This season has been one of ups and downs thus far for the Buffalo Sabres, but it has ultimately been one of the more fun starts to a campaign they’ve had in some time. Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin have broken out as superstars, while players like Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, and Jeff Skinner have helped to create one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NHL. Not to mention the early returns looking promising on rookies Owen Power, Jack Quinn, and JJ Peterka. The future is surely bright in Buffalo, but that future also doesn’t have to be so far away. They have brought themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot, and are currently riding the high of a four-game western road trip sweep. General manager Kevyn Adams should reward his team’s resilience this season and bolster their roster so they can continue their push toward the playoffs.
Sabres Could Use Blue Line Depth
This season has been a game of musical chairs on the Sabres’ blue line. They have had numerous injuries up and down their defense which has made it hard to create consistent pairings. They have a trio of superb defensemen with Dahlin, Power, and Mattias Samuelsson, but after that, they don’t have many quality options. Players like Lawrence Pilut and Casey Fitzgerald have largely looked like depth defensemen rather than players who should be in the lineup nightly. Adding another defenseman to the mix would not only give them another option to turn to, but it would also slide Pilut and Fitzgerald down the depth chart. This would allow them to play minutes that are better suited to their skill level while improving the defense core overall.
More injuries are bound to happen throughout the course of the year, and preparing for them now will be a huge benefit down the stretch. More than injuries, they’ve also given up a lot of goals this season, so bolstering the unit with another defenseman would take some pressure off their offense. There have not been many trades thus far, so they have the opportunity to set the market price while also having more options available to them.
Sabres Need to Find a Third Line Center
While the top two forward lines have been producing at an elite rate this season, the bottom six has struggled to maintain continuity due to injuries and poor play. Their third line has been a revolving door, but Rasmus Asplund, Casey Mittelstadt, and Victor Olofsson have been some of the mainstays. They have failed to create any sort of sustained chemistry, and all three have had inconsistent seasons. Mittelstadt specifically has struggled to produce consistently and could benefit from a change of scenery. He has shown flashes of his potential but has struggled to display his skills on a regular basis. He would surely benefit from a lesser role, and even a move to the wing could be helpful for him.
Related: Sabres’ Dynamic Duo Down the Middle With Thompson & Cozens
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Even if the Sabres decide not to move any of these players, they should still consider bringing in a veteran center who can reliably and consistently give them center depth. Their forward group is made up of young players with the exception of Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, so bringing in another veteran would bolster their on-ice play and add another leadership voice to the locker room. Having Thompson and Cozens as their top centers makes it easier for them to make a trade. They are not trading for a superstar but rather a two-way forward who can play with anyone on their roster. A player with more experience will help stabilize the third line and make them more versatile.
Because of the top-end players they already have on their roster, they don’t need to make any groundbreaking moves. Acquiring another defenseman or forward does not have to come at an astronomical price because they are simply trying to increase their roster depth. They have elite players and have identified a core to move forward with, now it is time to start building around them.
The Sabres have fought hard to remain in the playoff race despite their early eight-game losing streak. Their offense is legitimately one of the best in the league and either adding to it to make it more potent or adding a defenseman to take some pressure off of them, would be a huge benefit. It is exciting to see how far they have come in such a short period of time, and giving them more players who can contribute down the stretch will go a long way for their confidence and ability to stay in the playoff hunt.