Season Stats: 74 GP | 13G | 6A | 19P
Contract Status: UFA
Benoit Pouliot came to the Buffalo Sabres early in the 2017 free agency period. After his signing was announced, he spoke with NHL.com, saying, “For me, it’s mostly about speed and forecheck and putting pressure on the D, turning pucks over.”
Certainly, general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Phil Housley loved to hear that kind of attitude, as this was clearly what they envisioned for this team heading into the regular season. Pouliot began the season exactly as the new front office had hoped he would.
Unfortunately for Pouliot, there were a lot of games left in the 2017-18 campaign, and the remainder of the year did not go well for the veteran forward. There was no lack of effort on Pouliot’s part - he even went so far as removing the visor from his helmet just to catalyze some sort of a return to early-season form.
No matter what he tried on the ice, or what superstitious changes he made to exorcise the demons that haunted Pouliot and his teammates, his year was rife with inconsistent, sometimes careless play. A great example was a tense matchup in late April against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto scored first in the game when Pouliot inexplicably left the front of the net, leaving Leafs left wing Andreas Johnsson alone at the top of the crease.
This was not an isolated incident, nor was Pouliot the only player guilty of such infractions in Buffalo’s woeful season. But the long-time veteran with playoff experience was definitely brought in to help the youthful Sabres shore up such mistakes.
It would be surprising to see Pouliot back next season, though, stranger things have certainly happened in Hockey Heaven. Whether he is able to find a home somewhere else is another question. He’ll definitely have to spend the summer getting his mind right, and convince any suitors that these lapses are not habitual, but the result of a bad season on a bad team.
Twitter Grade: C
Season Grade: C
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