There was a clear goal to last season, something the organization decided to do years ago. The team needed to get to the bottom. They needed to get either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. The whole season was about that, and it made the fanbase a bit toxic. You don't need me to tell you that. You lived it, you saw the in-fighting and how set people were in pro-tank or anti-tank ideals. The season was stressful. Leading the Blackhawks at the end of last season will forever be one of the most memorable Sabres games I've ever seen.
This year is different, and exactly how is already apparent. First of all, the team is fun. Buffalo got its guy, and fans get to enjoy lots of shiny new toys on the roster. But there's something else that's different too. There's no real goal to this season, which allows you to sit back and enjoy the show.
The first two games of the season weren't so pretty for the Sabres, despite Eichel's nice goal in his regular season debut. No one jumped to the tank conclusion, because Buffalo is clearly past that at this point. However, it's smart to understand that the team isn't set just yet. This year is about growing and meshing at a unit, which clearly will take time. The young players are learning, and the defense certainly isn't stellar. This clearly isn't Tim Murray's final product, but they'll still have games like last night, when they show you the talent that is on this roster.
For me, the Sabres are really in a no-lose situation. If they do well, that's great. The team is clicking with the players that will be the core going forward. Except in extreme cases like last year, it is always good when your team wins. If this team can get to the playoffs this season, they'll be ahead of schedule, and earn some awesome experience for the kids. Even just competing for a spot could really come in handy in the coming years.
However, if the Sabres struggle, that isn't the end of the world either. The team is incredibly young, the starting goalie is going to miss two months of the season and most of these players have never played with one another before. It will still be enjoyable to watch as this forward group shows glimpses of their future greatness, and - hear me out - would be good for their draft position this year.
We know the Sabres are lacking on the blueline, and could use a few more quality players in the pipeline. They likely aren't bad enough to get a player like Jacob Chychrun (who will likely go top three), but a player like Jake Bean, who will likely go in the second half of the top 10 would be a great addition to the team going forward. Right now the team has Rasmus Ristolainen and a group of likely second and third pairing defensemen. Brendan Guhle has been impressive early on, but it is important to get as many high-ceiling defensemen as possible if the Sabres want to be a real contender.
That all being said, the team doesn't need that to happen in order to be successful. I'm not rooting for the team to lose like I was last year. I'm along for the ride. Whatever happens, I'm confident Buffalo is moving in the right direction and the Sabres will be one of the top teams in the NHL for years to come. The 2015-16 is our time to enjoy the fun parts of hockey, because pretty soon we'll be stressing about this team in the postseason.