Saying the first game of the year for the Buffalo Sabres against the Toronto Maple Leafs was interesting is quite the understatement. Right from the onset when the Sabres got booed coming onto the ice by the very large contingent of Leafs fans you knew that it would be different. In the end the Sabres held on and Ryan Miller still owns the Leafs, currently at 25-11-0. Tonight the Sabres play at another injury-ravaged team Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to string together back-to-back wins.
Now on to today's question in the '12 Questions for Christmas' segment. Apart from Ville Leino, arguably no other player on the current roster draws more ire from the fans than Marc-Andre Gragnani. Read on after the break for more.
#9 - What should the Sabres do with Marc-Andre Gragnani?
Gragnani burst into the limelight in the first round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers last year, leading the Sabres in scoring as the powerplay quarterback. Previous to that, he had only played thirteen games for the Sabres, and is still considered a rookie by the statisticians. The 3rd round pick in the 2005 entry draft, Gragnani is 6'1" and 201lbs but you wouldn't know it from his contact-shy approach to the game. He is blessed with good vision and excellent puckhandling, especially when not under a heavy forecheck.
The defenseman made the roster coming out of training camp and has played 29 games this year, with 1G & 8A, leading the team with +12. A fixture on the powerplay units, injuries on the squad have forced Lindy Ruff to use him in the last couple of games as this season's Nathan Paetsch reincarnate.
It all sounds good so far doesn't it? He has however been guilty of committing some horrible turnovers on both sides of the red line, the most recent leading to an OT loss against the Flyers. That combined with his lack of physical presence has led to raising the hackles of Sabres fans everywhere. His play this year has been eerily similar to that of Andrej Sekera from a couple of years ago - quick, puck-moving d-man who likes to get up the ice, gives up the puck often at crucial junctures and looks more suited to the hockey played in the immediate seasons after the lockout than now.
Believe it or not, the team skates better with him on ice. Statheads will gladly point you to his relative Corsi Number of 20.0, which puts him at 3rd in the League among d-men, ahead of elite players like Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom (for a quick tutorial on the relevance of the Corsi Number, click here). Very few teams in the League are as dependent on a d-man to generate offense as the Sabres are with Gragnani.
So now that the stats are out of the way, on to your opinions. Should the Sabres keep the faith with him and let him mature like they did with Sekera? If that is the case, what would be the ideal d-man pairing for him? Or should they attempt to trade him now (or at the deadline), either on his own or as part of a package deal for the big, top six center that fans have been clamoring for?