TSN’s 2010-11 NHL season preview has ranked The Buffalo Sabres 9th out of 30 NHL teams. They are unveiling a new team each day starting with The Edmonton Oilers at #30. You can see the rankings by following the link below. Click on a team of your choice to read a full synopsis detailing each team’s outlook for the current season.
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/feature/?id=29184 Rankings home page
My first reaction is that #9 is too high. 64% of voters on a TSN web poll agree. With the first round elimination in last year’s playoffs and no significant improvements, how can we expect the team to be ranked so high? If you split the rankings into Conferences, the Sabres are ranked 3rd in the East behind Washington and New Jersey. I would personally put Pittsburgh ahead of The Sabres.
I think where we go wrong as Buffalo Sabre fans is that we think of each season as a Pass/Fail course, rather than in terms of rankings. We want The Cup and if we don’t get it or at least get close, the season is deemed a failure. We learned last year that our team was not built for the playoffs. Fans are still disgruntled due to the lack of significant changes to the roster. It is true that The Sabres are still unprepared for a grueling 4 round playoff march. However, that fact alone does not mean they should be ranked near the bottom of the league. The Sabres are still better than many NHL teams. They were better than 14 teams last year just by virtue of making the playoffs. That puts them in the top 16. I think the team has largely remained the same and will make the playoffs this year. A #9 ranking would put you in the bottom half of the 16 playoff teams, thus predicting a first round playoff exit. At first glance #9 looks high, but when you look at it objectively, #9 represents this team well; a team that is in the top half of the league, but will not do well in the playoffs.
I believe the rankings are fair. With the exception of Pittsburgh being under The Sabres at #13, I think TSN has got it right. Boston at #10, right under the Sabres is accurate. Even though Boston beat The Sabres last year, there were factors such as the Vanek injury, Connolly ringing the post in OT and other factors that made the series too close to call one team dominant over the other.
With the rankings nearly finished, only Vancouver and Washington remain to fight it out for the #1 and 2 spots. The Blackhawks have been given the #3 spot.
As much as we like to bash Darcy Regier for not making big moves, he has this team currently at an above average status. The problem for him is that above average isn’t good enough for Buffalo fans. We Want The Cup!
I’d much rather be at #9 than down with The Isles, Edmonton, and Columbus and have no hope. Imagine if The Sabres were as bad as The Bills, Yikes! Sabres fans don’t have to wallow in frustration as Bills fans do. Sabres fans have the same complaints as teams like Baltimore Ravens of The NFL; just missing a piece or 2 that could propel them to greatness. I think we, as Sabres fans, need to realize that we’ve got a pretty good team. Let’s enjoy the season and not ignore the fact that our team is better than that of 21 other NHL cities.