Could the NHL All-Waiver Wire Team Beat the Buffalo Sabres?


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If you have paid any attention to waivers this NHL season, you might have noticed some big names on it. For cap reasons and taxi squad implications, teams have had to make big decisions with who gets sent down. Most recently, we saw Shayne Gostisbehere hit waivers which sent shocks through the hockey world before he ultimately cleared. That gave me an idea, what would be the best roster assembled with players who have been put on waivers this season. More importantly, could they beat the Buffalo Sabres?

For skaters, the metric used to determine value is Expected Goals (xGF)

For goalies, it is Goals Saved Above Expected (GSVA)

All statistics are provided by moneypuck.com

Forwards (37.1xGF)

Tyler Johnson (3.9)Adam Henrique (4.1)Nikita Gusev (1.1)
Tyler Ennis (3.3)Alex Galchenyuk (2.2)Bobby Ryan (3.4)
Jimmy Vesey (4.7)Jason Spezza (3.6)Travis Boyd (1.8)
Mathieu Perreault (3.7)Dereck Ryan (2.4)Corey Perry (2.9)

Defense (5.4xGF)

Shayne Gostisbehere (1.6)Anton Stralman (1.1)
Nick Holden (1.1)Jake Gardiner (0.6)
Christian Djoos (0.9)Oliver Kylington (0.1)

Goalies (0.0 GSVA)

Alex Nedeljkovic (1.8)Michael Hutchinson (-1.8)

The All-Waiver Wire team is mostly built on depth and chemistry. The forwards of this team are led by two early-season cap casualties in Tyler Johnson and Adam Henrique. The rest of the forwards are comprised of finishers like Vesey, Ennis, and Ryan. The main concern from the group will be play driving, however all four lines have similar play styles and should have great chemistry together. The defense will be rough for this squad. Once again with the combination of offensive-minded and stay-at-home defensemen, it should provide a balance throughout the lineup. Alex Nedeljkovic has been fantastic for the Hurricanes and his backup, Hutchinson has been fine for the Leafs. That will give them a significant edge over the Sabres and a chance to win most nights.

I will spare you from reading through the Buffalo Sabres roster. Using DailyFaceoff.com and their current lines at the end of the historic 18-game losing streak, here is how the Sabres roster stacks up. Forwards 37.6xGF, Defense 7.8xGF, Goalies -7.1 GSVA.

This is a lot closer to the All-Waiver Wire team than most people, myself included, would have expected. With Jack Eichel out, the Sabres offense takes a giant hit, only beating the Waiver Wire team by just 0.5xGF. One fun stat from this, the entire forward group has equal too, or more goals than former MVP Taylor Hall. The defense of Buffalo has a decent edge, beating the Waiver Wire team by 2.4xGF. The most surprising comparison are the goaltenders. Ullmark (-5.1) and Tokarski (-2.0) combine for a -7.1GVSA, both of them individually have lower GSVA’s than the backup Hutchinson (-1.8).

With how important goaltenders are in the NHL, that gives the All-Waiver Wire team an edge that I don’t think the slight advantages in skaters can make up for. Two important outside factors also lead to the outcome of this comparison: a lot of skilled players have hit waivers due to tight budgets and, Buffalo has been historically bad and missing Jack Eichel. When I started this, I didn’t think the All-Waiver team had much of a chance, but I think it’s safe to say that they could beat the Buffalo Sabres.