This report card was one I was itching to do for a few reasons.
First off, “Dad” as affectionately referred to by many Sabres players, had one of the better seasons of his career as a Sabre. He also established himself as the clear-cut leader of this group and someone the locker room looks up to. But another reason is that Okposo is 34 years old, and players’ primes don’t last forever.
So, for both the organization and the fanbase, we’re at a bit of a crossroads: Where do we go from here?
Total Season Stats: 74 GP, 21 G, 24 A, 45 PTS
Contract Status: Signed through 2022-23, $6 million
My goal is to be subjective as I write this because it’s fair to love a player, but it’s fair to realize there’s only so many roster spots a team has, and the Sabres are no different.
Let’s break this down into three categories: Production, Leadership, and Longevity. We’ll start with production. As previously stated, Okposo had a fantastic season having his 4th season amassing 20+ goals and assists. Totaling 45 points was good for 5th of the Sabres this season showing a resurgence of sorts of “Okie.” Okposo played a solid role on the second power play with 8 of his goals coming with the man advantage, and playing the right dot position on the Sabres power play, which has been a shooters’ spot the past few seasons.
Okposo looked like a younger version of himself this year, reminiscent of his days on Long Island with the New York Islanders. He stayed healthy this year too, which was beneficial for both himself and the team as it allowed him to be the player he wants to be for this team.
Which leads me into the leadership aspect; Kyle Okposo is arguably the heart and soul of the Buffalo Sabres. It’s not flashy, but we’ve learned that throwing talent into leadership roles doesn’t always add up. It’s easy to see too, the younger players on the roster respect him as both a player and a teammate, and he has embraced this community since the day he arrived.
It’s hard to place a value on leadership, because leadership doesn’t put pucks in the net, and Okposo’s contract will likely never be something he produces up to. However, his role in the locker room and on a 3rd/4th line that is among the most consistent in the league is something that is undeniable. There are rumors of Okposo being named the captain of the team next season and rightfully so; but that leads me to my final section.
Okposo is 34 years old, which is no spring chicken in the NHL. He’s been plagued by concussion problems and other injuries that have sidelined him for the past few years in Buffalo. It’s true this season was great, and I genuinely hope he can continue the production he had this season next year. The team needs him both as a presence in the locker room as well as on the ice. His production is going to drop off at some point, and while I think he can be a successful player for years to come, he has to be healthy to be able to do that.
At the end of the 2022-23 season, Okposo will be an unrestricted free agent and by that time, who knows what he’ll want to do. I know if he has a C on his chest, he’ll have a very hard time leaving the 716, and even if he doesn’t receive the captaincy, he might anyways. He knows he’s endeared himself to the fanbase over his time here, but he also knows he can’t play forever and a team may want him to help chase a Stanley Cup. He’s from St. Paul, so maybe he’ll want to join the Wild to get his chance for a ring. Maybe in his mind he’ll want to return to the Islanders, although that seems unlikely. Regardless, he’ll have some decisions to make, as will Kevyn Adams.
Will he be re-signed at the end of next season on a short-term deal to stay here and lead this team? Or will he have to be moved out to make room for draft picks like J.J. Peterka and Jack Quinn? We’ll find out next summer.
Kyle Okposo’s season was undoubtedly a bright spot on a Sabres’ team that finished with a bang and lots of good vibes throughout what was Rick Jeanneret’s last season. Okposo was a player that other teammates looked up to and respected, and provided good depth play on a team that is blossoming into something special.
Will Okposo be named the captain of the Sabres next season? Or will somebody like Alex Tuch or Rasmus Dahlin? We’ll have to wait and see, but no matter what happens, it’s clear that Kyle Okposo is trending up, even in the twilight of his career.
Season Grade: A
(Writer’s Note: Personally, if Okposo is willing to stay, I would offer a 3 year/$9 million contract to continue to play a depth role on the team next summer).
Grade Kyle Okposo on his 2021-22 season.
This poll is closed
A - excelled above expectation
B - did better than expectation
C - met expectation
D - did worse than expectation
F - did much worse than expectation