How the Sabres take the next step

The Sabres were expected to contend for a playoff spot this season, but things haven't gone to plan. Here's how they take the next step for 2017-18. Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Goalie Robin Lehner has been through this before. Actually, this has been going on pretty much his entire career. The Buffalo Sabres goalie is now 25 years old, but he speaks with the wisdom of a veteran who is now in his fifth season on rebuilding teams, first with the Ottawa Senators and now with the Sabres.

He was coming off an impressive win over the Red Wings on Monday night, stopping 34 of 35 shots, to improve his save percentage this season to .922. There might be some issues in Buffalo, which we’ll get to, but goaltending hasn’t been one of them.

He was feeling reflective as he sat and chatted. Maybe he’s always that way. Either way, it was insight that only comes when you have a vantage point better than just about anyone in the building.

This was supposed to be the season we saw real growth from the Sabres. Maybe not Stanley Cup material, but certainly pushing for a playoff spot in mid-March. Instead, they’re back in the draft lottery.