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2015-16 Buffalo Sabres Grades: Brian Gionta

The Buffalo Sabres 2015-16 season featured plenty of new faces that helped the team finally dig their way out of the league basement. We're grading everybody who played at least 20 games for the Sabres this year, from Bogosian to Ullmark.

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Age: 37

Contract: $4.25 million, under contract through 2016-17

Introduction: Brian Gionta, the hometown boy from Rochester, is no longer a boy at the ripe old age of 37. He's also no longer the offensive producer he once was - slipping from an astonishing 48 goals in 2006 to the mid 20's for many years, and now down to the low teens.

However, Gionta wasn't brought to the Sabres to pile up goals - he was signed, and given the captain's C in order to lead a ragtag group of youngsters and castoffs through a few troubled years. Now that the tide has turned and the team is looking up, let's take a look at what Brian Gionta still has to offer.

Key Stat: I'm not exactly digging deep for this stat, but I think Gionta's most important stat for the purpose of grading his season is simply his point total - 33. With 12 goals and 21 assists, the 37-year old captain finished sixth on the team in points, and was well ahead of the next closest player.

Too often we hear Sabres fans complain about Gionta, that he's got nothing left to offer, can't wait until his contract is up, why is he on the ice instead of so-and-so, but he proved this season that he can still be a valuable part of a contending team. Is he worth the $4.25 million contract? Probably not at this point, but it's not like the Sabres are trotting him out there like the corpse of Ville Leino every night with nothing to show for it.

Thumbs Up: Aside from his aforementioned point total, Gionta seemed to find some excellent chemistry at the end of the season with Johan Larsson and Marcus Foligno and gave the Sabres their first dangerous third line since 2010. He drives offense by taking the fourth-most shots on the team, with 169, still plays scrappy along the boards despite his age, and is a reliable penalty killer. Also a very nice man, who takes very few penalties, and a great figure in the community.

Thumbs Down: Gionta's size will always be an issue, and as he loses his speed, it becomes a bigger issue. While he kills penalties effectively, he's not a great defender in his own zone, and despite taking so many shots, his SAT% is only 46.64% (comparatively, a guy like Evander Kane who takes a ton of shots and also isn't a great defender is over 50%). While he can still produce, his point totals have dipped in each of his past three seasons despite playing ten more games this year than last year.

Memorable Moment: In the season finale, Gionta scored two goals, including this overtime winner, to end the season on a positive note.

Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season, grade Brian Gionta on his performance this year.