Since the season opening five goal explosion in a win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Buffalo Sabres offense has been, as Head Coach Lindy Ruff desc ribed it, a “one trick pony”. The Sabres have managed just eight goals in the last four games and have lost three of the four.
Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson have combined for nine of the team’s 13 goals this season so Ruff is looking for any of the other ponies in the stable to produce. Much is expected of the Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford trio but that group was broken up after four very unproductive games.
Ennis and Foligno showed signs of their respective games coming around this past weekend with both players finally breaking into the goal scoring column but Stafford remains ice cold.
A two time 20 goal scorer and just two seasons removed from a career best 31 goals(which as many will point out occurred in a contract year), Stafford has yet to score this season. It isn’t due to a lack of chances. His 16 shots on goal is tied for third best on the team and Stafford’s average of 18 minutes and 47 seconds of ice time a game, is third best among the forwards. He’s also logged more than 17 minutes of power play time over the first five games yet he has as many goals for the Sabres as I do.
Slow starts have been an issue for the former first round draft pick out of North Dakota. Last season he actually scored three goals in the first four games but tallied just one in the next 22. Through the end of January, Stafford had only eight goals.
Four years ago, Stafford had just three goals in his first 20 games and the season before that, it was two goals over the first 17 contests. Even in his 31 goal campaign, most of that damage was in the second half of the season. He scored 27 times from December through the end of the season.
If you look at shooting percentages, Stafford has been trending downward. In his first full NHL season, the 27 year old Stafford scored on 19% of his shots. It dropped in each of the next three years to 15, 10 and then down to 7%. It jumped up to a career best 17% two years ago(in the contract year) and plummeted back down to 8% last season when he had a career best 226 shots on goal.