FanPost

Creating a Contender

Everyone wants to be in the playoffs, the Sabres we all now haven't made it since 2011. Looking forward our future looks bright with our young core but what is needed to turn this team into perennial cup contenders.

As the team is currently constructed here's what I'm imagining that our team could look like in the next couple of years (Exact lines subject to Change)

Skinner - Thompson - Tuch

Quinn - Mitts - Olofsson

Krebs - Cozens - Peterka

Asplund - Girgs - Okposo

Samuelson - Dahlin

Power - Joki

Bryson/ Ryan Johnson/ Future Draft pick - Future FA Signing

Levi

UPL

The question that needs to be asked is if everyone reaches their potential, can this team be good enough to consistently be at the top of the league?

Star Forward Led Teams

Looking at past cup winners, the thing that sticks out in which we do not currently have are elite scoring forwards. These teams usually have at least one or two players that put up at least 80 points during the regular season. Teams like Tampa (Point, Kuch, Stamkos) Caps (Ovi) Pens (Crosby, Malkin).

The way that the Sabres are currently constructed, I don't see this team fitting this mold of being led by star forwards. Luckily there have been other ways that teams have reached the Cup that are more realistic.

The most realistic precedent with how our team is shaping up is the 2017 Predators team. This group had strong depth throughout their forward lines with an elite defense. Led by Ryan Ellis, PK Subban, Roman Josi. While their forward group wasn't elite, they played a great team game with depth that was hard to matchup against in the playoffs.

This is what I believe that this Sabres team can turn into. Just looking off of point production, I don't think we currently have any player who will produce 80-90 points (I hope I'm wrong). But what we will have is great depth. Here's what I'm thinking what production we could get from our guys in the next couple of years.

Tage 60-70

Tuch 50-60

Cozens 50-60

Mitts 50-60

Skinner 40-50

Oloffson 40-55

Krebs 30-40

Okposo 25- 35

Quinn 25-35

Peterka 25-35

Asplund 25- 35

This is a lot of depth with our scoring, Hopefully if Cozens and Mitts reach their potential as 50-60 point producers within the next couple of years they can create 3 separate lines that are equally as dangerous. During the playoffs when it matters most it will be hard to single out a line to shut down our scoring potential which has plagued us in recent years. The ability to roll 4 lines will be huge when it comes to series matchups. That's been the strength of teams like Nashville, St Louis, and Vegas when they made their Cup Runs.

Defense

This is where the strength of our team will come from. If our players continue their development, that will lead us to have two Elite 1 Defensemen in Dahlin and Power which will dominate the ice whenever they are on it. Being able to rotate these two on different lines maximizes the time during the game when our players have an impact on the total game. Having Samuelson as a Bonafide top 4 defenseman who will likely be on our top pairing. This doesn't even include players like Joki who at the very worst will be a great bottom pair defenseman. On cup winning teams having this depth is crucial. Having 3 studs on the defense will give us an advantage over most teams and allow us to dominate when these guys are out on the ice more often that not. This is similar to how the Preds (Ellis, Josi, PK Subban) and Tampa are constructed (Hedman, Mcdonagh, Sergachev)

The bottom pairing guys are a lot easier to get, we can draft and develop these people a lot easier than top 4 guys, and are able to sign these guys for free agency. Having great depth for many people for this role will be crucial when injuries come up. Guys like Jacob Bryson, Casery Fitzgerald, and Ryan Johnson can fill this role, and perhaps down the road we can sign a FA or trade for depth at the deadline.

Goalie

Looking at recent trends, almost every team to reach the cup has had a great goaltender come playoff time. There are always instances where I goalie gets hot in the playoffs and lead their teams (Binnington, Quick). You will always need good goaltending to be a contender in this league. This is by far what is holding back the Sabres from being a competitive team now, and what could turn them from a playoff team into Cup contenders.

Looking at what the Sabres have now in UPL, I think he will have a similar career path as our old friend Linus Ullmark, which is a 1B kind of guy. That leaves our hope for an elite goaltender in Devon Levi, who has shown to be an Elite prospect, but will he be an elite goaltender in 2-3 years when our team is more developed? With proper development and great surrounding D, that will put this kid in the best position to win but who knows if he will be ready by then. Hopefully as he gets older in and into his prime that's when we will be in the best position to win.

Also wanted to put in here that Erik Portillo is still and option for us. I'm assuming that for the future goalie position that there's only room for one between him and Levi, and right now I'm picking Levi. If Portillo competes and proves that he's better than Levi, that's an absolute win. But I still think the better of the two has the same potential.

Summary

As our team is currently constructed and develops to be its very best we don't look like a potential dynasty like Tampa. If we run into a superior built team like a Tampa in our prime years we might not be able to beat them. But I think we can be a team that is consistently competitive and makes it to a Cup final and could win in, similar to St. Louis, Nashville, and Vegas during their runs. I hope I am proven wrong and we overachieve.

Questions Going Forward

1. Does this team need an Elite Scoring Forward to succeed into Contenders?

2. Will our goaltending be good enough to lead us?

3. Will we be able to pay everyone to keep our young guys together for a long time?

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.