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(frank) Lockouts, Bettman, GA • United States • 2013 Years Old • Male
The heat will be turned on high for every Sabre this season. Looking through the roster in the midst of the Sabres’ overhaul reveals a melting pot of players from different stages in their careers. Every player has a lofty set of individual challenges to face this season, and while the same can be said about all players at the beginning of a new NHL season, the effects are magnified with a roster situation as tenuous as the one in Buffalo.

Goals for the rookies are obvious, but daunting, as they’ve all outplayed their expectations in their former leagues, but lack significant NHL experience. Vanek and Miller will be hounded daily by the media regarding their tentative contract situations until the day they are traded or re-signed. Leino and Hodgson will both be expected to step into leadership roles among the forwards and justify the large cap hits each player commands.

We’ve heard about the competition within the depth chart on a number of players young, new, and old. There’s one player, however, that has remained out of the preseason spotlight. The word on Drew Stafford has been quiet, and for him, that’s looking like a very bad thing.

Stafford will find himself on the Sabres top line to start the season, a roster spot he certainly hasn’t earned; it wouldn’t be unfair to say he’s slotted there on seniority alone. The 27 year old winger has been a total flop since he inked his 4 year, $16 million contract in 2011-2012, immediately after posting his first and only 30 goal campaign. Even when he has been 'on,' it's come as tiny blips on a radar showing mediocrity for miles in all directions. Calling him streaky doesn’t do him justice. He’ll post three points in one matchup, and then flatline for the next twelve. He’s a model of inconsistency, and his defensive game has at times been downright lazy. He donned an ‘A’ last season, a gift from Lindy Ruff, but that will be stripped this year.

Looking at the big picture of the Sabres, it is not difficult to see a last ditch effort is being made to get some semblance of value out of the winger. His name was in many trade rumors leading up to the deadline, but his decline has not been a well kept secret. Those who follow the Sabres closely were not surprised when 3 pm passed on deadline day and Stafford was still a Sword. With the cap reduced and the league bursting at the seams with fresh and competitive talent, $4 million underachievers are fit to be tied. Stafford is virtually untradable, so if he struggles to produce even playing on the first line, he will surely be bought out or waived and buried at the end of the year.

The most concerning thing for Stafford should be the message, or lack thereof that has been sent by the team in the media this preseason. None of the rookies have made reference to his leadership. They point to Steve Ott, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Christian Ehrhoff, and even Mike Weber as their sources of inspiration. Rolston has talked about the veteran presence that Tallinder has been providing. He’s spoken about the marked improvements of Tyler Myers, the other name that was scorned resoundingly last season. He’s named names, referencing hard work and dedication throughout the roster.

But not of Drew Stafford.

With all the up and coming talent in the Sabres cupboard, Stafford will have one last opportunity to show his worth.

Thanks for reading.
October 2, 2013 12:55 PM ET | Delete
Thank you! I really enjoyed this read! Spot on!
October 2, 2013 1:42 PM ET | Delete
you could make the same argument that people often make with vanek- that he has never had the ability to play with a true number one center, but for stafford it just would not have any teeth. vanek is an all star; he has world class hands, a great shot, hockey vision, and he earns a ton of his points in front of the net on the power play. drew stafford has size and talent- both of which are on display once every 6 weeks. when drew buries his head, shields the puck, and goes hard to the net- he is an effective player. drew got in one fight last year and he indicated after the game that the coaching staff didnt want him playing that role. drew doesnt finish his checks and when he isnt going to the net he is the very defenition of a player that is easy to play against. i am hopeful that some other team thinks so little of the sabres ability to develop scoring, that they take him off of our hands near the deadline. he is one of the last of the old guard, the guys that were deeply flawed that never got it done.
October 2, 2013 3:11 PM ET | Delete
as much as i dislike staff, "total flop" is reaching a bit...in 2011 12 he had 20 goals and 30 assists and was a plus 5...last year he did indeed stink up the joint...that being said, if some team wanted him, i would help him pack his bags and drive him to the airport
October 2, 2013 3:30 PM ET | Delete
the worst part is his 30 goal season came in a contract year. i dont know if anybody believed that he would do it again, but the sabres have an image problem and signing one of their own- who paid his dues- had to be done. i wonder if he sees himself as a dangler or a guy who can get by on talent alone, im just not sure what his deal is. a few times a year, the guy plays like a reasonably talented small power forward, and its fairly impressive. the coaches seem to be unable to get this out of him with any kind of consistency. i just wish somebody would sit him down and say "crash the net, you are worthless on the perimeter".
October 2, 2013 5:19 PM ET | Delete
I think the Sabres could move him for Ales Hemsky... Hemsky costs $1 million more this year, but his contract expires at the end of this season (while Stafford has next year on his deal). Hemsky would be a better playmaker alongside Vanek and Hodgson than Stafford, in my opinion.
October 3, 2013 12:11 PM ET | Delete
Trying to respond to you all, but this comment section hates anything over one line. Thanks for reading.
October 3, 2013 12:35 PM ET | Delete
edmontons fans cant get rid of hemsky fast enough. its likely that if you were to pack staffords bags and drive him to edmonton, you would pass a very happy edmonton fan driving hemsky to buffalo- probably somewhere around winnipeg.
October 3, 2013 5:37 PM ET | Delete
@b0s0o1, I think the expectations for a player at that price have to go further than just point production. He did hit what would be considered a reasonable quota for his price range, but the other facets of his game severely lacked.
October 5, 2013 1:49 AM ET | Delete
Try Calgary. He sounds like a clone of David Jones.
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