2023 Player Report Card: Craig Anderson
Anderson’s swan song season ended on a high note.
Total Season Stats: 11-11-2 in 26 games played (24 starts)
Contract Status: Announced his retirement April 13th
Last offseason, many were unsure if Craig Anderson would be back in a Sabre uniform. Considering his age, it would have made sense if he decided to call it a career. However, he decided he had more to give and signed a one-year contract with Buffalo last June. Heading into training camp, he was expected to serve as a backup and mentor to newly acquired Eric Comrie. While the season didn’t exactly go according to plan between the crease, Anderson’s final year had some unforgettable moments.
Overall, he led the Sabres in save percentage (90.8%) and was a close second to Devon Levi in goals against (3.06). Most nights he was a reliable backstop that gave Buffalo the stability the young team needed to play their highly aggressive offensive style. Unfortunately, Anderson’s workload had to be managed carefully due to his age and would often only start once a week. This may have prevented him from establishing a rhythm to his season and produced some inconsistent performances.
Anderson’s season had a few standout moments. On December 13th, he posted his first and only shutout as a Sabre with a phenomenal 40 save performance against the Kings. The game was scoreless until the 3rd when Buffalo’s offense notched a 6-goal period. Anderson needed to keep them in it until the offense woke up, and he was equal to the task. A month later, Anderson recorded his 700th start in Chicago where his NHL career began in 2002. Unfortunately, that moment didn’t have a storybook ending as Buffalo lost in overtime. The poetic finish was reserved for Anderson’s final start on April 13th.
In the penultimate game of the season, the Sabres hosted the Ottawa Senators, the franchise where Anderson had his most productive seasons. Buffalo had to battle back from a 3rd period deficit, and Casey Mittelstadt secured the victory with his overtime winner. Knowing this was likely his final game, the entire Sabre team rushed to celebrate with Craig. The Senators remained on the ice as well to congratulate Anderson. It was a nice gesture by Ottawa for a player that earned an enormous amount of respect throughout the league. In his postgame press conference, Anderson confirmed that he had just played his final game with a conclusive “This is it.”
Possibly his most lasting contribution to Buffalo will be the impact he had on the young goaltenders. He was able to work side by side with both Sabres’ top goaltending prospects. He was able to guide Luukkonen after he earned a spot with Buffalo during Comrie’s injury. Additionally, he was able to help Devon Levi with his transition from college to the pros. Both netminders benefitted from the ability to pick Anderson’s brain and lean on his experience as they looked to earn the coaching staff’s trust.
In 709 games, Anderson ends his career with 319 wins, 43 shutouts, a 91.2 save percentage and 2.86 goals against average. He was a stabilizing force on a Sabre team going though the transition to a new core group of players and the growing pains that come with it. His limited availability/durability due to his age prevents him from receiving an “A” grade, but he had an excellent season, all things considered. He earned himself a well-deserved retirement.
Season Grade: B+