Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grading the Sabres: Forwards

by Anne

I've decided that I don't want to just bury the season and forget about it. Instead, I've decided to grade each player based solely on how I feel they performed this season.

I'm starting with the forwards just because. I'm only going to be grading the forwards that played at least 40 games meaning Peters, Gerbe, Kennedy, Kotalik, and Mancari are all exempt.

Keep in mind that these grades are grading how well the player filled their role as it seems to have been defined for them from this fan's perspective.

Here they are, in numerical order:

Derek Roy

82 games, 28-42-70, 38 PIM, -5
Faceoff win %: 50.7
9 PPG 2nd on team
Average TOI: 21:11

Royzie once again lead the team in points but was 11 off from his total last season, yet played in more games. He, like most of the forwards seemed to have trouble finding chemistry with his linemates, but more than once connected with Dan Paille for some amazing goals. Had his usual flashes of brilliance, interspersed with moments of defensive irresponsibility. He's certainly had better seasons but he was #9 in the league in faceoffs taken, so that's pretty impressive. Although, like many other centers, he's not very good at short-handed faceoffs. However, in one of the last games he won like 85% of his total faceoffs. Dang.

Anne's Grade: B

Dominic Moore

18 games, 1-3-4, 23 PIM, -1
Faceoff win %: 54.1
Average TOI: 16:50

Eh. He won some faceoffs but unless we played Toronto he seemed mostly emotionless and not physical at all. I don't want to re-sign him. He had a crazy high number of missed shots, like more than double most of his teammates. He set a career high in goals but not while he was in Buffalo. He didn't do much that was memorable, is basically what I'm saying about Dominic. He had a great season up in Toronto but I don't think he really added much to the team. Basically we gave up someone that was clutch in shootouts and got someone who was clutch in faceoffs but weren't all that helpful in many other situations.

Anne's Grade: C+

Tim Connolly

48 Games, 18-29-47, 22 PIM, +12
Lead team in +/-
Faceoff Win %: 42.1
Average TOI: 19:07

The same things we always say still hold true for Timmy, he's a magician on the ice... if he can just stay healthy. He apparently battled a slight wrist sprain at the end of the season but played through it. He signed a contract extension that makes many people in Buffalo light-headed but has still produced at almost a point per game pace (check out THAT alliteration). When he plays his game, he makes other players around him better and that's what we need. His faceoff % is not very impressive but he's good and for the games he was in he played that way.

Anne's Grade: A-

Dan Paille

73 games, 12-15-27, 20 PIM, Even
Average TOI: 11:54

It was unreasonable to expect Dan Paille to score 19 goals again. That was kind of a fluke last season. However, he had lengthy stretches this season where he just seemed to disappear altogether. He was scratched several times but in the end had a decent third liner season. He didn't take a lot of penalties and set up at least two shorthanded goals by Thomas Vanek. He filled his role. He was starting to really go into the corners with more enthusiasm as the season went on. He could use his body more, because when he does, he makes an impact.

Anne's Grade: B

Drew Stafford

79 games, 20-25-45, 29 PIM, +3
9 PPG - 2nd on team
Average TOI: 15:37

After a painfully slow start to the season, Staffy ended up setting new highs in goals and assists. When Vanek and Gaustad were down, Lindy tapped Staffy to be one of the guys in front of the net on the powerplay and after a terrifyingly bad first game with him at the front, he picked it up and really improved his ability to tip the puck in. As the season wore on, he started to show signs of becoming the player the Sabres drafted 13th overall in 2004. Fun fact: Staffy has never finished below +3 since turning pro in 2006.

Anne's Grade: B+

Adam Mair

75 Games, 8-11-19, 95 PIM, +4
Face off win % 48.3
Average TOI: 10:34

Mairsy set a career high in goals and +/-. I really don't have much to add about Mairsy other than he had a great fourth liner season. We could've done without the theatrics in October but those were hilarious and entertaining anyway. Like his other fellow centers, he could bulk up his face off numbers. The brief time of the line of Mair-Moore-Gaustad was a little strange but they were a good combination. I don't know that they would be a good line for the future but what they did while they were together was create a lot of pressure. Mairsy's good at that.

Anne's Grade: A-

Thomas Vanek

73 games, 40-24-64, 44 PIM, -1
20 PPG #1 on team, #1 in the league
2 SHG #1 on team
Average TOI: 17:11

Vanek broke out of the starting gates on fire and then cooled off. Then he was hurt and didn't really regain his form after coming back from his jaw injury. Like Royzie, he seemed to struggle with chemistry with linemates. I personally would enjoy a line of Pie - Royzie - Vanek but that's just me. Remember when Vanek was a +47? He needs to improve his 5 on 5 game and continue to improve his defensive game. He was clutch...sometimes... but not often enough. Much has been made of his time missed but he only missed nine games throughout the season. Imagine how different that time would've been if we'd had a healthy Tim Connolly earlier in the season. How many more goals would have been scored?

Anne's Grade: B+

Paul Gaustad

62 games, 12-17-29, 108 PIM, +4
141 hits
Faceoff win %: 52.7
Average TOI: 16:06

The Goose has always been a player about intangibles. We all know about his locker room comments after that repulsive game against the Caps in December. He set a career high in goals this season and scored his first NHL short-handed goal. He's just about the only player in recent memory to actually improve after signing a long contract. He definitely should be wearing an A next season. Take away Hecht's and give it to Goose.

Anne's Grade: A-

Jason Pominville

82 games, 20-46-66, 18 PIM, -4
Average TOI: 19:45

Jason had a pretty weak season. As did the rest of our "top 6" players, except for maybe Timmy, and he only played for 48 games. Pommer played every game but definitely struggled more than last season. Where was our kick-ass captain and his defensively responsible play? I don't think anyone would've believed he was nominated for the Selke based on this season's play. He ate up a lot of ice time and somewhat successfully manned the point on the power play. We needed more from him. It took him until the very last game to get the 20 goal mark.

Anne's Grade: C

Pat Kaleta

51 Games, 4-5-9, 89 PIM, +1
137 hits

Patty had a lot of neck/head injuries which hampered his season. He didn't make much of an impact this season and there really isn't a whole lot to say about it. He played an ok season by 3rd/4th line standards, but mostly it was overshadowed by his injuries. 137 hits in 51 games is nothing to sneeze at. Patty knows his role and played it well. Unfortunately he suffered a lot of damage because of it.

Anne's Grade: B

Matt Ellis

45 games, 7-5-12, 12 PIM, +4
Average TOI: 8:49

Matt Ellis was a healthy scratch or in Portland for most of the season but when he did play he made way more of an offensive impact than I think any Sabres fan expected him to. He was one of precious few Sabres that actually exceeded expectations this season. A solid fourth line player with a great attitude and a great work ethic. Ellis came to play every night, he never took a shift off and never quit. He filled his role as it was asked of him and then some including his first multi-goal NHL game and came amazingly close to scoring a hat trick. He actually took 239 faceoffs and won 46.9% of them, in spite being a natural winger.

Anne's Grade: A

Clarke MacArthur

71 games, 17-14-31, 56 PIM, -4
Average TOI: 13:50

MacArthur was scratched for several games this season to jumpstart his game and he managed to produce a decent first full season in the big leagues. He produced more goals than expected, and at the beginning of the season he was our #2 goal scorer. Most of the season he was pretty under the radar... mostly because he wasn't doing all that much.

Anne's Grade: B-

Jochen Hecht

70 games, 12-15-27, 33 PIM, -9
Faceoff win %: 43.7
Average TOI: 17:23

Punch me in the, face Jochen Hecht was awful this season. Aw. ful. Get the letter off that man's sweater. He was, in my opinion, the biggest disappointment of the season. Last year he took 229 shots. This year? 173. I don't think its a coincidence that both he and Pommer, former perma-linemates, had pretty lame seasons. Ugh.

Grade: D

Maxim Afinogenov

48 games, 6-14-20, 20 PIM, -7
Average TOI: 12:36

There is nothing to say about Max that hasn't already been said.

Grade: D-

Overall this averages out to a B-. The team scored a few more goals than last season and our top three goal scorers were the same. Last year Pommer, Royzie and Vanek combined for 95 goals. This year? 88. Not so bad when you combine the three. Two of our top five goal scorers last year were Kotalik (23) and Hecht (22) This year? Kotalik is gone and Hecht scored 12.

This year the forwards were a combined -4. Last year the forwards that played 40+ games were a combined +5.

I could go on, but I won't because it takes too long to compare all these stats. Basically the grinders were good and the scorers were mostly average.

How would you grade the forwards? Think I'm totally off the mark? Dead on? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Next up: Defensemen


  1. Anne, I give you an A+ on your forward grades!

  2. Anne, I give you an A+ on your forward grades!Yessss! my first A+ in like 15 years

  3. Nice job, dear!!merci, I was afraid you'd take issue with my critiques of Derek.

  4. Nicely done, Anne! I could never take the time to do this because I think my brain would explode.

    I think this says something when Matt Ellis gets the highest grade out of all of the forwards. No offense to Matty, but...our top 6 didn't play great all year long. So you're spot on there.

    Also, thank you for making me laugh with what you said about Yo-Yo.

  5. First of all, which is Spacek not in this post. Ok I know the answer but it is unacceptable. I love him and need to feel his presence at all times.

    Second, I love Pommer. I know he kinda sucked, but he was so cute when he cheered for his goals.

    Hecht blows. Get him outta here.

    You used to love Staffy. What happened? We were going to get you a Staffy jersey. I'm glad we did not. It's never wise to get someone's name. I think I'd feel safe getting a Miller jersey though. And Spacek. Totally. OMG I want a Spacek shirt. I love him.

    Does Oscar have a Sissy dance? I think Max needs one.

  6. Dammit my post has a clear error. That first question just don't even make sense. I think you understand what I was going for though.

    Which, why, same thing...

  7. By Max I did not mean Maxim Afinogenov. Did I spell that right? Clearly Anne is aware that I meant my cat, but I didn't want others to think that I wanted Afiniaovenveg to do a dance. (It's too late to type it correctly twice.)


Glossary... Sort of

  • "Ryan Miller" Shutout - A 58 minute multi-goal shutout lead that is blown by Miller allowing one meaningless goal
  • Britney or SabreBritney - Thomas Vanek
  • Butter Snaps - Carolina Hurricanes
  • Craigory - Craig Rivet
  • Full Monty - Steve Montador
  • Greener - MATT Greene (LAK)
  • JBG - Jolly Blonde Giant - Tyler Myers
  • Little Foot - Drew Stafford
  • MK - Anne's sister; often leaves nonsensical comments under her Twitter name Mmmkizzle
  • Noodles - Derek Whitmore
  • Oscar - Anne's cat and STH's unofficial mascot
  • Parsley - Jimmy Bonneau
  • Sir Christopher - Chris Butler
  • Sissy - Jaroslav Spacek
  • Telly Monster - Mikael Tellqvist

Because It's Never not Funny

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