There is bad and there is boring. In KeyBank Center, it's a brutal combination for Sabres


Staff member

There is bad for the standings and then there is watching the Buffalo Sabres play. This group has gotten to the point where they are bad for business.

If you haven’t already purchased tickets for a game the rest of the season, why would you do it now? Why would you plunk down for a minipack or a season ticket for 2024-25? You love your hockey, but when is this team and this franchise going to love its fans back?

One of my Twitter followers sent me a reply during the second intermission of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis that capsulizes it perfectly. There’s no reason for me to wordsmith something when @Kratzey16 chiseled it so well on his own.

His message: “It is truly remarkable how the Sabres have gone from a super fun, really interesting team to watch and in one offseason have now become a super dull, boring and lifeless team. It’s quite something. Just no reason to watch. It’s become unwatchable.”

Unwatchable. That’s a real problem.

Ticket sales, merchandise and concession sales and local television ratings are all going to take a massive hit. In the wake of all that, should we worry about what kind of internal salary cap owner Terry Pegula might impose on General Manager Kevyn Adams for next season?

(Memo to the owner: You already promised a new Jumbotron for next season. You better not renege. There has to be something to look forward to.)

The Sabres are here twice more this week, Tuesday night against Los Angeles and Thursday against defending Eastern Conference champion Florida. Maybe you’re a Sam Reinhart or Matthew Tkachuk fan and want to see the Panthers, and I submit they are absolutely worth seeing.

But why would you come see the Kings?

The Sabres are 11-14-1 at home this season and 28-34-5 the last two years. Their points percentage of .455 is 27th in the league in that span. They’re averaging a paltry 2.62 goals per game this year at home, which is also 27th in the league. And that’s with that nine-goal December outburst against Toronto factored in.

Take that one out and the average drops to 2.36 — which would be below everyone except woeful San Jose. The Sabres have scored one goal in losing each of the last three home games, to Tampa Bay, Dallas and St. Louis. They have scored just 20 goals in the last 10 games downtown.

There have been 10 games this season Buffalo has scored five or more goals — and seven of them have been on the road. Aside from the beatdown of Toronto, the only teams the Sabres hit five against here have been Arizona and Ottawa.

“Obviously it’s been different for us at home,” a clearly exasperated head coach Don Granato said after Saturday’s game. “What I sense, I don’t want to get into that at all. It’s the case unfortunately. We’ve got to move on and get to the next one and have full respect that we need to be better, specifically here in that regard.”

What does Granato sense? The guess here is he can tell his players are skittish at home, especially on the power play. The fan base is understandably beaten down by the toll of what’s now going to be 13 straight years out of the playoffs, and the toxicity has never been higher. One goal against, one failed power play and the boos quickly start to build. Home hecklers are tough.

This is a Buffalo team, remember, with a sampling of road wins this year that include the following locales: New York, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston, Vegas, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Six of those teams currently sit in a playoff spot. Why don’t we ever see that team at the foot of Washington Street?

As the captain, poor Kyle Okposo generally serves as the first spokesman after these dismal defeats. He talked Saturday about how the team needs to “find another gear” and seems “stuck in third gear.”
I felt bad for him. He’s respectfully done hundreds of these little meetings with reporters in that corner of the locker room the last eight years. He’s out of answers, almost like we’re out of questions.

We’re 51 games into the season and Granato is still talking about compete levels and will to go to the net and work ethic. It’s just bizarre. Adams built a flawed roster and Granato can’t get much out of it.

Rasmus Dahlin talked openly at the All-Star Game in Toronto about this team making a big run to climb back into the playoff race. You heard the same kind of chatter for two days when the club returned to practice.

Then came Tuesday night against Dallas. It was a strong showing against a top opponent when you consider 83 shot attempts and 48 shots on goal. But the Sabres got goalied by Dallas all-star Jake Oettinger, who made 47 saves in a 2-1 victory. No three-game winning streak, no big momentum building out of the break.

For a season that was just about over anyway, it seemed like that game may have put the Sabres out of their misery for keeps.

The problem, of course, is there are still two months of games left. Forget about the playoffs. Look back, Sabres. Something might be gaining on you. The Blue and Gold are in real danger of falling into last place in the Atlantic Division.

The Ottawa Senators pulled within four points of Buffalo with Saturday night’s 5-3 win over Toronto. And that’s with three games in hand.

What an embarrassing, shameful nightmare this is. Especially at home. And it could get worse.