Why the Buffalo Sabres shouldn’t re-sign Okposo and Girgensons

The Buffalo Sabres must decide whether to keep two of their three captains from 2022-23 in the aging Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons. 

Earlier today, I made the case for the Buffalo Sabres keeping captain Kyle Okposo and alternate captain Zemgus Girgensons around. Now, I’m going to talk about why they should, at most, re-sign just one of the two, which is the way I really feel about the issue.

For one, the Sabres shouldn’t be finished building their team just yet. And although 91 points was their best outing in a decade, having two of the three oldest skaters regularly in the lineup didn’t get them into the playoffs. In fact, in their 16 combined seasons with the Sabres, the Blue and Gold have earned exactly ZERO playoff appearances.

So despite their leadership, it makes no sense to keep two guys around who never once helped the team reach the postseason amidst several incarnations of the team, coach, and front office regimes.

You could argue that no one on the Sabres has gotten this team to the playoffs, and you would be correct. However, the likes of Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, and even Jeff Skinner, were busy putting together their best respective seasons; Okposo and Girgensons are clearly on the back-nine of their respective careers, despite Skinner being the older player than Girgensons chronologically.

Buffalo Sabres shouldn’t need to re-sign both Okposo and Girgensons

While Girgensons can still bring a high-energy approach and a sound leadership role, Okposo looked finished this season. He didn’t even remotely look like he could keep up with skaters younger and older, despite showing flashes of his old self at times. Sure, Okposo’s leadership skills are off the charts, but you have to openly wonder whether re-signing him will hold the team back since he’s lost several steps.

This past season, the Sabres finished with five rookies on the active roster and they still nearly made the playoffs – Owen Power, Jack Quinn, J.J. Peterka, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and of course, Devon Levi. They did this in shunting their older skaters back in the lineup, into the press box, or to other teams. The result? 91 points and a near-playoff appearance from the NHL’s youngest team.

Sound leadership is the biggest reason to keep Okposo and Girgensons around. And as I said in my article endorsing their return, Buffalo wasn’t going to get close to snapping their playoff drought without them.

But there are also emerging leaders on this team like Alex Tuch, who would be my pick to wear the C next season. Rasmus Dahlin grew into his role as an alternate captain, and Dylan Cozens did a fantastic job leading Quinn and Peterka.

While I obviously won’t flip if Okposo and Girgensons return, do the Buffalo Sabres still need them? They proved this season that they’re just fine even with younger talent, they have emerging leaders, and physically, there are much better options to promote in the prospect pool than to continue toiling with two skaters whose respective skill sets aren’t present to the same extent they once were.