In the 37 year history of the Buffalo Sabres, this city has seen its fair share of dynamic offensive pairs and trios. From the French Connection in the 1970s, to the dynamic tandem of Pat Lafontaine and Alexander Mogilny in the 1990s, we as Sabre fans have been treated to some of the best offensive hockey in years.
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And now, after the events of yesterday, we may have another big time offensive pair on our hands for years to come: Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy.
Vanek took the league by storm last season, silencing many of his critics after a sub-par rookie season to score 43 and 84 points, while becoming only the third player in the last 10 years to have 40 goals, 40 assists and a +40 rating.
But lost in all of Vanek's achievement this past season was the solid play of his regular centermen, Derek Roy. Ever since pairing with Roy during stretches of the 2005-06 season, these two players have shown an immediate connection on the ice. Roy was very strong last season, scoring 63 points while also having a +37 rating as well. The line showed an immediate knack for not only scoring goals, but for being responsible in their own end.
But now with the loss of scoring talent this past offseason, these two will be asked to take on an even bigger role with the team, that of top line scorers. And after the contracts they both received, we should have a top flight pairing for the next 6 seasons.
But what makes these two even scarier is the fact that they can be deadly together, regardless of who mans their right wings. That begs the question, could they be one good winger away from becoming one of the leagues best lines?
And if so, who? Some would argue that keeping Max Afinogenov with them would give them the speed dynamic that helped make Mogilny so deadly back in the early 1990s. Afinogenov is a speed demon with good play-making skills, but does not possess the hands Mogilny did, and for a line like Vanek and Roy that is very strong defensively at times, Afinogenov offers a weaker defensive element to the line.
Then there is the fan favorite, Drew Stafford. In just half a season, Stafford has conjured up visions of becoming one of the more beloved players in recent team history. He has great hands, good vision, and like Vanek, uses his size as a big strength, even more so in the corners and along the boards.
Staffords skill set alone makes many believe he will be a 30 goal scorer with the right center. While Tim Connolly may be the best playmaking center we have, Stafford may benefit more playing the more defensively responsible Roy, allowing Afinogenov to again reconnect with Connolly and give the Sabres a modern day version of Patty and Alex.
Regardless, this season could look to be a fun one at HSBC arena for years to come.
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