By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist

Do you think it was easy to cover the Buffalo Sabres during the 2017-18 season? Think again.  It wasn’t easy to come up with new ways to describe the team’s latest losses for the last-place team.

One angle that did come up every so often was the way the Sabres played at home – which is to say, terrible. Buffalo only picked up 27 points at the KeyBank Center, one of the worst such seasons in team history. The reporters would ask the players what the problem at home was, and they’d try to come up with answers. The Sabres were trying too hard to entertain the home crowd. They were grabbing the stick too tightly (a kind way of saying that nerves were involved). And so on.

I tried not to get caught up in that discussion for a reason. My theory is that such numbers are a matter of luck.

LAST SEASON’S NUMBERS

Let’s look at the home/road record comparisons, going from the biggest home-ice advantage to the smallest in 2017-18. HP stands for Home Points, RP stands for Road Points.

Team – HP – RP – Diff.

Pittsburgh – 62 – 38   +24

Minnesota – 62 – 39   +23

Montreal – 45 – 26    +19

Winnipeg – 66 – 48   +18

Florida – 57 – 39   +18

Dallas – 55 – 37   +18

Colorado – 55 – 37    +18

Columbus – 58 – 42   +16

Anaheim – 47 – 34   +13

Vegas – 60 – 49   +11

Washington – 58- 47   +11

N.Y. Islanders – 42 – 31   +11

Boston – 61 – 51   +10

Detroit – 41 – 32   +9

Ottawa – 38 – 29   +9

N.Y. Rangers – 46 – 38   +8

Tampa Bay – 60 – 53   +7

San Jose – 53 – 47   +6

Edmonton – 42 – 36   +6

Chicago – 41 – 35    +6

Vancouver – 39 – 34   +5

Carolina – 44 – 39   +5

Nashville – 60 – 57   +3

New Jersey – 50 – 47    +3

Philadelphia – 50 – 48   +2

St. Louis – 48 – 46    +2

Arizona – 36 – 34   +2

Los Angeles – 49 – 49   +0

Calgary – 38 – 46   -8

Buffalo – 27 – 35   -8

The Sabres, then, were tied for last in the category, with Calgary – which had a mediocre 37-35-10 record.

IN COMPARISON

Let’s see what happened in 2016-17. Here are the leaders in home-ice advantage:

Team – HP – RP – Diff.

Philadelphia – 55 – 33   +22

Pittsburgh – 66 – 45   +21

Dallas – 50 – 29   +21

Arizona – 48 – 29   +19

Nashville – 56 – 38   +18

And here are the trailers:

Team – HP – RP – Diff.

N.Y. Rangers – 46 – 56   -10

Anaheim – 41 – 43   -2

Boston – 47 – 48   -1

Florida – 41 – 40   +1

Calgary – 48 – 46   +2

Let’s see – Pittsburgh was in the top five both years, while Calgary was in the bottom five twice. If you are curious, the Sabres had 46 home points in 2016-17 and 32 on the road.

My guess is that teams will reach the proper level in the standings over the course of a season, but the breaks might not even out when just considering home or road games. Odds are good that Buffalo will bounce back next season to have more points at home than on the road. The tough part will be to predict just how many total points they will have next April.

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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