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Midseason in Review

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Let’s take some time during the bye week to review the season at this point

NHL: Winter Classic-Buffalo Sabres vs New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Remember how we started the last review piece? What a strange trip it has been, indeed.

Spoiler alert: the Buffalo Sabres are not a good hockey team. Sorry if that ruined the season for you.

Whatever was expected of the Sabres clearly has not come to fruition. With this league-mandated five-day break, there is no time like the present to take a look into the past to reminisce about the failure of the 2017-18 hockey season.

We can at least start you off with the best news of the season so far.

Jack Eichel continues to develop into a star, which is fantastic for Buffalo. Recently named to his first NHL All-Star Game, Eichel leads the Sabres with 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 44 games. He is currently on pace to set a career-high in points, goals and assists.

More good news - Evander Kane has not only remained healthy, but he continues to score at a very high clip. Kane has quickly become the top offensive target with the trade deadline rapidly approaching. In 44 games, Kane has tallied 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists). If he were to remain with the franchise, it is likely Kane would end up with the best offensive numbers (games played, goals, assists and points) of the three seasons he has spent with the franchise.

We can keep piling on the good news here, if you would like. Remember the missing Kyle Okposo? It appears he was found and he is back in a big way.

Okposo started the season off with only two points in ten October games. It took him 11 games to score his first goal of the season. Not a good look. Granted, Okposo was returning from a very serious illness that ended his last season early. Since November, Okposo has scored 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) in 32 games. That production is more like the Okposo that Buffalo raced to sign two offseasons ago.

We now transition over to the “good, but...” news. Remember the talk just a few paragraphs ago about how good at scoring goals Eichel and Kane have been this season? Let’s toss Ryan O’Reilly into that conversation real quick.

If you take Eichel’s 18 goals, add Kane’s 16 goals and mix in O’Reilly’s 11 goals, you’ll have 45 goals. That’s great news! As a team, the Sabres have combined for 99 goals. Yuck. Therefore, the three aforementioned players have combined for almost 46-percent of Buffalo’s total goals this season. For a team that has been begging for secondary scoring, that is not a good development. This tells us that the stars have been doing work on their own, but have received little-to-no extra help.

Now, we transition like a rapidly approaching cold front to the bad news.

Jason Pominville, who once appeared as if he would score approximately all the goals ever, has understandably cooled off. Pominville finished October off shooting 23.1-percent. That statistic has since dropped to a career-average 10.2-percent. To put a hard number on that, Pominville has scored just once in his last 15 games.

Speaking of struggling, Sam Reinhart is having a whale of a time shuffling around the Sabres line up this season. Reinhart is on-pace to have the worst full season of his young NHL career. There is still time for him to turn things around but 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in 44 games is not inspiring a ton of confidence after a 47-point (17 goals, 30 assists) campaign last season.

On the injury front, news is not good either. For most of the season, the regular wear-and-tear of a hockey season was doing the Sabres well. No real big injuries until Zach Bogosian goes down with a knee injury in practice on Wednesday. Despite some arguments that Bogosian is not the best defenseman, his presence still makes the Sabres’ top-six better when he is on the ice. With Bogosian now down for the next four-to-six weeks, someone needs to step up and fill the gap.

Down on the farm, it is the usual suspects. We saw a little of Brendan Guhle and Linus Ullmark this past week in Buffalo. They’re so much fun to watch - keep your eyes on them in Rochester. CJ Smith is still playing out of his mind - currently sitting at 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 39 games. Sahir Gill has also been a revelation with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 39 games.

On the other end of things, there have unfortunately been some prospects who have scuffled. Nicholas Baptiste has seven goals in 32 games. Alexander Nylander has two goals in 17 games. Justin Bailey has been out of the lineup with injuries and has only played in seven games.

Speaking of the AHL, remember Matt Moulson? Yeah, that guy! He currently has 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 16 AHL games. Maybe someone will find themselves interested in his services this trade deadline? *rubs crystal ball*

Rochester (23-9-4-3, 53 points) finds themselves in second place in the North Division, only three points behind the division-leading Toronto Marlies. With Rochester maintaining a 14-point lead over fifth-place, the first North Division team to not make the playoffs, things are looking very good for the Americans.

Buffalo (11-24-9, 31 points) sit dead-last in the Eastern Conference with a very uninspiring 99 goals in 44 games. The only team in the National Hockey League that is worse than Buffalo is the Arizona Coyotes. Good company, for sure.

What are your thoughts on Buffalo’s season so far?


Halfway through, the Sabres season has been..

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