Okposo: Sabres can't run from 'lofty expectations' next season
With a brand-new one-year extension in hand, Buffalo Sabres captain Kyle Okposo is already trying to set the tone for his up-and-coming squad's 2023-24 campaign.
"We can't be scared of the expectations ... next year," he told the media during a press conference Thursday. "Last year, there (were) no expectations. Everybody's writing rosy articles: 'This group is a good team, it's becoming a good team.' And that's great, but how do you do that with expectations?
"There's guys that are starting to get bigger contracts, there's guys that are starting to get noticed nationally. There's going to be lofty expectations next year, and I think that we can't run from that."
The Sabres recorded their highest win and point totals (42 and 91, respectively) since the 2010-11 season, finishing just one point behind the Florida Panthers for a playoff spot.
Those Panthers have since gone on a shocking Stanley Cup Final run, upsetting the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Carolina Hurricanes. With Buffalo looking to snap a 12-year playoff drought, Okposo is looking to Florida for inspiration.
"I think that it's pretty evident by what's happened in the playoffs this year that we're not very far from reaching the top of the mountain. ... I think that we're extremely close," he said.
Okposo added: "Should our goal be to make the playoffs? Should our goal be to be two points better than we were this year? No. That's expected now. ... Our window - I think it's opening, and we have to be prepared for that. Everybody's got to come better, starting with me."
The 35-year-old veteran winger chipped in with 11 goals and 17 assists in 75 games during his seventh season in Buffalo.
Okposo has competed in 24 playoff contests over three seasons, all with the New York Islanders.