BUFFALO – The Sabres have lost a franchise-record nine consecutive games and 31 of 45 this season. They rank 29th overall and dead last or close to the bottom in every major statistical category. They just lost 7-0 to a reeling Minnesota Wild team, their worst home defeat since 1977.
Of course, the Sabres were supposed to lose this season. But was the rebuilding club supposed to lose so badly this often? Opponents have outscored them 39-9 during their skid.
Very few expected the Sabres would be good. But most expected they would at least compete hard most nights, something coach Ted Nolan’s teams are known for doing regularly.
Does Nolan fear he could be fired if things don’t change soon?
“I’ve never feared my position in the NHL,” Nolan said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “I never did in my life, because the only thing I know how to do is do what I do, and sometimes it’s good enough, sometimes it’s not. I’m not here to do anything but trying to get this team playing better and trying to get some of our younger players doing the right things in order for them to be better.
“We’re in the business of winning, though. You have to win, and you have to compete, and if you’re not winning and you’re not competing, there’s prices to pay.”
Nolan knows “if you lose enough, you know what you’re going to get.”
“But who’s going to worry about the rest of the bunch when that happens?” he said. “Usually when teams lose, there’s a lot of changes. You have a lot to play for. You have to play for your contract, you have to play for your livelihood, so you don’t want to be, ‘Well, we’re doing the right thing by losing.’ No, you’re not doing the right thing.”
Check back later for more on Nolan, who put the Sabres through a grueling 35-minute practice with no breaks today, skating them up and down the ice. The Sabres practiced without a puck for much of the session, making “imaginary” plays.
“Pain makes people think more,” Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons said. “If I was the coach, I would’ve done the same thing.”
The Sabres are simply too soft.
“It’s not punishment, it’s what we have to do,” Nolan said. “We have to get pucks the pucks in deep. We have to get back, we have to change properly. Even our line changes are soft. The way we attack the puck is soft.”
In other news, defenseman Mike Weber had a maintenance day today and should play Saturday against Philadelphia, Nolan said.
Center Marcus Foligno (hand) has also started skating on his own.
Here are Nolan’s new lines from left to right: Brian Flynn, Girgensons, Chris Stewart; Matt Moulson, Torrey Mitchell, Tyler Ennis; Cody Hodgson, Phil Varone, Drew Stafford; Nick Deslauriers, Matt Ellis, Patrick Kaleta.