• Austin Broad

State Of The 2021 Buffalo Sabres: It's Time For A Change

Writer: Austin Broad

@Austin_BroadTCB

Editor: Brandon Caputo

@Caputz13

Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Buffalohockeybeat.com


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State of the Sabres: It’s Time For A Change

The 2021 season is only 21-games in and yet, the Sabres find themselves in the basement of the league yet again. Ralph Krueger continues to preach that his system works and that the reason for the losses piling up is “mental lapses” or “disconnects” within the roster.

The coach is very talented at using words without saying anything of merit and it’s already taking a massive toll on local media and on the fanbase.

Mike Harrington from the Buffalo News even called the Sabres "a disgrace" during Krueger’s zoom call on Friday afternoon. In the past, coaching has been a big issue, but the talent has also been lacking…this year the coach can’t use the talent excuse.


Sabres Player Stats - 2020-21 Season

Statistics from Hockeyreference.com


Rasmus Dahlin, Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner are all extremely talented players with experience in the league, Eric Staal has brought a veteran presence and still shows some flashes of his old self and Dylan Cozens looks like a legitimate two-way threat for years to come.

Yet the Sabres find themselves struggling to produce any offence whatsoever, and the coach is convinced it’s got nothing to do with his system.


Ralph Krueger's NHL Coaching Career

Statistics from Hockeyreference.com


Since Krueger took over, the Sabres are bottom five in the league in 5v5 goals, xGF%, high danger goals for and are bottom-10 in high danger chances for. The Sabres system either hinders, or just flat out ignores offensive production.

His system doesn’t match his roster, and the most noticeable evidence to support this is… #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin. In 2018-19, Dahlin’s only season under Phil Housley, the defenceman generated 12 individual high danger chances and five chances off the rush (at 5v5).

Photo Credit: Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty via The Score


Last year, Dahlin only had six high danger chances and one attempt off the rush… it was a shorter season but the sample size is enough to indicate that Dahlin is playing a different style under his new coach. In 21 games this season Dahlin has three high danger chances … but 0 chances generated off the rush.

There’s no arguing that Dahlin has struggled and doesn’t look like a generational pick, part of that is on him but it’s impossible to ignore the negative impact this coach is having on him.

Good coaches adapt their system to fit their roster and maximize their roster’s impact, bad coaches take a roster that full of offensive potential and force them into a low-event, defensive heavy system.

Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu via Buffalohockeybeat.com


As if things couldn’t get worse in Sabreland, rumours are swirling about Eichel being dealt, The Fourth Period suggested that LA should target Dahlin in a trade, someone put out a rumour that the team was for sale… and former captains ripped the team apart in an article on The Athletic.

Photo Credit: Sabres.com via Zoom


Things have gotten so bad in Buffalo that General Manager Kevyn Adams had to speak to the Media for over half hour on Friday Afternoon. During his presser, Adams didn’t give the coach a vote of confidence and stated that the state of things in Buffalo is unacceptable.

The GM looked and sounded defeated, a completely different change from a few short months ago when he was so eager and excited to get started on the job.


League Standings - Bottom 5

Bottom 5 Standings provided by NHL.com


While no major changes have happened yet, Adams made it sound like they were coming. He implied that he has full capability to make any changes to improve this team and that he fully intends to do so.

The press conference shed some light on different philosophies between the coach and the GM, and said that everything is being evaluated in the short and the long-term.


East Division

East Division Standings provided by NHL.com


All of this is happening amid a losing streak that has seen the Sabres score four goals in a four-game span and the coach is taking the brunt of the criticism from both the media and the fans.

Krueger deserves all of the criticism he’s getting, and his antics in the press (Jack Eichel’s injury fiasco) and the handling of a $9 million player in Jeff Skinner have only added fuel to the fire.

Montreal and Calgary stepped up and fired their coaches…

it’s time that Kevyn Adams does the same and really shows the fanbase that he is the one in charge.

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