Drew Stafford is earning $2.3 million in the final year of his contract and has shown flashes of brilliance, living up to his salary and stirring up conversations of $4 million plus kind of money. Coming in with an apparent laser focus, signs of maturity that had been missing, and a leaner frame, Stafford had the pessimist at the water cooler starting to change tune.
Highlights of this season include 4 hat tricks, the last of which came in a 7-6 loss to the New York Islanders Feb 13th. At that point Stafford had netted a stunning 23 goals in 36 games. The next elite goal scorer to don the charging Buffalo?
Oh how things have changed.
The race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is a dog fight. Every game is a playoff game and experienced players are expected to lead the charge and contribute offensively. Over the last 15 games, Stafford has 2 goals and 8 points with his last goal coming on Mar 5th Vs. the Flyers. Over the last 5 arguably must win games, Stafford has remained goalless and 2 points. Tim Connolly by comparison has 2 goals and 6 points over that span.
Hardly leading by example.
Over the second half of the season the numbers shake out like this. In 26 games he was dressed, Stafford contributed 12 goals and 20 points. Considering 8 of those goals came in 3 matches, that leaves a paltry 3 goals in the remaining 23 efforts in that span. If you were excited over a hot goal scoring streak with multiple goal games, you can’t avoid the inconsistency over the rest.
Scoring over all for the Buffalo Sabres is up nearly half a goal per game (.44 as of Mar 19th) in the second half of the season which bodes well for a team that must have balanced scoring to succeed. There is no time for excuses. Stafford should take note of the performance of the diminutive Nathan Gerbe who is 10-7-17 over the last 30 games.
If you think tonight’s game Vs. the Habs is a time for Stafford to right the ship, consider in the 4 games played Vs. Montreal Stafford is 1-1-2. Granted when these two teams play it’s usually very low scoring evident by the Habs Carey Price’s 1.57 goals on average the five previous games.
This is your clarion call Drew Stafford and the Buffalo Sabres. Are you listening Thomas Vanek?
***Update Sabres defeat the Habs in regulation, 2-0. Gerbe with 2 goals. Miller looked stellar.