With the NHL All-Star break upon us, it’s a good time to take stock of the season so far for the Buffalo Sabres, which has been badly marred by injuries and COVID. The coaching staff and team management really need a shoutout for all the great work they’re doing with personnel, moving folks between the NHL side, the AHL side in Rochester and the taxi squad.
Before the season started, the DBTB writers got together and made their picks in the common awards categories, and at this point in the season with Buffalo having played 45 games - just over halfway through the season - it’s a good time to take a look at who got our votes and how far they were off from the reality.
Dylan Cozens (3 Votes) - Taylor, Calvin, Kerra; Rasmus Dahlin (1 Vote) - Melissa; Casey Mittelstadt (1 Vote) - Ryan S.; Tage Thompson (1 Vote) - Bryan
Who was going to step up after the Sabres jettisoned most of their offensive points-scorers? There were certainly a few candidates on the roster, and there’s a case to be made that between Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin, each of them has a legitimate shout at the Sabres’ MVP award. Thompson has come on in leaps and bounds this season, Skinner has found his scoring touch while also taking on a leadership role, and Dahlin is continuing to grow into the point-producing defenseman we had always expected. And to be honest, if Alex Tuch keeps his current form he could race into the lead by the end of the season too.
Who would you say has been the Sabres MVP this season so far?
Dylan Cozens (1 Vote) - Taylor; Rasmus Dahlin (1 Vote) - Ryan S; Victor Olofsson (1 Vote) - Calvin; Jeff Skinner (3 Votes) - Bryan, Melissa, Kerra
On a team that hasn’t scored too many goals, Skinner has the edge with 16 so far, just ahead of Thomspon with 14 and Cozens with 11. Again, don’t sleep on Tuch who has been settling in well.
Anders Bjork (1 Vote) - Melissa; John Hayden (1 Vote) - Bryan; Vinnie Hinostroza (1 Vote) - Taylor; JJ Peterka (1 Vote) - Calvin; Arttu Ruotsalainen (1 Vote) - Kerra; Craig Anderson or Mattias Samuelsson (1 Vote) - Ryan S.
Who do we give the surprise player award to? Is Thompson the best candidate for this? And contrary to popular belief, veteran Kyle Okposo is not finished, and is putting together a very tidy season for himself.
Rasmus Dahlin (5 Votes) - Taylor, Ryan S., Calvin, Melissa, Kerra; Will Butcher (1 Vote) - Bryan
The issue with the best defenseman award is that it almost always goes to the dman with the most points instead of the player who, you know, defends the best.
Total Team Points
78 (1 Vote) - Bryan; 69 (2 Votes) - Taylor, Calvin; 63 (1 Vote) - Ryan S.; 58 (1 Vote) - Melissa; 48 (1 Vote) - Kerra
The Sabres have 35 points in 45 games, which extrapolated over an 82 game season takes them to 64 points. With a bit better injury luck, the Sabres can get higher than that because there definitely have been signs of a revival in recent games.
Will the Sabres make the playoffs?
No (6 Votes) - Taylor, Ryan S., Bryan, Calvin, Melissa, Kerra
This one’s pretty clear. Nope.
Taylor: JJ Peterka ends up 2C; Eichel does a SportsCenter exclusive interview fully airing out the Sabres’ dirty laundry.
Hasn’t happened yet, that’s not to say it won’t happen. FYI, Eichel hit a setback on his return and might not return until the end of March.
Ryan S.: Arttu Ruotsalainen ends the season as the team’s second-line center.
Doesn’t look like this one’s happening.
Bryan: Will Butcher scores 40+ points.
Calvin: Dylan Cozens will take over Eichel’s mantle, be the team leader in points scored & get the ‘C’ early in 2022.
Not quite yet, on both counts.
Melissa: The Sabres are unable to find a suitable trade partner and cannot move Jack Eichel before the Olympics.
Whew, at least we dodged this bullet.