The year 2011 marked a momentous one in the history of the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres got their fourth owner in history after billionaire businessman Terry Pegula purchased the franchise, and immediately marked the beginning of his tenure with these memorable (and tshirt-worthy) words -
"From this point forward, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup."
After an off-season filled with excitement and promise, the Sabres got off to a hot start, and then a combination of injuries and poor form across the board has resulted in the team ending the year right in the middle of the pack, scrapping for a playoff place much like last year.
In your opinion, who was the MVP of the year 2011? Taking into consideration the second half of the 2010-11 season (45 games), the first round of the playoffs (7 games), and the first half of the 2011-12 season (37 games), here is a shortlist of players with performances noteworthy of MVP consideration (feel free to add your nominations in the comments if you feel someone has been overlooked):
Stats in parentheses mark the 2011 segment of last season, the 2010-11 playoffs and the 2011 season.
Thomas Vanek - (19G 29A, 5G 0A, 18G 21A) Vanek has been one of the rare bright spots on this team. He finished the second half of the 2010-11 season on a tear, and maintained his hot streak into this season, bringing his A-game every day and not afraid to go into the dirty areas to win the puck.
Jason Pominville - (16G 21A, 1G 3A, 12G 27A) The captain of the Sabres this year, Pominville was slow in his return after missing nine games early last season with a concussion. In 2011 however he was in fine form as the Sabres charged up the table to make the playoffs and remains a solid point-per-game player this season too.
Drew Stafford - (21G 16A, 1G 2A, 6G 13A) After starting 2011 off with three hat-tricks, it looked like the right-winger had finally arrived, but he promptly disappeared come the playoffs. He signed a four-year, $16 million contract in the offseason and was given an 'A' to put on his jersey, but he still hasn't reappeared.
Ryan Miller - Maybe we can stop calling him the All-World goalie now. He was instrumental in carrying the Sabres to a playoff spot in the second half of last season, but has come crashing down to earth this season. In his 67 games played in 2011, the numbers are quite unflattering SV%: 0.912, GAA: 2.85, Record: 33-24-7 for a win pct of 51.6%.
Jhonas Enroth - If Miller is in the discussion, then so should Enroth. Stepping in when Miller was out with concussion symptoms right at the end of the regular season, Enroth went 7-0-1 and was an equally crucial component of the playoff qualification run. He started off hot this season too but his play tailed off when put in as a full time starter after Miller was out again this season - SV%: 0.913, GAA: 2.69, Record: 15-7-2 for a win pct of 62.5%.
Terry Pegula - He is the wildcard in this bunch. His move to buy the team in February 2011 immediately reinvigorated the fanbase and since then he has poured millions of dollars from his personal fortune to improve the facilities for the Sabres and the fans. However, his retaining of the Regier-Ruff combo has drawn a lot of flak in recent weeks with seemingly no end to the Sabres slide down the table.