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Heather Bermingham writes  for the Buffalo Sabres blog, Top Shelf.  You can follow Heather on Twitter @topshelfcookies.

Buffalo Sabres Mid-Season Review

Halfway through the season, the Sabres have managed to crawl within eight points of a playoff spot. They’re also four points out of a lottery spot. That dichotomy pretty much sums up the Sabres season so far. On some nights they manage to give the best teams in the Conference a good fight. On other nights they look like the worst hockey team ever assembled. I suppose the truth is somewhere in the mediocre middle.

I’ll give it to them, the season has really been a team effort. With a few exceptions, almost everyone has underachieved. The most obvious person to point the finger of blame at is Ryan Miller. He’s not only come down to earth after his Silver medal, Vezina-winning 2009-2010, he’s crashed right through it. As of this writing, he’s 30th in the league in save percentage and 28th in GAA. He was second in the league in both last season. In eight of the last fifteen games, Miller has allowed four goals or more. He only did that seven times total last season. I think he’s been hurt some by the loss of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman in the off-season, both exactly the kind of steady, stay-at-home d-men a goalie needs in front of him, but he’s also just not playing very well. The reality is that the current Sabres rely on Miller to be very good, and he’s been average even on his good nights.

Miller’s down season has really emphasized the lack of offensive talent on the Sabres. For the first couple of months, Derek Roy was the only forward who seemed interested in scoring goals and beyond Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, the veterans in the top six have been just plain bad. Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, and Jochen Hecht have been mostly invisible and when they have been noticed, invisibility might have been the better option. Some young players – Tyler Ennis and Luke Adam in particular – have shown some promise, but they’re not ready to carry the offensive load yet. The bottom line is that the Sabres just don’t have enough offense to compete with the better teams in the conference, and their defense isn’t good enough to compensate for that.

So while the Sabres aren’t really out of it yet, if I’m honest, I think it’s just a matter of time. Eight points is a lot to make up in a league with so many three point games, and the team just hasn’t shown the consistency or quite frankly, the mental toughness to hang in for a season-long fight for the last playoff spot. Buffalo’s second half will probably be more exciting off the ice with an ownership change rumored to take place as soon as next week. And that’s where the hope lies for now. Despite how average the team is today, they’re actually in a great position for a new owner and most likely a new GM to come in and remake the team quickly. The Sabres have a number of contracts coming off the books at the end of the season so there‘ll be cap space and roster space. Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers will most likely be better next season. There is some talent to build around, there are some good prospects in the system, and current GM, Darcy Regier, is very stingy with his draft picks.

So for now, the same old cry rings out from Buffalo: Next year. Next year is our year.