BUFFALO (LGS) — Saturday night marked the end of many things. For one, the month of October is at an end for the Buffalo Sabres. It also ended the first 10-game mark of the season that saw the Sabres finish 5-5-0. We thought now would be prudent to get our first Player Power Rankings of the season out.
It should be noted that there is a four-games-played minimum to be included in the rankings, so rookie Mike Weber and backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault are not among the listed. It isn't that they were off-the-scales bad, because they weren't, it's that with so few chances to observe their play, it is hard to put them in the mix and accurately judge their performances.
As always, these are just for fun. Feel free to discuss them on our Pavilion Forums.
1. Brian Campbell (1-10-11, +6): Soupy was the most balanced, most effective player on the ice for the Sabres through the first 10 games of the season. He leads the team in plus/minus rating, despite playing with his now third defensive partner. The Sabres would be wise to throw a lasso around this free agent-to-be.
2. Tim Connolly (1-10-11, +3): The guy every Sabres fan was counting on to fill the hole left by Daniel Briere is doing just that. At times, his creativity in the offensive zone is even better than Briere could ever dream of, while his defensive zone coverage trumps that of No. 48's.
3. Jason Pominville (5-5-10, +3): The man from Pominville has shown through the first 10 that he doesn't need Daniel Briere to score in the National Hockey League. With Connolly by his side, Pominville hasn't missed a step, and even looks better than he was last season. His one flaw looks to be his point play on the power play, where at times, he looks a little out of whack.
4. Daniel Paille (2-4-6, +2): Honestly, raise your hand if you thought heading in to this season that Paille would have 6 points in the first 10 games, all while averaging less than 10 minutes per game. The Welland-native has been a force on the ice that no one saw coming and remains one of the bright spots on a team that went through a few dark patches.
5. Derek Roy (5-4-9, +1): Tied with Pominville for the team lead in goals, Roy has shown flashes of why he was given that big contract in the offseason. Unlike his line-mates, Roy has produced at a consistent basis these first few tilts and ranks higher here to show for it.
6. Jaroslav Spacek (4-2-6, +4): Spacek might be the biggest turnaround this year, but returned to a place he knew all too well last season: the injury list. If it wasn't for his shoulder injury against Toronto, Spacek might be leading the team in goals and points. Maybe the team doesn't struggle like it did after he went down. However, once he makes his return, we shall see which version of him hits the ice.
7. Jochen Hecht (3-4-7, +1): By design, Jochen Hecht's term as team captain should be complete. And it was a series of peaks and valleys. Offensively, Hecht's production has been surprisingly steady. His strong play along the boards and in the defensive zone warrant more luck, though. But it is safe to say that the struggles these guys faced should not fall on his back alone.
8. Adam Mair (2-1-3, -1): Though his production has tapered off in recent games, Mair continues to play a respectable game, throwing tough hits and using speed to create turnovers. It isn't easy to produce when your time on ice averages at 7:28 per game, though. Mair is one of those players that deserves to be playing more but fails to see the time due to players above him.
9. Paul Gaustad (3-1-4, -1): The Goose has found a niche standing in front of a well-timed Tim Connolly snap-pass. His power play deflections have given the Sabres needed man-advantage production and give hope that the power play can succeed.
10. Thomas Vanek (3-5-8, -1): Vanek has been struggling. I need to say it. But I will decline to hold him under that $10 million microscope that so many use to chastise him. The guy has been pressing too hard at times these first 10 games, and has been burnt like toast as a result. But he continues to work hard and make the plays he needs to make. Scoring the winner against Tampa Bay should help his confidence heading into Boston Thursday.
11. Ales Kotalik (2-3-5, -2): If there was ever a guy you want playing the power play, it is Kotalik. He has a bomb from the point, and showed it with a blast Friday in Florida. However, underneath it all, Kotalik has only performed while up a man, as all five points scored have come with the man-advantage. His even-strength play needs some work.
12. Nathan Paetsch (1-2-3, -1): Patches has been a microcosm of the Sabres season. He's had some times of greatness, as evidenced Saturday in Tampa Bay. But he's also struggled at times, and faces an up-hill battle to get himself righted. The good news for him is that he isn't alone on the team.
13. Ryan Miller (4-5-0, 3.00 GAA): Jesus doesn't save everyone, or so it seems. Miller has had a rough time of the first nine games he has participated in. His concentration is lacking at times, and his positioning looks a bit off. Often he is burnt on ricochets off the back boards that bounce back in front on the other side of the net, a sign the he over-commits himself at times.
14. Maxim Afinogenov (2-2-4, -3): The underproductive Afinogenov is beginning to lose support from the fans. But as with most scorers, it is easily attained again by simply finding ways to produce on the ice. Most of the time Max tries to do it all himself. If he gives up the dipsy-doodles and the figure eights, maybe he'll have better luck on the scoresheet, and with the fans. He has cut down on his unnecessary penalties, recording only four minors.
15. Dmitri Kalinin (0-1-1, -1): Kalinin, now injured with a knee sprain, was playing well until Spacek was injured. He seemed to find his groove playing with Paetsch. Though lacking offensive production, he was tending to the defensive zone a lot better than he had been last season.
16. Toni Lydman (0-1-1, -2): Though maligned for his play, Lydman hasn't really been that bad. He leads the team in blocked shots with 20 through the first 10 games. The Florida trip seemed to rejuvenate his game more so than anyone else on the team, as he began to make strong plays that had become his trademark. I still don't like his lame-duck blind backhand attempts to clear the zone. Too often they are intercepted.
17. Drew Stafford (2-2-4, -3): Like many, Stafford has struggled. Coming into the season, he was being touted as a major part of the Buffalo offense, and has struggled to live up to the hype. He has played on a line with almost every guy on the team, and still can't spark any magic, and has since found himself on the fourth line. However, it isn't all bad news: Stafford scored a fluke goal in Florida, and that usually sparks a turnaround for most players.
18. Michael Ryan (0-2-2, -2): Though he has seen his playing time cut to make room for Andrew Peters, Ryan still deserves a bit of credit for his initial play. He began the season playing well, and was a small part in Paille's early success. However, with the production fall-off, so too did his playing time. And now he is riding the press-box pine.
19. Andrej Sekera (0-1-1, -3): Called up from The Roc to replace the injured Spacek, Sekera has not done anything to justify a spot on the roster long-term. The 21-year-old needs more seasoning with the Americans, as the NHL game seems too fast for him at times. That might explain why the Sabres are interested in Nolan Pratt.
20. Henrik Tallinder (0-2-2, -3): Tallinder has become my scapegoat for the direction this team took after finishing the preseason strong. Looked upon as the possible No. 1 defenseman of the team, his play has been questionable at best. It is possible that a strong showing in Tampa Bay might help lead the Sabres defensemen out of the doghouse and to the holy land.
21. Andrew Peters (0-0-0, E): Peters is more like the comic relief than a hockey player, that goes for the fans and for his teammates as well. For a guy that is supposed to be the enforcer on the team, he's hardly enforcing anything. He's bloodied one guy but not with his fist. That was in Carolina, when he haphazardly attempted to decapitate one of the Hurricanes on accident. He doesn't even lead the team in penalty minutes, which is what the fighter should be doing. It's a good thing Peters keeps the mood light in the dressing room, because his on-ice value is quickly diminishing.