Many in the Buffalo Sabres faithful are saying, “Here we go again, this is the same old team we’ve grown accustomed to.” But that is really not the case.
On the surface, these Buffalo Sabres look no better nor any more effective than the Sabres of recent memory. They started off 7-3-0 in October and in their first game of November, only to stumble to 7-10-0 by mid-month.
Their goal differential sits at -16 over the streak’s duration, and it has led to Sabres fans pointing fingers at pretty much everything and everyone. But when you look closely at this roster compared to past lineups that also gave us some fool’s gold, you are going to notice some dramatic differences.
As mentioned in a previous article (see above link), this Sabres team is not refined. They have few souls in the group with playoff experience (not counting Anders Bjork and Riley Sheahan) next to Craig Anderson, Ilya Lyubushkin, Alex Tuch, and Kyle Okposo. For a 23-man roster, that’s just 17.3% of the players.
These are not the same old Buffalo Sabres
Knowing that the Sabres have very few veterans who have been to the postseason, it tells us just how inexperienced this hockey team is. With Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen now activated, the Sabres could have up to four rookies on the ice at the same time, assuming he is still in the Queen City when Jack Quinn returns.
When you have so much youth out there, youth that, besides our rookies, also includes Peyton Krebs (2nd season), Dylan Cozens (3rd season), Casey Fitzgerald (second season), Jacob Bryson (3rd season), and Mattias Samuelsson (2nd season), you have eight players (not counting Luukkonen), over 33% of the roster, in their third season or less.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s rare a team that young is going to win very many hockey games. And they have all shown flashes of outstanding skill sets. Problem is, young players have bad habits like forcing the puck, which of course, leads to the plethora of broken plays we’ve become accustomed to seeing, turnovers, and overall dysfunction.
You got an experienced first line, which is a huge plus, with Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson, and Alex Tuch having over 20 combined seasons of NHL experience. But look at the Cozens line, where he has teamed with Peterka and when healthy, Quinn – five combined seasons of NHL experience. So what were you expecting? All-Star performances night in and night out? Be real, here.
Judge the Sabres by their on-ice performances
Before the season started, I said W’s and L’s weren’t as important this season as player development. And for the Sabres, it’s going to be a developmental team because 2022-23 is nothing more than a developmental year. And that’s what separates this squad from the teams that collapsed after either October or November, literally since the 2018-19 season.
They are the youngest team in the NHL, with 12 players on the active roster 25 years old or under, 13 now that Luukkonen is coming to town. This young team saw its fair share of growing pains last season, but they also proved that, when healthy, they can put up a decent product, as they showed in March, April, and October.
Guess what? Injuries again hurt this team, no pun intended. But so did the fact that the more experienced teams have been able to figure them out.
So for a young, inexperienced team like the Sabres whose opponents have found answers for them, that’s going to translate to losing streaks like this or dry spells where they will lose more than they win until they find a way to answer their opponents. And those answers will come as the team grows with more experience.
While I believe the Sabres will get more consistent as the season wears on, in these early stages, let’s look for one thing only: Better hockey. If this team loses but plays a good game, it’s a step in the right direction. The more they minimize their mistakes on the ice, even if they lose a few more in the process, it’s an improvement, and it should be recognized.
Sure, the losses will always sting. They should sting the players, the fans, the coaches, front office, and everyone involved with the Buffalo Sabres. But we don’t need to judge the NHL’s youngest team, especially after the numbers given above, by only W’s and L’s this season. Let’s instead judge the progress this team will show as we dive deeper into the second half of November.
Article Source: Sliding Sabres suffering from inexperience, injuries, 5-on-5 struggles by Lance Lysowski
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