Earlier today, NBC Sports announced their 2017-18 TV schedule, which “features” a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Columbus Blue Jackets as a part of their Wednesday Rivalry Night series. This was met with a collective, “Huh?” from the hockey community, as there isn’t much obvious beef between the two teams.
For years, Rivalry Night has had questionable matchups, but this might be the worst one from as Sabres perspective that I can remember. And that got me thinking, if we could make the absolute worst, makes-no-sense game for the Sabres on Rivalry Night, who would be the opponent?
Using a process of elimination, let’s go through the entire NHL to find the most pointless Rivalry Night game we can.
Teams that are actually rivals with the Sabres
The most obvious teams that would ruin our fake Rivalry Night by being actual rivals of the Sabres would include the Maple Leafs, the Senators, the Bruins, and the Canadiens. There are some other teams we could include here but but we’ll get to them later.
National teams that are natural rivals for anyone
Here we find the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings, Capitals, Kings, and Blackhawks. Whether it’s seeing them too often on national TV, hating your choice of Crosby/Kane/Ovechkin/Vesey/Drury/Briere/whoever, or hating on their smug fans (obviously we have no smug fans in this scenario) these are the teams that it just feels good to beat.
Oh, and New Jersey, because nobody likes New Jersey.
Teams with some kind of easy connection to Buffalo
I wouldn’t call the Sabres and Jets rivals, but there’s some spice there from a big trade that took place a few years back. We can use the same logic to cross the Wild, Panthers, Islanders, and Avalanche off the list.
The Hurricanes get crossed off because of stupid Jay McKee’s staph infection, the Oilers are out because Eichel-McDavid will always exist, and I’m putting the Coyotes in here as well because of the Great Tank War of 2015.
Twenty teams down, 10 to go. Time to get creative.
Teams with the flimsiest possible connection to Buffalo
Here we find Buffalo’s actual Rival Night competition this year, the Blue Jackets, as Cam Atkinson and his lovely goal sealed the deal on the Tank. We can add Tampa Bay just for being in the same Division, St. Louis for the Miller trade, and San Jose because for some reason the Sabres always beat San Jose, so at least there’d be some heat from the Sharks fans.
Now let’s get even pettier by removing the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators simply for having too many good defensemen and refusing to trade any of them to Buffalo. Also, Nashville is heckin’ fun to watch, so they’re disqualified.
We’re getting close, but I have a strange feeling I’m forgetting something...
Oh, right. F*** Dallas.
The Final Three
Vegas Golden Knights - Hard to be rivals when you’ve never played each other. Then again, Will Carrier.
Vancouver Canucks - Miller played there, I guess, but other than that I can’t really think of anything here. Maybe you don’t like the Sedins?
Calgary Flames - Does Paul Byron and Chris Butler serve to drive a rivalry? I say no. I would rather scroll through the boring Sean Monahan Twitter account than watch actual Sean Monahan play the Sabres.
Who would make the worst opponent for the Sabres on Rivalry Night?
This poll is closed
Vegas Golden Knights
Other (explain in comments)