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Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson is checked by Montreal Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin during the second period at First Niagara Center. (USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson is checked by Montreal Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin during the second period at First Niagara Center.

(USA TODAY Sports)

Is Buffalo the worst team in the NHL’s three-point game era? Add to ...

They are in dead last in the NHL by a wide margin, with just 11 points in 26 games.

They have won just one of their last 14 games in regulation. Three of their five wins have come in the coin flip that is the shootout.

Yes, the Buffalo Sabres, deep into the 2013-14 season, are on pace for just 35 points in a league where it takes more than 90 to usually make the playoffs.

That is about as bad as we’ve ever seen in recent history in the NHL.

Since the 2004-05 lockout, which brought in the last collective bargaining agreement and a salary cap, the worst a team has ever finished in those eight seasons is the 2006-07 Philadelphia Flyers.

They won only 22 of 82 games, with a 22-48-12 record that gave them 56 points.

Only two other teams have ever finished with fewer than 60 points in a full season: The 2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins (58 points) and St. Louis Blues (57 points).

So the Sabres are tracking to be the weakest team we’ve seen in a while.

Historically speaking, it’s very unlikely they challenge the worst seasons of all time. The 1974-75 Washington Capitals hold the record for fewest points in a full season with just 21 in 80 games – they won only eight as an expansion team – and three other teams have had 30 or less.

Those records, however, were all set before there were all these three-point games. With 15 per cent of NHL games now going to a shootout, there are more points available than at any other time in league history, making a 35-point season by the Sabres probably right up there in the top five if adjusted for era.

Since the NHL started awarding points for overtime losses beginning in 1999-2000, by far the worst a team has ever finished is the expansion Atlanta Thrashers in the first season with three-point games, when they managed only 39 points.

That team was outscored 313-170 on the season and its save percentage was an unthinkably bad .877.

So far this year, Buffalo has had competent goaltending from Ryan Miller but is on pace to score just 132 goals, which would beat the record of 133 set in 1953-54 by the Chicago Blackhawks.

And that was in a 70-game season.













1999-00 Thrashers












2013-14 Sabres*













But the Sabres underlying statistics are also just as ugly. They have the worst Fenwick Close (possession rating) of any team since the number has been kept at 38.5 per cent, and while their PDO suggests they may be a little unlucky, it’s also possible their shooters are just that bad.

They’ve done it with a roster making more than $57-million, with boat anchor contracts like Ville Leino’s six-year, $27-million one on the books until 2017.

Cody Hodgson is the only Sabre with more than four goals this season, after 26 games. No Buffalo player has a positive plus-minus, and some of the high-priced help like Christian Ehrhoff is minus-10 this month alone.

The Sabres highest scoring player at even strength, meanwhile, has just nine points, which is 137th in the league.

Whoever Pat LaFontaine hires as this team’s next GM, in other words, has their work cut out for them.

But they should have some pretty good draft picks to work with.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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