December 4th, early afternoon. The Buffalo Sabres announce that they have acquired Scott Wilson from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2019 5th rounder. It was the furthest thing from a blockbuster trade, but a trade that brought in a player with serious playoff experience.
A natural debate ensued, Sabres twitter continually argued over whether or not Wilson’s playoff experience was worth anything to a team facing disaster. The season continued on and the Sabres continued to stay in the basement of the league. Fans moved on (or should I say regressed?) and continued to argue about the tank instead. Conversations about Wilson faded out.
Due to the awful start the Sabres had, there has almost always been a near zero chance of making the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean that a trade can’t be recognized as a step in the right direction. While many in the Buffalo fan base continued to argue about other things, the Sabres quietly started to improve. Wilson himself also managed to halt a points per game trend that was headed in the wrong direction prior to him being traded. Although his PPG numbers are by no means phenomenal, it’s nice to see that Wilson may be in the midst of starting an individual turnaround:
The Sabres turnaround as a team is much more apparent:
Did acquiring Wilson spark a legendary run that will carry the Sabres to the Stanley Cup? No. Could the timing of that turnaround just be a coincidence? Maybe. But it’s hard to ignore. The Sabres were projected to hit 49 points to finish the season right before they acquired Wilson. Since, they have slowly climbed, with some blips here and there, to a projection of 63. Because 63 points is still an awful place to finish, many have overlooked the fact that the team has significantly improved since acquiring Wilson. In fact, if the Sabres are 10-12-6 (.93 ppg) since the Wilson trade, and were 6-17-4 (.59 ppg) before it.
Wilson has contributed seven points in 22 games since joining the Sabres. While that .32 point per game pace is a strong improvement for himself, it’s not enough to turn a team around the way the Sabres started climbing out of a nuclear bomb shelter to hang around in a regular basement instead.
Perhaps, Wilson has been able to make off ice contributions as well. Perhaps, his playoff experience and time with a successful organization in Pittsburgh has allowed him to make these contributions. Either way, the Sabres started to slowly turnaround since acquiring Wilson. At the very least, the trade can be called a success.
With the trade deadline looming, the success of this trade should provide confidence that the Sabres front office has the ability to acquire the right players for this organization and to continue to turn things around. That being said, it should be an interesting next two and a half weeks.