The first four months were essentially a waste of time, which makes this the most important month of the season for the Buffalo Sabres. February features the NHL trade deadline, and it's up to General Manager Jason Botterill to ensure the whole season isn't a loss.
His predecessors had mixed results.
The Sabres have been obvious sellers at the deadline eight times in the previous 15 years. Darcy Regier handled the fire sales in 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2013. Tim Murray was in charge from 2014 to 2017.
For all his flaws, Regier had an ability to win trades. The jury is still out on Murray, though it doesn't look promising.
Here's history to guide Botterill as he looks to deal Evander Kane, Benoit Pouliot and anyone else who might be of interest.
The GM made three moves at the deadline. Two failed to help the organization. He hit the jackpot with the other.
Regier sent center Chris Gratton and a 2004 fourth-round pick to Phoenix for center Daniel Briere and a 2004 third-round pick that was used on defenseman Andrej Sekera. It's one of the most lopsided deals in team history.
Regier also traded captain Stu Barnes to Dallas for Mike Ryan and a 2003 second-round pick. Ryan played just 65 games for Buffalo, recording seven goals and 13 points. The pick, Branislav Fabry, never left Europe and is still playing in Slovakia.
Regier gave Rob Ray to Ottawa for "future considerations" that were never returned.
Regier's only move was a win. He held a prime trade chip in Brian Campbell, and Regier sent the defenseman and a seventh-round pick to San Jose for forward Steve Bernier and a first-round pick.
Bernier was traded that summer for two picks, including defenseman Brayden McNabb, but the big prize was San Jose's first-round pick. Buffalo used it to select forward Tyler Ennis, who spent eight years in the organization.
Regier was busy with three trades. Two were positive.
The big move was sending center Paul Gaustad and a 2013 fourth-round pick to Nashville in exchange for a first-round selection. Regier packaged Nashville's pick with a second-rounder to select forward Zemgus Girgensons.
The trade of forward Zach Kassian to Vancouver for center Cody Hodgson looked good for a while, but Buffalo ended up buying out Hodgson.
Regier also got defenseman Alex Sulzer from Vancouver for Marc-Andre Gragnani. Sulzer played parts of three seasons in Buffalo, while Gragnani appeared in only 14 games with Vancouver.
Once again, Regier held a sought-after trade target at a busy deadline. All three trades eventually helped the Sabres, though not as much as the team would have liked.
Regier sent right wing Jason Pominville and a 2014 fourth-round pick to Minnesota for center Johan Larsson, goaltender Matt Hackett, a first-round pick and a 2014 second-round pick. The Sabres used the first-round pick on defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who was sent to Colorado as part of the package for Ryan O'Reilly. The second-round pick became winger Vaclav Karabacek, who is injured in the ECHL. Hackett played 13 games in Buffalo. Larsson is still in town as a bottom-six forward.
Regier traded defenseman Jordan Leopold to St. Louis for a second-round pick (forward Justin Bailey, who has bounced between Buffalo and Rochester) and a fifth-round pick (defenseman Anthony Florentino, a rookie in the ECHL).
The GM also sent defenseman Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles for two second-round picks. More on that in 2014.
Hired in January, Murray had less than two months to line up one of the most notable moves in franchise history and three others.
Murray traded goaltender Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to St. Louis for forwards Chris Stewart and William Carrier, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick. It was a decent haul.
The first-round pick was part of the package sent to Winnipeg for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. Murray bundled the third-round pick with defenseman Mark Pysyk and sent them to Florida for a blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov and a second-round pick that was used on Swedish center Rasmus Asplund. Carrier did little and was lost to Vegas in the expansion draft.
Halak never played for Buffalo, traded to Washington with a 2015 third-round pick for goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla, who went to Europe instead.
Murray shipped left wing Matt Moulson and center Cody McCormick to Minnesota for forward Torrey Mitchell, a second-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick. The 2016 second-round pick went to Montreal for defenseman Josh Gorges. The 2014 selection was sent to Washington for a pair of picks that became forward Eric Cornel and defenseman Brycen Martin, minor-leaguers who are not close to the NHL.
Murray dealt McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker and the two second-round picks acquired in 2013 back to Los Angeles for forwards Hudson Fasching and Nicholas Deslauriers.
The success or failure of the year depends on how Gorges is evaluated and whether Fasching becomes an NHL regular.
Murray made four moves. One helped the Sabres, and the other three were for picks who are nowhere near the NHL yet.
The GM sent Neuvirth to New York Islanders for goalie Chad Johnson and a 2016 third-round pick. Johnson won 22 games in 2015-16. The third-rounder was used on defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, a junior at Boston College.
Murray sent Stewart to Minnesota for a 2017 second-round pick that became highly regarded Finnish goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Forward Brian Flynn went to Montreal for a 2016 fifth-round picked used on Vojtech Budik, a defenseman in the Western Hockey League.
Murray sent Mitchell to Montreal for forward Jack Nevins (four points in 72 games with Rochester) and a 2016 seventh-round pick used on Vasily Glotov, a forward in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Murray's deadline featured two deals. While he eventually made one exciting, it didn't pay off.
The GM sent forward Jamie McGinn to Anaheim for a 2016 third-round pick. That selection went to Nashville for the rights to forward Jimmy Vesey. The Hobey Baker Award winner elected not to sign with Buffalo and joined the New York Rangers as a free agent instead.
Murray traded defenseman Mike Weber to Washington for a 2017 third-round pick used on Oskari Laaksonen, an unknown defenseman playing in Finland.
Last year was a complete failure. Murray didn't make any moves. He couldn't find takers for unrestricted free agents Kulikov, defenseman Cody Franson and goalie Anders Nilsson. Murray also granted the desire of captain and pending UFA Brian Gionta to remain in Buffalo, which was a noble gesture but didn't help the team.
If 2018 doesn't feature a trade, it will be more embarrassing than last month's 7-1 shellacking at the hands of Dallas.
Recent history suggests trades for picks yield better results. Regier and Murray were able to get Ennis, Kane and Zadorov with the draft-choice assets.
The Sabres, however, have aging cornerstones in O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo. Surrounding them with NHL-ready players is a must. If Botterill brings in prospects, he needs to do better than Carrier, Bernier, Ryan and Mitchell. The next Briere could finally turn around the franchise.