Buffalo Sabres Need a Roster Shakeup if Losing Streak Continues

The Buffalo Sabres dropped another game to push their losing streak to eight as they continue their struggles in November. While some of the losses have not looked terrible from an effort or energy perspective, a majority of them have been quite embarrassing. This team has gone from a 7-3-0 record and looking like a hard-nosed team with fight in them, to a 7-11-0 record and looking like they think they can walk through teams on skill alone. They have no right to believe that they can play that way when they have been a bottom-feeding team for more than a decade.

The season started hot, but the key to the Sabres’ success was the effort-driven plays they made, combined with the skill behind their top players like Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, and Alex Tuch. They may have looked good out of the gate, but a losing streak of this magnitude trumps any meaningless early success. Beyond a handful of players, there needs to be an adjustment. Whether that is swapping players in Rochester, or making a trade is the real question.

Sabres’ Possible Internal Roster Moves

The Sabres have a number of young players in the Rochester Americans system that have been doing very well. Linus Weissbach is tied for second on the team in points with 11, along with Lukas Rousek and Isak Rosen, and he leads the team with six goals in 15 games. He was one of the fringe players in the preseason that looked great, and deserved a shot in the opening lineup, but was ultimately sent down in order to keep Peyton Krebs and rookies JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn in Buffalo. He plays a calculated game with great speed and good finishing ability, and the Sabres could use that kind of player right now.

Peyton Krebs, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of the players mentioned on the Sabres roster, the least impressive one has been Krebs. Last season he was working hard, driving plays, and making some great passes, but this year, he has been making the simplest plays look complicated. He has been moved between the third and fourth lines and has been taken off the power-play that he originally was on earlier in the year, and it is clear that he needs a little more development time. At the very least, he needs to get his confidence back, and playing 19 minutes per night in Rochester over 10 minutes per night in Buffalo should help him get there. He needs to show signs of improvement soon, or his role will continue to diminish.

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The Sabres have already recalled goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (UPL) to fill the gap of an injured Eric Comrie, and it will be his crease to win during his time with the big club. Craig Anderson continues to be used sparingly by coach Don Granato because of his age, so UPL will see the majority of the starts. He played well during the most recent loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was left in the dust by a mediocre defensive effort, and some continued questionable officiating. UPL can be their solution in goal, but he needs the support of a competent defense in order to stop this losing streak in its tracks.

Sabres’ Possible External Roster Moves

The Sabres already made one move on Saturday (Nov. 19) afternoon when they claimed Tyson Jost off waivers from the Minnesota Wild, but he should not be the only player added if they want a real shift in attitude. Jost is a solid two-way player, and a former top-10 draft pick that hasn’t been able to make his stamp on the NHL yet, and he will slot in nicely to the middle-six and penalty kill. Where he adds value is his simple style of play, and his potential to be more than just a roster insert. He has the ability to score goals, and he works with a high-functioning motor. Playing him alongside Dylan Cozens would benefit him and this team greatly.

Tyson Jost Minnesota Wild
Tyson Jost, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Sabres need to start considering trades for anyone that isn’t a rookie or named Thompson, Dahlin, Tuch, Cozens, or Mattias Samuelsson. The names that most come to mind for the trade block are Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt, and Jacob Bryson. Of these three, Bryson has looked the best and is having a good season despite being constantly moved around the defensive lineup. He has the potential to be moved, but considering the defensive depth that the team is suffering from, they would be foolish to do so.

Olofsson continues to be streaky and improperly utilized, despite his skill set being very straightforward. He is a power-play specialist reminiscent of an old fan favorite named Ales Kotalik, but he lacks the defensive awareness that Kotalik had. He plays a third-line role at 5-on-5 and that suits him fine, but having him as a shooting option for the top power play unit instead of the second one will make his value go up much more. He does one thing well, and Buffalo needs to either utilize that talent or trade him for someone different.

Victor Olofsson Buffalo Sabres
Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Mittelstadt has scored at a relatively even pace this season as he has five goals and 11 points in 18 games, and his overall attitude and gameplay have been average. Should he remain healthy, then he is on pace to break all of his personal season records. He still has another year left on his contract, so he would fetch a better return than a rental player would, and since the dollar amount is low ($2.5 million) he could be moved to any team, since the expected return would be another player. He and Olofsson could be moved together in a package deal as well, if the Sabres wanted to add a higher caliber player in lieu of them, but they likely would be moved separately if any trade was made.

Sabres Cannot Wait Much Longer

Losing streaks are all too familiar to Sabres fans, and seeing another one so early in the season is unacceptable. Fans have already been reluctant to fill the seats of Keybank Center for the past couple of seasons, and if things don’t turn around soon, the empty seat count will continue to rise. Making a change sooner than later will allow them to dig out of the hole they find themselves in.

Related: Sabres Goalie Prospects Showing Promise

There are plenty of options for the Sabres to turn things around. A healthy lineup would mean a lot, but a team that folds just because of a few injuries does not deserve to win. This team still has a lot to show, and it is not time to give up on them just yet, but if they continue to play arrogant instead of angry, they will face a similar backlash to the Jack Eichel years. Sabres fans are impatient with good reason, and a team holding themselves accountable for their failings is the only way things will change for the better.

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