The Sabres can move closer to last place and either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel on Thursday night with a loss to the Coyotes. But how did they get here and what does it all mean?
We have the answers to nearly every question you can think of regarding the situation. Click on the links for the full stories.
It was in April 2013 when the Sabres went public with their "suffering" era. They said they would lose in order to rebuild with high draft picks.
“I want to win the Stanley Cup,” Sabres President Ted Black said. “If it takes a little longer and we have a more certain opportunity to win, I’ll take that.”
"I would like to think that people will give up some suffering in order to win a Stanley Cup," Darcy Regier, then the general manager, said. "I’m willing to do it. I believe our fan base is willing to do it. We certainly don’t want to extend it for a long period of time. We want to make it as short as possible, and that’s the goal.”
The Sabres had missed two straight playoffs at that point and traded away captain Jason Pominville. Needless to say, the idea of more suffering didn't appeal to everyone.
A Buffalo News analysis in the spring of 2013 showed why the Sabres were adopting this plan.
"Only the first five teams in the draft can be confident they’ll find a prospect who will play awhile and be a point-producer," the article said about early picks and top players. "During a 13-year stretch that started with the Sabres’ loss to Dallas in the 1999 finals, the importance of impact players is evident. Ten of the 13 winners boasted a player selected first or second overall."
Another Buffalo News study conducted last week further highlighted the significance of drafting in the top two in consecutive years, which is what the Sabres are hoping to do.
"History shows the Sabres have a 67 percent chance of reaching the finals and a 50 percent chance of winning a Cup if they draft second," the article states. "If they draft third, the likelihood of a finals appearance drops to 25 percent."
Of the six non-expansion teams that drafted first or second in consecutive years between 1979 and 2007, four reached the Stanley Cup finals within eight years. Three won the Cup.
The team that finishes 30th this season is guaranteed to draft either first or second in June. That brings in either McDavid or Eichel. Their numbers speak for themselves. Here are McDavid's stats. Here are Eichel's numbers.
Oh, boy, has there ever been a reaction. Some have embraced the tank.
“I am 100 percent for finishing dead last this year to secure one of the two prizes next draft,” season ticket-holder Dave Cannon of Tonawanda said in The Buffalo News' season preview that explored the question of "to win or not to win." “We have watched rebuild after rebuild, been forced to put up with excuses and bad players, and I think this is our reward.”
Others have fought it with nearly every ounce of their being, with The News' Mike Harrington on the front lines.
"It’s unfathomable how this franchise has created a culture in which losing has become acceptable in the executive offices and throughout the fan base," he wrote in the season preview.
"This game figures to be one of the most bizarre, twisted sporting events ever held in Buffalo," he wrote in Thursday's paper.
Sabres fans have stuck to their guns as the race for last place heats up, with a conflicted arena expected Thursday.
“Remember: The goal is not to win games,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in the story. “The goal is to win a championship. Some believe the best approach to get there is by getting the best possible draft picks.
“So those teams are not trying to lose. They are trying to win a championship.”