2023 Player Report Card: Zemgus Girgensons
No. 28’s stats are unchanged from last season, does he deserve the same grade?
Total Season Stats: 10-8-18 in 80 games played
Contract Status: Signed through 2022-23, $2.4 million in final year, will be UFA at the start of the 2023-24 season
Buffalo Sabres winger Zemgus Girgensons hasn’t moved backward, but hasn’t moved forward either. While other players including Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, Alex Tuch and Dylan Cozens all saw major offensive improvement, Girgensons stayed where he was.
The 29-year-old enjoyed just 10 goals, 8 assists and 18 total points in 2021-22. This year, despite playing 80 games versus 56 last season, No. 28 had the same number of goals, assists and points. Girgensons’ best season was back in 2014-15 (the tank year), when his numbers were 15-15-30.
Even though he hasn’t shown the same level of offensive production as other Sabres, Girgensons had moments of greatness this past season. One of his best was on March 15 against the Washington Capitals. Peyton Krebs fed him the puck and Girgensons shot it into the Caps’ net to widen Buffalo’s lead to 2.
Another great Girgensons goal was on April 6, versus the Detroit Red Wings. Kyle Okposo fed him the puck this time and Girgensons redirected it past Wings goalie Ville Husso to give the Sabres a 4-2 lead.
Girgensons isn’t the team’s best overall scorer, but he has other skills, especially checking, penalty killing and leadership. Okposo pointed to the alternate captain's example to younger players as one of his strengths: ”You need guys like that to show the other guys how to do it. He’s such a good leader because of everything he does. Just leads by example.”
At the team's locker room cleanout, Girgensons told the media he “definitely would like to be a part of this” and continue playing hockey with the Sabres.
Buffalo’s management agrees. Just a few weeks ago, during the Sabres’ end-of-season press conference, GM Kevyn Adams said he wanted to resign Okposo and Girgensons, who will both be unrestricted free agents: “They are as respected, as good a people as you’ll find in the game, and they complement each other well.”
Last offseason, Taylor Fulton asked readers to grade Zemgus Girgensons’ performance. The majority of respondents gave him a C, meeting expectations but not exceeding them.
Based on his unchanged stats this year, but also including his intangible qualities, he deserves a slightly higher grade.
Season Grade: C+