It’s Tage Thompson’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
The Sabres’ forward has become the star of the season. One year removed from what we thought was a breakout campaign that saw him leap from single-digit goal totals to a stunning 38, Thompson is on pace to blow past that mark. He has 21 goals through 28 games, several of the jaw-dropping highlight variety, and scored five against the Blue Jackets last week in what was also his second six-point game of the year. This guy is unstoppable.
So how can this go wrong?
Sorry, that’s the pessimist in me, but it’s a side that’s served me well in spotting NHL trends. There’s no story so good that somebody somewhere won’t find a way to screw it up.
To be clear, I’m not going to look at this from a Sabres perspective. Their fans have suffered enough, and with Thompson locked in a long-term extension that already looks like a steal, maybe this really is a can’t-miss win for Buffalo.
Instead, let’s look at the other 31 teams, those poor schmoes who don’t get to send Tage Thompson over the boards to wreck everyone. Right now, somebody in every front office around the league is looking at Thompson’s season and trying to figure out what it means for them.
What are those other teams going to learn from the Age of Tage? Specifically, what are they going to learn that’s wrong, and that causes them to make bad decisions? I’ve got five suggestions.
Your struggling fourth-liner is a potential superstar
For the first four seasons of his NHL career, Thompson was an 18-goal scorer. No, not in an average season — that was the total for his entire career, one that was mostly spent plugging away in the bottom six between occasional disappointing trips up the lineup (when he wasn’t hurt or in the AHL). Last year, the light bulb went off and he became a star. But for years before that, he was Just A Guy. One with occasional flashes of potential, sure, but never more than that.
Good news: Every team has a few players like that on the roster right now. Which means every team, if they squint hard enough, has a few future Thompsons.
Imagine you’re the GM of an NHL team. Chances are, the offense isn’t clicking quite as well as you’d hoped. Maybe you have a few injuries, or the puck just isn’t bouncing your way. Even your coach, who’d rather lose 2-1 than win 6-5, admits he might like a bit more scoring pop. And the local fans and media keep asking when you’re going to do something.