One Issue After Another for the Buffalo Sabresby Dom Lunardo March 19, 2021 0 comments
Buffalo, New York. The Queen City, home to world-class chicken wings, the Buffalo Bills, and Buffalo Sabres hockey team. Despite their infamy on the world stage and their passionate sports fans, things have been anything but roses on the hockey side of things on the U.S side of the Peace Bridge connecting Fort Erie and Buffalo. Barring anything extraordinary, the Sabres are set to miss out on the postseason for the 10th consecutive season.
Fans are upset, players are upset, and as well as the Sabres’ brass, led by former NHL player, Kevyn Adams, who’s now at the helm as general manager is anything but pleased with regards to how things have transpired over the past few months under his leadership. With this being said, let’s dive in and take a closer look at the current state of the Sabres franchise and examine two major issues facing Western, New York’s only NHL franchise.
Issue 1: Jeff Skinner’s $72M/8-Year Contract
After scoring 40 goals and 63 points in his first season with Buffalo during the 2018-19 campaign, Sabres fans from far and wide were relishing a future with Jeff Skinner at the helm alongside team captain and superstar Jack Eichel. That summer, the Sabres rewarded Skinner with a massive eight-year $72 million contract extension, making him one of hockey’s most handsomely compensated players. Although at the time the contract was entirely justifiable for a team in dire need of a goal-scoring winger to play on Eichel’s wing, things have taken a severe turn for the worst for Skinner.
Last season, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Skinner tallied an abysmal 14 goals and 23 points in 59 games to go along with a minus 22 rating. To add insult to injury, Skinner’s season this time around in 2020-21 has been abominable of the highest magnitude. In 25 games thus far, Skinner has generated a porous two goals and one assist for three points. Yes, you are reading those statistics correctly.
In addition, Skinner’s also seen some time on the fourth line and was stapled to the press box as a healthy scratch for a few games as well. In fact, there is a legitimate argument to be made that Skinner’s contract in terms of both length and term is the single-worst in the NHL. With seven-plus years (and counting) left on one of the NHL’s most head-scratching deals, this certainly places Adams in a precarious situation as he tries to navigate through some of the most treacherous waters in the NHL.
Issue 2: Sabres Still Feeling the “Jason Botterill Effect”
The neverending saga that is Skinner is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some questionable (and contentious) decisions made in the Sabres front office under former general manager Jason Botterill. For starters, the Sabres orchestrated one of the most lopsided deals in recent memory when they sent star centerman Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round draft pick, and 2021 second-round pick at the NHL Entry Draft. A key cog in the Midwest, O’Reilly had an immediate impact with St. Louis and helped lead the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup triumph in the spring of 2019.
To add insult to injury, O’Reilly took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after scoring eight goals and 23 points in 25 playoff games. When you factor in a player of his caliber who’s still just 30 years of age, the success he would experience in St. Louis, and the poor return the Sabres received from the deal, this has to be considered one of the worst trades in NHL history.
Unless you’re a fan of the Sabres, it’s hard to forget that Evander Kane was once a member of the team in royal blue and yellow. Kane was dealt to the San Jose Sharks in February 2018 in exchange for prospect Daniel O’Regan and conditional first and fourth-round draft picks at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Although on the surface this seems like a plausible return for someone who clearly wanted out of Buffalo, the Sabres should have garnered more for Kane’s services given how he’s one of the leagues most prolific power forwards with six 20-plus-goal seasons under his belt and still only 29 years of age. Soon after the trade, the Sharks wasted little time in locking up Kane to a whopping seven-year, $49 million contract extension adding further salt to the wound on behalf of Sabres fans. Where does Adams go from here? , What will the Sabres roster look like in two, six, and 12 months’ time? And how does he get this team “back on track”? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see now, won’t we?