While the outlook of this season may be bleak for many fans, some might be curious as to what the team will need to accomplish in order to make the playoffs.
The easy answer: finish in the top three of their eight-team division.
In the newly-named Atlantic Division, the Sabres will find many familiar faces, as all of their previous division foes have carried over into the new division. Joining them, are the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. This means the Sabres will need to find a way to get the best of Detroit, who is always dangerous, Tampa Bay, who has a primed Steven Stamkos on its roster, along with Bobby Ryan in Ottawa, a Toronto team on the rise and Montreal, who just happened to win the division last season. Oh, and then there are the Boston Bruins, who won the Eastern Conference championship and fell just short of a Stanley Cup victory.
The Sabres, on the other hand, are in full rebuilding mode and in order to secure a playoff berth, will either need to finish in the top three seeds in its own division, or accumulate enough points through the season to clinch one of the remaining two Wild Card spots. Treading those waters could be lethal, as they would be competing for the final two spots with the conference's other division, which consists of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington.
In short, the Sabres' chances of earning a playoff spot in this format is no better than earning a spot in last season's format. Unless one considers Buffalo's unexplainable success against its own division last season.
The Sabres were 9-7-2 last season against the Northeast Division, earning points in 11 of those contests. This record includes multiple wins against Boston and Montreal, who finished atop of the division. What is troubling is Buffalo's record against the Southeast Division, which was 3-10-2. The Sabres particularly had trouble with Brian Campbell in Florida, who just happens to be a division rival this season. The good news? Winnipeg is now out West, so the Sabres won't have to worry about choking in a late-season matchup with critical points on the line in that pesky arena.
The offseason didn't help sooth the minds of Sabres fans either. Seemingly every team in Buffalo's division got better, whether it was Ryan going to Ottawa or Jarome Iginla signing with Boston. The Sabres, however, did what they could in the draft and got younger, which isn't always a bad thing. The problem is uncertainty. If the Sabres stand a chance of making the playoffs in this, or any other format, its young core needs to mature, and mature quick.
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