Speed and skill are more important than hitting, always have been, always will be. You can't hit what you can't catch, and you can't check (legally) the guy if he doesn't have the puck. I would be shocked to learn that the Red Wings have been in the top 5 in hitting even once over the past 20+ years of their playoff appearances. From this season, listed backwards towards the beginning of the 2-line era: 24th, 19th, 8th, 23rd, 25th, 25th, and 23rd.
In today's game, it takes a blend of everything, but the task remains the same. Have the puck. You don't want to be the team trying to get the puck back more than you have it. There are a few ways to go about being a puck protection team, but it's my personal belief that to be a great NHl team you have to incorporate every approach, hitting included. So I'm not surprised or perturbed by the fact that the Sabres have a few guys who prefer hitting or want to hit more, but they need to be smart about it too. Is getting your adrenalin pumping from a hit going to be worth it when the opposing team gets an odd man break the other way? No.
If the Sabres supported the puck better, they would have the puck more. When they turned things around last year, it had a lot to do with the way they supported the puck and had numbers.
So, it's a tough position for a coach when he's right about something, he has a better (and proven) way of getting the job done, but doesn't have a team fast or skilled enough to do what they're told.
This team was overhyped to critical proportions, hitting wont save them and it wont make the games more entertaining. Are the 4th ranked Blue Jackets fun to watch?
They need to tank, and get a skilled center via top 5 pick. Trade Roy or Ennis, Boyes, Hecht, Gausted, and Sekera or Gragnani for as much as they can get. And do things in house next year, not through FA. They are strong at drafting and developing, stay the course with that. Get bigger and faster, and reload for next year.