We are up to the fourth day of Christmas, and so far we have identified the franchise goalie, shutdown defensive pairs, a true first line. For the fourth day of Christmas the Buffalo Sabres need – four rolling lines.
Just having twelve forwards doesn’t work. The Buffalo Sabres success will hinge on the time when they have four lines with players deserving to be on those lines. What happens when you have four rolling lines that can effectively cut off an opponent at every turn?
You get a team that when so far depleted they still have the ability and the energy to defeat their opponents. See the now famous “butt goal” game between the Buffalo Sabres and Phoenix Coyotes. The Buffalo Sabres relied on a guy like John Scott for almost nine minutes of playing time. The energy level was high, and the team stayed in a game where they were outmatched and outgunned.
If the Sabres get the Christmas wish on the third day of Christmas – and get a true fourth line – they may only need one or two pieces that will organize lines two, three, and four.
You don’t need stars on lines three and four to be successful. Take a look at the Stanley Cup winning teams in the past, forever – and the top line stars are not always the story line. Guys like Daniel Paille in Boston have appeared to have huge success because his name has come up in big Boston games in recent history. Paille didn’t turn into a star since leaving Buffalo, he has just found a roster spot worthy of his talents.
Having strong depth at every position and properly formed secondary, tertiary, and fourth line positions is important for success. What happens when the top lines wash each other out in competition? If you don’t get a mismatch the team with the third and fourth line that contributes is going to stand as the victor.
The Buffalo Sabres have the chemistry and the emotional investment in the game now, getting the right role players, and not a team of them will be the hinge on which the future is built.