BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 1-4-6-14
In 2018, that four number combination is the single most important moment for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans around the world.
As 2018 comes to an end we look back on the moments that defined a year full of ups and downs for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2011.
Best Moment of the Year:
April 28, 2018: Sabres win NHL Draft lottery, land No. 1 pick
The Sabres won the NHL Draft Lottery. pic.twitter.com/E2iKMulTui— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 29, 2018
Despite only an 18.5% chance at landing the top pick, the balls bounced in the Sabres favor for only the third time in franchise history, giving the Sabres the rights to Swedish Sensation Rasmus Dahlin. In his first 39 games with the Sabres, Dahlin has lived up to the hype, scoring four goals and tallying 20 points. For an 18-year-old rookie, it's hard not to be excited about the future for one of the best rookies in the NHL. One thing is certain, the best is yet to come.
Honorable mention -- The 10-game win-streak
For the first time in a long time, it was fun to watch the Sabres again. I specifically remember standing at a local bar with my friends during the Sabres game on Nov. 24 against the Red Wings. The Sabres won in a shootout thanks to a nifty move from Tage Thompson and a pretty backhander from Sam Reinhart to give the Sabres their ninth straight win. When Reinhart scored to seal the game, the bar erupted. It felt like a playoff game in late November.
Worst Moment of the Year:
January 20, 2018: Stars trounce Sabres 7-1 at KeyBank Center
"Well, it just really tells me a lot about the individuals on the team."
Those were the words Phil Housley responded with when asked if the massacre against the Stars was the low-point of the season. With the embarrassing loss on home ice, it was more evident than ever that the Sabres had a long way to go if they were going to eventually turn things around.
Let's be real -- there were plenty of low-points during 2018 for the Sabres. Last season the Sabres were the worst team in the NHL and it never felt like they had a chance to turn things around after a disastrous start to the 2017-2018 season. But hey, if they didn't stink they wouldn't have landed Dahlin.
Honorable mention -- February 10, 2018, Jack Eichel injured against the Boston Bruins
For the second consecutive season, Eichel suffered an ankle-injury causing him to miss significant time. The season was already lost but the teams best player missing from the lineup would make an already bad season that much worse.
2018 MVP: Jack Eichel
Eichel is the Sabres best player almost every single night. In 39 games this season Eichel has 15 goals, 34 assists, and 49 points. He's currently on pace to tally 103 points this season, which would shatter his career-best mark of 64 points last season. Jeff Skinner is outstanding and Dahlin will be a superstar, but Eichel is the Sabres MVP night in and night out.
Classic RJ 🐐— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 16, 2018
"Oh my - What a play! Coming soon to a theatre near you: Sick Mitts, starring Jack Eichel. Brother!" pic.twitter.com/8OTZa9gh5v
Honorable mention -- Jason Botterill -- It really boils down to this. He's the guy who managed to steal Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes without giving up a blue-chip prospect *OR* a first-round pick. Say what you want about the Sabres lack of success last season. But in my opinion, Botterill knew the team was going to struggle and focused on turning things around after one year. He has a ton of work left to be done but so far, so good for the Sabres second-year general manager.
Honorable mention #2 (just because) -- Rochester Americans head coach Chris Taylor -- From the moment he was hired, the aforementioned Botterill has preached that the Sabres need their prospects to have success in Rochester. Despite getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season, Taylor has turned the Amerks into a solid team that looks like they'll contend yet again this season.
LVP: Matt Moulson
Hear me out -- Matt Moulson didn't play a single game for the Sabres in 2018 but he still cost the organization $5 million last season and another $5 million this season. Getting his contract off the books in the summer will give the team flexibility to resign Jeff Skinner or add a contributor in free agency.
Goal of the Year:
November 27, 2018 --Jeff Skinner lifts the Sabres in OT, winning their 10th straight game
It couldn't have worked out any better -- Jeff Skinner, who has been one of the best players in the NHL since joining the Sabres, takes a feed from Dahlin, and sends KeyBank Center into a frenzy. For the past three seasons, I've been in the building for almost every game. I haven't heard KBC that loud in years. Isn't WNY a lovely place when the Sabres are winning?
Unsung Hero: Sam Reinhart
This was pretty easy. Reinhart literally started 2018 with a bang, scoring the Sabres first goal in the Winter Classic game against the New York Rangers and he really hasn't cooled off since. Prepare to have your socks knocked off -- In the calendar year Reinhart has 77 points in 83 games. That's not good production, it's incredible production. Reinhart will likely never be the guy who can carry a team but there is nothing wrong with a player who will score 55-65 points a season.
Honorable mention: Zach Bogosian
Unlike Reinhart, Bogosian has a much smaller sample size after he was injured halfway through the 2017-2018 season. But in the first three months of the 2018-2019 season, Bogosian has been one of the Sabres most consistent defenders. His contract will never be team-friendly but he's a valuable piece to a team trending in the right direction.
Hit of the Year:
Rasmus Dahlin sent Matej Pekar into 2019 with an open-ice jolt during development camp in June
One of the most memorable moments covering the Sabres during 2018 was noticing the stark difference between Jack Eichel on the last day of the 2017-2018 season compared to Eichel on the last day of the 2016-2017 season.
Say what you want about the #Sabres struggles but it's very obvious that Jack Eichel has taken a big step this year. I think you're looking at the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres. pic.twitter.com/qgGUDVoZJB— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) April 9, 2018
A few months later, Eichel was named the captain of the Buffalo Sabres. To say he's matured would be a massive understatement.
So as we say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019, thank you for following along with 7 ABC for your Sabres coverage. Here's to a happy and healthy 2019 for you and your families!