The Boyes/Stafford Dilemma

Alright, time to lay out a question I’ve had for a while now. Why exactly is Brad Boyes the first in line for trading for many people, while Drew Stafford is considered a core player who needs to stick around?

Brad Boyes and Drew Stafford

Why exactly can there only be one?

The Sabres are starting to press up against the salary cap, and fans are still yearning for this team to acquire an elite center. As we know by now the Sabres would have to trade for one, which would probably entail packaging one of the team’s above-average-but-not-great wingers with a young defenseman (I advocate one guy whose name rhymes with Tekera) and probably a first round pick. Time and time and time again I hear Brad Boyes’ name brought up as the optimal winger to trade, specifically by a certain afternoon radio show host. If he’s not calling for Boyes to be traded, he’s at least commenting with relief that Boyes’ contract is up this year and the Sabres can let him walk. Meanwhile that host’s partner will describe Stafford with words that include “captain material,” “an edge,” and “huge potential.”

I don’t get it. These two players are only discernible by two things: Boyes is four years older and Stafford was drafted by the Sabres. Other than that, they’re statistically similar.

Let’s play a game. Guess which player I’m thinking of based on the following description. This guy has a $4 million cap hit, plays right wing, is over 6′ tall and weighs close to 200 lbs, doesn’t hit, was a plus-13 last season, and drew criticism from fans for the numbers he put up in the post-season. He also shoots right-handed and was drafted in the first round.

When I talk about scoring more power play points, I’m talking about Drew Stafford.

When I talk about being able to play center in a pinch, I’m talking about Bray Boyes.

Otherwise these two players are so incredibly similar I really have a hard time understanding the “Trade Boyes, Lock Up Stafford” position. Yes, I get it, Stafford is younger and has more potential upside. Yes, I understand that Boyes misses the net almost as much as Jason Pominville. And yes, I understand that Boyes’ production dropped off sharply when he was moved to center. I can only wonder how many points Drew would put up if he were moved to the middle of the ice.

Maybe my cynicism of the Stafford praise comes from the fact that he’s had exactly one really good year. Drew’s 31 goal, 52 point campaign marks the first time he has ever scored more than 20 goals. He has, in fact, only scored 20 or more goals two times in his five season, 317 game career as a Buffalo Sabre. He’s got seven whole whopping points in 20 career playoff games.

Compare this to Boyes’ six NHL seasons, where he has broken the 20 goal barrier three times. One of those years he scored 33 goals (aka two more than Stafford’s highest total) and on one occasion scored 43 (more than Drew scored from October 2008 to May 2010). Boyes’ production dropped sharply in St. Louis during seasons where the Blues were bottom-dwellers in the league for goals scored.

I called in to the above mentioned radio show once, and I pointed out that if we’re going to call Drew Stafford a 30 goal scorer we must fairly refer to Brad Boyes as a 40 goal scorer. They hung up.

I guess my point is that these guys are so incredibly similar, and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around why one is some cornerstone of the franchise while the other might as well have his bags packed. How about we as Sabres fans give both of them a chance to make their case this year, now that the Sabres can start fresh with two healthy centers (here’s hoping Leino can play as a true center). Especially when you consider that Jason Pominville is still not 100% from his playoff injury.

 

That would be his tendon being cut, fyi.

Chances are Pominville is going to be third on the depth chart (if he even plays) while he recovers. This most likely lands “power forward” (who doesn’t check) Stafford as the top line right wing, playing with “playmaker” Roy and “sniper” Vanek. Then you place “sniper” Brad Boyes with “power forward” Leino and “playmaker” Ennis. Those are two well-balanced lines that could potentially put a lot of pucks in the net, and it should give a good idea how these two compare over the season. Come trade deadline, Darcy Regier can take a good hard look at who should be moved.

If you’re talking about going and getting an elite center, I’m betting that Stafford is probably better trade bait for that. Boyes’ age of 29 is all the more reason why they should lock him in and keep him, whereas Drew’s marketability is in his “potential” and “upside.” If you think about it, Boyes is only 29 years old…he’s got one year on Pominville and Roy, two years on Vanek. He’s not exactly a silverback.

So there’s my layout. There’s my case for why these two guys are almost the same player, and why I don’t understand the knee-jerk reaction of “well we can just trade Brad Boyes.” Maybe I’ve got some bias against Drew Stafford because he laid a couple of eggs until his contract year. Maybe I just hate when the reason for loving a guy is what scouting reports said about him in 2004. Or maybe I am already looking past Stafford, thinking that the true youth and cornerstones for the next generation Sabres lie in Gerbe, Ennis, Myers, and Enroth. Whatever the case, unless there’s a team that is absolutely begging for Brad Boyes, I definitely see Stafford as the better option for snagging that center and making this a championship-quality team.

 

 

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Topics: Brad Boyes, Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Darcy Regier, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Eastern Conference, Fansided, Free Agency, Hockey, Jason Pominville, Jhonas Enroth, Nathan Gerbe, NHL, Playoffs, Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Stanley Cup, Terry Pegula, Thomas Vanek, Trade, Trade Deadline, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers

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  • Chris Elardo

    While I don’t mind the Bulldog (when he goes it solo), the arrogant “I’m SO SMART” ramblings of his partner Schopp is really what ruins the show.

    Anyway, on to Stafford. I think the kid has something to prove. He was vilified almost as much as Tim Connolly was. Before last season. And you know how it goes. Someone has a breakout season, and all of the sudden “oooh, he’s my favorite player”. Blah, blah, blah. So, I understand the “love affair” with this guy. I called for his head on a stick many times, and am still not convinced. He will have to show that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. And, you are right, he needs to do it in April and May, too.

    Boyes needs to stay on the wing this year (Hey, Lindy, I’m talking to you!). He is terrible up the middle, can’t win a face-off to save his life, and looks out of position more often than not. He looks uncomfortable at center. RW is where he needs to be and, if he stays there all year, I will pencil him in for 20+ goals.

    Based on recent comments from Regier, I expect them to look at the trade market, but I expect NOTHING. I think they want to see what they have with 1A and 1B, Roy and Leino. And I’m good with that…for now.

    It should be, and always is, interesting.

  • billsabre

    I hear your frustration in regards to the Gr guys, especially Schopp’s blatherings. Can’t believe he’s paid to be that uninformed and knowledgeable(as well as rude). I myself have always been a little leery when a player has a career year during a contract year. However, scout’s seem to believe that production will continue. Boyes is taking knocks because of his playoff performance, yet I think he’ll do well on the wing. His contract is a good reason for him to be involved in rumors and would fit in as a top six forward on pretty much any team. A deal for an elite center could still happen though I doubt it will any time before the trade deadline. The Sabres are rich in talent that will soon have to move up from the farm or be dealt. Leino should be fine at center, since that is his natural position. Could he be the next Briere? Time will tell. Nice blog.