For the last 2 seasons, 32 year old right winger Vladimir Sobotka has been a weak link for the Buffalo Sabres. With the team poised for a playoff push, it’s time to move on from Sobotka.
Watching Buffalo Sabres games this year, it’s hard to find a weakness for the team. Even with the teams success, Vladimir Sobotka has struggled to play well. So far in 2019-20, Sobotka has just one point and at times looks like he does not belong on the ice. Some would argue Sobotka is boasting a plus minus of +5, but that is an empty statistic. Sobotka’s plus minus has greatly benefited from playing on the same line as Jeff Skinner and Marcus Johansson.
Still, moving on from an experienced veteran isn’t something the Sabres can do without having a solid back up plan. The Sabres don’t want to throw a prospect who’s not ready into the spotlight, or move Sobotka to acquire another veteran who would play about the same as Sobotka has.
Enter Tage Thompson. Thompson last season played in 65 games for the Sabres. At the age of 20, Thompson scored 7 goals (2 more than Sobotka in less games last season), and had 13 points in total. With great size at 6’6″ tall, Thompson had definite rookie struggles last season. There were times where Thompson looked like he wasn’t ready for the NHL yet, but there were also times where he was excellent.
It was fairly surprising this season to see Thompson not on the NHL roster, despite the struggles he still appeared to be a sure fire bet for another try in the NHL. Instead, Thompson was assigned to the AHL to play for the Rochester Americans to start the year. Through 6 games in Rochester, Thompson has been fantastic sporting 3 goals and 3 assists with a plus minus of +2. Thompson on the ice looks very advanced for the AHL level, and simply put, the guy is ready for another shot at the big leagues.
When Ralph Krueger and company decided it’s time to pull the plug on Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson will be ready to go. Now with a year of NHL experience under his belt, and a much improved Sabres team, expect Tage Thompson to thrive this time around.