No, the Buffalo Sabres aren’t a player or two from becoming elite

While the Buffalo Sabres could remain in the wild card race, one or two new players won’t fix the problem, so why make the big trade?

The Buffalo Sabres are a better hockey team than they’ve been in a long time, so it’s easy to see why there is so much wishful thinking surrounding the Blue and Gold. But here’s the issue: A player like Timo Meier wouldn’t come in and fix the problem. 

Patience is arguably the most underrated virtue in life, and in sports. And for a team that’s at least clinging to the wild card race that hasn’t seen a playoff berth in over a decade as February starts to fade into March, fans often want to see a blockbuster occur.

But that’s the worst possible thing general manager Kevyn Adams can do at the moment. For starters, this is almost the same team that took the ice last season. And if you don’t believe me, look at the returning players:

  • Forwards: Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Asplund, Peyton Krebs, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt, Kyle Okposo, Zemgus Girgensons.
  • Defensemen: Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Henri Jokiharju, Jacob Bryson, Owen Power (despite playing just eight games).
  • Goaltender: Craig Anderson
  • Further, Jack Quinn and J.J. Peterka also made cameo appearances, as did goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

That’s 15 of 23 players who played for this team full-time last season, or would have been full-time had it not been for injuries. Further, 19 of the 23 players on today’s roster played in at least two games with the team last season.

Buffalo Sabres are a younger, more improved hockey team

Want more fun? Tuch, Krebs, Samuelsson, Power, and Luukkonen didn’t play a full season with the team in 2021-22. Quinn and Peterka played in two games apiece.

This time last season, with a similar team, the Sabres were 16-27-8 (40 points, 0.392 points percentage). After their first 51 games this season, the Sabres sat at 26-21-4 (56 points, 0.549 points percentage). Quite the difference, but it certainly isn’t anywhere close to elite.

That said, the Sabres need to stick to their original plan and continue to build this thing they way they’ve been building it. While there have been frustrating moments this season that will likely continue to occur, they are a much better group than they were in 2021-22.

However, they aren’t good enough to trade for a single player who could morph into the “missing piece.” There will come a time for that, likely when the Sabres are either firmly entrenched in the wild card race, or if they transform into a Top 3 team in the Atlantic.

From their first 51 games in 2021-22 to their first 51 in 2022-23, the Sabres have accumulated roughly 15% more in the points column. While I won’t get so bold to assume they’ll accumulate another 15% more in 2023-24 after 51 contests, I will predict between a 7% and an 8% increase, or 65 points.

If they reach a deal with Rasmus Dahlin sometime during the 2023-24 season, their core, sans Owen Power, who will see his own long-term deal sooner than later as well, don’t be surprised if they make the blockbuster next season. They might just be good enough.

Source: Observations: Another brutal stretch of play dooms Sabres in loss to Maple Leafs by Lance Lysowski, 

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