Since returning from an achilles injury, it’s very apparent that the Buffalo Sabres are simply different with Jack Quinn in the lineup. The 22 year-old, offensive-minded winger has assumed his familiar place on Dylan Cozens’ right wing and the team has looked much more like they did last season.
Whether this can be attributed to Quinn, scoring depth, or a little bit of both, let’s breakdown why his return has turned around Buffalo’s fortunes.
The Jack Quinn Effect
How much have the Sabres turned things around since Quinn’s return? Well, in the eight games since he’s been back the team has gone 4-3-1. That’s nine points in eight games, or a 56.25% point percentage.
That might not seem all that impressive on the surface, but in the 32 games without Quinn Buffalo was 13-16-3. That’s a 45.31% point percentage, which had them on a 74-point pace in the standings. The Philadelphia Flyers finished with 75 points last season, which was good for 26th in the league.
A 56.25% point percentage, on the other hand, is over a 92-point pace. That’s much more equivalent to last season, as the Sabres finished with 91 points and were one point out of the playoffs.
A Change in Philosophy
A huge increase in goal scoring has been the biggest change that has lead to the team’s success. In the eight games Quinn has played this season, the Sabres have averaged 3.88 goals per game. That’s over a goal per game more than the 2.78 they averaged in the previous 32 games.
Quinn himself has four goals and five points in those eight games, which is a 41-goal and 51-point pace over 82 games for the second-year NHLer.
He’s not the only one picking up the scoring pace, though.
Tage Thompson has five goals and 10 points in seven games since Quinn’s return. Jeff Skinner has nine points in seven games. Alex Tuch and Casey Mittelstadt have eight points in eight games. All-Star defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has five goals and seven points in eight games.
It’s clear that a healthier lineup has led to a whole new philosophy change, as the Sabres have reverted to their run-and-gun style of play from last season. Perhaps Quinn’s absence was forcing their hand, but the emphasis on defense simply was not equating to wins.
Jack Quinn’s Attributes
If you read my piece on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Valtteri Puustinen, you’ve seen the PuckLuck model is now able to recognize player traits. This allows us to see what players are doing well compared to their peers, sorting each player’s rate stats into a percentile.
Here’s what Jack Quinn’s player profile currently looks like:
If you’re unfamiliar with radar charts, the closer the line is to each category title the higher the percentile. Anything towards the middle of the chart means it is not a big part of Jack Quinn’s game in this eight-game sample.
Quinn’s biggest impact has been by driving play with his speed and shooting ability. I’d expect his playmaking to climb as the sample expands too, but with no primary assists in eight games he’s solely created offense so far by shooting the puck.
He has not contributed positively so far to team defense and special teams, which could regress towards league average as well. As of now, it’s a classic case of Don Granato and the coaching staff allowing players to focus on what they do best, and encouraging them to play to their strengths.
Again, we’re much more confident in the accuracy of these profiles skaters with 30 or more games played, but Quinn’s early contributions this season draw some interesting comparisons across the NHL.
Connor Brown is having a poor season in Edmonton after a knee injury limited his 2022-2023 season to only four games. Interestingly enough, it’s the same areas where Quinn’s game is lacking so far that draw the close comparisons. Unlike Brown, Jack Quinn can shoot by volume and efficiency and drive play to the offensive zone, which are big reasons why one player is helping his team and the other not so much.
It was a little shocking the Vancouver Canucks gave up on Anthony Beauvillier so quick this season, shipping him to Chicago. Beauvillier’s similar to Quinn in that he can help drive play from the wing via his shot. Quinn is a much more efficient shooter, but at even-strength the two have very close profiles.
Bryan Rust is probably the most accomplished comparison of the three, with four 20-goal seasons to his name in Pittsburgh. Rust is the more extreme play driver and volume shooter compared to Quinn, but again it’s Quinn’s shooting talent that sets him apart from the Penguins winger.
Quinn’s shoot-first mentality is the perfect compliment to what Buffalo is trying to do offensively. We can revisit in another 20 games or so to see if his game is still paying dividends for the Sabres.