Sabres season ends, but the GM stays

Over the last few weeks, it became more and more realistic that if the NHL elected to return this season, that the league would resume without finishing the regular season schedule. That leaves seven teams out of the playoffs, while 24 get to play on.

With this news, it became official today that the Sabres are done with the 2019-20 season. They weren’t a playoff team and don’t deserve to be included with the top 24, but another win could have bumped them past Montreal, who would have been their next opponent if the season continued for another couple of days.

It’s the 9th straight year without playoffs for the Sabres, and they surpassed 80 points just twice over that span (although one was a shortened season). View their year-by-year results here.

Jack Eichel was again one of the few bright spots but now has had five seasons without any playoff experience. He finishes the season with a career-high of 36 goals and his second-highest point total (78) of his career. He had 82 points the year before, but won’t get the opportunity to pass that.

Eichel also finished with a +5 rating, the first time in his career he wasn’t in the negatives. He had set career-highs in power play goals (11), power play points (27), penalty minutes (34), and game-winning goals (9).

Home Success

Playing at KeyBank Center was where the Sabres earned two-thirds of their wins, going 20-11-4 on home ice. Only seven NHL teams had more than 20 home victories, but all seven also had at least 14 road victories while Buffalo only had 10. A dreadful 10-20-4 record on the road was too much to overcome to sneak into the play-in round.

Botterill Off the Hook

The 24-team playoff without Buffalo is more on them. It’s not about getting snubbed or being the fairest format they could have come up with. That’s not what bothers me the most out of all of this.

The worst thing in my mind is that this takes GM Jason Botterill off the hook for another horrendous season. He was on the hot seat in his third year, but I don’t know if the Sabres have what it takes to can him and find someone else during a time like this.

Do you know what’s keeping him here? The hot starts from each of the last two seasons. Buffalo went 17-6-2 to start 2018-19 and then 9-2-2 this year. Do you realize what their record is after each of those starts combined?

It’s 37-62-14. 37 wins and 76 losses.

That’s a 64-point pace (I rounded up) over an 82-game season.

In Botterill’s first year with the team, the Sabres finished with 62 points, going 25-45-12. Outside of those two great stretches, they have barely been better. And I’d consider the 10-game winning streak in 2018-19 extremely lucky considering seven were via OT or shootout and nine were one-goal wins. They had everything going right during that and somehow managed to pull that off.

During the 37-62-14 stretch, they were shutout eight times, including three games in a row.

The point is, Botterill’s job should be on the line. We’ve seen horrible hockey played and he’s not making it any better. This team doesn’t have the right players and Botterill has made some awful trades and draft picks.

To me, it doesn’t matter that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. He’s shown that he can’t put together a mediocre team at all, and this unusual circumstance shouldn’t give him a free pass.


Kevin Freiheit
Kevin Freiheit
I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.
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