After finishing with 91 points to round out the 2022-23 regular season, the Buffalo Sabres knew exactly what they needed to upgrade for 2023-24.
Team attributes are something I haven’t talked about enough, but they are important in distinguishing what the Buffalo Sabres were in 2022-23, and what they are thanks to an offseason of adding appropriate talent. Therefore, I wanted to dedicate a piece regarding the subject as it will give us an idea of what the Sabres are now, at least on paper, compared to what they were.
Below, you will find three major characteristics that this team improved over the past few weeks. And all three of them will help the Blue and Gold inch closer to that endlessly elusive playoff berth, so let’s explore them.
3 attributes the Buffalo Sabres upgraded this offseason
1 – Physicality
Before anything else, the Sabres knew they needed to get more physical if they wanted to compete with some of the league’s (and the Atlantic’s) best teams regularly. During the previous season, they tried to address this with Riley Stillman and Jordan Greenway, but the Blue and Gold quickly found out they needed more.
Enter Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton, a pair of defensemen capable of bringing even more of a physical edge to the Sabres. With so many upgrades in the preceding months, even before the offseason, the Sabres should be hitting opponents far more often when opening night rolls around in just under 11 weeks.
2 – Leadership
You could argue that the Sabres could have let Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons walk, and they’d still retain a good deal of young leadership with Rasmus Dahlin, Alex Tuch, and Dylan Cozens. But with such a youthful team still in place, bringing back Okposo, Girgensons, and adding the 35-year-old Johnson just gave the team a locker room full of experienced and up-and-coming leaders.
I’m not expecting our three older leaders to stick around following the season, so to infuse the locker room with their influence for another year will only a) create more leaders, and b) improve those already seen as young leaders. This is an improvement not only for 2023-24, but the long haul, and it was a genius move from Kevyn Adams to keep two veterans and to sign another.
3 – Depth
While the Buffalo Sabres didn’t create depth at forward with any new names, they maintained it with Okposo and Girgensons returning. Sure, one more forward would have been ideal, but the Sabres are currently in a situation where they lost Jack Quinn for an extended period, and there are already wingers available to replace him and move up in the lineup without the team missing a beat.
Suppose Adams let Okposo and Girgensons walk, and he still didn’t sign a forward, instead opting for recalling prospects to fill the voids. I’ll tell you this: Either the Sabres would suffer from a repeat of last season – good hockey, followed by some terrible hockey before the cycle repeated itself, or, they would be subjecting themselves to some growing pains.
Clearly, we’ve seen added depth in the defensive rotation, so much that there will be player movement either via trade, or into Rochester. Adams did the same regarding the goaltenders, and there is now plenty of insurance behind Devon Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.