The Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders began 2020 with some tough injuries. The Sabres expect Victor Olofsson to miss five-to-six weeks, while the Islanders lost Adam Pelech to a season-ending injury.
Let’s ponder these losses for each team, and the larger outlook for the Sabres and Isles.
Olofsson injury continues turbulent times for Sabres
Don’t blame Sabres fans if they feel like their heads are spinning right now.
- Buffalo ended 2019 on a sour note by losing Jeff Skinner for three-to-four weeks. People justifiably call the Sabres top-heavy on a good day, so that smarts.
- The Sabres busied themselves by essentially trading Marco Scandella for Michael Frolik on Thursday. Rank that as a win for Buffalo, small or not.
- Now add the loss of Olofsson for multiple weeks.
Jack Eichel touched on what Olofsson’s absence might mean, as reported by The Athletic’s John Vogl:
"That’s not good by any means," Jack Eichel said of Victor Olofsson injury. "That’s tough to see. It’s tough to see. He’s been so good for us all year, and we rely on him in so many big situations. … Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious. We wish him a speedy recovery." https://t.co/8s6EaBRt26
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) January 3, 2020
Olofsson tops all NHL rookies in goals (16) and points (35), leading both categories by four. Olofsson’s Hockey Viz heat maps back up Eichel’s comments about the rookie’s all-around play:
The thinning of the Sabres isn’t ideal considering their competition.
The Bruins remain perched atop the Atlantic Division, while the Maple Leafs and Lightning look like they’re back to being scary opponents. The Panthers also have more standings points (47 to Buffalo’s 43) despite Florida playing two fewer games (40 versus the Sabres’ 42 games played). The Metro could produce four or even five playoff teams, so Buffalo faces a perilous path without Olofsson.
Islanders lose Pelech for regular season
The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that Pelech’s injury timeline is four months, opening up some possibility of a playoff return. The Islanders currently rank second in the Metro with 53 points, so Pelech’s recovery window could indeed become relevant.
The Islanders stumbled a bit to end 2019 (3-1-4 in their last eight). With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how they handle the loss of a workhorse who ranked second in both time on ice per game (21:08) and penalty kill reps (2:47 per game).
Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said that “you don’t replace an Adam Pelech at the trade deadline,” according to Staple, so Barry Trotz faces a challenge in dealing with this loss. Pelech is the type of player Trotz adores, especially going by these quotes from Kris Knoblauch, Pelech’s former OHL coach.
“He’s very undervalued and underappreciated,” Knoblauch said back in October, via Staple (sub required). “We relied on him a ton — he was our power-play defenseman, our shutdown guy. There’s a lot of calm to his game now and there was back then, too.”
Can the Islanders continue to insulate their goalies without Pelech? We’ll find out. Either way, the Sabres and Islanders both received some rough injury news on Friday.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.