Tage Thompson started this season with a purpose: to prove people wrong. Or at least that’s what it feels like watching him play. The 2021-22 Thompson seems like a totally different player from the one seen in the former season. Of course, it definitely comes with experience, this being his fourth NHL year. However, things have improved quickly and he’s showing himself to be a valuable player for the Buffalo Sabres.
Tage Thompson Season Is Here – And He’s Here To Stay
Things started to change for Thompson as they changed for Buffalo: when Don Granato took over. It’s starting to feel like a broken disk repeating that coaching was the problem. But the thing is: that’s the reality. Ralph Krueger and his system were so bad for the Sabres that the main reason things were so bad for them was him. Krueger isn’t the only reason, the team is rebuilding and management has messed up multiple times. But coaching affected the Sabres more than a lot of people realize and now it’s starting to show.
Thompson’s Season So Far
The first main change in Thompson’s game so far is his position. He entered the NHL playing as a right-winger and that’s where he stayed until now. Granato saw potential and decided to switch him to centre this season and to say it’s working is an understatement. Comparing simple stats, Thompson had eight goals and 14 points in 38 games last season. This season he has 20 goals and 38 points in 47 games – including a hat trick against the cup favourite Colorado Avalanche. It’s an impressive number and a huge gap from one season to the other.
Shifting Tage Thompson to center seems to have really helped his game this year. Really putting together a solid season. pic.twitter.com/gxderMCD4p
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) February 19, 2022
Of course, linemates matter and affect each other and that’s also a big factor for Thompson. He went from switching lines all season to being in the top line with Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo or Dylan Cozens – which may seem not that good for some but it worked. Playing with permanent linemates helps provide consistency and that’s what Thompson needed. Now, he’s playing with Skinner and Alex Tuch, who’s been a gift for the Sabres. It’s surely better than playing with Rasmus Asplund, Cody Eakin and Victor Olofsson.
Thompson is benefitting from being with players that can keep up with his pace – and even increase it – and it’s showing. It’s not even necessary to watch full games to see how much better the 24-year-old looks this season. And he’s not the only one.
Buffalo Is Improving Overall
Even though Thompson is the main focus of this article, it’s impossible to talk about him without bringing his teammates in. Looking at their record and their position in the stands it might not look like it. However, the Sabres are improving – and it’s happening fast. Their game scores don’t usually tell the full story – unless it’s a 7-1 loss, then yes it does. For those who have been watching the team for while, it’s visible that this year’s Buffalo Sabres are looking way better than the past couple of years.
Players like Skinner and Okposo are looking sharper than they were before, both playing like a miracle happened and they’re now back on track. Rasmus Dahlin is looking like himself again, even though some small things still require some work. Second-year Dylan Cozens is having a quietly good year with 11 goals and 25 points in 48 games – a much better performance than his four goals and 13 points in 41 games last season. Things are slowly improving and that’s a good sign.
Patience is something all Buffalo fans are exhausted to hear. But it’s the only thing that can be said now. Thompson’s superstar season is a thing to be happy about. Skinner’s 20 goals and 36 points in 49 games is a thing to be thrilled about. JJ Peterka being an absolute rockstar with Rochester is something to look forward to.
Kevyn Adams may have messed up big time a few times. That’s a fact and it won’t change. But the team he’s building now is worth waiting for. Complaints are always welcomed of course, especially when Buffalo hasn’t won anything in 10 years. But when things are as bad as they are now, looking and dreaming about the future is all one can do. And the future is too bright not to be excited to see.
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