Buffalo Sabres (40-33-7) failed to make the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season.
By Allana Bycina
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
The Buffalo Sabres were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention when they lost 6-2 at Prudential Center to the New Jersey Devils. Buffalo (40-33-7) failed to make the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season.
While it seemed like beating the New Jersey Devils was the Sabres last chance at making the playoffs, consistency throughout the whole regular season was their biggest issue. The Buffalo Sabres inability to perform at their peak potential night in and night out is ultimately the reason they didn’t make the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the National Hockey League (NHL), teams make the playoffs based on their regular season performance. The NHL consists of two conferences, each containing four divisions. At the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, and two wild-card teams from each conference also qualify based on their total number of points earned during the regular season. Points are earned based on a team's performance throughout the regular season, with two points awarded for a win and one point awarded for an overtime or shootout loss. The total number of points earned by a team determines their ranking within their division and conference, and ultimately their playoff seeding. Once the playoffs begin, teams compete in a best-of-seven series against their opponents. The winner of each series advances to the next round, with the ultimate goal being to win the Stanley Cup, which is awarded to the team that wins the NHL playoffs.
Why didn't the Sabres make the playoffs, you ask?
Few teams with playoff ambitions go through the lengthy downturns the Sabres have gone through this season. There was an eight-game losing streak Nov. 4-19. There was a 1-4-1 said Jan. 9-17. And there was a 2-8-2 stretch from Feb. 28-March 21. Buffalo's inability to turn things around when they were going south ultimately doomed them; once things started going badly for the Sabres, they tended to stay bad for too long.
The Buffalo Sabres have not made the playoffs for several years.
However, generally speaking, a team may not make the playoffs for a variety of reasons, including:
1 – Lack of Talent: If a team doesn't have enough talented players or depth in their roster, it can be difficult to compete against other teams in the league, especially those with more skilled players.
2 – Injuries: Injuries to key players can severely impact a team's chances of making the playoffs, especially if they occur early in the season and the team are unable to recover.
3 – Poor Performance: If a team doesn't perform well throughout the regular season, they may not have enough points to make the playoffs, as only the top teams in each division qualify for the postseason.
4 – Strong Competition: The NHL is a highly competitive league, and sometimes a team may simply not make the playoffs because they are up against very strong competition in their division or conference.
I spoke with three young talented hockey players who have all played at the Junior A hockey level and are all very big Buffalo Sabres fans. Here’s what they had to say:
“I am not totally disappointed that the Sabres didn’t make the playoffs entirely on the fact that they have the youngest team in the whole NHL. Once they get some more experience over the next couple of years, they could be a very good hockey team. To get there, again experience will help, which they will have a little more of going into next season. It seems like we have a strong new goalie, Levi. Coaching has been much better. Our forwards have proven they can produce. I think they just need to target getting a solid defenseman or two.”
“I was somewhat disappointed that the Sabres missed the playoffs this year. After a great season of development, it would have been icing on the cake to see the team make the postseason for the first time in over a decade. I really was hoping we’d make it not even because I expected to win, but wanted the team to get some playoff experience.”
“I think an addition of a defenseman or 2 could really push us not only into the playoffs but possibly make a deep run for the cup. We have a very young team that will grow but you could really use some veteran defenseman to play hard, consistent hockey and solidify our spot in the playoff race.”
As mentioned, we do have a very young team but that’s not always a bad thing. Actually, it may be a very good thing, especially for young player Tage Thompson.
Reasons for Optimism to Make Future Playoffs
Tage Thompson (https://www.nhl.com/player/tage-thompson-8479420): This center became a star this season, with 93 points (46 goals, 47 assists) in 76 games after having 68 points (38 goals, 30 assists) in 78 games last season. Just 25, Thompson was mentioned in the Hart Trophy conversation for the role he played in dragging the Sabres toward the playoffs. Tage is going to be a strong competitor for a very long time.
Head Coach Dan Granato: Granato has been coaching for over 20 years, and he has coached in several different leagues, including the NHL, AHL, and USHL. This experience has allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the game and how to get the best out of his players. He has great leadership and is known for his ability to connect with his players and build strong relationships with them. He is also a great communicator and has a knack for motivating his team to play their best. Innovative, Dan Granato is also recognized for his innovative approach to coaching, always seeking to find new ways to improve his team's performance. He is not afraid to take risks and try new things, which has helped him to achieve success in his coaching career.
This is a Niagara University student-created piece completed as part of the course CMS 226A. For more information, contact the Niagara Frontier Publications’ managing editor.