BUFFALO – Victor Olofsson understands why it’s easy to focus on the negative.
As the Sabres played their most important games since his arrival four years ago, the winger sat out five straight contests as a healthy scratch. A victim of inconsistency and poor defensive play, he was a spectator during their playoff push.
“I’m still proud of myself what I’ve been doing and accomplished this year,” Olofsson said Sunday as the Sabres held end-of-season meetings in KeyBank Center.
Olofsson, 27, just experienced an odd season. In registering a career-high 28 goals, he proved he’s more than just a one-dimensional power-play presence, scoring 21 times at even strength. That’s two more than he had in the previous two seasons combined.
Still, the Swede endured long goal droughts and compiled an awful minus-23 rating, the worst number among the team’s forwards.
Olofsson knows in order to morph into a complete, steady player, he must showcase more tenacity.
“We talked a little bit with the coaches right now and I felt probably get maybe my compete level up a little bit through every game,” he said. “I feel like sometimes it’s really good and sometimes I have a small dip. Just to be more consistent, but I felt like I still did a lot of good things this year.”
Early in his career, Olofsson mostly utilized his lethal shot to score power-play goals from the circle. Over his first three seasons, he scored just 15 of his 35 goals (43 percent) at even strength.
But over the last two years, he has evolved into a much better five-on-five presence, registering 34 of his 48 goals (71 percent) at even strength.
“I’m happy with the way I was able to perform scoring at five-on-five,” Olofsson said of his season.
Like a lot of scorers, Olofsson is streaky. After recording eight goals over a nine-game stretch in January, he went 15 contests without scoring while compiling a minus-16 rating.
Olofsson has said he has learned he can’t score his way out of slumps.
“I would definitely say that that’s part of it,” he said. “Sometimes that can affect the rest of your game and things I’ve been doing well probably don’t do as well when I’m just thinking about scoring.”
On March 11, the Sabres scratched him for the first of two games. When he returned six days later, he scored twice.
He did not score in the next seven games before the Sabres scratched him again. After they were eliminated from playoff contention, he returned for the final two contests.
“I was obviously disappointed not being in the lineup,” Olofsson said. “I mean, it was the most important stretch of the season and I didn’t play, so it was frustrating.”
So, will Olofsson be back next season? He has one year and $4.75 million left on his contract. Despite his flaws, for a player capable of scoring 30 goals, that’s relatively cheap. If the Sabres want to trade him, he has value.
Olofsson said he had “a really good conversation” with the Sabres’ brass.
“Right now, I do have a year left on my contract, and I’m going into the summer, just gonna work really hard and come back as a better player,” he said. “That’s my mindset right now.”