It has been ages since the Buffalo Sabres have fielded a competitive hockey team. If we are keeping track, the drought turned 10 seasons old when the final horn sounded last season.
For the most part, the song has remained the same. Players come and go, some talented and some not-so-talented.
Fans fall in love with a player, only to see him walk out the door via a trade or free agency.
Every offseason feels like the same old story. Hope and excitement ultimately lead to defeat and a painful let-down. A true rinse-lather-repeat kind of cycle.
This offseason has felt no different up to this point, with some glimmers of hope poking through the clouds.
If something even remotely moves the needle regarding the Buffalo Sabres, the storm of negativity quickly washes away any potential excitement.
An aforementioned glimmer of light broke through those dark clouds on July 5, when the Buffalo Sabres announced the hiring of Sam Ventura as the Vice President of Hockey Strategy and Research.
Ventura spent six seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, three seasons as a Director of Analytics and subsequently as the Directory of Hockey Operations and Hockey Research.
While Ventura’s hiring feels not like a step in the right direction, but a giant leap in the right direction.
Other glimmers of hope have come from the pre-Draft scouting process.
Buffalo holds the first overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Level Draft and has quite often been linked to the giant six-foot, six-inch defenseman from Canada, Owen Power.
While Power has all the skills and checks the boxes that Buffalo could potentially be looking for, another name has begun to pick up steam. A Swedish hockey player by the name of William Eklund.
Eklund is a budding offensive talent who is a very talented playmaker and just also happens to reportedly be Buffalo’s top-ranked forward on their draft board.
According to Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News, the Sabres are “very, very high” on Eklund.
Drafting a skilled offensive talent over a towering defenseman would certainly be a different direction for a Sabres franchise that has notably struggled to score goals.
Another slight glimmer of hope popped up when it was reported by John Vogl, of The Athletic, that the Buffalo Sabres had asked forward Jeff Skinner to waive his no-movement clause in anticipation of the upcoming Expansion Draft.
With Skinner agreeing to waive his no-movement clause, he is set to be unprotected in the upcoming Expansion Draft.
Is it likely that Skinner gets selected? No, but the request from the front office shows that they might just have the ability to think outside the box and allow themselves to protect an extra forward.
Despite the developments, fans in Buffalo continue find themselves incredibly jaded and rightfully so.
At the end of the day, this all boils down to one common theme.
The bar has been set so painfully low for success with the Buffalo Sabres. Most of this hypothetical bar being set low has been self-inflicted behavior by the franchise itself.
From hiring questionable front office employees to giving under-qualified coaches a golden opportunity at a National Hockey League job only to have them fall on their faces, the Sabres ownership has not done itself any favors.
Now, we find the Sabres in a position that no franchise wants to be in – having a disgruntled star that is looking to move out.
Many figured that Jack Eichel’s departure from Buffalo would ultimately be due in part to the franchise’s inability to field a winning franchise.
While the losing likely amplifies things, Eichel’s neck injury has been the story of the offseason and appears to have pushed the star to his limits.
When it comes to the Sabres, will they or won’t they allow Eichel to get the surgery that doctors have suggested? That remains the giant question, which has created a giant rift between the Sabres and Eichel.
Buffalo has played this tight to the vest up to this point, with next-to-no whispers getting out of KeyBank Center regarding the status of Eichel or the status of a potential trade.
The story has been played out ad nauseam at this point, which leaves little reason to rehash the drama here.
Either way, it seems certain that Eichel will not be in the Sabres starting lineup on opening night next season.
One might say that Buffalo is not at fault here but this ultimately remains another self-inflicted blow in a series of franchise self-harm.
Rumors abound have Eichel being traded all over the country for an arm, a leg and then some. The asking price is said to be high and rightfully so.
Buffalo has gone all-in with Kevyn Adams and allowed him to put his stamp on this Buffalo Sabres organization.
From the slow expansion of the analytics department to the inevitable trade of franchise star Jack Eichel to the drafting of a number one overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Level Draft, Kevyn Adams is steering this ship. Only time will tell if Adams reaches his destination of hockey relevancy or if he got lost along the way and ends up elsewhere.
The only certainty remaining - Buffalo’s hypothetical bar has been set incredibly low and there is only one way to raise it – by winning.