After a dismal-by-their-new-standards January, the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 win against Ottawa on Tuesday further demonstrated that it’s not yet time to start worrying, much less making plans for panic.
Even as Buffalo wound up its worst month since before the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, the hockey cognoscenti still placed the Sabres among the cream of the elite in their weekly power rankings.
In the first such rankings of February, three of the five online hierarchies surveyed put Buffalo at No. 2, trailing only the Nashville Predators, with the Sabres coming in at third and fourth in the other two.
(The fact that a franchise called the Nashville Predators tops any National Hockey League list, except maybe “Most Nebulous Nickname” or “Logo Least Able to Close It’s Mouth,” says quite a bit about why NHL ratings are almost non-existent and attendance has plummeted in many cities, despite significant improvements to the on-ice product since the work stoppage.)
Scott Wraight of cnnsi.com notes that the Sabres’ 6-7-1 mark in January was their worst month since Dec. 2003, yet keeps them in second place.
FOXSports.com’s Robert Picarello does the same. The most intriguing part of these weekly features is often not the positioning of the various teams, but the arcane stats these guys manage to come up with. Picarello, for instance, notes:
“One of the reasons Buffalo has been able to have so much success this year is because of the balanced scoring it has in its lineup. Buffalo is the first NHL team in 11 years to have five players with 20 or more goals before Feb. 1.”
That detail makes a strong point about the team’s offensive depth, to be sure. But you wonder how many hours of someone’s life went in to finding it.
TSN, Canada’s answer to ESPN, moved Buffalo up a notch into the second spot on the strength of last week’s back-to-back wins against Boston, forgiving Saturday night’s loss to New Jersey.
ESPN, America’s answer to TSN, knocked Buffalo all the way down to No. 4 because of that defeat against the Devils (who they place third), while dismissing the thumpings of the Bruins.
And Wes Goldstein CBS Sportsline splits the difference, placing Buffalo third.
Those ratings were all compiled before Buffalo’s wins against Atlanta and the Senators, the Sabres’ tormentors for much of the season. That positions Buffalo for a return to the top spot, where it spent most of the season’s first few months, should Nashville falter.
Which leaves one pressing Sabres-related question at the moment: Phil Housley in the team’s Hall of Fame? Seriously?