With 10 games left in the season, the Buffalo Sabres have to collect 11 points just to match their 81-point total from last season. That's not what you would call progress by any measure and, fair or not, it's got the focus turning harshly on coach Dan Bylsma.

The thought of a coaching change seemed ridiculous even a month ago. Bylsma is two years into a five-year contract where he was given the reins of a burgeoning outfit adding lots of pieces off a 54-point team. He quickly got to 81 points and there's no question everyone both inside and outside the organization expected more this year.

It hasn't happened for a variety of reasons that have been discussed ad nauseum this season. What you couldn't have expected was the way players constantly make veiled comments about just "playing hockey" and "not thinking so much" and "not worrying where I am or where I'm supposed to be."

You've heard it from Jack Eichel and Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart. From Jake McCabe and Ryan O'Reilly. And Tyler Ennis too. No insinuation here that any of the aforementioned are malcontents, nothing close to it.

But their perceptions seem to be taking on more reality as the season winds down. Social media and talk radio, hardly any sort of credible focus groups, are pounding Bylsma regularly. As over the top as they may be, it's hard to argue certain points.

The Sabres' abymsal analytics have them in the land of Colorado and Arizona when it comes to puck possession. They have just 12 road wins in 37 games -- after collecting 19 last season. And they continue to be hovering near a minus-30 goal differential while having one of the league's worst penalty-killing units, a tough nugget to swallow when you consider Buffalo has turned into the NHL's top power play.

If Tim Murray and Terry Pegula want to fire Bylsma on merit, there's a case to be made for that. But they have to tread very lightly.

The Sabres' 3-8-2 record in the last 13 games gives pause to the thought there's some, ahem, tanking going on by some of these players to ensure the coach's departure. No matter the finish, the GM may be inclined to take his huge share of the blame for this lousy defense corps and give Bylsma another shot with a better roster.

The Sabres were badly outplayed through stretches of their three-game California road trip but were in every game through 40 minutes. They were down, 2-1, Tuesday in San Jose only because of the unlucky own-goal Eichel put past Robin Lehner. The game Thursday in Los Angeles was scoreless heading into the third before Buffalo suffered its fourth straight 2-0 loss in Staples Center

Talking to O'Reilly after practice Wednesday in El Segundo, he made it clear he expected progress this year and that this team still has something to play for over the last dozen or so games. The Sabres got nothing out of Thursday's loss in Los Angeles but stayed with Friday's 10-round shootout to squeeze out a win over the Anaheim Ducks.

"You don't just wake up one year and decide you're going to win a Stanley Cup or decide you're going to be a competing team for it," O'Reilly said. "It's tough to jump in the standings. Each year you have to make a push. To us, it's not over yet. We've got a lot to prove that we can play and beat these teams. We have to show we should be better, that we should be in the playoffs and that this should be our run this year. That's something we have to prove constantly."

For those who say the players have quit on Bylsma, my response would be watch the games. The Sabres got better as each game went on during the trip, albeit not a difficult feat when you consider they were outshot badly (20-9 and 15-2) in the first period of the first two games.