Offseason preview: The Buffalo Sabres have talent, but need veteran leadership

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      The Buffalo Sabres failed to end the NHL’s longest postseason drought when they dropped out of the wild card race at the conclusion of the 2022-2023 season. Still, there is 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. On Thursday’s edition of Daily Faceoff Live, hosts Tyler Yaremchuk and Mike McKenna discussed what the Sabres need to take their talented roster to the next level.

      Tyler Yaremchuk: The Buffalo Sabres made some news yesterday, signing their captain Kyle Okposo to a one-year, $2.5 million extension. Now, you might look at a $2.5 million-dollar deal for a guy who only scored 11 goals last year and go “eh?,” but what I love about what they’re doing in Buffalo, Mike, is that they have built a strong culture. They’ve got 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 have been great in that room as well, but now they need to take a step forward. It’s been a feel good story, but GM Kevyn Adams needs to make moves that establish this team as a legit playoff contender this summer. What do you see as the biggest needs for the Sabres?

      Mike McKenna: They’ve got to stick to the plan within the context of filtering new blood into this club. They have to be better defensively in Buffalo, and that’s not just on their defensive core. I do think that’s number 1, first and foremost they have to supplement some of the young talents they have back there.

      I love what Dahlin has turned into. Power is going to be great. Samuelsson has been solid, but I really think the Sabres need someone like a Scott Mayfield, a Radko Gudas or an Ian Cole. You need somebody who has been part of a defensive culture on shutdown teams to help guide your team through this learning process if they want to go far.

      A d-man that is not just shutdown but also mobile would help, and then depth. It’s as simple as rounding out a lineup that already has star power. They need help down the middle, and if that guy can move to the wing as some of the young players break through that would help. 

      I look at somebody like Erik Haula. He’d be a great fit at a reasonable cap hit as an older player, which I like in this scenario. I like the Sabres picking up players in their 30s, because the young players are the ones filtering in. 

      What the Sabres don’t need to do is go out and spend big-ticket money on seven-year deals on players in their late 20s. That is not what Kevyn Adams needs to do; he needs to embrace the youth and supplement it with a veteran presence.

      Then, you also have to hope Devon Levi takes the starting job. Right now it’s a three-headed monster, and I’m not sure how long Comrie and Luukonen can stick around if Levi takes that role. 

      You can watch the entire episode now…

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