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Sabres showing potential as rebuild finally progressing

The Sabres concluded a poor December with a frustrating loss to the New York Islanders on New Year’s Eve that cemented their scoring depth issues and just a 4-6-2 record for the month. It ended a disappointing month after fans saw their team rattle off 10 straight victories earlier.

The Sabres are not the caliber of team that won 10 games in a row, but I do not believe they are as bad as December showed either; in fact, their 6-4-2 record for the month of October may be the perfect middle ground for who they truly are. Their play in October is that of a team pacing for somewhere around 95 points. That sounds about right for this group of players.

With a player the caliber of Jack Eichel, and a partner as strong as Jeff Skinner, it’s a combo that absolutely can push a team to a playoff spot as Taylor Hall and Nathan MacKinnon showed last season.

During the winning streak, many people got excited and made comparisons with this roster to the beloved 2005-06 and 06-07 Sabres teams. As fun as that run was, those teams were far deeper and far more complete by comparison.

Instead, this team is probably what we would have seen in 2004-05 had the NHL played that season. Jack Eichel was playing like an MVP war horse before his injury, Sam Reinhart has never looked better, and Rasmus Dahlin continues to dazzle as a rookie. The defense as a whole is far better and productive, and Linus Ullmark is showing the promise to be the No. 1 goalie for the long term.

The most important pieces you want to lead your team are doing that, which creates a very solid base to work from.

This is not to hide the fact that the Sabres struggle offensively after their main horses, that their special teams could use some improvement, or that they won an unsustainable amount of games in overtime.

But fundamentally, this is a decent to good team that has taken that important first step to potentially becoming great. Players like Tage Thompson, Casey Mittelstadt, and Lawrence Pilut all are having valuable learning years, which they will benefit from possibly as soon as the second half of the season.  

In no way does GM Jason Botterill want to waste an opportunity at the playoffs, and I believe if things get tough in January, he will make a move to improve the bottom half of the roster without selling the farm.

If the Sabres can keep playing over .500 hockey, they could easily find themselves in the playoffs. Last season, both the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche had impressive months like Buffalo did in November, while playing a little above a .500 pace the rest of the year.

This Sabres team is better then both of those across the board with a bit more youth. The Sabres are not the Tampa Bay Lightning nor Toronto Maple Leafs yet, but this year’s squad can be a good team that clinches a playoff spot.

That would count as a massive improvement while also knowing the potential exists long-term for that great team very soon.

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NHL Standings

TEAMGPRECPTS
Atlantic Division Leaders:
P8262-16-4128
X8249-24-9107
X8246-28-8100
Metropolitan Division Leaders:
Y8248-26-8104
X8248-27-7103
X8244-26-12100
Wild Card leaders:
X8246-29-799
X8247-31-498
-----------------------------------------
8244-30-896
8236-32-1486
8237-37-882
8232-36-1478
8233-39-1076
8232-40-1074
8231-41-1072
8229-47-664
TEAMGPRECPTS
Central Division Leaders:
Y8247-29-6100
X8247-30-599
X8245-28-999
Pacific Division Leaders:
Z8250-25-7107
X8246-27-9101
X8243-32-793
Wild Card leaders:
X8243-32-793
X8238-30-1490
-----------------------------------------
8239-35-886
8236-34-1284
8237-36-983
8235-36-1181
8235-37-1080
8235-38-979
8231-42-971