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Drew Stafford Earning His Stripes In Nolan's Eyes

It almost happened.

Michael Russo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Minnesota Wild were very interested in obtaining Drew Stafford from the Buffalo Sabres on deadline day.  Yet when the dust cleared and everyone opened their eyes, Stafford remained a Sabre.

For now.

Stafford has seen a rebirth of sorts in 2014, which is why the 28-year old was in high demand. Over his last 14 games, Stafford has tallied seven goals and 13 points.  He is second on the team in shots on goal and tied for second in even strength goals.  His ice time since the trade averages over 20 minutes per game.  Now that veterans Matt Moulson, Steve Ott, and Cody McCormick are no longer around, Nolan is looking for Stafford to take on a larger leadership role with the club.

“(Stafford) is one of those guys, he’s been here for a while.  He is one of the senior guys and has had a good career here in Buffalo.” Nolan said during his morning press conference on Monday.  “Maybe he didn’t start the year the way he wanted too…But he just persevered and worked through it.  To me, that showed really good leadership on his part.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if Nolan had a say in Stafford staying put.  He has spoken fondly of the winger since his arrival behind the Sabres bench, and having another year on his contract provides the coach with a hard-working veteran from which the younger players can learn from.

In an interview prior to the Lightening game last week he – without a doubt – considered himself a leader of the franchise now that players like Ryan Miller were gone.   However, in the same breath he also said that he isn’t looking too far ahead.  He is focused on the here and now, not having even a thought of next season.

That may be because Stafford isn’t out of the woods yet.  Because after the season ends, Murray may be looking to add additional draft picks or prospects to the roster.  Although being born in Milwaukee, and a graduate of Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Minneapolis, which is an hour drive away from where the Wild play.  Come summertime Minnesota’s interest may still exist.  With a year left on his contract, he will still be a prized asset on General Manager Tim Murray’s chessboard.

Nolan stated Monday that he was close to signing a long-term deal with the Sabres to be their full-time head coach.  I have a feeling if Nolan has his way, Stafford will survive the storm and return next season.   Murray and Nolan have both spoken of needing veterans on the team to help groom the young talent, and Stafford would be a prime candidate for such a role.

Whether Stafford would want to remain a Sabre or join his former teammates and family in St. Paul is another question that beckons answering.  I’m sure there will be conversations had about that topic as draft day draws near.

If he makes it past the draft, we’ll have our answer.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Cody Mccormick Drew Stafford Matt Moulson Minnesota Wild Ryan Miller Steve Ott Ted Nolan Tim Murray

  • qwicwted

    Louis, I have to agree with you. For the past two years I have been a Stafford Hater – I felt he wasn’t playing to his game, using his size and being too complacent. Maybe he changed his game to complement some of our other players or maybe he just succumbed to coaching and his own pressure – trying to do too much. Since Nolan has come aboard, I really like what I see from Staff – I’m not hearing quick fix “hot yoga” or “Fu Man Drew Workout” – what I am seeing is a guy who has gone back to the basics and is relying on his natural skills.
    I like this new Drew – he is tough, a leader and he is playing his ass off. He is a Nolan type of player and he’s stepped up to the role. For some reason, I think there was a “cancer” inside the Sabres locker room with the core – maybe an “entitlement” attitude with Vanek, Pommer, Roy and I’ll even say Miller. Its interesting in that I think Staff has taken his que from Ott and Moulson – I get the impression that those two are the type of leaders and players he wants to emulate.
    So, I am on the Drew Bandwagon and I hope he stays. Bravo Drew – Keep up the Good Work!

  • Jes

    Stafford lets put it in the nicest way possible, has sucked donkey balls since signing that contract. But as you said he has regained form. I honestly think he looks better then he did when he got that contract. But my thought is he will sign elsewhere when he’s a UFA after next season. Him and Stewart would be good power forwards to have during the rebuild. I’d love both to stick around for at least another 2-3 years.

    One guy I’d love to get rid of is Ville Leino. He’s the one Sabres player I absolutely despise. Other then Rich I’m sure everyone agrees;).

  • Dano

    Stafford is an average player in the NHL. Better then the guys I play on the pond with for sure.