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What do stats say the Sabres should do with... everyone? Pt. 1










The Buffalo Sabres have new life. With the firing of Darcy Regier and hiring of Tim Murray, every player is being evaluated. Murray says he already has an idea of what he thinks of each player. Do you know what you'd like to see the Sabres do with each guy?

Well, what do the stats say? In Part 1 of 3, we explore what the numbers (and skill sets, contracts and intangibles) hint about what the Sabres should and will do.

For Part 1....

FORWARDS
 
Cody Hodgson
 
What the stats say:
 
In 101 games as a Buffalo Sabre, Hodgson has posted 61 points while consistently getting top line and power play minutes. He's been effective at times on the power play, finishing 2011-12 and currently putting up more than 5 points per 60 minutes (best in the NHL last season was 9.13, 8.02 the season before). But last year, in a larger sample, his PP scoring rate was under 2. So it's hard to project whether he'll be a highly effective PP player long term or just average.
 
At 5v5, Hodgson is not effective in his role as a top center. His offensive zone starts have been below 50% each of the last two seasons and he's faced above average competition. His Corsi % has been 46.5% and 42.5%. The league's best possession players are close to 60%.
 
His 5v5 scoring rates are unimpressive as well. This season, he's scoring 1.39 points per 60 minutes at even strength, which ranks him 213th in the NHL. Last season, spending almost the entire year with proven scorers Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, he was a much better 73rd at 2.09 per 60.
 
While on-ice goal stats can be heavily influenced by goaltending and other players' mistakes, Hodgson's are eyebrow raising. He was on ice for the 15th most goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5 in the NHL last season. That number has improved this season, but that could be because of Ryan Miller's incredible year. Hodgson has been on ice for the second most shots against per 60 in the NHL.
 
On the ice:
 
No. 19 flashes brilliance with the puck. His ability to hang onto it in traffic, find teammates with passes and rip off wicked snap shots is enough to wow. But the best scorers in the NHL often combine top level offensive skills with competitiveness, the ability to win battles along the wall and skating skills to escape opponents. Hodgson is short in those areas.
 
Defensively, he has struggled for the same reasons and because of a lack of awareness in the defensive zone. He often loses track of opponents, skates after the puck instead of guarding his zone and he lacks physical play in front of the net.
 
Contract: $4.25M hit through 2019
 
Verdict: Hodgson can be a solid offensive contributor, who may be able to handle sheltered minutes defensively. If he's a third line center and power play scorer down the road (after the Sabres pick 1st overall once or twice) he could be effective. But if he doesn't fit into Murry's idea of what a third line center should be, it might be hard to keep him. It wouldn't be ideal to use him in a role where he would have to face tough competition. In that case, he'll have value on the trade market with a favorable cap hit and good traditional statistics.
 
READ MORE ABOUT HODGSON HERE
 
Drew Stafford
 
What the stats say:
 
For a two year stretch, you could have labeled Stafford as a pretty outstanding depth scorer. In 2010-11 he managed a a 2.20 points per 60 rate at even strength, only trailing Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy for the team lead and he was the team's top even strength goal scorer. The following season, he ended up with 2.16 points per 60 at 5v5 and was third on the club again.
 
His minutes were fairly sheltered, ranking eighth and seventh in Quality of Competition and getting over 50% offensive zone starts during those two years, but that's what you expect from a second or third line winger.
 
But over the last two seasons, Stafford's ability to score has vanished. In 2012-13, he faced the ninth hardest competition amongst forwards and a 53.6% offensive zone start, but scoring dropped to 1.52 points per 60. This year, he's faced the 7th hardest competition, but received 44.0% offensive zone starts and plummeted even farther south to 1.39 points per 60.
 
You would think his unbelievably low shooting percentages of 5.0 and 4.1 would come back to closer to his career mark of 10.7 eventually, but the longer he maintains low percentages, the longer it looks like that's where they should be.
 
In terms of puck possession, Stafford has a meek 43.5% Corsi % this season, which is 1.7% below the average Sabre.
 
On the ice:
 
Stafford is an above average skater, has hands good enough to score 20-plus goals, size that he can use to push opponents off the puck and battle in front of the net. Defensively, he's positionally sound and can skate well enough to steal pucks on the back check.
 
But his makeup issues poison his skill set. From all accounts, he's a fine person, but makeup goes far beyond being a good guy. It's the intangibles. For Stafford, it's his struggles with confidence that bring him down.
 
His effort night-to-night is extremely inconsistent, especially when it comes to battling to get to the front of the net, where most of his goals are scored. When he's not “going” he takes low percentage shots from the circles instead of hustling to get down low.  Same goes for the back checking and wall battles, which he has the strength to win, but often doesn't.
 
Contract: Cap hit of $4.0 through 2015
 
Verdict: Stafford is a classic change-of-scenery guy. The fans have turned on him after two mediocre years and he needs a boost from going somewhere else. Unfortunately, the last two years have destroyed his trade value. You could argue it would be worth keeping him around to see if he comes back to life rather than trading him for nothing. But he's also taking up a roster (and top six) spot that you know won't be his long term.
 
Matt Moulson
 
What the stats say:
 
One of the most reliable goal scorers in the NHL, Moulson had seasons of 30, 31, 36 and 15 during the shortened season. This year is no different with 14 in 41 games. With a strong start in Buffalo, he's starting to shrug off the “he's only good because of John Tavares” reputation.
 
In the small 30 game sample in Buffalo, Moulson has been extremely effective on the power play, putting up an oustanding 7.26 points per 60 minutes. Over the past two years on the man advantage, he's had excellent scoring rates of 5.78 and 5.87.
 
At 5v5, he's been a quality scorer in the past with points/60 rates of 2.03 and 2.37 in 2011-12 and 12-13. This season he's only at 1.05, but that's likely to rise based on the past. Puck possession wise, he's been a positive possession player the last three years with Relative Corsi's (Corsi rating on ice vs. off ice) of +6.3, +7.4 and currently +3.7.
 
In terms of usage, the Islanders gave him fairly easy minutes especially last season with a 60.9% offensive zone start percentage and the 10th most difficult minutes amongst forwards.
 
On the ice:
 
Moulson does one thing extremely well: Gets to the front of the net. He has an amazing ability to tip pucks and work in small space near the blue paint, making him a major asset on the power play. He is by no means a tough guy, but has some edge to his game. The 30-year-old winger is a mediocre defensive player and not a possession-driver. He will never be a Zach Parise-type dominant force, but makes for a proven quality second-line winger and power play specialist.
 
Contract: UFA in 2014
 
Verdict: Moulson's future will be determined by whether he's interested in sticking around and if the Sabres feel they can build a winner in the next 2-3 years. If the answer is yes to both of those things, the Sabres could reasonably give him 4-5 year deal and feel OK with overpaying to keep him in Buffalo.
 
Steve Ott
 
What the stats say:
 
The Buffalo Sabres have misused Steve Ott (out of necessity) since he arrived in the Queen City. Last season, he was used as a shutdown winger. He faced the No. 1 Quality of Competition last season and most difficult zone starts at only 41.9 Ozone. As a result, he was also the Sabres' worst possession forward in 2012-13 at 40.1%.
 
This season, he's been asked to play a top six and power play role. One that he doesn't fit in either. While he's faced easier competition than last season (4th) he's managed just a 0.78 points per 60 at even strength. His scoring numbers were somewhat smoke and mirrors last season with a PDO (shooting percentage+opposing goalie save % normalized to 100) of 104.6. This season it's come back to 98.6. He has the same shot rate, but isn't scoring as much because of simple regression to the mean.
 
Statistically speaking, the last time he had a positive Corsi% was in 2008-09 when he was used as the energy provider to a line with Mike Ribero and Jere Lehtinen. But he was younger then and had fewer miles on his body. The statistics suggest he'd probably be most useful when used in more offensive zone faceoffs against average competition with a scorer or two on a third line.
 
Ott has eased back on running around to hit and get under players' skins, but in a good way. He's +1 on penalties draw/penalties taken as opposed to -11 last season.
 
On the ice:
 
The Sabres' captain brings effort, physical play and competitiveness to a team severely lacking it. He battles hard along the walls and is a guy you have to watch for because he'll even go out of position at times to use his body. He's very good in the faceoff circle and can play both center and wing. He can kill penalties and with a decent shot can play on a second unit power play. His foot speed isn't great, but he makes up for it with strong instincts at both ends.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
Ott will be a highly sought after player at the trade deadline. While he's a “Nolan type” player, it might be too attractive to Murray not to deal him to a high bidder. If he was four years younger, Ott would be the type of player you throw a long-term, medium money deal at. But a physical player at his age is likely to have had their best days behind.
 
Ville Leino
 
What the stats say:
 
Whatever way you cut it up, Leino has been disappointing since coming to Buffalo. He's only score 37 points since signing a long-term contract before the 2011-12 season. Even more amazing is his incredibly low shot rate. In 105 games he only has registered 110 shots.
 
During his first season, he ended up with the team's best puck possession stats at a +7.7 Relative Corsi. He was assisted by a 54.5% Offensive Zone Start % and the ninth hardest competition. Leino's scoring numbers were severely hindered by a lack of power play time. He was give 1:02 per game. Fourteen players on the Sabres averaged more.
 
The year before with Philadelphia, he averaged double the power play time and scored 3.54 points per 60 at shorthanded. Clearly power play time played a big role in his production drop off.
 
On the ice:
 
Leino is a puck possession player in the offensive zone. He works along the walls and perimeter looking for passing lanes to set up scorers. His skill set would fit well for a second power play unit halfwall man.
 
The issue with the Sabres' winger is that he's a one-dimensional setup man who won't provide much when he's not getting points. He doesn't bring toughness, leadership, edge, intimidation, defensive lockdown skill, penalty killing or finishing ability. Leino can be magical with the puck occasionally, but has far too many lazy backchecks and lapses to justify the now-and-then brilliance.
 
Contract: $4.5M through 2017
 
Verdict: Most fans would probably like to see Leino bought out, but that option may not be the best option for two reasons: 1) They will have to get to the cap floor next season 2) Leino has zero trade value right now. If he plays next season and starts scoring again, he would have trade value, especially at the deadline. If next year is going to be another rebuilding season, it's probably better to keep him around.
 
Tyler Ennis
 
In 2011-12, Ennis gave Sabres fans hope that they might have the next dynamic top line center. He led the team in even strength scoring at 2.66 points per 60 minutes. But some of his success was smoke and mirrors. His shooting percentage was an unsustainable 18.3% (compared to 10.9% career) and he was receiving 57.7% Offensive Zone Start percentage.
 
Ennis saw his even strength points halved the next season, in part because he was asked to face the 8% less offensive zone starts, face much harder competition (3rd harderst) and bad luck. His shooting percentage dropped from 18.3% to 8.7%. He finished last season with decent puck possession stats and a great power play scoring rate of 5.24.
 
This season he has faced the toughest competition amongst forwards and only managed a 1.03 points per 60 minutes scoring rate at 5v5 and 2.84 on the power play. It wouldn't be a surprise to see those numbers rise in the second half of the season. He has similar O-zone starts and competition faced as last season and has performed fairly well puck possession wise with a +5.5 Rel Corsi.
 
On the ice:
 
Ennis is a frustrating player to watch because his offensive tools – skating, puck handling/creativity, shooting – are top level. His competitiveness, focus and on-ice intelligence are below average. If he consistently worked hard on puck retrieval, back checking and forechecking, he would be a above average No. 2 center. Instead, he has stretches of phenomenal play and stretches where he disappears or makes unexplainably poor plays.
 
He has the skating ability to be a pesky defensive player – if he actually committed to it. But his future at center is questionable, in part because of a horrible faceoff percentage. 95% of centers land somewhere between 48-52% and it doesn't make much of a difference. But he's near 40%, which eventually hurts the team.
 
Contract: RFA 2014
 
Verdict: Trading Ennis at this year's deadline would be a mistake. His value is low at the moment and may bounce back if he continues to play with Girgensons and Moulson. The 24-year-old also might be the type of player who can flourish with strong leaders around him. He would be worth re-signing in the off-season if they believe he can mature  or waiting until his production returns to move him
 
Marcus Foligno
 
After a hot start in 2011-12, scoring 13 points in 14 games, fans expected Foligno to become the next dominant top line power forward. The expectations were not met in the scoring category, but that doesn't mean Foligno didn't play well. He was the Sabres' best puck possession player with at 51.3% Corsi percentage and outstanding +18.5 Relative Corsi.
 
One of the reasons his Corsi% was so high was because he was given sheltered minutes, with a 56.1% Offensive Zone Start % and the easiest Quality of Competition amongst forwards.
 
This year has been different. Foligno has been used as a shutdown winger, getting the second most difficult Quality of Competition and the hardest O-zone starts at 42.8%. Under the influence of more difficult minutes, his possession numbers have fallen, but not off the map. He still has an above team average Relative Corsi at +1.8%.
 
What you'd like to see more of is shots on goal. Foligno has only 121 shots in 100 games, largely because he's a player that relies on set-up men to get him the puck down low rather than creating his own shots.
 
On the ice:
 
Foligno is a strong skater who can be a dominant physical player at times. When he's carrying the puck and driving toward the net, he's very difficult to stop. On the defensive side, when he's battling hard along the walls, he can be the type that opponents hate to face.
 
The Sabres' 6-foot-3 winger has below average hands, but can make up for his lack of dangling and toe dragging ability with his will to get to the front of the net and smack pucks in off rebounds.
 
Consistency in his physical play has been an issue, but you can chalk that up to being 22-years-old. Makeup wise, he wants to be great – a trait that, believe it or not, doesn't exist in everyone. He is a class person from a great family and is someone you want to represent your franchise.
 
Contract: RFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
Foligno's name should be written in pen under “Sabre for life.” There will be growing pains along the way because he's not an elitely talented player, but he's driven, can flex between center and wing, physical and should be able to add 30-40 points per season while facing difficult minutes.
 
Zemgus Girgensons
 
What stats say:
 
This one isn't that complicated. He's 19-years-old and leads the Sabres in puck possession with a +5.9 Relative Corsi and 5v5 scoring at 1.56 points per 60 minutes. He isn't facing the most difficult competition, but his zone starts have been average at 49.5%. With Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis, he's really taken off, posting a 49.1% Corsi% while with Moulson, which is about 7% higher than team average. Playing with Tyler Ennis, he has eight points in just over 200 minutes.
 
On the ice:
 
Girgensons has elite makeup. His drive, commitment to his body, attitude and hatred for losing are rare. It shows up on the ice every time he grinds out a tough back check at the end of a long shift or battles along the wall.
 
But make no mistake, he has hands, top notch skating ability and offensive instincts. He'll never be John Tavares, but he can handle the puck on zone entries, find passing lanes and rip off quick snap shots. His offense will take a few years to mature, but he can be a top six offensive producer and elite defensive forward.
 
Contract: RFA 2017
 
Verdict:
 
Girgensons is the type of player you never let leave. He's an “outwork your talent” type player who could project as a David Backes type defensive forward and leader. Center should be his position long term, but he'll impact the game nightly anywhere he plays.
 
READ MORE ABOUT ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS HERE
 
Mikhail Grigorenko
 
What the stats say:
 
It's pretty clear statistically that the Sabres' organization is right to think he isn't ready for the NHL. First, let's clear up the myth that he doesn't get to play with good players. He spent the most minutes last season with Jochen Hecht and Steve Ott and this year with Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn.
 
He hasn't scored, we know that. But his possession statistics have been awful with a 39.4% Corsi% this year and 45.0% last season. Last year he was heavily protected with a 66.7% Offensive Zone Start %, this year he had fewer Ozone starts – an unexplainable 43.4%. Grigorenko was, however, rarely used against difficult competition.
 
On the ice:
 
It's obvious to even the casual observer that his competitiveness, consistency in effort and skating ability are well below average. His size, creativity with the puck, and shot are elite – though he often hesitated to shoot the puck in the NHL. The 19-year-old projects to be a top-level offensive talent who could dominate on the power play and score at a high rate at 5v5 if given protected minutes.
 
He will never be an above average defensive player. At best, he could improve skating enough to reach average, but effort wise and with a lack of commitment to physical play, it's hard to see him growing into even a reasonably good player at both ends.
 
Of course, the problem with Grigorenko is that effort doesn't just exist in the defensive zone in today's NHL. The league's best centers are plus skaters and battle like crazy for 50-50 pucks and along the walls. Unless he develops those skills, Grigorenko won't ever be able to reach his true potential.
 
There's more to the Grigorenko situation than just a player who struggled early in his career. He seems to believe he's a lot better than he is. The shenanigan involving being sent back to junior gives us a window into what he thinks of himself regardless of whether you feel he was misused.
 
Also, after seeing his lack of competitiveness in the AHL playoffs last year, you have to wonder if he has the same natural fire that exists in players like Crosby, Datsyuk, Ovechkin, Toews, Kopitar and other greats.
 
Contract: RFA 2016
 
Verdict:
 
Grigorenko's trade value is pretty darn low at the moment considering his production and issues with going back to juniors. The only option is for the Sabres to hang on, hope he accepts his assignment and plays well, then comes back next year and does well. Then they can move him if they still want to – now is a bad time.
 
Brian Flynn
 
The 25-year-old forward has played almost a full season of NHL hockey, scoring 17 points in 68 games. Flynn has been a decent puck possession player, ranking second to only Foligno last season in Relative Corsi. He's followed up last year's performance with another solid possession year, despite facing 44.0% Ozone start.

In terms of scoring, you can't expect much from the former U of Maine player. At 5v5 in 2012-13, he scored 1.64 points per 60 minutes. This season that number has dropped to 0.65.
 
One area where he has improved is penalty killing. Flynn is the Sabres' second most used penalty killer, only to Ott.
 
On the ice:
 
Flynn is a tremendous skater who has outstanding hockey smarts and gives an all-out effort every night. He's a put-your-head-down type guy, who won't be loud in the locker room, but puts in the work every day.
 
His smarts and skating make him a quality penalty killer and his effort allows him to be pesky to opponents at times and beat opponents to 50-50 pucks.
 
The problem with Flynn's game is that he simply does not have great offensive skill. He tries to get to the front of the net on occasion, but is light and gets shoved around. He isn't good enough at handling the puck or passing to play a perimeter game. And he does not have good hands. Flynn will get stuffed by goalies many, many more times than he will beat him with a wrister.
 
Contract: RFA 2016
 
Verdict:
 
Flynn is the next wave of fourth line players in the NHL. The guys who throw fists and hit are going away and fast, smart players who lack offensive skill are the future. While he may not have offensive value and probably doesn't quality as a “shutdown” winger, he adds value with penalty killing and generally being a good guy to have around.
 
Patrick Kaleta
 
There is a misconception that Kaleta is just a no-skill grinder who doesn't offer anything more than a few big checks per game. In the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, he was used by Lindy Ruff as a shutdown winger, facing difficult competition and a great deal of defensive zone starts (41.9% and 47.6%).
 
His shot blocking skill shows up in the stats, ranking either first or second on the Sabres in three out of the last four years in fewest shots per 60 minutes of ice time.
 
Kaleta's incredible skill is penalty drawing. He does so WITHOUT taking penalties.
 
Year Penalties Drawn/60 Penalties Taken/60
07-08 5.0 1.2
08-09 4.9 1.4
09-10 4.1 0.9
10-11 2.1 1.5
11-12 1.5 1.3
12-13 3.5 0.8
 
The veteran winger is also one of the Sabres'  top penalty killers
 
PK time per 60 minutes:

09-10: 0.54 (7)
10-11: 0.63 (8)
11-12: 1.91 (2)
12-13: 2.25 (1)
 
On the ice:
 
Kaleta is a plus-plus skater, with effort and willingness to sacrifice his body that is among the tops in the NHL. His instincts and intelligence are obvious during the penalty kill, when he frustrates opponents with his active stick and ability to read the next pass and break it up.
 
Offensively, he would put up more goals if he was used in a higher line role and with more offensive zone time. He would score “Foligno goals” down low. But that's not his role.
 
Of course, there's the issue of dirty hits. He's on thin ice with the league and must find a way to play physical while avoiding suspendable plays. With his defensive skill, he could play more like Flynn and be effective. Will he? Who knows.
 
Contract: $1.25 cap hit through 2015
 
Verdict:
 
You want a Ted Nolan guy? This is a Ted Nolan guy. If he can change his game, he can be an important part of the team and can help make for an effective penalty kill and provide speed on the lower lines.
 
READ MORE ABOUT PATRICK KALETA
 
Johan Larsson
 
What the stats say:
 
Everything is small sample here, but Larsson's puck possession numbers are eye-popping. The Swedish prospect has a +15.4 Relative Corsi and has only had a 40.4% Offensive Zone Start %. His shooting percentage is a super low 3.3 and will probably rise with time.
 
On the ice:
 
While he doesn't have blazing speed or that “next level,” Larsson is hard to knock off his skates or the puck. He's an outstandingly smart player who is always in the right spot defensively.
 
On offense, he has a good shot, but is rarely in a position to use it. Larsson too often enters the zone and spins back rather than driving toward the front of the net. His decision making with the puck is good, but passing from the perimeter isn't as effective at the NHL level as it is in the AHL.
 
Contract: RFA 2016
 
Verdict:
 
Larsson is a hard-working, tough puck possession player who will be no fun to play against for opponents. But his offensive ceiling doesn't project as much more than a third line center. He's a player you like to have around your team and locker room and should be part of the plan.
 
Kevin Porter
 
Last season, only Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn were on the ice for fewer shots against than Porter. He was an average possession player while facing difficult competition and with a 48.8% O-Zone Start %. The former Hobey Baker winner didn't add a whole lot of points, with 1.07 points per 60.
 
This season he hasn't played many games, but was again an average possession player with difficult minutes and an even lower O-Zone Start % of 43.1%. Despite the Dzone starts, he was on the ice for only 25.8 shots against per 60, well below team average.
 
On the ice:
 
Porter is a mentally and physically tough player who is exceptional at forcing opponents to the outside on Dzone entries. He takes good angles to 50-50 pucks and battles hard along the wall to come away with the puck.
 
His offensive skill isn't exceptional, but he showed some ability to score while in Colorado when he was used in an offensive role, scoring14 goals in 2010-11.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
Porter would make for an excellent depth option on any team...except this one. The Sabres' third and fourth lines are so stacked, it seems unlikely he'll be able to edge out players like Kaleta, Flynn, Larsson etc for third and fourth line roles. He might be the type of player that the Sabres could move at the deadline to a competitor in need of a hard-nosed defensive forward.
 
John Scott
 
What the stats say:
 
Two goals in 205 games.
 
On the ice:
 
Scott is a smart player, believe it or not. He tries exceptionally hard, but is simply not fast enough. And he's a victim of being way too good at fighting. No one will face him anymore.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
If there's no room for Kevin Porter on the fourth line, a guy with 29 goals in 200+ games, there's no room for Scott.
 
Cody McCormick
 
What the stats say:
 
McCormick added points here or there this season with a 1.73 points per 60 minutes in an extremely small sample. But his Relative Corsi was -15.2, the worst on the Sabres, despite facing the worst competition on the team. His low Ozone start % likely has been part of the reason for his poor possession stats.
 
On the ice:
 
McCormick is a class guy who is widely respected for his toughness and work ethic. He looked like he had a little more jump in his step this year than last, but is not a quick player. The veteran forward has hands that allow him to smack a goal in here or there, but does not have the skill to step up on higher lines.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
McCormick is a great guy to have around, but, like several others does not fit in the long-term plan. His quality reputation may make him worth a late-round draft pick or low level prospect from a team in need of toughness at the deadline (if he is healthy).
 
Matt D'Agostini
 
What the stats say:
 
The Sabres’ waiver-wire pickup has not offered much of the scoring touch he had back in 2010-11 when he scored 21 goals. In 18 games, he has three points – that’s with power play time included.
 
Puck possession wise, he has a strong Relative Corsi at +10.2. He’s also been given protected minutes at a 54.5% Offensive Zone Start %.
 
On the ice:
 
The veteran forward has played a “simple game,” making smart plays in the neutral zone to move the puck and gain entry into the offensive zone. He’s mostly been in position on defense and hasn’t cost the Sabres, despite not being known as a dominating defender.
 
That said, he’s a scorer who doesn’t seem to be able to score. He doesn’t fit a defensive role and isn’t fit offensively for a Top 6 spot.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
If D’Agostini was interested in a contract that would allow him to play in Rochester, then he would be worth keeping around. 
 
Matt Ellis
 
What the stats say:
 
While he isn’t much of a scorer, Ellis’ effort and intelligence shows up in the stats in terms of puck possession. This season he has a +4.8 Relative Corsi with only a 39.8% Offensive Zone Start percentage.
 
The small sample possession stats aren’t a fluke based on his past. In both 2010-11 and 2011-12, he posted a +4.2, in 2009-10 it was +5.7.
 
On the ice:
 
You won’t find many smarter, more hard working players in sports than Matt Ellis. Positionally he’s near perfect and along the walls he comes out with the puck more often than not. He is an ideal representative of the team and leader in the locker room.
 
Contract: UFA 2016
 
Verdict:
 
Ellis is the type of player you want in your organization. He can be a classic fourth line player in the NHL or a leader and captain in the AHL.
 
Zenon Konopka
 
What the stats say:
 
His faceoff percentage is quite amazing, near 60%. Everything else is unimpressive. He’s a -6.3% Relative Corsi this year. Last season it was no better, at -14.2, the year before -14.4. Part of that is because he’s used predominantly in D-Zone faceoff situations.
 
Konopka has only 12 goals in 326 games.
 
On the ice:
 
He comes off as a good guy and wins faceoffs. The value of that is pretty limited unless you can do something with the puck after winning the faceoff.
 
Plus, he has a bunny. The bunny, named Hobby, is extremely cute.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
As great as it is to have Konopka here, a guy who seems to love Buffalo, it’s hard to justify a roster spot for him going forward. Maybe as a leadership presence, but they are maxed out on depth players.
 
Linus Omark
 
What the stats say:
 
They really say barely anything. Omark has gotten so few opportunities to play in the NHL, all we really know is his AHL scoring, which does not always project to the NHL.
 
On the ice:
 
Omark can skate and has tremendous offensive instincts and puck handling ability. He could probably have many more assists in Buffalo if only the Sabres have a few finishers. However, his downs are way down and 5v5 and defensive skills are pretty well below average.
 
Contract: UFA 2014
 
Verdict:
 
It’s all about whether the team believes it can be good next season and whether Omark gives them any reason to believe he can be a top six forward. So far, he hasn’t shown enough, but there’s a half season left for him to do so.
 
AMERKS ONE-LINERS
 
Luke Adam – It’s puzzling why he hasn’t gotten a bigger sample of games in a rebuild. He’s had his ups and downs, but is good in front of the net. May become a Matt Moulson type
 
Joel Armia – Far away from being NHL ready. Has to adapt to smaller ice, learn to win battles and take smarter shots. Expect him midway through next season or beyond. He needs time.
 
Dan Catenacci – Another player who’s slowly adapting to the pro game. Long shot to see NHL action in the next year. Maybe beyond if he learns a lower line game
 
Phil Varone – Quality AHL scorer who may not have the speed or size to get an NHL shot
 
Mike Zigomanis – Great AHL veteran who would be a more effective faceoff winner than Konopka. Probably won’t see him in Buffalo, but great guy to have around the Amerks
 
Kevin Sundher – Has a long way to go to reach the NHL
 
Tim Schaller – Intriguing depth player. Smarts, effort, penalty killing type. Brian Flynn-esque

Freddie Roy - Character guy, hard worker. Might become Matt Ellis-like long term
 
 

How much should EJ Manuel play Sunday night?
  Only a series or two
  One quarter
  Two quarters
  Three quarters
  The entire game
 
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