Still probably the most metal hockey blog name we’ve encountered. Anyway, Andy Boron is the editor and maven over there, and he was kind enough to take the time.
We’ll start with something simple: What the hell happened? Wasn’t there supposed to be a move forward after last year?
The short answer is: tons of injuries happened, and to the most important players. It started with Jack Eichel missing the first two months of the season with a high ankle sprain, but other key pieces such as Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Dmitry Kulikov, and Zach Bogosian have missed significant time this year. The team lost their third-line center, Johan Larsson, for the season to an elbow and wrist injury just this week. The Sabres aren’t yet at the point where they have the roster depth to replace that much production lost, and there were times this season where they were forced to play as many as 6 or 7 injury call-ups from AHL Rochester, even dipping into emergency call-ups from juniors for a few games.
The more complicated answer is: We’re not sure if Dan Bylsma is the right coach for this team. Bylsma has been widely criticized for both his constant line shuffling and for the systems he uses. The line juggling this year has been forced upon him by injuries, so it’s hard to complain about that, but the Sabres play a very safe, boring style of hockey many nights that lots of fans blame on Bylsma. The Sabres, especially when riddled by injuries, are not talented or fast enough to hit a stretch pass or secure the puck on the dump-and-chase, which has led to a low offensive output and plenty of one-goal snoozers. Let’s put it this way – it’s hard to think of any move he’s made that has made you say, “Wow, great job by Bylsma there,” but there have been plenty of moves to criticize both this season and last.
Oh, and their penalty kill is maybe the worst I’ve ever seen, and that includes the tank years.