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The Athletic's "Free-Agency Report Cards" from the past 3 years for the Sabres


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Below are the "grades" assigned to the Sabres Free Agency dealings for the past three years. I know these are all subjective and serve as content filler for the off-season, but I find it funny that last years was graded a B+ when we only acquired two cast-off defensemen whose impact was only felt in negative ways.

2022:
Buffalo Sabres: B+

The Sabres didn’t make any splashy free-agent signings, but GM Kevyn Adams stuck to his plan and didn’t overpay for short-term fixes. That alone is a win. In net, the team brought back Craig Anderson and Malcolm Subban while taking a calculated flier on Winnipeg backup Eric Comrie. That position is in better shape than it was a year ago. Ilya Lyubushkin should add a physical mentality to Buffalo’s blue line. And bringing back Victor Oloffson and Vinnie Hinostroza on reasonable deals should be viewed as a positive for them in 2022-23. — Matthew Fairburn

2023:

Buffalo Sabres: B+

The Sabres added two defensemen in Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton who make them a much deeper team on the blue line. Don Granato now has a lot more options when it comes to mixing and matching his defensive pairs in certain situations. The Sabres also tried to add a forward but have been unable to do so to this point. That’s the only thing keeping this grade from being a bit higher. But defense was the priority, and the Sabres added two strong pieces. — Matthew Fairburn

Sat down with Don Granato to discuss the Sabres offseason. Among the topics:

– His favorite Connor Clifton story
– Why he’s not concerned about the goalies
– Line juggling

And more

via @TheAthletic https://t.co/s5ojGy8L2n

2024:

Buffalo Sabres: B-

The Sabres made their fourth line faster and more physical during free agency and then traded Matt Savoie for Ryan McLeod, adding even more speed to their bottom six. This Buffalo team should be more defensively responsible and harder on the forecheck than last season’s. Adding McLeod, Jason Zucker, Beck Malenstyn, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sam Lafferty boosts Buffalo’s depth in a big way. But the question is whether general manager Kevyn Adams has done enough to improve their 23rd-ranked offense from last season. He’s hoping Lindy Ruff can coach some individuals to better seasons, while the increased team speed will lead to a better overall offensive team. — Matthew Fairburn

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2022 grade: F for failing to bring in adequate goaltending or legit D help.  No additions were better than depth players

2023 grade: D for again failing to get goaltending help, bringing back failed leaders KO & Z and for again failing to bring in anyone above a depth player. Clifton’s turnaround midseason is the only reason the grade isn’t an F.

2024 grade: C to C+. Depth overhaul looks ok on paper, but the 4th liners are not much better than replacement level players according to their metrics. Zucker may not have much left in the tank and McLeod better have O upside to justify the price.  Again no, top 6 or top 2 pair help and we need both.  Looks like a volume version of the same off-season plan from the last 2 years.

Edited by GASabresIUFAN
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30 minutes ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

2022 grade: F for failing to bring in adequate goaltending or legit D help.  No additions were better than depth players

2023 grade: D for again failing to get goaltending help, bringing back failed leaders KO & Z and for again failing to bring in anyone above a depth player. Clifton’s turnaround midseason is the only reason the grade isn’t an F.

2024 grade: C to C+. Depth overhaul looks ok on paper, but the 4th liners are not much better than replacement level players according to their metrics. Zicker may not have much left in the tank and McLeod better have O upside to justify the price.  Again no, top 6 or top 2 pair help and we need both.  Looks like a volume version of the same off-season plan from the last 2 years.

Adams addressed top 4 defensive help, Byram. 

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38 minutes ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

2022 grade: F for failing to bring in adequate goaltending or legit D help.  No additions were better than depth players

2023 grade: D for again failing to get goaltending help, bringing back failed leaders KO & Z and for again failing to bring in anyone above a depth player. Clifton’s turnaround midseason is the only reason the grade isn’t an F.

2024 grade: C to C+. Depth overhaul looks ok on paper, but the 4th liners are not much better than replacement level players according to their metrics. Zicker may not have much left in the tank and McLeod better have O upside to justify the price.  Again no, top 6 or top 2 pair help and we need both.  Looks like a volume version of the same off-season plan from the last 2 years.

Based on the seasons the team had the following season I'd gi
2022 grade: C. Missed the playoffs by 1 point. Honestly, any year where your team doesn't qualify for the playoffs should be an automatic D grade but since it's the Sabres I'll give them a pity - C. 

2023 grade: F- . The team regressed everywhere, the measly FA additions actively hurt the team.

2024 grade: Pending - if we squeak into the playoffs I'd give it a B and for every round we win I'd increase it to B+, A-, A, A+. If we don't make the playoffs it's a C-. 

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Glad I do not pay for that news service. 

2022 =  F    They did nothing but the "no blocker" policy.  They were lucky that several players had career years and there were very few injuries. 

2023 = F  They did very little, only Clifton ended up helping them.  The Mitts- Byram trade was too little to late for 2023.  This was the year they should have made real moves in the off season but they rolled it back and ignored the Quinn injury.  Injuries happened all season long too and the lack of depth was obvious.  

2024 = B-    Above average for the Sabres,  but how hard is it to find 4th liners?   This grade could go down or up, depending on how much the new guys do, but there are no big impact players added so far.  This is a "sum of the parts" concoction to fix the bottom 6 - we shall see.  

 

Edited by Pimlach
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8 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

What? 

You claim he needed a top 4 addition. He already made it though. You don't get to ding him because he did it in March not July. 

Idk what the bold means. 

He’s clearly saying Byram may not be adequate 

I’m not weighing in it’s just clear that’s what he’s saying 

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10 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

What? 

You claim he needed a top 4 addition. He already made it though. You don't get to ding him because he did it in March not July. 

Idk what the bold means. 

We’ll see if Bryan becomes the top 4 D everyone here think he is.  His metrics at Colorado deteriorated the last couple of years and he was terrible here.  I’m sorry but there is plenty of reason to worry he won’t become the star you and Adams think he can become.

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21 minutes ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

We’ll see if Bryan becomes the top 4 D everyone here think he is.  His metrics at Colorado deteriorated the last couple of years and he was terrible here.  I’m sorry but there is plenty of reason to worry he won’t become the star you and Adams think he can become.

First, no need to be personal like that. Second, I never said he'd be a star, just that Adams addressed the top 4. We'll see like all moves if it works. 

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I find it hard to grade anything about this team, if I had to grade any part of this team regarding anything other than maybe the location of the arena, it would be a flat out F. 13 years and not even a sniff of the playoffs.  They took the blood out of my bloodstream of being a maniac fan to one who could care if they even stay here in Buffalo. They continue to ignore the obvious missing pieces, so maybe they would get an A for incompetence.

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44 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

Oooo, that tracks. I didn't follow. Idk if I Agree. Depends on Samuelsson 

If our GM has any common sense or brains, the minute Samuelsson plays 15 games in a row without an injury, they trade him.  I'm not going back and even researching if he has or has not played 15 in a row, because that's more time than I care to waste of my life on this team anymore. It doesn't take a lot to see he cant stay healthy

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1 hour ago, Night Train said:

I think it says more about the Athletic submitting pieces during Happy Hour...

I generally think Fairburn's coverage is pretty even keel, but these offseason grades are through some very rosy glasses, even at the time.

Strictly UFA immediately after the opening week.

2022: C for standing pat (C is for Comrie which is good enough for Sheevyn). There was nothing to fail because no moves were made.

2023: B for going and getting experienced RHD from winning teams to help lead/guide the baby Sabres. Unfortunately, on the ice, it didn't work -- but that is not part of the grade. F for not replacing Quinn with any number of folks just like Zucker/Tarasenko who were available short-term with lots of cap to spend, especially since the coach had relegated VO to 13F and his goals needed replacing, too. Average the two = C-.

2024: B+. At least, based on UFA targeting what the GM said he was going to do (bottom 6). GMKA never said he was going to go get Stamkos, so... easy... they didn't go get anyone of note. The long-term deals are being reserved for JJP and Quinn next summer.
Deeper dive: GM Sheevyn just took Vancouver's 2023 trade deadline/offseason blueprint and followed it. Moved out a long-term forward (Horvat: Skinner). Got the top-4 defenseman last season at the deadline (Hronek: Byram). Then, in the UFA period, went out and saturated/remade the bottom 6 to play a certain way and open up the game for the top line (Blueger, Suter, Lafferty [via trade] and D Soucy : Malenstyn, Lafferty, Aube-Kubel. The Sabres don't really have a need for a Soucy like the Canucks did; that move is just getting Muel back healthy). It worked in Vancouver.

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