Here we are, twenty games into what has been a rollercoaster of a season so far for the Buffalo Sabres. As was the case last season, the 2019-2020 club has put together strings of games that had fans both elated and disappointed. With their current downward trajectory, it can be tough to keep a level head when talking about what lies ahead for the team. Luckily, through the use of my projection model GROSEK, we can clarify exactly where each team stands.
In case you missed it, I first wrote about GROSEK here. The pre-season projections were a little wacky with a few teams, but for the most part the initial projections remain pretty intact. Some much needed clarity has come about in the first quarter of the season, and we now have a more reasonable picture of the divison and playoff outlooks.
So where do the Sabres stand? Which hot teams will fall off, and, who will bounce back from their slow start? Let’s take a look:
BOLD - Divisonal Playoff Team
Italics - Wildcard Team
[Current division standings in brackets]
- Edmonton Oilers, 107 pts. (Floor 98 - Ceiling 115) 
- Arizona Coyotes, 103 pts. (Floor 97 - Ceiling 109) 
- Vegas Golden Knights, 97 pts. (Floor 89 - Ceiling 103) 
- Vancouver Canucks, 94 pts. (Floor 86 - Ceiling 103) 
- San Jose Sharks, 91 pts. (Floor 80 - Ceiling 99) 
- Calgary Flames, 89 pts. (Floor 80 - Ceiling 94) 
- Anaheim Ducks, 83 pts. (Floor 69 - Ceiling 92) 
- Los Angeles Kings, 78 pts. (Floor 75 - Ceiling 84) 
Hot starts by the Oilers and Coyotes looks to have propelled them into sure-fire playoff positions atop the division. The Sharks, if they can put it together after a slow start, have enough of a ceiling still to make a run up the division ladder to challenge for a playoff spot.
- St. Louis Blues, 108 pts. (Floor 99 - Ceiling 118) 
- Colorado Avalanche, 98 pts. (Floor 88 - Ceiling 105) 
- Dallas Stars, 97 pts. (Floor 77 - Ceiling 129) 
- Winnipeg Jets, 93 pts. (Floor 79 - Ceiling 101) 
- Nashville Predators, 87 pts. (Floor 78 - Ceiling 96) 
- Chicago Blackhawks, 84 pts. (Floor 78 - Ceiling 90) 
- Minnesota Wild, 73 pts. (Floor 69 - Ceiling 76) 
The Blues appear to have a steady hold on the division, as the Avalanche look to get healthy before being able to push for the top spot. There are some wildly erratic teams in the middle of this division, led by the Dallas Stars. Right now, they have the best ceiling, but whichever teams can get the hot goaltending will likely play themselves into playoff contention.
- Boston Bruins, 121 pts. (Floor 108 - Ceiling 133) 
- Montreal Canadiens, 102 pts. (Floor 90 - Ceiling 110) 
- Florida Panthers, 94 pts. (Floor 80 - Ceiling 104) 
- Tampa Bay Lightning, 94 pts. (Floor 86 - Ceiling 101) 
- Buffalo Sabres, 89 pts. (Floor 83 - Ceiling 94) 
- Toronto Maple Leafs, 88 pts. (Floor 65 - Ceiling 103) 
- Detroit Red Wings, 67 pts. (Floor 57 - Ceiling 72) 
- Ottawa Senators, 64 pts. (Floor 60 - Ceiling 68) 
Don’t look, Leafs fans. A sixth-place division finish would be a major disappointment in Toronto. They do carry a major risk factor, which means there’s plenty of room for improvement amongst the team. It also means there is plenty of room to continue to unravel as well. Meanwhile, the Bruins should continue to dominate the division, the Lightning should ride their talented roster back into a playoff spot, and the Red Wings and Senators will battle for the top lottery spot. As for the Sabres, their fast start will probably help them surpass intial projections. However, unless they shop around for impact roster players, it is likely to be another season without meaningful hockey in April.
- Washington Capitals, 122 pts. (Floor 114 - Ceiling 132) 
- New York Islanders, 105 pts. (Floor 101 - Ceiling 111) 
- Carolina Hurricanes, 96 pts. (Floor 92 - Ceiling 99) 
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 94 pts. (Floor 87 - Ceiling 101) 
- Philadelphia Flyers, 92 pts. (Floor 84 - Ceiling 102) 
- Columbus Blue Jackets, 80 pts. (Floor 77 - Ceiling 83) 
- New Jersey Devils, 78 pts. (Floor 68 - Ceiling 87) 
- New York Rangers, 72 pts. (Floor 60 - Ceiling 79) 
There are no real surprises here. The disparity between third and fifth in this division will probably be minimal, with the Hurricanes, Penguins, and Flyers all expected to be tightly matched. The deciding factor between who’s in and who’s out may come down to how well these teams can withstand injury.