We all know what has occurred since then including the franchise’s longest playoff drought, but how bad has it actually been?
Let’s dive into the numbers to really find out the magnitude of the ineptitude this Sabres team has provided.
*All stats listed below are from the start of the 2011-12 season (the Pegulas’ first full season) to the end of the 2019-20 regular season.
10. The Sabres average spot in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of February is 14th
If you get the feeling that the season is over before spring is even on the horizon, you are correct.
This team has not played truly meaningful games as the calendar changes over to March since Lindy Ruff was head coach and Rasmus Dahlin was about to celebrate his 11th birthday.
It doesn’t seem to matter how great of a start they get off to. The deeper into the winter months we get, the deeper the Sabres get in the standings.
If you’re curious as to where exactly they have been as the calendar turns to March:
2012 – 12th
2013 – 14th
2014 – 16th
2015 – 16th
2016 – 15th
2017 – 13th
2018 – 16th
2019 – 12th
2020 – 13th
The 2011-12 season was their best run through March, ultimately finishing 9th in the standings and missing out on the playoffs by a mere two points. The start of March 2019 gave us another round of slight hope, but by the end of the first week, the Sabres found themselves 11 points out and their dreams gone.
9. Buffalo has scored 1 or fewer goals in 215 games (31.3%) and 2 or fewer in 372 games (53.8%)
Anemic offensive production has been the same old story for years with this franchise. In over half of their games during the previous nine seasons, reaching that third goal has been too difficult to obtain.
Statistically, the New Jersey Devils are the most comparable team to Buffalo in regards to scoring woes during this time. New Jersey scored 0 or 1 goal in 188 games (27.2%), and 2 or fewer in 266 (38.5%). Yes, the Sabres have scored 2 or fewer goals in 15.3% more games than New Jersey, the team with the next fewest number of goals scored.
While the Devils may only have 66 more goals than the Sabres since 2011, they are at least giving themselves a chance to win games.
8. Shot Attempts Differential: -4,508
What happens when you are the 2nd-worst team in the league at generating shot attempts, but also allow the 5th most shot attempts against?
Long story short, you end up at the bottom of almost every single offensive category and the longest playoff drought in the league. The Sabres rank 31st in Shot Attempt Differential (SAT) and it’s not even close.
Colorado sits right above Buffalo in the standings with a -2,576 SAT. There is a larger gap between Buffalo and the next worse team as there is between the 18th and 30th placed teams.
7. Henrik Lundqvist would rank 50th among Sabres players in total points scored during the drought
Since the 2011 season, the Sabres have trotted out 132 different skaters, from Jack Eichel to Zenon Konopka, Travis Turnbull to Erik Burgdoerfer, Colin Stuart to Joe Finley, Paul Szczechura to Dalton Smith.
You get the picture, the skaters that Buffalo has tossed out in the past nine seasons are far from NHL regulars and may even stump NHL experts as to who they even are.
It’s perfectly clear why they are in the longest active NHL playoff drought. However, regardless of how poor a team is for nearly a decade of time, you would never expect a goaltender to be a top-50 scorer, but that’s exactly where Lundqvist would slot in.
Lundqvist accumulated 18 points during the previous nine seasons, putting him right behind Benoit Pouliot, and sharing the 50th spot with Casey Nelson.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a summary from NHL.com.
6. The Sabres only have seven more 3+ goal victories than Vegas
The Vegas Golden Knights just completed their third regular season of existence and have accumulated 54 games where they have victories of at least three goals.
The Sabres meanwhile have 61 such victories in the past nine seasons. A six-season head start was barely enough to keep Buffalo ahead of Vegas in this stat.
5. Only 8 players during the drought (min. 20 games) have a positive +/-
Those players are Jimmy Vesey, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Brandon Montour, Jochen Hecht, Taylor Fedun, Alexander Sulzer, Brad Boyes, and Andrej Sekera.
As mentioned earlier, the Sabres have sent out 132 different skaters during this drought, but only 102 have played at least 20 games.
Regardless, only 7.8% of those skaters managed a positive +/-.
Edmonton was the most comparable team with this metric. They have the closest overall record to Buffalo, have sent out 139 skaters, 98 have skated at least 20 games, and have 12 skaters with a positive +/- at even strength. That’s still a solid 4.4% difference.
4. Apart from Skinner, the Botterill trades brought in players who accounted for 1,105 games, but only 117 goals
Botterill started his GM tenure with a trade for Nathan Beaulieu from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a third-round pick (Scott Walford).
The final trade he completed was for Dominik Kahun from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues. All in all, 19 different skaters suited up in a Sabres uniform for a regular-season game via trade acquisition under GMJB. Jeff Skinner was clearly his best pickup, posting a 40-goal season in his first campaign with Buffalo.
But other than Skinner, the skill that Botterill brought in was non-existent. 1,105 man games with only 117 goals to show for it. Average that out and that’s a player who scores maybe nine goals on the season.
Jason Botterill after the Sens score to make it 6-4 pic.twitter.com/3FQQxZGufC
— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) February 19, 2020
Now to be fair, he did acquire a lot of defensemen who count for many of these games; Jokiharju (69 GP – 4G), Miller (51GP – 1G), Montour (54 GP – 5G), Beaulieu (89 GP – 4G), and Scandella (176 GP – 14G). But on the other hand, his depth forwards, or hopeful top-six forwards in his eyes were just an eyesore; Frolik, Sobotka, Berglund, Simmonds, Thompson, and you can even make a case for Jimmy Vesey.
The offensive woes of this team were not going to be answered by acquiring any of these players.
3. Vegas has more wins where they outshot their opponent than Buffalo
The Golden Knights, who have played 464 fewer games than Buffalo during the Pegula era, have accumulated eight more wins than the Sabres where they outshot their opponent.
In 260 wins, the Sabres have managed to outshoot their opponent in only 84 of them. Vegas meanwhile have outshot their opponents in victories 92 times in their 133 regulation wins.
The Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence is to get two goals on 16 shots and then hunker down and pray.
2. There are 18 goaltenders who have more individual shutouts than Buffalo
Tuukka Rask, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jaroslav Halak, Braden Holtby, Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, Devan Dubnyk, Henrik Lundqvist, Mike Smith, Frederik Anderson, Cory Schneider, Martin Jones, Antti Niemi, and Semyon Varlamov.
These goaltenders each have individually recorded more shutouts during the Pegula era than all Sabres goaltenders combined during the same timeframe.
The majority of these goalies have skated in hundreds of fewer games, with some appearing in over 300 fewer games than Buffalo.
Ryan Miller and Robin Lehner lead the charge for Buffalo with six shutouts apiece. Linus Ullmark, Jhonas Enroth, Carter Hutton, Chad Johnson, and Anders Nilsson round out the rest of Sabres names that have recorded a shutout, giving the team a total of just 22 in nine seasons.
1. Ovechkin, Kane, Pacioretty, Tavares, Marchand, and Pavelski combined have more Even-Strength goals than the entire Sabres franchise
Even Strength Goals since 2011…
Buffalo Sabres: 1,222
Six players: 1,225
I didn’t even have to use the six highest goal scorers at even strength to achieve this stat. Pavelski ranks 13th among skaters in Even Strength Goals during this timeframe. If we were to look at the top six, their total would be 1,249! Nothing else needs to be said.
- Buffalo has only held a lead after the 1st period 186 times in 691 games (26.9%)
- Buffalo is the only team in the league with a negative shot attempt differential while trailing in games.
- Three of the eight worst +/- skaters in the league currently play for the Sabres (Ramus Ristolainen, Jeff Skinner, Kyle Okposo)
- If you only counted Sidney Crosby’s playoff points since 2011, he would rank 14th amongst Sabres players
- Pittsburgh, Boston, and San Jose cumulatively have one fewer 3+ goal wins in the playoffs than the Sabres do during the past nine years
- Buffalo has a .569 points percentage in games where they have come off three days’ rest.