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Player Report Card: Jeff Skinner

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After signing a long-term contract extension last summer, Skinner’s offensive output cooled off in 2019-20

Washington Capitals v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images

Total Season Stats: 59 GP | 14 G | 9 A | 23 PTS

Age: 27

Contract Status: Signed through 2026-27 season ($9,000,000)

In last year’s report card on Jeff Skinner, Ryan Wolfe started it off with “From the moment the Buffalo Sabres acquired Jeff Skinner, expectations were sky high both from a team and a personal perspective”. After Skinner put up 40 goals and 23 assists, the expectations did not get any lower, especially not from fans after he signed a new contract worth $72 million over 8 years.

Coming off a career year in goals, it’s safe to say Skinner did not meet the expectations put out there before the season as he ended up with only 14 in 2019-20. So the question is, which Skinner is the one that should be expected? The one who scores 40 goals or the one who scores 14 for The Sabres? Most likely, it will be someone who is closer to the former rather than the later.

After converting shots at 14.9% last year, his accuracy dropped down to just 7.7% this year (tied for the lowest mark in his ten years in the league). Also noteworthy is the fact that after scoring eight goals on the man-advantage in 18-19, Skinner did not register a single goal on the power play this season while seeing his time on the man-advantage decrease by half a minute compared to last year as Ralph Krueger changed things up and Victor Olofsson added to the mix.

Another noteable difference is that, after spending last year mostly on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, the two players that Skinner played the most with this season was Marcus Johansson and Vladimir Sobotka, followed by Conor Sheary an Evan Rodrigues. Exactly how big of an impact this made on Skinner’s game is hard to tell but there’s no question it impacted his production as Johansson cooled off after a good start. When separated from Eichel and Reinhart, the offensive burden landed on Skinner to kickstart the Sabres’ middle-six, and as the other players on line two and three did not produce, the contributions from Skinner slowed down.

Expected goals from Sabres lines with over 100 minutes together. Table from moneypuck.com

When Buffalo stole Skinner from Carolina, many said that with better quality linemates, he would flourish and it showed during his first year in Buffalo. When the quality decreased during year two, Skinner struggled.

Despite all the struggles, Skinner was the Buffalo forward with the highest expected-goals percentage at 12.911 according to moneypuck.com (Eichel ranked second at 12.172). The chances were there, the goals were not. The goals will most likely be there next season again.

Season grade: C