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Offseason Moves Raise Questions

Friday morning not only marked the first day of 2021 but it also marked the first on-ice day for the 2021 Buffalo Sabres.

While media was limited due to Covid-19 protocols, the excitement across all social media platforms was understandably palpable.

Coming into camp, it was reported that Buffalo would likely be presenting a very formidable group of players with another set of players who will likely be fighting for a taxi squad position.

Once those anticipated “Group 1” and “Group 2” rosters hit social media, the takes came in hot and heavy.

With the first game of the season taking place just two weeks from Friday’s first on-ice practice for the Sabres, all aspects of camp surely need to be accelerated.

The lines we received from the collected media surely increased the chatter among Sabres fans.

You can replace Mittelstadt with Eichel, who missed practice once again Saturday with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day.

Aside from that quick swap, you are likely looking at your opening night lines and roster for the 2021 season.

Despite the calendar switching to 2021 a few days ago, does it feel like you woke up once again staring the 2020-21 NHL season in the face?

That feeling might very much be warranted because the Buffalo Sabres, led by freshman general manager Kevyn Adams, unfortunately do not look much different.

While Adams did make a few big moves to increase the depth of the top-six, when he acquired veteran forward Eric Staal in a trade with the Minnesota Wild and when he landed the proverbial free agent big fish by signing forward Taylor Hall to a one-year deal.

When looking on paper, Buffalo’s top six of Hall / Eichel / Olofsson / Skinner / Staal / Reinhart could be considered to be in the upper echelon against other top-sixes throughout the league.

Once you look past those top two lines, the drop-off is fast and furious.

Adams seemingly placed all of his eggs in the top six basket, while attempting to patch together a worthwhile bottom six.

Basing judgment off of what the Sabres projected bottom six has done in past seasons, fans better plan their bathroom breaks for when the likes of Girgenson / Eakin / Okposo / Thompson / Lazar / Rieder hit the ice.

Buffalo’s downfall years ago was its lack of dominant goal scoring. The Sabres have seem to resolved that issue for the time being.

Now, Buffalo is struggling to put together a lineup that can push their franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

Kevyn Adams certainly was not handed keys to a Ferrari when becoming the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres but the talent on this team certainly is not lacking in certain aspects.

After an accelerated offseason, you look back at moves like extending forward Zemgus Girgensons for three-years at $6.6 million. Your head starts to turn sideways, like when you ask your dog if they want to go for a ride in the car.

All the while, Adams lets a solid-bottom six forward like Johan Larsson walk to free agency and subsequently to the Arizona Coyotes for two years, $2.8 million.

At this point, many were left scratching their heads and wondering what the strategy here was.

To die on this hill real quick – has Girgensons filled out his role in the bottom six? Sure. Is it hard to justify the amount of money he was paid this offseason? Certainly.

Decisions like this have given many an extended pause.

Are Adams and his team properly evaluating which players are actually the reason certain lines are successful and are they subsequently able to assign a proper value to said players?

This will become the burning question throughout the accelerated 56-game season we are quickly approaching. The inefficiencies will become glaring but with players like Taylor Hall and Eric Stall now in the fold, one must hope that their ability to excel offensively will ultimately cover-up any glaring deficiencies created by the lackluster bottom six.