The Buffalo Sabres learned a valuable lesson in the unofficial first half of the 2023-24 season: If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it. Unfortunately for the Sabres, they tried to shed their old identity that I’ve often dubbed “high-octane” in favor of a system that tried to favor more defense, and as we now know, the results were disastrous.
It’s good to have seen the Sabres scrap such an approach even if this should have happened back in November, but it’s better late than never. This team is built to score a lot of goals, even if it means giving up more than average. And since it forces opponents to play the Blue and Gold’s game when executed properly, it will translate to more wins than losses - we know this because that was the case last year with a lesser-talented team.
Now that the Blue and Gold seemingly reverted to the approach, and I say seemingly because I don’t want to be too quick to judge after just two games of this, they should be even better this time around. Not only do they boast more experience regarding those who have already been here, but they also have more assets in place.
We have already seen the top-six get on a roll at times over the team’s most recent contests, and that will only continue. Jack Quinn has already made his presence felt while Dylan Cozens is looking like the 2022-23 version of himself, and we don’t need to dive too deeply into how well the Tage line has played - they have been hot.
Buffalo Sabres high-octane game should evolve in 2024
But the Sabres also have at least three more good forwards working for them, one of whom is Casey Mittelstadt, whose play didn’t pick up until December 2022. Mittelstadt has shown he could be the next Sabre in line for a contract extension, but he’s not the only valuable one on that third line.
Zach Benson has more than proven himself throughout the first 25 games of the year, and it’s something Bill Hoppe of Buffalo Hockey Beat noticed about the 18-year-old forward:
"“Benson, who’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, has seized that opportunity, in part, because he plays so aggressively. In his first days in the NHL, he has consistently displayed a willingness to go to the so-called “dirty areas” and pay a price against opponents usually much larger than him.”"- Bill Hoppe
Then of course, there are physical assets like Jordan Greenway, and the recently-acquired Eric Robinson, both of whom have also shown a penchant for scoring “dirty goals” at times. With the newcomers like Benson, Greenway, and Robinson willing to invade the crease and score, it adds a layer to the Buffalo Sabres we didn’t see last year.
Therefore, we will be treated to those highlight-reel plays that we saw flashes of over the last two games. But during games when these goals aren’t available, the Sabres can also revert to just throwing pucks at the net, knowing someone like Greenway, Benson, or Robinson, among others, are only too happy to finish the job. That said, if the Blue and Gold keep up this rediscovered approach, it could be even better throughout the 2024 calendar year.