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Better Days

Simon: Sabres fans, the worst is over

That was not fun.  In the 25 years that I've been a member of the Western New York Media, I'd say this Sabres season was the toughest/worst season ever.

 That time span includes 14 straight non playoff seasons for the Bills and a season where the Sabres owner went to jail, the team declared bankruptcy and it was operated by the league.

The good news is its over and we all survived.  It HAS to get better from here.  The Sabres might still be one of the worst teams in the NHL next season, perhaps the worst but it can't be as bad as what we witnessed over the last six and half months.

The 2013-2014 Buffalo Sabres had the worst offense in the expansion era(since 1967) and finished with the lowest point total since the 2001 New York Islanders who also managed a mere 52.

The Sabres fired their coach in season for the second straight year, fired their General Manager, brought back a beloved former player to be President of Hockey Operations but he stayed on the job for only three months, traded away one of the best goal scorers in franchise history and traded the all time winningest goalie in franchise history. By the way, the goal scorer they acquired for dealing their best goal scorer was also traded later in the season.  They traded two captains in the same season and  saw a record 46 different players dress over the course of 82 games.

Like I said, it has to get better.  The worst part of the tear down or the "suffering" is over.  The old house has been demolished and now the foundation is being laid for the new house.  It will take a little time for that new house to be completed but at least we can see it being built finally.

As far as the future, I'm optimistic Tim Murray is the right man for the job.  He appears to operate decisively and without emotion which are important traits for a GM.  The Sabres have an abundance of draft picks which gives Murray plenty of materials to build that house. He can use all of the picks or peddle some for good, young players he covets from other organizations.  There are some talented prospects in the Sabres organization that can be counted on to help the franchise or to be moved by Murray if he sees better options out there.

As to the current roster, believe it or not, there were some bright spots as far as individual players.  Tyler Ennis put together his second 20 goal season while Cody Hodgson, who is probably better off on the wing as opposed to center, recorded his first ever 20 goal campaign.  Zemgus Girgensons didn't put up eye popping offensive numbers but the 20 year old might have been the only player who consistently brought a smile to your face by the way he played the game on a night to night basis.  After going backwards the last two seasons, Tyler Myers made strides in turning his game back around and played with more confidence after Ted Nolan took over.  

There are a number of younger Sabres who were here for part of the season but went back to Rochester and excelled like Rasmus Ristolainen, Johan Larsson, Mark Pysyk and, in the handful of games he's played for the Amerks, Mikhail Grigorenko. Perhaps this season was a re-birth for Luke Adam who two years ago got off to a hot start with the Sabres and was part of the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.  Adam's game went down from there and it appeared he wouldn't be long for the organization but Adam scored 28 goals for the Amerks.

There are players who excelled on the collegiate level who could play key roles in the future like Jake McCabe, who joined the Sabres for the last seven games of the season.  JT Compher won freshman of the year and had 31 points in 35 games while leading the University of Michigan.  Hudson Fasching had a strong first season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers who were the top ranked team in the nation and lost in the NCAA Championship game. The 6'2" 207 pounder had 30 points in 40 games.

Nikita Zadorov, one of last year's first round picks, had a strong season on defense for London of the Ontario Hockey League.  The 6'5", 228 pound man child had 30 points in 36 games.

In addition to the treasure trove of picks and a number of promising prospects already in the organization, the Sabres have tons of cap room  but probably won't be using it until needed.  According to cap, the Sabres have 16 players under contract for next season and about $31 million in cap room.

The season of suffering will also pay off in a little over two months when the Sabres get one of the top players in this year's draft and perhaps a second depending on what the Islanders decide.  

So take heart Sabres fans, the worst is over.  Better days are ahead.