A few short months ago, it was uncertain if Maxim Afinogenov would maintain employment in the NHL. Nine seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, the last two of which were spent in head coach Lindy Ruff's doghouse mostly, and the Russian wasn't re-signed.
Afinogenov could make the jaws of viewers drop in a heartbeat by moving forward rapidly to score goals or create something for his line-mates. In his final two years with Buffalo though, those swift dashes often created more turnovers than potential scoring chances.
Groin injuries held him out of 60 games in that time frame and his play dropped continually. It was time for Max to move on. The offers didn't pour in for a winger whose reputation became that of an enigma. One offer eventually came on September 17 of this year just a few weeks before the regular season would start.
Atlanta welcomed him to their training camp for a tryout and he made the cut inking a one-year contract worth a meager $800, 000. Amusingly enough, Afinogenov's first goal in a Thrasher uniform came in Buffalo and it was a highlight reel display that fans had witnessed dozens of times when he was with the team.
I've made it a habit to follow the play of former Sabre representatives once they've found a home elsewhere. And Max's numbers have spoken wonders: 16 points in as many games; ahead of any Buffalo forward currently. I knew his window was closing in 2009 and that he'd be heading away but I also felt he wasn't as awful as his statistics were in those latter stages.
Sometimes, a simple change of scenery is the best spark a player can find. Last night, Afinogenov racked up four points including two terrific goals in a 7-0 rout over Los Angeles.
Watching Baby Bure perform today, you can tell he's regained his confidence and most importantly, is happy where he is. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm happy for Maxim Afinogenov too.