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Screwed Again In Buffalo

from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,

The Buffalo Sabres have become quite proficient at shooting themselves in the foot. They buy bad players, hire mediocre managers and inexperienced coaches, fail to draft and develop effectively, and in general provide a negative working experience for their players.

Ryan O’Reilly could tell you something about that.

As an organization, the Sabres are right there with the worst in sports. They don’t need any help to be lousy.

Every once in a while, however, every 20 years or so, the NHL helps out anyway by putting the screws to the Western New York Swordsmen. We won’t go through the 1999 Stanley Cup final all over again, but Brett Hull’s got a ring and so do the rest of the Dallas Stars and the NHL still hasn’t explained successfully why that Cup-winning goal on Dominik Hasek counted.

This spring, it was like Gary Bettman’s front office suddenly realized they hadn’t taken a tire iron to the Sabres recently, and got to it. When the league announced that 24 of the 31 teams would possibly resume play in late July or early August, the Sabres weren’t among those invited.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink



Wow, this is dumb even by Cox standards.

The argument essentially boils down to “Buffalo and Montreal are almost equally bad, so it’s unfair and arbitrary that Montreal get to play in the tournament and Buffalo doesn’t.”

Except it’s ... not at all unfair or arbitrary. Montreal had more points and a better points percentage, even if you make a reasonable accommodation for the fact that they played two extra games (both at home). And although it doesn’t make a difference in the standings, they also scored more goals per game and allowed fewer.

Presumably Cox doesn’t think that, in normal years, teams that finish 9th by a hair are “screwed” by not getting a play-in chance against 8th place, so it’s bizarre that he thinks Buffalo deserves special accommodation in this case.

And sure, you can make the argument that Buffalo might have leapfrogged Montreal if both had had the opportunity to play 82 games. That’s also a completely moot point, because in that case there would have been no need to expand to 12 teams ... and neither Buffalo nor Montreal had better than 1/2000 odds to get into the top 8.

IMO the NHL had no obligation to Montreal or Buffalo, but only to teams that still had a realistic chance to make the top 8 in their conference had a full season been played.

There were 12 teams in the West that met that benchmark (Chicago in 12th had an estimated 2.5% chance per sportsclubstats) and 11 teams in the East that did (NYR in 11th at around 22%). All other teams were essentially at 0% statistically speaking—either already mathematically eliminated or still would have been underdogs to make the top 8 even if they had won out the remainder of their schedules.

You can say Montreal, the only “zero percenter” team to make the play-in round, is the only team in that doesn’t “deserve” to be there, which is valid. But somebody had to take that spot, and the idea that there should be a play-in to make the play-in for two teams that really don’t even belong with the rest of the top 23 in the first place, to say nothing of the top 16, is beyond ridiculous.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 06/01/20 at 09:38 AM ET


Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 06/01/20 at 09:38 AM ET

Unsurprisingly, the comments below a Damien Cox article are better thought-out and more well-written than the article itself.

Posted by BaromirBragr on 06/01/20 at 10:31 AM ET


Preserving their guaranteed lottery eligibility? Yeah, royally screwed.

Posted by Unhealthy Scratch on 06/01/20 at 03:17 PM ET


Luckier than the Wings in getting at least a #2 pick
(sorry they couldn’t completely guarantee getting McDavid)
after grossly, abjectly tanking. And they also got to draft Dahlin
at #1 a couple years later.

It’s cute that a lotof Canadian writers seem to see Buffalo
as a lovable little brother, but two top-two picks in the past few years
isn’t the worst luck.

Posted by lefty.30 on 06/01/20 at 03:49 PM ET


Posted by Unhealthy Scratch from The Land of Potential Bottom Six Skill on 06/01/20 at 03:17 PM ET

For sure.

The probability that Buffalo will win the first pick is set at 6.5 percent, and the probability that they’ll pick somewhere in the top 3 is 20.4 percent.

The odds that a “Mystery Ball” will win the first pick is 24.5 percent, the total number of expected top-3 draws for play-in losers is 0.8, all play-in round losers will have a 1/8 shot at those slots, and based on current betting lines it looks like Vegas is giving Montreal about a 1/3 shot at beating Pittsburgh.

That gives Montreal about a 2% shot at No. 1 and a 6.7% shot at top 3.

You can definitely make the argument that, from an organizational building perspective, you’d rather be in Buffalo’s position than Montreal’s. Triple your probability of a top-3 pick instead of probably getting slaughtered in 3-4 games by Pittsburgh.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 06/01/20 at 04:02 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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