For years and years, through many seasons of mostly mediocre hockey, the Buffalo Sabres were defined by a core of players whose defining trait was that they simply were here for a long time. Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, and Jason Pominville were some of the headliners, guys who played well but never quite well enough. They were the source of many an argument both in the comments on this site and at the local watering hole.
They were, for all intents and purposes, the faces of the franchise, both locally and nationally.
But with the departure of Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers, all of those former faces are now gone. When the general hockey population thinks of the Buffalo Sabres, whose face now comes to mind?
The two front-runners would likely be Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis. Girgensons received plenty of national attention this year thanks to his Latvian All-Star campaign, and his tar is rising, though there's still some questions about how high that star might reach. And remember, as much as we love him, he's only played in 127 NHL games and has a long way to go to reach his full potential. Tyler Ennis is now the de-facto #1 offensive player on the team, and while we can see his offensive creativity, he doesn't produce at a level high enough to draw much national attention.
Other players who have that potential haven't quite gotten there yet - Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov both have #1 defenseman possibilities in their future, but they both still have a long ways to go to get there. Mikhail Grigorenko might be the face of the franchise, but more for his misuse earlier in his career than anything he's done on the ice.
One easy answer is to wait one year and you'll find a plethora of answers - Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Sam Reinhart could all play that role. Ristolainen or Girgensons could have grown into the role by then. Heck, a new coach could be here next year that might help raise the profile of the team.
The other easy answer is to look off the ice - Tim Murray has put his stamp on the Sabres with his recent trade, and the national consciousness loves his for his honesty and his antics at the draft. Terry Pegula has earned praise for the class he's injected into the organization and for the large part he's played in the resurgence of downtown Buffalo.
It's fitting to me that the two best choices for the face of the 30th place team in the NHL are both off the ice. But for this season, looking at the players on the ice, there's no easy answer.
Give us your thoughts on the current face of the franchise in the comments.