The 2007-2008 Atlanta Thrashers are generally regarded as the worst team to play in the Behind the Net era. Their possession numbers / scoring-chance differentials were ghastly, and even the most inferior teams since then have failed to match Atlanta’s abortive brand of hockey.
But this year, a significantly more formidable challenger to the throne of possession-dominated has emerged …
From the moment the puck dropped on Buffalos 2013-2014 season, just about every individual in the Buffalo Sabres organization — from the guy stamping trades to the guy cleaning the arena bathrooms on game-nights — had this team in full-on tank-mode. Not only was this team expected to be somewhere between bad and awful, but GM Darcy Regier has more or less stated that his club would likely strip the remaining useful parts of the roster for long-term assets in an effort to expedite the rebuild.
It didn’t take but a month for Buffalo to make the first of what expects to be many moves, sending their most-talented forward in Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders in exchange for forward Matt Moulson and draft picks. Make no mistake, more moves are on the horizon.
That’s what makes this team, at least to me, so fascinating. They’re going to very seriously challenge the Atlanta Thrashers for worst-team-ever status, and through the first 20% of the regular season schedule, they’re well on their way.
I went ahead and compiled the rolling shot-differential numbers at even-strength for the pitiful 2007-2008 Atlanta Thrashers, and this year’s Buffalo Sabres. It’s a remarkable graph — if not to reminisce on just how bad that old Thrashers team was, then to see a team somehow leapfrog their hockey futility.
I was looking forward to sort of tracking this all season long, even hoping for a razor-close, head-bob type of finish. If this keeps up, Buffalo’s going to very easily set a new benchmark for every hockey corner to gawk at.
What’s even more insane, of course, is that the 2007-2008 Atlanta Thrashers won a decent number of games. They were buoyed by a very respectable 8.27 SH% at even-strength, and their .916 SV% in the same wasn’t even in the bottom-ten.
Buffalo, on the other hand, has a team-shooting percentage well under 5%, and their SV% of .923 is almost sure to take a hit if and when the team ships Ryan Miller out to a contender.
Sad as it is to see some dubious records fall, I think we’re in the midst of it happening here.