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Top 10 of the 2010s: Right Wingers

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With the centers and left wingers in the book, it’s time to take a look at the right wing

2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - New York Rangers v Buffalo Sabres

It’s day three of the series, and I hope this is providing you some fun and friendly debates in this social distancing era. In case you missed it, this series started on Monday with the centers, and continued yesterday with the left wingers. Some Davids topped Goliaths, such as Jimmy Vesey over Evander Kane. We also saw a superstar in Jack Eichel trumped by not one, but two centers. So as we move on to the right wing today, who will be the surprise honoree? Who will reign at the top? The answers lie ahead.

Before we get to the list, I just want to remind you that data involved was compared at a per-60 rate, in order to even the playing field for varying bodies of work. Consistency is rewarded above all, as every game a skater played in a Sabres uniform throughout the decade for at least 50 games was considered. In order to simplify the analysis involved, I broke down the rankings into “Offense”, “Defense”, and “Overall”. I also included the top 10 skaters’ best season, for a good trip down memory lane.

With that, we’re on to the top 10 right wingers from the last decade:


T-10 - Brian Flynn

Overall - T-46th

Offense - 60th

Defense - 38th

Best season - 2014-2015

A little bonus action in today’s top 10, because there was actually a tie for 10th place. Flynn’s name is somewhat synonymous with the “tank” years, since he seemed to be the no-name that made the most of his opportunity. His best attribute was his defense, helping limit goals in an era where his team was constantly outscored.


T-10 - Drew Stafford

Overall - T-46th

Offense - 15th

Defense - 75th

Best season - 2010-2011

In a bigger body of work than most of his peers, Stafford had six seasons in the 2010s. The best one of them all was clearly 2010-2011, where he put up a very good .351 goals plus-minus per 60 at even-strength. His defense, specifically his shot suppression, was not very good however, which lands him lower on this list than some may have suspected.


9 - Brian Gionta

Overall - 45th

Offense - 28th

Defense - 65th

Best season - 2015-2016

Once aboard the Sabres, Gionta was tasked in a defensively responsible role as a forward. This was clearly an adjustment from the former top-six forward, and his numbers suffered a bit because of it. Overall, though, the former captain fared pretty well in offensive impacts, despite the high volume of defensive zone starts.


8 - Torrey Mitchell

Overall - 39th

Offense - 50th

Defense - 36th

Best season - 2014-2015

Another good name from the “dead era” in Sabres history, Mitchell was a little on the flashy side with his good speed. He shifted between center and right wing, and his strengths tilted towards keeping the puck out of his own end and transitioning it up the ice.


7 - Mike Grier

Overall - 35th

Offense - 67th

Defense - 7th

Best season - 2010-2011

A beloved name from the 2005-2006 cup run, you may have forgotten that Grier came back for a second stint with the Sabres to finish his career. He came back as advertised - a heady, defensive forward who wouldn’t put his teammates in bad spots when on the ice. Now an assistant coach in the NHL, Grier’s mentor-ship was nearly as valuable as his on-ice contributions.


6 - Brad Boyes

Overall - 23rd

Offense - 35th

Defense - 16th

Best season - 2011-2012

Boyes was the first big-roll for Darcy Regier under then-new owner Terry Pegula. Although he was expected to score immediately in the top-six - and he did, scoring a goal in each of his first two games for the Sabres - Boyes actually produced stronger defensive numbers in his season and a quarter.


5 - Tyler Ennis

Overall - 20th

Offense - 17th

Defense - 45th

Best season - 2011-2012

Pre-concussion Tyler Ennis was quite a sight to see on the ice, so of course it’s great to see him currently regaining form, even if it is for other clubs. Ennis in his time with the Sabres was one of their most consistent offensive threats, and had to carry the team’s top line through a difficult string of seasons. His 2011-2012 season may have been a shortened one, but it was his best in terms of even-strength goals per 60 and shot quality.


4 - Kyle Okposo

Overall - 18th

Offense - 24th

Defense - 10th

Best season - 2019-2020

It’s only been four seasons, but we’ve witnessed three different versions of Kyle Okposo. His first season was the Okposo Tim Murray surely expected upon signing him in free agency. He played on a line with Ryan O’Reilly and put up good offensive numbers. Then 2017-2018 hit, and Okposo was not himself. Negative impacts in every area of his game had us all questioning if he was okay. Towards the later half of 2018-2019, Okposo settled into a defensive shutdown role with Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons, and things just clicked. The “LOG” line stuck this past season, and their ability to maintain possession in the offensive zone and suppress shots in the defensive zone was a thing of beauty.


3 - Conor Sheary

Overall - 15th

Offense - 14th

Defense - 32nd

Best season - 2019-2020

Sheary had a tough rap in Buffalo for not finishing on a lot of the opportunities presented to him, and fairly so. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not a positive to be getting those opportunities in the areas he was. The expected goals and corsi numbers indicate that with a slight uptick in shot percentage, better linemates, or even if he received a fair shot to play with Jack Eichel, Sheary may have produced closer to what Pittsburgh Penguins fans were accustomed to seeing.


2 - Jason Pominville

Overall - 2nd

Offense - 1st

Defense - 57th

Best season - 2018-2019

It’s hard to argue what Pominville has meant to the Sabres over the span of the last 15 years, let alone 10. Among his generation, he sneakily has put up some of the most consistent numbers both production-wise and analytically. Ironically enough, his best season at even-strength in the 2010s was also his last, where Pominville amassed a .256 expected goals adjusted plus-minus per 60 minutes. This shows that even with a split tenure, Pominville found ways to be effective. In these rankings, he only takes a backseat to one other skater.


1 - Sam Reinhart

Overall - 1st

Offense - 9th

Defense - 8th

Best season - 2018-2019

To put him with Eichel, or to not put him with Eichel? That will seemingly always be the question. While you are welcome to debate whom is helping whom, the numbers all point to that Reinhart is certainly self-sufficient enough to carry his own line. His point totals were at a career-high pace in 2019-2020, but it was the season prior where Reinhart was able to display the ability to not only wingman for Eichel, but also jump-start teammates lower on the depth chart as well. His remarkable consistency in his five seasons lands him as the number one overall player on the Sabres in the last decade.


Not mentioned:

Patrick Kaleta (53rd overall)

Cody McCormick (61st)

Tage Thompson (70th)

Vladimir Sobotka (78th)

Chris Stewart (79th)

Other position rankings:

Centers

Left Wingers

Defensemen

Goaltenders

If the poll below is not showing up on your newsreader, please click here to go vote.

Poll

Who would you rank as the Sabres best right winger of the decade?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Sam Reinhart
    (65 votes)
  • 52%
    Jason Pominville
    (75 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (3 votes)
143 votes total Vote Now