Can the Buffalo Sabres truly make the playoffs in 2022-23?
The Buffalo Sabres are still one of the lowest-ranked teams in the NHL. But last season’s uptick could be a sign of positive things to come.
Had the Buffalo Sabres played the entire 2021-22 season the way they played its final two months, they would have compiled a record of 49-26-7 (105 points). The total would have given them a playoff berth, albeit barely.
So we know the Sabres are capable of putting up playoff-like numbers for at least a couple of months. Three months, really, given their 5-2-1 start in October 2021. Problem is, the other four months weren’t just ticky-tacky; they were outright dreadful.
Between November 2021 and February 2022, the Sabres finished with a record of 11-28-7 (29 points). While injuries and COVID-19 played massive roles here, the Sabres can’t let something like this happen regardless of the situation if they are to truly make the playoffs in 2022-23.
Could the Buffalo Sabres truly make the playoffs in 2022-23 even if they stay healthy all year?
Not as one of the top three teams in the division. This isn’t a knock on the Sabres, but they just don’t have the proven experience you see in Toronto, Tampa, and Sunrise (Florida Panthers). Further, with the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings going on spending sprees this past offseason, there is always the outside chance they too will get hot.
Although the Sabres are a better hockey team in 2022-23 and should put up at least 85 points – 10 more than last season – they could still finish as low as seventh in the Atlantic. But Detroit literally threw a bunch of guys together with no experience playing around one another while Ottawa did the same but to a lesser extent.
That could actually play to the Sabres advantage since the team is steadily growing and edges Detroit and Ottawa in experience in playing as a unit. But here is the downside:
- Peyton Krebs, Mattias Samuelsson – 1/2 season of NHL experience
- Owen Power – eight games of NHL experience
- Dylan Cozens, Jacob Bryson – 1.5 years of NHL experience
- J.J. Peterka, Jack Quinn – four combined games of NHL experience
- Tage Thompson – One-year wonder
- Eric Comrie – 19 appearances tops in a single season
- Alex Tuch – 1/2 season experience with the Sabres
This is a group of terrific players. Unfortunately for the Sabres, while they have experience playing as a unit, they are still an inexperienced team. If they stick together, expect playoff contention in 2023-24.
But I will not rule out wild card contention. If the Boston Bruins decide to strip everything down while Detroit and Ottawa do not pan out – and there is a chance they won’t – the Sabres can realistically end their playoff drought and sneak in. Oh, but that’s only if they continue to mesh as a team and play better than their experience indicates.
So can they truly make the playoffs? Yes, but let’s not get so lofty to outright expect a playoff berth from this team. They will be better in 2022-23, especially if healthy. But don’t be disappointed when they (most likely) miss the playoffs.