There’s no other way to put it: the Buffalo Sabres are driving the struggle bus this season, yet again. Fans are frustrated, players are frustrated. It’s not easy for anyone involved.
With the holiday season upon us, what does this team need?
Here's my "wish list" for the Buffalo Sabres this holiday season:
1. Some goals, please.
The Sabres need some offense, and they need it badly. They've been shutout four times this season, dating back to November 25. Safe to say it's been a rough few weeks.
Heading into Saturday, Evander Kane leads the Sabres with 33 points (15-18) in 35 games this season, but one or two players can't carry an entire team. Jack Eichel has 30 points (13-17) this season, including his recent four-point performance.
But again, one or two players does not a team make. It's also a matter of consistency, where some players show up some nights, and other nights, it's as if they're invisible. It's not just about scoring, though. It's also about getting quality chances and limiting the other team's chances. If you need an example of just where the Sabres failed at this, look at the 3-0 loss to Boston on December 19.
2. Success on the road.
As of December 20, the Sabres were 4-9-5 on the road this season. Of course, it's not like they're doing much better at home (4-10-2), but with a heavy road schedule coming due to the World Juniors, Buffalo needs to find ways to win on the road.
Starting with Saturday’s game in Raleigh, the Sabres will play seven straight away from KeyBank Center, not returning to home ice until January 9. That set of games includes opponents such as Carolina, New Jersey, Minnesota and Winnipeg, and of course, the Winter Classic against the Rangers.
(Noting, of course, that the Sabres are technically the home team in the Winter Classic - they'll still be away from their usual home ice and facing a Citi Field that should be filled with Rangers fans, so the atmosphere will be of a road game.)
3. More division wins.
Through 34 games this season, the Sabres have faced Atlantic Division rivals ten times. They've won just three of those games.
At this point, it's probably not realistic to think about the playoffs for Buffalo this year, but division games are critical for those standings. One point here, another point there, especially in a game against a division rival, can mean the difference between playing into June and packing up in April.
This is one place where the Sabres need to get better and compete harder every night, particularly in those games against teams like Florida, Montreal, Detroit and Ottawa.
Their next division game isn't until February 1 against the Panthers, but they'll face other Atlantic Division teams a lot toward the end of the season, including eight of the last ten games.
4. Maybe a trade... or two.... or three....
Something's gotta give for the Sabres, and it seems like that at least one or two trades will eventually come. Shaking up the roster like that is sometimes the easiest way to change things, and although one or two players coming or going won't fix everything for Buffalo, a key trade or two with good pieces coming back could make a huge difference in the future.
Trades are probably inevitable, especially for such a struggling team. And maybe some fans out there will call for a coaching regime - I'm not sure if that's the right answer - but I wouldn't mind seeing the Sabres shed some of their pieces in exchange for the right return.
5. A winning streak.
Obviously the team is struggling at large this season, but it would be nice to see them rack up two consecutive wins, something they've done just once this season (October 21 & 24 against Boston & Detroit).
Winning one game is good. Winning two games in a row is better. And winning three (or more) consecutively? Sabres fans might just jump for joy.
Stocking stuffers: A thirty-goal scorer (Kane came closest last year, with 28); consistent goaltending; and another hat trick (from Eichel, or literally anyone else on the team.)
Sabres fans - what are you wishing for from the team this holiday season?