Just when you think they've hit rock bottom, the Buffalo Sabres drop to another level of futility.
Saturday afternoon was the team's worst loss of the season, a 7-1 drubbing by the Dallas Stars in KeyBank Center. It was the second time in four games that the Sabres have allowed seven goals, both times at home.
It's the same questions and the same answers in a glum post-game dressing room. And nothing seems on the verge of changing.
The sound bites are great, but the words game after game, and now year after year, ring hollow.
"We can say it in the room," Sabres veteran defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We can tell guys. At the end of the day, it's up to yourself. No one can make me do it. I have to do it myself and I can't make the next guy, he can't make the next guy. At some point we've got to look in the mirror. The onus is only on ourselves.
"I mean we can talk. Not to go crazy and go way back, but how many years have we been talking about this, trying to turn the page, or what it takes to win? And no one's going to make us do it."
Every time the Sabres show potential, show signs of working hard, of being competitive, of even (gasp) winning some games, the club takes two steps backward with lackluster effort and the absence of passion.
The Sabres entered their five-game bye week with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and while they lost the next game to the Rangers in New York, 4-3 in overtime, the team showed some grit and battle even without the ability to win a close game.
But they followed that up on Saturday with a horrible performance in front of a sold-out KeyBank Center for the kids-focused matinee game. Dallas dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, taking a 1-0 lead while outshooting the Sabres, 10-1.
While head coach Phil Housley insisted the team "got the game back" in the first period, the Sabres looked to be chasing the game from the drop of the puck. They fell behind 2-0 after 20 minutes and quickly were in a 3-0 hole in the second.
So much for building on the win over Columbus and a good battle in New York.
"That's probably the most frustrating thing. We don’t seem to get any traction and continue to grow," Gorges said. "And I think that's more the mental side of this game than anything. When we have a good effort one night, we get a little bit too far ahead of ourselves, a little bit too comfortable. What do we have to feel comfortable about? In no way should we come in any day, game day or practice day, and feel comfortable. Because we're not in that position."
There was nothing comfortable about the Sabres performance on Saturday.
After falling behind 3-0, there was a brief sign of life on the power play. Jack Eichel's shot hit the post and Sam Reinhart was in front to put in the rebound on his backhand.
But just 38 seconds later, the Stars responded with a goal that chased Sabres starting goaltender Robin Lehner for the third time in the last seven games. Lehner allowed four goals on 19 shots.
Chad Johnson didn't fare much better, giving up three goals on 13 shots.
The Sabres certainly need a little bit more out of Lehner in these games, but the burden isn't his alone.
"It's starting from him out," Housley said. "It's not just Robin. Our whole group, whether it's boxing out in front or tying up sticks ... whether it's making right decisions or finishing checks."
These are all topics the Sabres have addressed before. The problems aren't new. But the solutions, which sound easy, have been elusive when putting them into practice.
"It's a broken record. It's frustrating," said Sabres forward Kyle Okposo. "We've got to find a way to work. It shouldn't be a hard thing to do, to come to work and work. That's it. ... I don't know, it doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't make sense. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now."