Sabres eliminated, miss playoffs for NHL-record 11th straight season



The Buffalo Sabres failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for an NHL-record 11th straight season.

Buffalo (26-34-11) was eliminated from contention when the Washington Capitals won 4-3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. The Sabres have not qualified for the postseason since 2011, a seven-game loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Sabres were tied with the Florida Panthers (2001-11) and Edmonton Oilers (2007-16) for longest postseason drought.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2021-22 season for the Sabres and why things could be better next season:

 

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Drake Caggiula, F; Cody Eakin, F; John Hayden, F; Vinnie Hinostroza, F; Will Butcher, D; Colin Miller, D; Mark Pysyk, D; Craig Anderson, G; Malcolm Subban, G; Dustin Tokarski, G

Potential restricted free agents: Jacob Bryson, D; Victor Olofsson, D&

Potential 2022 NHL Draft picks: 10

 

What went wrong

Jack Eichel saga: Prior to the season, the Sabres stripped Eichel of the captaincy after he and the team could not agree on the best course of action for a neck injury. The center was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 4, ending his tenure as a core piece of the Sabres when he scored at least 24 goals and 56 points in each of his first five seasons (2015-20) and was their best offensive player during his time there. Eichel had been the face of the Sabres since he was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Goalie issues: Buffalo used six goalies this season because of injury. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who entered the season as the starter, hasn’t played since Jan. 11 because of a lower-body injury. Craig Anderson (upper body) was out three months, and Dustin Tokarski (COVID-19 related illness), was out for two months. Malcom Subban, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 2, played four games before he was ruled out for the season with an upper-body injury. Aaron Dell and Michael Houser have each also started for the Sabres this season.

Long losing skids: The Sabres started the season 3-0-0 and 5-1-1 but followed up with a 5-18-5 stretch that all but sealed their fate. They lost at least five straight games four times this season, including three of at least six. The inability to string victories together was an issue; they won three straight games once more (March 18-23).

 

Reasons for optimism

Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs: The two forwards acquired in the Eichel trade have made an impact and shown they can be important pieces in the future. Tuch has 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 39 games for Buffalo. The 25-year-old native of Syracuse, New York has been rejuvenated since returning from a shoulder injury Dec. 29 following the trade. Krebs, 21, has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 46 games and scored his first NHL goal with the Sabres on Jan. 22.

Healthy Luukkonen: The 23-year-old goalie has been limited to nine games this season but has a respectable 2.74 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He played four games for the Sabres last season and if he is healthy to start next season will likely be their No. 1.

Core under contract: In addition to Tuch and Krebs, forwards Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt, Zemgus Girgensons, Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens, and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, are all signed at least through next season. Olofsson is the only key piece who can become a restricted free agent after the season, so the Sabres could have the main part of their roster intact barring an offseason trade.



Source link

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: