Numbers are fun to look at. Whether or not they mean anything is questionable. When looking at players who come into the last couple years of their contracts with the Sabres, namely those with great potential, there is a growing trend in what you'll find.
Lets take a look:
- Chris Drury: 77 games, 37 goals, 32 assists, 69 points (career best)
- Daniel Briere: 81 games, 32 goals, 63 assists, 95 points (NHL career best)
- Michael Peca: (2nd to last year) 82 games, 27 goals, 29 assists, 56 points (NHL career best)
- Miroslav Satan: (2nd to last year) 79 games, 26 goals, 49 assists, 75 points (career best)
- Stu Barnes: (2nd to last year) 17 goals, 31 assists, 48 goals (career best while with one team)
There's a mild trend here, but not necessarily a formula. But, the point I'm driving home with these figures is whether or not we can expect anything big from Maxim Afinogenov in this coming season.
This is the final year on his contract and various rumors swirled about him being moved in a trade.
But is it fair to compare him to these recent former Sabres phenoms? It really varies on who you ask. He's not a leader-player as much as an individual puck pusher, but his style is in line with the new blend of what the NHL is as opposed to what was.
Clutch and grab has almost completely left the scene, and the speedy and talented are stealing the show. I believe he fits that trend.
Maybe it's a bit of personal bias, but I like the exciting play style of Afinogenov. Just listen to the Sabres home crowd when he touches the puck and puts on the jets. If he truly wants to continue to play for the Sabres, this is his year to shine and prove it. The last two players, Drury and Briere, may not be a fair comparison into any type of trend.
If you exclude them from the reasoning, then like Peca, Satan, and Barnes, Afinogenov should be coming off his best year.
With the groin injury sustained this past season, he hasn't had much strength and time to prove himself. Averaging a half a point a game in the 2007-08 season, 10 goals and 18 assists on the whole, it's a big step down from the season prior. With playing the equal amount of games for 23 goals, 38 assists, he banked a little over a point a game!
The overall message is this. Afinogenov needs to put up a big point season and inspire the new youth on the team becoming their play-maker. If this doesn't take place, it may result in no renewed contract offer and the next plane out to play for a team in Russia for big money.
What will it be, Max?