While the Buffalo Sabres have found many ways to make their season go from bad to worse, one of the major contributing factors to that idea has been the production (or lack thereof) of winger Victor Olofsson. When Olofsson came into the league, he was dropped right onto the wing of former captain Jack Eichel, and he thrived in that position. He had a playmaking center with the ability to draw attention away from him, and he always found a way to get open and use his lethal one-timer or his missile speed wrist shot. As if Eichel was the only player that allowed him to score, since his departure from the Sabres, Olofsson has produced exactly 0 goals since then.
It’s no secret that Olofsson does possess a cannon for his slap shot, and it has the accuracy to make it a viable scoring threat. As other teams in the NHL have become fully aware of the danger that his shot possesses, they have taken the time to cover his open wing in power-play situations to neutralize him as a threat. While Olofsson was finding some success at the start of this season by producing more at 5-on-5, he has failed to find the back of the net since Oct. 31, 2021.
This goal has him sitting at a total of five for the 21-22 campaign thus far, and each night that passes has him showing more frustration than the last. He does have a respectable 16 assists on the season for a total of 21 points in 34 games, but as his goal scoring has dropped off, so has his ice time. Not only has he been regulated to the third line alongside Rasmus Asplund and either Kyle Okposo or Dylan Cozens, but he has found his standard spot on the Sabres’ top power-play unit taken over by the resurgent Jeff Skinner. To pile on even more, his minus-14 rating is tied for the worst on the team with defenseman Jacob Bryson.
A Product of Eichel’s Playmaking
Olofsson has the tools to score, there’s no doubt about that, but the problem lies in his ability to create plays. He is the definition of a finisher. He has the ability to take the shot when he is open and put it in the back of the net, but he does not have the creativity or the playmaking ability to create offense on his own. He has shown some ability to set a few teammates up for goals, but his primary skillset lies in his ability to finish a play someone else started.
Olofsson’s career-high in goals is 20, which came in the 19-20 season, with nearly every single one of his goals having the name Jack Eichel attached to the assist tally. He thrives on the right side of the offensive zone, but his ability to shoot and pick corners when he gets proper space is just incredible. The problem this season is that he has been forced to be the best player on his line each night, and all of the opposing attention is on him instead of the likes of Eichel.
Breaking the Slump
It’s easier said than done. Being a natural goal scorer and not having anything you throw at the net go in is easily one of the most frustrating and confidence-breaking things a young forward can experience in the NHL. With that said, there are a few ways to possibly break this streak that Olofsson is on to get his confidence and his production back on track for the second half of the season.
The first thing that could be done is by Sabres head coach Don Granato. As the season has progressed, many other forwards have found chemistry with one another (i.e., Tuch and Skinner, Okposo and Cozens), but Olofsson has not really found that with anyone. It’s tough to find a player on the Sabres with the skillset that will maximize Olofsson’s, but there is still time to do so. Perhaps a healthy Casey Mittelstadt could be the right choice. He possesses the creativity, the playmaking skill, the finishing ability to draw defenders to him, and is a natural center. Mittelstadt has found himself on the injury list for most of this season, but once he returns to form, putting him and Olofsson together could be a new match made in heaven to revitalize both struggling forwards.
The second solution could be accomplished by general manager Kevyn Adams. While the trade market is not thriving at the moment, a change in scenery could be the solution to Olofsson’s problem. It has to be hard to be a part of a team that is constantly losing games. For years now, all he has known is a lack of professional success, mixed with minor individual success. There will definitely be playoff teams making calls on Olofsson should Adams decide to make him available closer to the trade deadline.
The third solution is something Olofsson himself can do. Every game that goes by his confidence wanes a little more. Little mistakes become big blunders. Hustle on a big play doesn’t happen as much because his legs are so heavy with frustration. Something he could do is start making simple plays. Too many times, he overthinks a situation and tries to force a pass through a bunch of opposing players without success. Instead, he should focus on just shooting. He should give up the playmaking mentality and be a lot more selfish with the puck. As his shot totals increase, his goal production will too. He was one of the Sabres’ top shooters at the start of the season, but ever since he came back from his injury, he has been passing the puck far more than he should.
Olofsson Turning It Around Would Do Wonders
The Sabres need a lot of things to change and improve during the second half of the season and into next season. Having Olofsson back on the track of being a consistent power-play threat and a reliable goal-scoring option would do wonders for them. Time will tell how he gets himself out of the slump, but in both his eyes and the fans, it couldn’t come soon enough.
I have been a hockey and Buffalo Sabres fan since I was in middle school. Through the good times and the very long bad times, I have stuck by this team with the hope that one day we would become a powerhouse in the NHL. Now I join The Hockey Writers as I hope to talk about this Buffalo Sabres team on an upswing. I love this team with all my heart, and I take pride in my ability to know players, prospects, and so much more. As a hockey fan I have a particular taste for young players and prospects; doing mock drafts, looking up stats, guessing potential, doing player comparisons, all of it. The idea of the future skill in the NHL is one of my favorite things to think about, write about, and talk about. I am also an avid NHL gamer with a top ranked team in the “Threes Eliminator” mode.