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Vulgar Statistics: Sabres by the Numbers

08/08/10
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Sabres by the Numbers

Since we, as Sabres Fans, haven’t yet rightfully touched the Stanley Cup, we often hear older curmudgeon-y fans regaling us with tales of the Sabres of old. The Sabres are this, the Sabres are that, etc. Some of the words that have been thrown out there to describe the Sabres over their 39 season history are  “mediocre,” “have never been a contender,” and “soft.” So, looking over 39 years of Sabres history, what is the real story?

Excluding the strike-shortened 94-95 season, the Sabres average regular season record is 39-30-11-2, good for 91 points. Despite this, and playoff appearances in 28 out of 39 years, the Sabres have won just six division titles. Whether mediocre is an accurate moniker depends entirely on your definition of the word. To me, a mediocre team would be one that continually struggles to make the playoffs and rarely wins a division title. When you’re playing with one of the most storied and successful franchises in league history, winning a division title once every six years isn’t half bad. Therefore, I would describe the Sabres as a team that has been consistently good. Not great, but dependable for a playoff appearance and certainly not deserving of the “mediocre” tag.

As I said, the Sabres have missed the playoffs just 11 times in their 39 year history. Of those 28 playoff appearances, they have made it out of the first round 14 times. Overall the Sabres boast a losing record in the playoffs in both total games (120-128) and in series’ (21-28). Of those 14 first round series wins, the Sabres have advanced past the second round 6 times. Contrast that with our Western sister, the Vancouver Canucks, who have advanced to the Conference Championship twice, both times continuing on to the cup finals where they were defeated. I think as fans, we fail to recognize just how hard it is to put together a successful season. Most of us work, but how many of us have 29 other people trying specifically to ensure that we’re not doing very well at our job? The Sabres may not be a contender as often as fans wish, and they’ve obviously failed to close the deal, but there’s no mistaking that they are often a contender.

The Sabres did something in the 2009-2010 season that they have not done in 30 years. They failed to eclipse 1,000 PIM over the course of the season, INCLUDING the strike shortened 94-95 season. A lot of older fans will describe the Sabres as soft, and to be fair, compared to the hockey they grew up with, they’re right. But that makes the rest of the NHL soft as well. Personally, I would also like to see the Sabres drop the gloves more often, but this is a team that can hardly be described as soft over its history. How soon we forget Rob Ray, Gord Donnelly, and the 1991-1992 Sabres. Some of you may not know this, but with their 2,713 PIM in 80 games (34 PIM a game) the 91-92 Buffalo Sabres are the all-time NHL leaders in most PIM in a single season. Hell, can we put THAT on a banner and raise it to the HSBC rafters?

In a world where Buffalo has often become the poster child for futility, and the pathetic punchline of journalists with hack writing staffs, the Sabres break free of the downtrodden mold of mediocrity.  Sure, we haven’t yet tasted the sweet success of a championship season, but it’s only a matter of time.

The two tables I used for this post can be found below:

Sabres Seasons:
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Sabres Playoff Appearances:
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One Comment leave one →
  1. 08/08/10 9:27 PM

    They have been mediocre a lot of the time. I count 13 non-mediocre seasons. The rest are pretty mediocre.

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