Now that the dust has settled on another disappointing Buffalo Sabres season, it’s time to pick out some of the positives from the past year. While the team as a whole may have fallen short of expectations, there were several players who stepped up to the plate and answered the bell.
Today here at Sabre Noise we are handing out the Buffalo Sabres team awards. Team MVP, Best Forward, Best Rookie, Unsung Hero and so on. Sit back and reminisce in the good times from last season.
Team MVP- Ryan Miller
This was a tough award to give out as both Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek took turns carrying the team this season. Unfortunately Vanek spent a little too much time on the IR and went cold in the middle of the season. While Miller didn’t have the best season statistically speaking he stole at least 6 games for the Sabres in which they had no business winning. Heck, if the Buffalo Sabre players voted Ryan Miller as their team MVP, that would be pretty tough to argue.
Melissa added that even though the Sabres fell short of the playoffs, Ryan Miller kept the team in the hunt. Tim builds off the point of Miller stealing games; “He played well enough to keep an offencively challenged team in many games they had no business being.”
Rich adds that the Buffalo Sabres goalies faced more shots than any other goalie tandem in the league, yet they still managed to get the team to .500 (21-21-6).
His actions off the ice and to the media may not have painted the prettiest picture, but in the end Ryan Miller is a goalie who cares. He doesn’t like losing, he doesn’t like being the goalie of one of the worst teams in the league. He did everything he could to change that, but he can’t go out and score goals. Ryan Miller has been the backbone of the Buffalo Sabres for the last 8 years and that didn’t change this year, that’s why he’s the 2013 Buffalo Sabres MVP.
Best Forward- Thomas Vanek
Finalists- Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson
It’s near impossible not to pick Thomas Vanek as the best forward for the 2013 Buffalo Sabres, but saying that he also may have been the most inconstant forward. He started the year on fire and even lead the NHL in scoring for the first week of the season, but then he slowed down. Then he got hurt, then he’d come back and light it up again, then he’d get hurt again, when he came back he just didn’t stand out. Despite only playing 38 games (one more than Jason Pominville), Vanek still managed to lead the team in goals (20) and points (41).
Vanek has yet to have a season where he scored fewer than 20 goals or recorded fewer than 40 points, in a full season Vanek would have been averaging 40 goals and 81 points which would have matched his career best from 2006. He carried the team offencively and that’s why Thomas Vanek was the Best Forward for the Buffalo Sabres.
Best Defenceman- Mike Weber
It’s hard to pick a best defenceman on a team whose defence was nonexistent for most of the season. But if we had to choose someone it would be Mike Weber. Mark points out that Mike Weber contributed everywhere and was by far the best Sabre in the defencive zone. Mark also likes how Weber can and did stand up for teammates, he doesn’t shy away from the physicality like other defenceman *cough* Tyler Myers *cough*. Tim likes how Weber was consistent all season and really played his game. Having a defenceman who knows his game and his role and doesn’t try to play outside of that is a huge benefit.
Weber is one of those veteran leaders, while he’ll never score a ton of goals from the point you can count on him for a fairly sound defencive game. Since Mike Weber was one of the only defenceman to show signs of life in the defencive zone, he gets the honour of being the best defenceman for the 2013 Buffalo Sabres.
Best Rookie- Brian Flynn
Heading into the season I had high expectations for Marcus Foligno. After his dominate end to last season and some solid play well beyond his years with the Rochester Americans during the lockout, I fully expected Foligno to challenge for the Calder in his rookie season. Unfortunately Foligno came up flat scoring just 5 goals and recording 18 points, not what anyone was expecting. Brian Flynn
was by far the best rookie for the Sabres this season, he may have only scored 6 goals, but that ranked him 6th in Sabres scoring.
As Rich points out Flynn went from being a virtual unknown and having Sabres’ fans wondering where the heck the came from to being a solid bottom 6 forward who fans loved. What you see with Flynn is pretty much what you get, a hardworking, blue-chip bottom 6 forward with potential. Right now he’s an overachiever who fits somewhere between a grinder and a contributor, almost like a Nathan Gerbe. He had one of the best +/- ratings for the Sabres, had almost three times as many takeaways than giveaways and racked up 0 penalty minutes. He plays a clean game and is willing to do the little things to win.
Brian Flynn surprised many and became a true impact play, he didn’t waste anytime solidifying his role with the Sabres. His hard-work and tenacious play earn him the honour of being the 2013 Buffalo Sabres rookie of the year.
Unsung Hero- Mike Weber
Finalists- Mike Weber, Jhonas Enroth and Jochen Hecht
It’s tough to name Mike Weber as both the best defenceman and the unsung hero, but it’s about time he gets some credit. This was pretty much a tie throughout for Weber and Enroth, both played significant roles but didn’t get a lot of credit or press. But Weber played a larger part and that’s why he got the nod.
AsTim points out, Weber has paid his dues and learned his craft and that really showed this season. He was a reliable defenceman who played solid minutes. Mike Weber does his job without stirring any reaction and sometimes that’s a good thing for a defenceman, if they can play their game without shaking the boat it’s good. Weber played his game and got the job done without a lot of credit and that’s why he gets the honour of being the unsung hero for the 2013 Buffalo Sabres.
Most Improved- Cody Hodgson
Finalists- Cody Hodgson, Jhonas Enroth and Mike Weber
For me personally, this one is a bit of surprise, as I’ve been watching Cody Hodgson playing since his days with the Brampton Battalion
and couldn’t wait to see him in the NHL. He’s a gifted offencive player and a very level-headed player. He works hard for his ice time and wants to be a game changer, I’ve always loved his game. But as Mark points out he was worried with Hodgson’s play after being acquired at the trade deadline last season. But both Mark and Tim believe Hodgson proved himself this season and has given the Sabres something to look forward to in the future.
Hodgson is slated as the number one centre for the future, is he ready for that role right now? That’s debatable. But he’s the best centre the Sabres have on the roster and looked great on the first line. Hodgson turned doubters into believe and that’s why he’s the most improved Buffalo Sabre for 2013.
Best Goal- Mikhail Grigorenko‘s first goal
Best Save- Ryan Miller on James Neal
What did you think of our picks? Who would you pick as the MVP, best forward, best rookie or most improved? Leave your picks below.