Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Sabres Season Preview, Rasmus Dahlin, Season Previews, Tage Thompson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Buffalo Sabres’ 5 Best-Case Scenarios for 2023-24

The Buffalo Sabres had an impressive season last year. The team narrowly missed out on a playoff spot by one point, falling just behind the Florida Panthers. Now, the organization is determined to put an end to its 12-season playoff drought. From both the inside and outside, you have to believe the Sabres can make that happen.

The team boasts a young and talented roster led by Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and a burgeoning goal-scorer in Tage Thompson. Alongside them, the roster is filled with solid veteran players like Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch. Even better, a group of emerging talents, including Dylan Cozens, Owen Power, Jack Quinn, and J.J. Peterka are poised to break out. Finally, promising recent draft picks Zach Benson and Matt Savoie could be ready to help take the Sabres to new heights. 

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The team’s rebuilding phase seems nearer to completion. Inside the organization, there’s great hope that this season could mark the beginning of their journey toward becoming an elite team in the NHL. I believe this is a team more than ready to make the postseason when the 2023-24 regular season is complete.

What If Things Went Really Well for the Sabres?

But hope always springs eternal at this time of the season, especially for solid NHL hockey clubs. Every season, fans anticipate the best-case scenario for their favorite team. That includes Sabres fans.

Related: 10 Sabres Players With Big Fantasy Hockey Potential in 2023-24

What if the team could put together a season where everything simply falls into place, where luck is on their side, and where the stars align for remarkable success? For one NHL team — the one that eventually lasts through a long and difficult postseason to win Lord’s Stanley’s Cup — it will happen. 

Stranger things happen than the Sabres rising up to go on a long Stanley Cup run. Other surprise teams have made it to the Cup Final series; chief among them were the 2018 Vegas Golden Knights.

In their inaugural season, the Golden Knights shocked the hockey world by making it to the Stanley Cup Final. By doing so, they became the first expansion team in NHL history to reach the final round. They ultimately lost to the Washington Capitals, but that doesn’t mean it was a wasted season. Could the Sabres go on a similar run this season?  

Tage Thompson Buffalo Sabres
Can Tage Thompson lead his Buffalo Sabres into the postseason? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In this post, I’m going to imagine a season where everything went right for the Sabres; a season of positive “what ifs.” What if the Sabres not only exceed expectations but also are granted by the hockey gods a tsunami of favorable circumstances they can surf throughout the season? Hockey is, after all, a sport where a hard rubber object can bounce in crazy directions and lead to positive (and equally negative) outcomes. 

In the remainder of this post, I’ll look at five best-case scenarios for the Sabres in the 2023-24 NHL season.

Best Case Scenario One: Tage Thompson’s 50-Goal Season

In a stunning display of goal-scoring ability last season, Tage Thompson scored 47 goals and added 47 assists (for 94 points) in 78 games. This season he continues his upward trajectory by reaching the coveted 50-goal milestone. 

Related: Sabres 2023-24 Projections: What are the Experts Saying?

This season Thompson’s chemistry with linemates Skinner and Tuch also remains electric and they become one of the most feared lines in the NHL. Thompson’s remarkable scoring ability propels the Sabres’ offense to new heights and solidifies his status as one of the NHL’s elite goal-scorers.

Best Case Scenario Two: Rasmus Dahlin Wins the Norris Trophy

Defenseman Dahlin takes his game to another level and puts together a Norris Trophy-worthy season. He combines this offensive brilliance with improved defensive play and becomes a true two-way force on the blue line. 

Rasmus Dahlin Buffalo Sabres
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dahlin puts up a 70-plus-point season. However, it’s his exceptional defensive play that jumps him into a frontrunner for the Norris Trophy. He rightfully earns the recognition as one of the league’s top defensemen.

Best Case Scenario Three: The Sabres’ Strong Defensive Pairings Excel

Buffalo’s revamped defensive pairings excel. They reduce their goals against by bolstering their overall defensive performance. The combination of Dahlin’s offensive skills and the physicality of players like Mattias Samuelsson and Connor Clifton prove effective. 

Related: 7 Cool Things About the Buffalo Sabres French Connection

The Sabres’ blue line becomes that reliable unit that contributes offensively while also shutting down opposing teams. The team learns to overcome its defensive vulnerabilities and build upon their individual (and corporate) strengths.

Best Case Scenario Four: The Sabres’ Goaltending Surprises Everyone

The Sabres’ goaltending was a question mark heading into the 2023-24; however, the twosome of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi exceeds expectations. Luukkonen showcases his potential as a reliable NHL starter and becomes Goalie 1A in the team’s depth chart. Rookie Devon Levi, after an impressive college career, seamlessly transitions to the NHL. He proves to be a capable Goalie 1B. 

Devon Levi Buffalo Sabres
Devon Levi. Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Both together provide steady goaltending throughout the season. Their strong performances inflate the confidence in the team in front of them. As a result, they help ensure that the Sabres are competitive in every game.

Best Case Scenario Five: The Sabres Return to the Playoffs

Leveraging a combination of offensive firepower, improved defensive play, and surprisingly good goaltending, the Sabres successfully end their 12-season playoff drought. They snag a postseason berth and a good position heading into the playoffs. 

Related: Buffalo Sabres Goalie Devon Levi: The Real Deal

Their dynamic forward group, bolstered by the leadership of veterans like Tuch and Skinner and the rise of the team’s youth, proves too much for opponents to handle. Buffalo fans finally have playoff hockey to look forward to as the team returns to the postseason.

The Bottom Line

In these five best-case scenarios, the Sabres benefit from exceptional individual performances, solid defensive pairings, and outstanding goalie play. They also get some amazing bounces throughout the season. All these together lead to a playoff appearance and a deep postseason run. 

Stranger things have happened.

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