Raise your hand if you saw this one coming?
The Buffalo Sabres are at the halfway point in this 2007 season, mired in a season long 6 game winless streak. The offense is struggling, the D has been bad, and Ryan Miller has been good, but not good enough.
Today we look at the forwards, while tomorrow we'll look at the defense and goaltending.
Derek Roy (40 GP, 13-17-30 +5): Lost in all the commotion with the captains was the solid move by Regier signing Roy to a 6 year, $24 million contract. Roy has been solid all year as the Number 1 center, currently placing second on the team in points and among the top 5 in PP points. Roy could miss the next couple games with a shoulder injury suffered Sunday in Atlanta.
Tim Connolly (33 GP, 5-24-29 +1) Connolly has shown no ill effects from his prior concussions, but has struggled at times to stay healthy, missing 7 games so far this season. Connolly has helped to spark a weak power play from last season, currently in the upper half of the league. He is currently tied for the lead on the team in PP assists with 10.
Paul Gaustad (40 GP, 6-13-19 -3) Goose has been a force on the PP this season, as 5 of his 6 goals have been with the man advantage. He has been stellar in facing top pairings, but needs to use his size more to be effective.
Adam Mair (30 GP, 4-2-6 -5) Mair is on pace for one of his better offensive campaigns this season. After missing games with an injury, Mair has returned and added a solid physical force to the lineup.
Thomas Vanek (40 GP, 12-13-25 +1) Judging Thomas Vanek's season all depends on what side of the fence you lie on. Some feel he is stealing his $10 million contract, while others are seeing a hard working player with just bad luck. Its no doubt Vanek has been in a season-long slump, but Vanek has been consistently one of the stronger forwards on a nightly basis. He has become a force in front of the net and continues to get better in working the corners. He may struggle to break 25-30 goals this season, but Van will be a 40 goal guy for the next decade.
Maxim Afinogenov ( 38 GP, 7-11-18 -10) Outside of Vanek, no Sabre has been in a bigger slump then Afinogenov. Expected to fill some of the void lost in the off-season, Max has struggled mightily to score, and his defensive lapses and knack for turnovers has directly led to a team worst -10 rating. Whether or not the Sabres turn it around or not, all signs point to it being the final season in Buffalo for Max.
Drew Stafford (34 GP, 8-8-16 -1) Stafford has looked to be in the dreaded "sophomore slump" for most of the season. He has looked dominating at times, but most times has been unnoticeable. At his best, he is a dominating player who could develop into a Bill Guerin type player. A reunion with Derek Roy could bring his numbers back up.
Jochen Hecht (40 GP 14-10-24 -3) Hecht has been the most steady hand in Buffalo's captain rotation, serving as captain in October and alternate the last 3 months. Hecht has scored some clutch goals so far this year, including the GWG late in the December 22nd win over Philadelphia. Hecht has been a key part of the PK unit.
Jason Pominville (40 GP 9-24-33 +3) Pominville has showed signs that he may not need #48 to succeed, currently leading the team in points and assists. Pominville is a solid playmaker with a hard shot and good speed and has continued to strive while playing with Jochen Hecht. Pominville could use his size a bit more and needs to show a willingness to get physical.
Ales Kotalik ( 38 GP, 13-10-23 -1) Kotalik has the biggest shot on the team, but has been disappointing when not on the PP unit. 6 of his 13 goals have come on the PP, mainly from his big shot at the point. Kotalik is not an overly physical player and has struggled defensively, but should reach his first 30 goal season this year.
Dan Paille (37 GP 5-11-16 +8) Paille has been one of the Sabres most consistent all-around forwards, showing a willingness to score goals and hit people. Paille is a Mike Fisher type player with decent size and unsuspectingly goos hands. Paille is tied for the team lead in SHG with 2, while also leading all forwards in +\-. He is currently out with a possible concussion suffered Friday night.
Mike Ryan (28 GP 3-3-6 -1) Ryan is a favorite of criticism for Sabre fans, but its hard to find a player who plays harder each night then Ryan. What he lacks in talent he makes up in hard work and exceptional speed. At 475k, he is a good player to have on your 4th line.
Clarke MacArthur (13 GP 4-1-5 -2) Many feel MacArthur should be up over Ryan, and they may be right. Mac has been stellar in his relief appearances for the team, scoring 4 goals in 14 games, including an OT winner against Boston in November. Mac also leads the Rochester Amerks in scoring as well, and looks like he may finally be a mainstay on the big club.
Andrew Peters (28 GP 0-0-0 -3) Peters is what he is, a guy you bring in to counter act the other teams enforcer. Peters will drop the gloves with anyone, but cant be counted on for much else. Currently second on the team in penalty minutes with 51.
Tomorrow we look at the Defense and Goaltending.