As the Sabres continue to fall in the standings, a common theme appears evident with each passing game. The roster simply lacks quality, depth players (keyword being quality). The teams scoring is anything but balanced and their lack of depth is to blame.
Outside of the top line the team has struggled all year long to find secondary scoring. The quality of the players outside of that top line is well below average, so it's no surprise that the team needs to work to improve the output from its second, third and fourth lines.
Night in and night out, I have watched the likes of Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Vlad Sobotka continue to struggle. Sure all three are “good” on the penalty kill, but at some point the team has to question what else they have to offer... My answer would be not a whole lot. Girgensons has hardly lived up to expectations after a decent start with the blue and gold over his first two seasons. Taking a look at his career numbers there is cause for concern. Girgensons has played 407 games for the Sabres posting a -51 in the plus/minus category. Same can be said about Larsson, who has played 316 games and posting a -49 plus/minus. Housley’s use of Sobotka speaks for itself. The veteran center has struggled all year long, as he went through a stretch with 0 goals from early November to late February. Despite his scoring woes Housley has refused to take Sobotka out of the lineup. These numbers speak for themselves. These guys are out there on a ton of negative impact plays and don’t bring hardly anything to the table with regards to scoring.
Guys like these on the roster have essentially created a log jam for the Sabres. They really aren’t developing anymore, and you know exactly what you will get from each of them. My solution would be to start waiving these guys immediately. This is a results-driven league and these guys haven’t shown enough to warrant the amount of opportunities they have been given. So what if you lose them to another team, that’s a risk, I am willing to take given their production. The Sabres have to cut the dead wood from their roster if they plan to be competitive any time soon.
Look at the successful teams around the league. Yes, they have their fair share of first line stars, but they also have a great deal of depth. Best example I can think of would be the Winnipeg Jets. That team is deeeep, which has set them up to make a nice playoff run. They have drafted well and let prospects come along in their development, which has catapulted them to the standard much of the league aspires to. Players like Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, Nickolaj Ehlers and Brandon Tanev have all been home grown prospects that Jets have brought along. Now it’s time for the Sabres to recognize the formula and try to copy it.
We need to make room for the younger guys in the organization to have a crack at the NHL roster. With the likes of Nylander, Olofsson and CJ Smith buried down in Rochester, I’d like to see what we have in some of our younger guys with more of an offensive upside. I think a bit of complacency has settled in with some of the players who haven’t produced because they know the coach won’t take them out of the lineup regardless of their play. Sitting guys down for a night and showing them their spot is all but promised will go a long way in getting guys to play harder and produce on the ice.