Offseason preview: Buffalo Sabers have talent, but need veteran leadership
The Buffalo Sabers failed to end the NHL’s longest playoff drought when they dropped out of the wild card race at the end of the 2022-23 season. Still, there’s more reason to believe than ever in upstate New York, where Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin and Alex Tuch led an exciting team that scored the third-most goals in the NHL. . In Thursday’s edition of Daily live face-to-face, Hosts Tyler Yaremchuk and Mike McKenna discussed what the Sabers need to take their talented roster to the next level.
Tyler Yaremchuk: The Buffalo Sabers made headlines yesterday signing captain Kyle Okposo to a one-year, $2.5 million extension. Now you could look at a $2.5 million contract for a guy who only scored 11 goals last year and say « huh? » But what I like about what they’re doing in Buffalo , Mike, is that they have built a strong culture. They have guys who want to be there, and Okposo is a big part of that. I love that they’re bringing back their captain.
Pieces like Alex Tuch and Jeff Skinner were also great in this piece, but now they have to step up. It’s been a good story, but general manager Kevyn Adams needs to take steps to establish this team as a legitimate playoff contender this summer. What do you think are the greatest needs of the Sabres?
Mike McKenna: They have to stick to the plan in the context of bringing new blood to this club. They need to be better defensively in Buffalo, and it’s not just on their defensive core. I think that’s number 1, first and foremost they have to complement some of the young talent they have there.
I like what Dahlin has become. The power will be great. Samuelsson has been solid, but I really think the Sabers need someone like a Scott Mayfield, a Radko Gudas or an Ian Cole. You need someone who has been part of a defensive culture on stop teams to help guide your team through this learning process if they want to go far.
A d-man who is not only stationary but also mobile would help, then depth. It’s as simple as rounding out a lineup that already has star power. They need help in the middle, and if this guy can go on the wing as some of the younger players break through, that would help.
I’m looking at someone like Erik Haula. He would be fine at a reasonable cap as an older player, which I like about this scenario. I like that the Sabers select players in their thirties, because it’s the young players who infiltrate.
What the Sabers don’t need to do is go out and spend big bucks on seven-year contracts with players in their late twenties. That’s not what Kevyn Adams has to do; it must embrace youth and complement it with a veteran presence.
Then you also have to hope that Devon Levi takes the starting job. Right now, he’s a three-headed monster, and I don’t know how long Comrie and Luukonen can stay if Levi takes on the role.
You can watch the entire episode now…