About 10 years ago the Buffalo Sabres were in the race for the Stanley Cup. However, in the years to follow, the fanbase would wonder how they got there in the first place and how they would ever recapture that lightning in a bottle.
After nearly one month into the season, faith seems to be restored as the Sabres are rolling to a 6-4-1 record. Although they have a long season ahead of them, there is reason to believe this team could be successful.
In 2008, the Sabres had Ryan Miller as their starting goaltender, one of the best the team has ever had. But with Thomas Vanek as the team’s top offensive player, the Sabres wouldn’t go too far. They were still struggling to regroup from losing two dynamic weapons in Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.
The last time the Sabres made the playoffs was in 2011, when they faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. They finished the season at 43-29-10, enough for a third place finish in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo would put up a fight, but were denied in game seven.
Since then, the Sabres have ended up at the bottom of the league too frequently. Usually at this point in the season, the team is hovering down toward the bottom of the list, but this year something seems different about them.
This 2018-19 team has more youth, giving current coach Phil Housley plenty of time to shape these players into resilient forces to be reckoned within the years to come.
It also gives him the time to make the right decisions rather than being stuck with limbo players only making things worse. The Buffalo Sabres are the ninth youngest team in the league, have strong talent in the AHL, and have three first-round draft picks in the next NHL Entry Draft.
A big part of their success this season has been rallying after being down. It’s not a great position to be in, but they are proving that they can bounce back, something they haven’t shown in previous seasons.
When asked by NBC Sports earlier this month if the team’s culture has changed over the course of his time on the team, Sabres captain Jack Eichel acknowledged that fact:
“It has. I think it’s changed more so from the end of last season to now. I think whenever you have little success as we did last year, you’re going to have to step back and look at what you’ve been doing, probably change some things with the team itself and the culture. You bring in the first overall pick, and I think it’s just starting a new culture. It should be a winning culture, a culture where nothing else is accepted other than the best, and it’s something that doesn’t just happen. It’s accomplished over time.” – Eichel
Bringing postseason hockey back to Buffalo would be a huge first step for this team, and if they can keep playing and improving, they can get there this season.