the league at about 37%, a full seven points behind the 29th place team. To put that in perspective, there's also a seven point Corsi difference between the 2nd place and 27th place teams. Here's a chart from the folks at War On Ice that shows both this year's Corsi and goal differential to give you a visual.
The Sabres from last year are all the way at the bottom of the chart thanks to their league worst goal differential, and their Corsi was also worst in the league last year, which is why they're the furthest 2013-14 team to the left. Edmonton, Columbus, and Carolina of this year are wedged somewhere in the middle, because their Corsi numbers aren't historically awful. But where are the Sabres of this year? They're the unnamed 2014-15 team alllllll the way on the left-hand side of the chart, so far off the rest of the league's Corsi pace that they didn't even get their name included.
That's right folks, the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres are literally off the charts bad.
But if you refuse to believe the Corsi talk, maybe you'd like to talk luck. There's a statistic in hockey called PDO, named after the user who created it on an old Edmonton message board, and it's used to measure how far away a team is, for good or bad, from the league average in terms of shooting percentage and save percentage. The most average team in the league will be at 1.000, while the best teams will be a bit above and worst a bit below.
Big spikes in PDO - a team or player being really lucky/unlucky when it comes to either save or shot percentage - will always regress back toward the mean, even for the best and worst teams. Check out the Sabres PDO chart for this season, again from War On Ice.
See that gigantic spike at the end? That's called regression to the mean, and it means that even the worst teams will have their good stretches over the course of 82 games. Over the next few games, expect that line to regress again, this time back toward the poor play we've come to see from what is still the worst team in the NHL.
If advanced stats aren't your thing, let's take a look at a few small points from the past few days:
- Even after this winning streak, the Sabres goal differential is still the worst in the league. Remember the three games before this winning streak , when they gave up 18 combined goals and looked awful? That'll happen again.
- Tyson Strachan led the Sabres in ice time against Washington and has played well filling in for the injured Josh Gorges. What's more likely, a career borderline AHL/NHL player figuring it all out at age 30, or a guy with minimal NHL talent having a good stretch of games?
- For some reason, the Sabres always beat the Sharks. If they played San Jose every night, Buffalo would win the President's Trophy. Too bad they have to play the other 28 teams instead.
Look, if you're afraid the tank is failing and want to take the typical Buffalo sports mentality assuming that we'll never get anything nice #becauseitsbuffalo, then there's nothing I can do to stop you. If you want to enjoy the wins and root for a run to the playoffs, that's fine too - it's your right as a fan. But hopefully by watching the games this season (which have so often been brutal) and considering a few of these points, you'll see that the Sabres are still right on track to finish last and guarantee themselves one of the two superstar prospects coming out this year.
There's a long way to go until this thing is all said and done. Don't let a stretch of good play ruin your day - enjoy those games when you get them, because, as we've seen over the past six games, it can change fast.