The Buffalo Sabres are watching another season roll by and it’s not pretty.
The Sabres haven’t won since February 23 against the New Jersey Devils and have since been outscored 18-7 by the Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders. They face the Islanders again Saturday, fresh from a 5-2 loss Thursday.
The sad state of affairs has led many to predict a fire sale, with stars like Jack Eichel on their way out of town.
But Eichel has not asked for a trade, even as general manager Kevyn Adams said he’s “someone that I’ve bounced things off of.”
The Sabres are trying to do all the typical things a team in freefall does, like “find an identity” and work through stuff behind-the-scenes. But there comes a time when change is the only thing that works.
Could that mean head coach Ralph Krueger’s job is in jeopardy? Calgary pulled off a coaching swap 13 days after their general manager said Adams-like things on the radio.
Could that mean Eichel is traded? What about Jeff Skinner?
“Part of the evaluation…is to look at everything big picture, small picture, and everything in between,” Adams said. “I need to do what’s best for the team right now and also in the long term. So I look at those type of things on a daily basis. I have conversations and what’s interesting about this team…but there’s good people in there and they communicate well with the coaches.”
The Sabres have been locked in a proverbial holding pattern for a good while. They are the worst team in the league in even strength situations and have had five head coaches in the eight years since they dumped Lindy Ruff. Building a sense of stability in light of what’s going on seems near impossible, but Adams has to do something.
The Sabres have a stack of pending UFAs: Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Tobias Rieder, Riley Sheahan, Brandon Montour, Matt Irwin, Jake McCabe, and netminders Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton. McCabe and Ullmark are currently on the injured reserve list. Defenceman Brandon Davidson, presently on the taxi squad, is also on his way to UFA status.
That’s a good pile of assets to have ahead of the April 12 trade deadline. Hall is “open” to staying in Buffalo, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. He could be on the table. Same goes for Skinner, signed through forever but straining to find his footing in Krueger’s kennel.
Buffalo is a dozen points out of a playoff spot and making the dance this year is not happening, so the best bet is to formulate an environment that can generate some hope of future success.
Adams has options on the table and a mission in mind. And he’s been having more conversations. Whether those conversations lead anywhere is what we’re dying to find out.
Pic: Harry Scull Jr. /Buffalo News