Some players come in to the NHL and make an immediate impact, cementing themselves as future stars. Some take a steady path of growth from young buck to reliable veteran. And others have a roller coaster of a ride that sometimes ends up high, sometimes down low.
It's the third time around for Luke Adam (we're not counting his four game injury call up at the end of last year) and five games in to his re-re-debut, Adam is playing at another peak on his career roller coaster.
Adam came in to this season with a different attitude, trading entitlement for quiet hard work, and it resulted in him leading the AHL in goals while in Rochester. Since being called up by Buffalo, Adam has one goal in five games and has shown strong play in the offensive end, a renewed commitment to playing defense, and the high level of effort demanded by a Ted Nolan-coached team.
In fact, by one measure, Adam has been the team's best player this season. Luke leads the Sabres in Fenwick For %, a stat that uses shot differential to measure puck possession - meaning, Adam creates a better ratio of shots directed at the net compared to shots against while on the ice than any player on the Sabres roster.
In games versus Detroit and Montreal, the Sabres were equal in Fenwick while Adam was on the ice. In the overtime win against the Maple Leafs, the Sabres out-Corsi'd the Leafs by an incredible 18-8 margin. And this on a team that's currently getting outshot by an average of 10 shots per game, worst in the NHL. He's still not above 50% Fenwick (and nobody on the team is) but the Sabres need all the offensive help they can get, and so far Adam has delivered.
Five games is a small sample size, for sure, but it's a very positive sign that Adam, a player many fans had given up on, is heading in the right direction. However, we've seen this before - Adam's hot start to the 2011-12 season was followed only by a streak even colder.
Whether or not he can continue to produce consistently is the big question. He certainly did in the AHL this season, and it's so far, so good in the NHL. Has his roller coaster of a career finally settled on top of the hill, or are we headed for another drop (then corkscrew, then loop-de-loop)? We, and whoever ends up as the team's new GM, will certainly be keeping a close eye on it.