The 2005-06 season was a season that saw the Sabres one game from their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in eight years. During that offseason, the team identity started to change with players like Mike Grier and J.P. Dumont leaving the team. While leaving, Grier stated that he did like the direction of the organization and that it was time to jump ship. Fast forward three years to this offseason and that same player has since returned to the organization that sent him to his last Conference Final.
Mike Grier's presence on this team along with other additions have added a sense of physicality that has been missing and a veteran presence that was sorely lacking. With Grier having injuries and personal issues seeing him miss nine games this season, the Sabres seem to have a different style of play with him out of the lineup. While their 5-3-1 record with Grier out of the lineup may show that he is not a factor, the stats show that his presence in the lineup makes a difference to how this team plays defensively.
Grier's main strength is that he is a good defensive forward. This season, the team is third in total goals against/game with 2.17 goals/against. In the nine games that Grier has missed this season, the Sabres have given up 22 goals or 2.44 goals/game as compared to the 2.05 goals/game with him in the lineup, a difference of roughly .3 goals/game. In terms of shots allowed, the Sabres allowed 283 shots when Grier was out of the lineup, 31.4 shots/game, while allowing 631 with him in the lineup, 30.04 shots/game for a difference of 1.36 shots/game. While these differences are not statistically mind blowing, they do show that Grier makes this a better defensive team.
Grier's offensive abilities are also missing when he is out of the lineup. In Grier's absence this season, the Sabres have scored 19 goals, or 2.11 goals/game. With Grier in the lineup, that jumps to 2.85 goals/game. Grier himself has scored five goals on the season which has him tied for ninth on the team with Patrick Kaleta. In terms of shots on goal, the difference is 29.77 shots/game without Grier compared to 33.04 shots/game with him in the lineup.
Mike Grier is never going to be a 50 goal scorer or a 100 point player, but the offensive and defensive skills he brings to this team makes the Sabres that much better. With all that being said, the return of Mike Grier to the lineup tonight is a sight the team is happy to see.