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Sabres Need Adjustments to Improve Offense

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Count me in as one of the people that loved the way the Sabres played following the lockout.  They had a high powered offense that lit up the scoreboard at a record pace.  They were also winning games and made it to the conference finals two seasons in row.

Since that time the Sabres have missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons and the offensive has been inconsistent.  Every once in awhile you see glimpses of the team that could score goals on command but mostly they manage just one or two goals like they have the last two games.

It's easy to look at the game last night and point towards the numerous chances they created but the end result is what matters.  Reality is that this team needs some help offensively.  The help they need is right there in the room with a couple of key changes to the lineup.

I think we can all agree that Tim Kennedy and Tyler Myers have earned their spot in the lineup and should not be replaced.  Kennedy was not a big factor in the game Thursday night but he looked great last Saturday.  He has all the skills to be an outstanding contributor for the years.

With Kennedy becoming a regular in the Sabres lineup they have an opportunity to recreate that offensive magic they had a couple of years ago.  Players like Drury and Briere helped that team become a powerhouse but it was the secondary scoring that made them great.  They were able to roll four lines on a regular basis and they received offensive contributions from everyone.  This team needs a couple of tweeks to be just as good.

Through two games, the Sabres have used traditional lines with a two scoring lines, a checking line and fourth line that is a mixture.

Scoring 1 -  Vanek-Connolly-Roy
Scoring 2 - MacArthur-Kennedy-Pominville
Checking - Hecht-Gaustad-Grier
Line 4 - Kaleta-Ellis-Stafford

With the current lines they have players out of position and others that aren't being utilized properly.  Stafford is a waste of talent on the fourth line and Kaleta and Ellis are both playing out of position.  The first move would be to send Ellis to te press box and play Paille.  Paille in the lineup would immediately improve the Sabres offense.  He isn't going to score 30 goals but he has much more offensive talent than Matt Ellis.

I would also move Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad down in the lineup while moving Drew Stafford up to a scoring line.  My new lines look like this...

Scoring 1 - Vanek-Connolly-Pominville
Scoring 2 - MacArthur-Kennedy-Stafford
Checking - Hecht-Roy-Grier
Line 4 - Paille-Gaustad-Kaleta

By moving Pominville and Stafford up the team will maintain their two scoring lines.  I would argue that Pominville would make the top line better because he is naturally a winger unlike Roy.  Stafford would be better utilized playing with Kennedy and MacArthur than he is with Ellis and Kaleta.

Derek Roy might not deserve a demotion to the third line but he would give that line an immediate offensive presence.  It might also help Roy become a better player because he might shoot more when he is the best player on the line.  I think playing with Grier would also force Roy to be more accountable in the defensive zone.

There are many people that would argue that Paul Gaustad is a fourth line player.  That argument is futile because that is exactly what he is.  He is a hard working player that holds others accountable.  He will never be accused of taking a play off but he will never be confused with Thomas Vanek in front of the net either.  Gaustad would make an excellent fourth line player while he is a marginal third liner.  When you combine Goose with Paille and Kaleta, they could be the best fourth line in the entire league.

The opportunity is there for the Sabres but they need to make a couple of subtle adjustments to return to their high powered offense.  With three goals in two games it is clear they need to do something different, let's see how they handle it.