Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sabres top 26

About a month ago Sports Illustrated put out a list that ranked the top 500 NFL players. While I have no ambitions to create a list of that size, I can rank the players on the Buffalo Sabres. Rankings are based upon the importance each player brings to the team for the coming season.

  • #1 Derek Roy - Expecting Vanek? Roy is far more important to this team, and assists are just as important as goals. Now with Briere and Drury gone Roy and Connolly are the teams go to centers, and will have to live up to those expectations.

  • #2 Tim Connolly - The other leading centerman for this team is the next most critical part. If Connolly can return to the excellent play he had in the 05-06 season then the Sabres should really be in good shape. The possibility of seeing him on a line with Afinogenov would dance around defences to no end.

  • #3 Ryan Miller - The job of Goalie is always important, and even more so now that Biron is no longer the backup in Buffalo. In many ways Miller has assumed the role of the de facto captain for this team, and will hold the responsibility throughout the season.

  • #4 Henrik Tallinder - Although the Sabres had the leagues best regular season last year, the team was barely above .500 while Tallinder was out with a broken arm. He is by far the teams top defensive player, and the most reliable on that side of the ice. He may not have the offensive statistics of Lindstrom, Campbell, or Pronger, but in his own zone he is arguably the best Defenseman in the league.

  • #5 Brian Campbell - Last year's All-Star defender is the biggest offensive weapon the team has on the blue line. Campbell is one of the teams best defenders, and has an awesome, seemingly unstopable spin move that he breaks out from time to time. With the possibility of playing on Tallinder's line this year, the duo may very well average over 25 min a game.

  • #6 Toni Lydman - Getting the idea that the defense is important to this team? It most certainly is. With all the offensive risks the team takes the defence (and goalie) are responsible for covering up any mistakes. This year on a line with Spacek Lydman will be asked to play a little harder than he needed to with Tallinder by his side.

  • #7 Thomas Vanek - Some might think this is a little low for the teams highest paid player, but defense is important. So much so that Vanek's most impressive stat from last year is not his goals, but rather his league leading plus/minus stat of +44. A fact often overshadowed by his large offensive numbers is his ability to play well both ways.

  • #8 Maxim Afinogenov - This guy is just a great all out play maker. It doesn't matter if he ends up with Vanek and Roy or Connolly, either way he will find ways to bring the puck to the front of the net.

  • #9 Drew Stafford - Only in his second year Stafford should be one of the top five goal scorers on the team this season. Stafford may find himself on the teams top line with Vanek and Roy, which will further help his totals. Additionally the Sabres may want to consider Stafford as one of their top shootout guys this season.

  • #10 Paul Gaustad - The Goose is an absolute beast. Giving himself to every play the possibility of a scoring chance coming out of no where always exists. Gaustad's ability to bring a physical presence is something that isn't too common on this team.

  • #11 Ales Kotalik - On the shootout the whole world know that he is planing on going backhand to the blocker side, yet he still manages to pull it off time after time after time. Why Kotalik can't score with such ease in a game is beyond me.

  • #12 Nathan Paetsch - Although towards the bottom of the teams depth chart, Paetsch is one of the teams, quicker more offensive players. He also played very well on the powerplay last season. A powerplay with him and Pominville on the points would rack up the goals rather fast.

  • #13 Jason Pominville - Although one of my favorite players, Pominville may find himself to be the odd man out a bit this season, as his center from last year is no longer with the team. Pommers still has excellent speed, and a good shot, and should be able to rack up the goals this season. With his playing time down Ruff may be more likely to use him on the powerplay, and possibly even on the point like he was two seasons ago.

  • #14 Jochen Hecht - A bit low for the team's captain (this month at least), Hecht is a solid offensive player, but has really never put up the high goal numbers that some of his teammates have. At least we know he has the respect of the team.

  • #15 Adam Mair - Mair is alot better than most people give him credit for. Although he seems forever destined to be on the fourth line, he is the type of player who is good and getting the puck, and along with Gaustad and Kaleta, pretty much the team's only physical presence.

  • #16 Daniel Paille - Paille is pretty much in the same boat as Stafford, except that he is not as good. While Stafford is clearly ready to be in the NHL full time, Paille is more of a question mark. This year he should be on the Sabres roster full time, so hopefully he can keep on scoring the goals.

  • #17 Dmitri Kalinin - One of the team's top six defencemen, Kalinin will have to be able to play well through the season. He had a few off games last year, and that won't do so well for him this season.

  • #18 Jocelyn Thibault - Although Miller is by far expected to get most of the starts this season, the team will want to give him a break, and when that happens they better be able to count on Thibault to be solid in net. He's not Marty Biron, but he doesn't have to be.

  • #19 Teppo Numminen - Although out for half the season, if the Sabres can get Teppo back, even by next spring, it would be a huge boost to the defence.

  • #20 Clarke MacArthur - With Stafford, Paille, and Ryan up full time this season, MacArthur will be the team's go to guy in Rochester. Whenever there is an injury he will be counted on to help the team out.

  • #21 Michael Ryan - Due to get more playing time then MacAruthur, Ryan must prove that he deserves his spot, or else he will be replaced by Peters. Much like Paille, Ryan still has much to prove.

  • #22 Patrick Kaleta - A fan favorite and solid hitter, Kaleta is not due to see much ice time for the Sabres this season, and will spend most of his time in Rochester. However when he does come up he will have the expectation to play big.

  • #23 Jaroslav Spacek - A bit of a low ranking for a guy so high on the depth chart, but this is really where he is with the team. Spacek simply makes too many mistakes, especially for the money he is being paid. Furthermore on the powerplay he is absolutely useless. I would rather see Paetch or Campbell used on the powerplay any day.

  • #24 Andrej Sekera - With Numminen out Sekera is the number one defenseman in Rochester and will need to be ready to go if anyone else gets hurt. Ruff's choice to send him to the Amercks rather than to be a healthy scratch is a good one.

  • #25 Andrew Peters - With Ryan up in Buffalo Peters was almost a healthy scratch for opening night. Although he played more NHL game last season then he ever has Peters may have a hard time keeping his position on the team, as it become more clear that the Sabres are probably better off using Kaleta.

  • #26 Michael Funk - Up for a short time last season, Funk really didn't look ready for the NHL. With Numminen out for a while the possibility of Funk coming up to Buffalo for a few games this season isn't that unlikely.
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