The Sabres have competed in 42 of their 82 games this season - just over 50%. So at this point, it seems appropriate to hand out some mid-season grades. We'll be doing them in the same style as James Mirtle of the Globe & Mail, simply putting a letter grade and a short explanation next to each player's name. Players appear in order of points scored, and only those with approximately 10 or more games played were graded.
Cody Hodgson - B- - Hodgson leads the Sabres in points, but as the team's #1 center, nothing less is expected of him. In his 33 games, Hodgson has 19 points, 8 goals and 11 assists. Not exactly setting the world on fire, and it puts him a bit behind the PPG pace he had last year. Speaking of regression, Hodgson has gotten worse in faceoff percentage over the past three seasons as he's gone from third line center to first, now hovering just above 45%. Still, we can't give him too low of a grade considering he's one of the only players on this team that can create offense.
Matt Moulson - A- -In 29 games with the Sabres, Moulson has 8 goals and 10 assists. 18 points in 29 games isn't bad for the worst offensive team in the league, and does give him the best PPG on the Sabres this season. However, it hasn't quite lived up to Moulson's PPG with the Islanders the past two seasons. Of course, Cody Hodgson is no John Tavares, so there's that to consider. Of course again, by trading Thomas Vanek to the Islanders for Moulson, the Sabres received a slightly older Vanek that gives you 75% of the former Sabre's production, plus a first and second rounder. So overall, we'll give the entire Matt Moulson experience an A-.
Tyler Ennis - C+ - Ennis' goal production is virtually identical to past seasons, but he's way down in the assist department; eight assists in 42 games isn't nearly good enough for a playmaking center. He has improved his horrid faceoff numbers, but still sits at a measly 43%.
Zemgus Girgensons - A - Girgensons has been as good as advertised for the Sabres, and his combination of hard work, grit, and just enough offensive talent is helping him to realize the dream we all had for him - to become Michael Peca 2.0.
Drew Stafford - C - Drew Stafford is very average. He is an average hockey player with an above average contract.
Steve Ott - D+ - Look, I love Otter and all his locker room intangibles as much as anybody, but he's having a poor season on the ice. His point production is significantly behind last year's effort, with only 5 goals and 11 points, which puts him on pace for his lowest offensive output since his rookie year. He's a -18, ranking him 800th in the NHL, and Ott also has some of the worst possession numbers on the team, with an ugly 39.1% Fenwick. In his defense, he's asked to play tough minutes, and is still both a reliable physical presence and faceoff man.
Marcus Foligno - B - Marcus Foligno is having a solid second year in the NHL. His goal production has already matched last year's effort with five games in hand. His possession numbers aren't great, but they're in the top half of Sabres players, and his big right hand is becoming something of a league warning to go along with his 97 hits.
Ville Leino - D - Leino's stat line right now is a sign of the end times: 0-6-6, -6, 6 PIM. When he's healthy (which hasn't been often) Leino actually has decent (for this team) possession numbers. But DAT CONTRACT. Also he needs to shoot more, and complain about not knowing what his job is less.
Brian Flynn - C - Every time I talk with someone about Brian Flynn, the conversation is almost universally positive. They love the kid, his effort, and think he's a perfect third line winger. But then you look at his stats, and he's got three goals and three assists through 40 games with average possession numbers. Huh.
Cody McCormick - C- - Injuries aside this season is exactly what you'd expect from a Cody McCormick season with one goal and four assists. Actually, you should expect the injuries too. He get the minus for terrible possession numbers.
Matt Ellis - B+ - Matt Ellis is a possession machine! Yes, you read that correctly, as hes the only Sabres player to be above 50% in Fenwick Close. He's also the only player with a positive +/- rating, currently at +1.
Mikhail Grigorenko - D - He's been mishandled his entire career, and after a solid World Junior tournament, comes back to Buffalo only to find himself again between two leagues he doesn't belong in. During 18 games, Grigorenko scored twice and had one assist, and he actually was very good on faceoffs, sporting a 51.5% win rate in over 100 trips to the dot. But his skating, battling, and overall intensity on the ice still need to make big strides if he's ever going to become a successful NHL player.
Matt D'Agostini - C- - The goal-less D'Agostini finally got the monkey off his back with his first goal of the season last week, but gets a bump in the grades because of his great Fenwick numbers, second only to Ellis.
John Scott - F - Yes, he scored his first goal in three years, but Scott earns the dubious title of "Worst Possession Player" on the team. I don't even need fancy stats to tell me that (but they do) because it's obvious every time Scott steps on the ice that he should not be a regular NHL player. And being used on the power play? Good for Laffs, but not for winning hockey games. He's even ineffective as a nuclear deterrent, and his only role in that regard anymore is forcing other teams to also dress their goons. At this point, his reputation and the penalties/Milbury rants that go along with it aren't worth the trouble.
Johan Larsson - C+ - He gets the C because he's been nothing more than a very average fourth line NHL player thus far, the + for great possession numbers. Still a better future ahead for him, but he needs to stay in the AHL and remember how to create offense.
N/R - Linus Omark, Patrick Kaleta, Kevin Porter, Luke Adam, Zenon Konopka
Christian Ehrhoff - B+ - The numbers say that Ehrhoff is still Buffalo's best defenseman, but he hasn't been quite as sharp this year than he was during the past two years of excellent play.
Tyler Myers - B - The roller coaster that is Myers' career continues to take us along for the ride. After an awful beginning to the season, he's steadied thing out once again and is starting to find his game - look for him leading the rush and taking pucks in deep. Will he ever learn to be a steady player for the entire season?
Jamie McBain - C - McBain has mostly come as advertised: an offensive specialist who's unreliable in his own zone and will frustrate coaches and fans alike. He's been somewhat protected on the third pairing, but hasn't jump-started the power play like fans hoped he would.
Henrik Tallinder - C+ - The magical Myers/Tallinder pairing hasn't exactly recaptured their lightning in a bottle from Myers' rookie year, but Hank has been a mostly reliable second pairing player on a bad team. It's pretty clear that he's lost a step since his last stint in Buffalo, and he shared in his defensive partner's rough start. But his minutes have steadily increased under Ted Nolan, and his
Mark Pysyk - A- - In his first full NHL season, you could make an argument that Pysyk is the team's best defenseman. He's a cool hand on the blue line, possibly the team's best passer, and makes good decisions with the puck. His play and ice time have tailed off just a bit in recent weeks, but he's one of the players the Sabres will build around in the coming years.
Mike Weber - F - I can't this season has been anything less than a colossal disappointment thus far for Mike Weber. After so much promising talk last year about accountability and wanting to step up and be more of a leader, Weber is currently ranked 801st in the NHL with his terrible -19 rating. He has only two assists on the year, and is getting by far the most protected minutes of all Buffalo blueliners. Here's hoping he can turn things around in the second half.
Rasmus Ristolainen - C+ - His grade in Buffalo came from showing enough promise to excite the fans, but also making enough mistakes to see he'd be better off with a year in the AHL. His grade for the World Juniors and on the Amerks would be an A.
N/R - Alex Sulzer, Brayden McNabb, Nikita Zadorov
Ryan Miller - A+ - On a last place team, you can't give out a ton of good grades, but if anyone deserves an A+ on this team, it's Ryan Miller. His play took him from on-the-bubble Olympic hopeful to a no-doubt roster spot an a possible starting gig, depending on the next month. At least 50% of our recaps this season have included the phrase "Miller single-handedly kept his team in the game" and for that, he earns the only perfect grade on this cow patty of a team.
Jhonas Enroth - B- - At first glance, Enroth's stats seem OK. He's sporting a .910 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA, but in this age of goalie dominance, those numbers are merely average against the rest of the league. Enroth ranks 46th in save percentage during his 12 starts, but his biggest problem is the 1-8-3 record he's got. Most teams try to have a backup that goes about .500 during the season, and Buffalo's backup is far from those average numbers. Yes, the generally terrible team in front of him affects that, but those assuming he eventually takes over the starting duties of Ryan Miller may need to exercise some caution. He gets a bump for being named to the Olympics.