The Buffalo Sabres pulled off two remarkable signings and brought back a solid puzzle piece in free agency. Both will help the Blue and Gold improve.
Even with bringing back Kyle Okposo, Zemgus Girgensons, and Tyson Jost, along with signing Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton, the Buffalo Sabres are still by many intents a very young hockey team. I took the age of every player from my latest roster projection and I got an average of 24.8.
Yeah, that’s a shade older (at most) than last season. But the Sabres will remain one of the youngest and perhaps even the youngest NHL team – just for the record, I’ll err on the side of caution and claim one of the youngest, since I’m not about to project and calculate all 32 lineups just yet.
When you have a young team like this with a few seasoned veterans sprinkled in, however, overall optimism this season should rise unlike any other time across the last decade. In 2022-23, Buffalo finished with 91 points, so with the team slightly older, one year more experienced, and possessing, at least on paper, what will be an improved blue line, it’s more than okay to be optimistic about the team heading into the season.
Buffalo Sabres fans have a right to be optimistic this season
The 2022-23 Sabres were far better than advertised, though they had their flaws. Their defensive rotation, despite containing outstanding two-way players in Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, plus a hammer in Mattias Samuelsson, allowed way too many breakaways, odd man rushes, and someone was almost always caught out of position.
This was a hockey team that finished third in the NHL with 296 goals scored, but they allowed a staggering 300. That said, we know the Sabres can score, and with a more experienced hockey team in place, they are capable of sailing north of the 300-goal mark in 2023-24, even with Jack Quinn slated to miss at least four, but more likely six months.
But thanks to the improvements on defense with Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton, those two men alone will stabilize the defensive rotation and help the Sabres allow far fewer goals in 2023-24. Even if (and it seems highly likely), the Blue and Gold roll with a Levi-Luukkonen combo.
In short, we know the forwards (and even a couple of defensemen) could score and at times, they scored at will. But now, with Johnson and Clifton, we can at least believe the Buffalo Sabres won’t allow odd-man rush after odd-man rush this season. That will play into Levi’s and Luukkonen’s hands, and it will take pressure off the duo (especially Luukkonen).
Therefore, you can be optimistic about your Sabres this season. If they finished the year with 91 points and just one win out of making the playoffs last season with a spotty defensive rotation, what will they do with at least a serviceable unit in front of the goaltenders? They will be even more fun to watch.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)