Rasmus Dahlin started poorly, but finished strong
It’s that time of the year again. We’ll kick off our end-of-season report cards for the Buffalo Sabres today. We’ll be publishing report cards on every player to play at least 25 games with the Sabres and finished the team on the roster.
That means players like Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour will not appear in this series that will go over the next month.
Up first is defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. The 21-year-old had a very inconsistent season in his third year in the NHL. This is the second season in a row that Dahlin had a slow start but could rebound later.
Under Ralph Krueger, Dahlin may have been the worst defenseman on the team most game nights. His 5 on 5 game was a mess and starting to become a real concern. He wasn’t a factor offensively at even-strength and was making multiple defensive errors on a nightly basis.
He looked confused defensively and it was causing him to second-guess with the puck. As a result, he played slow hockey and turned the puck over.
According to Evolving Hockey’s model, in the first 27 games of the season, he put up a score-adjusted 44% shot quality share and 46% shot share. The point production at 5 on 5 also wasn’t there for Dahlin in the first half of the year. He registered only 0.4 points per 60 minutes.
As the season went along a lot of people began to wonder if Krueger and Steve Smith were not the right coaches for Dahlin. Krueger played a low-event style of play and wanted his defensemen to think defense first. That’s not a style of play that fits Dahlin.
We found out that it may indeed have been the case. Under Don Granato, Dahlin was a different player. He thrived in Granato’s high-event system and began to look like the player we saw in his rookie season.
The Swedish defender was carrying the puck more and creating offensive opportunities for his linemates. While there were still some defensive mistakes, they were reduced greatly because of his confidence with the puck.
In the final 28 games of the season, he finished scoring at a rate of 1.06 points per 60 minutes at 5 on 5. Part of it was the improvement on the 4% on-ice shooting percentage, but he was more of an offensive threat om the second half of the year.
In Evolving Hockey’s model, he improved his 5 on 5 shot quality to 48% and shot share to 47% at 5 on 5 over the last 28 games of the season. The part that makes these numbers more impressive is that he did it against the opponent’s top players under Granato. He played the most minutes and was utilized as a top-pair defenseman along with Henri Jokiharju.
The important part with Dahlin now is he needs to find consistency in his game. He’ll be going into his fourth season and this roller coaster play needs to end.