There's no easy way to say it. The Buffalo Sabres are having a rough start to the 2016-2017season.
The scoring drought is real, and it's certainly troubling. Is it really any worse than it has been the last few years? That’s the question.
For a fair comparison, I've compared the first 21 games of each season dating back to 2013-14. Overall, statistics indicate that the Sabres are having trouble hitting the back of the net, but it isn't exactly anything new.
This season, the Sabres have 39 goals-for and 53 goals-against. Their goals-for is the lowest in the NHL, while their goals-against is eighth-most in the league.
At this point last season, both numbers were higher. The Sabres had put up 44 goals-for – roughly 0.238 more goals-per-game than this year. They'd also allowed four more goals (57).
Looking back, things were even rougher in the 2014-15 season. The Sabres had racked up one fewer goal (38) but allowed 18 more goals against (71).
One more season back; in the 2013-14 year, the Sabres had scored just as many goals as this season (39), but had allowed 11 more (64).
At the quarter-season mark, the Buffalo Sabres have been shutout twice. That's once more than last season at the same marker, but it's an improvement over both the 2014-15 and 2013-14 seasons, when the team had been shutout five and four times, respectively.
The Sabres have registered just one goal in nine games this season, which is the highest in the past four seasons. They've scored four or more goals in two games this season; compared to three last year, and four the year prior. The lowest mark was two games in 2013-14.
All in all, that is a lot of numbers, but what does it mean? The team isn't being shutout as much as in years past, which is an obvious improvement. They're having trouble putting more than one goal in some nights, but still scoring more than one goal a game at a pace that generally matches the past three seasons.
Take this season and the 2014-15 season into consideration. Here's how the numbers stack up through 21 games:
Looking at the numbers, some areas have improved greatly between those two seasons. The team's offense has been shutout just twice this season compared to a whopping five times in the 2014-15 year. While it’s true that the Sabres have managed only one goal nine times, it's certainly an improvement over no goals. Otherwise, the numbers are consistent.
Sabres fans have been through this before. While the loss of Jack Eichel before the season began has undoubtedly been a hit to the team's offense, a seemingly endless list of players have gone out with an injury, forcing a call-up from the AHL…or two…or three.
In the end, it's nothing we haven't seen before, and we can only hope that the offense will improve as the season goes on.