This is the third article of a five-part series, chronicling the good and bad of the past Buffalo Sabres’ season. Our writers at Sabres Hockey Central take a look back.
What was the most improved player during the 2013-14 Sabres’ season?
Justin Banker – Not much to consider here. Tyler Ennis was tracking to roughly the same numbers in the shortened season. Drew Stafford has remained streaky. Hodgson, Foligno, and Flynn have all dropped slightly statistically this season when compared to the shortened year, while Mike Weber has just been Mike Weber.
Brayton Wilson – Drew Stafford: The year started off to another typical Drew Stafford year. Had a couple games here and there of pure excellence, but was irrelevant in every other game. When Ted Nolan came into the picture, Stafford stepped up his game and began playing like a top-six forward again. When Ryan Miller and Steve Ott were traded, Stafford became a leader in the locker room and became a voice that everyone looked to.
Adam Lindsay – I honestly cannot say with any conviction there was any ONE player that was much improved. If you held me to a wall and made me choose, I feel Brian Flynn could fill that role. He didn’t put up all the points, but he did show he can play 2 ways, doesn’t take bad penalties, pushes hard in the corners and on the walls, and was one of the few youngsters who earned a spot all year here with the big club.
Kevin Freiheit – Tyler Myers: While he didn’t return to his rookie season form, Myers made some great strides this season from what he has done in the past few years. His 22 points were the 2nd lowest of his career, but he did miss 20 games. Signs of improvement didn’t come until Ted Nolan arrived. Myers started to jump up on the rush and skate with confidence, both of which we hadn’t seen for awhile. He’s still not where he was in his rookie year, but Myers got better throughout this year.
Chris Downey – Tyler Myers: When Rolston was relieved of his duties earlier this season and Nolan took over, Tyler Myers was not playing good hockey at all. After a few weeks of playing under Nolan, Myers’ play improved and he seemed to be back to how he was his rookie year. He wasn’t perfect, but he definitely improved from where he was to where he is currently.
Jeff Pawlak – Tyler Myers: Even though injuries seemed to bring his progress to a halt, the improvement that Tyler Myers showed this season should give fans a lot of hope for the future. A year ago, he seemed as if he was ensnared in a perpetual sophomore slump. This year, it’s like he woke up one morning in December and said “Oh yeah, I’m a really good hockey player.” His skating was probably the smoothest its been in the NHL, he utilized his long reach to stymie opposing players more often, and he regained some of that scoring flair that helped him win the Calder Trophy during his rookie year.
Ryan Wolfe – Tyler Ennis: This choice seemed to be a simple one for me. Ennis went from scoring 10 goals in 47 games two seasons ago, to scoring 21 goals in 80 games this year. Ennis set a career-high in goals, and seemed to recapture the scoring knack showed back in 2010-11, his first full NHL season. Ennis also took over a big role on the Sabres’ first line, becoming one of the team’s only positives. Ennis’ good season should certainly be a big building block for him, entering the 2014-15 season.