Connor Clifton could play a pivotal role for the Buffalo Sabres in 2023-24, and he is yet another player who brings a physical edge.
The Buffalo Sabres filled a major void in free agency when they brought in Connor Clifton. The blueliner doesn’t boast a ton of size at 5’11, 190 lbs, but he proved to be one of the most aggressive players in hockey last season, logging 208 hits and 120 blocks.
Clifton may have only played third pairing minutes, with an average total time on ice sitting at 17:51. And he may not have seen much playing time in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he factors in as a perfect complement to second-year defenseman Owen Power should he end up on the second pairing this season.
Power is more of a two-way player who can set up scoring chances in the offensive zone, and he’s not an aggressive, stay-at-home type. Clifton would bring this brand of play to the second pairing, and it was a luxury Power didn’t have last season.
Connor Clifton brings a new dimension to the Buffalo Sabres in 2023-24
While the Sabres were an entertaining hockey team in 2022-23, they weren’t without their major weaknesses. Next to perpetually losing faceoffs game in and game out, their lack of aggression meant opponents were always outmuscling them.
While general manager Kevyn Adams traded for a pair of physical pieces in Riley Stillman and Jordan Greenway, neither became highly effective players, though there is still a lot of hope for the latter. The former could factor in as a seventh man, or they could be an insurance piece in Rochester, but they clearly weren’t enough, which is where Clifton comes in.
No, there are no guarantees that Clifton will be an effective piece on the second pairing, and that spot could ultimately land with the experienced Erik Johnson if he proves he can still play Top 4 minutes. But at the absolute least, the former Boston Bruins blueliner will factor in as a physical chess piece who will provide a major edge the Buffalo Sabres have lacked.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)