The 2ITB Awards made their debut last season after the Sabres’ playoff push fell short. After a disappointing season, here are my picks for some serious and not-so-serious team awards:
Most Valuable Player – Thomas Vanek
Atlas Vanek put the team on his back for most of the season. He and Ryan Miller performed at a high level for most of the year – although Miller’s numbers reflect that of a more average goaltender. Vanek’s contributions are more visible and he is certainly deserving of recognition on a team that would be dreadful offensively without his skillset. Here’s hoping he isn’t traded.
Least Valuable Player – Drew Stafford
Just a dismal year for #21. Stafford could never get the train on the tracks and has been largely invisible on many nights. He wears a letter to boot. To think that he makes $4 million a year is a cap crushing nightmare. I would assume he gets traded in the offseason, but that is no guarantee.
Top Prospect – Mark Pysyk
Looking at the body of work each Sabres prospect put together this season, Pysyk is probably the one to stand out the most. Just as 2011-12 winner Marcus Foligno put together a strong stretch run, Pysyk has set himself up very well for his first full NHL season for 2013-14.
Jekyll and Hyde Award – Tyler Ennis
Ennis was hot and cold this year. Problem was that when he went cold he was cold. During his hot runs he was one of the more dangerous forwards on the team. However he is dipping dangerously close to Maxim Afinogenov territory with the amount of over handling he’s shown this year.
Consistently Consistent Award – Steve Ott
Ott has been the rock the Sabres have held to for much of the season. He’s given 100% every night and many fans have clamored for him to wear the C next season. Ott has provided secondary scoring while adding accountability and sandpaper to the lineup. He has been someone you can count on for all 48 games.
Unsung Hero – Christian Ehrhoff
In case you were wondering, Ehrhoff only makes $4M per year, technically. Considering that cap hit, he was really freaking valuable for most of the season. He was easily the most consistent defenseman the Sabres had and they missed him desperately when he was hurt. Too many people ignored his performance because he wasn’t scoring goals and because he makes $10M per season. He caught a lot of flak for not putting up monster numbers offensively, but he was still extremely valuable.
Gilbert Perreault Award for Best Forward – Thomas Vanek
Easy choice considering he is the team MVP, see above for the reasoning.
Mike Peca Award for Best Defensive Forward – Steve Ott
On a team with such horrible all-around defense, this is a tough award to give out. Ott had been a steady performer all year and his strong defensive zone play shouldn’t be ignored. He’s been strong on the draw, sports a plus rating and has been an effective penalty killer.
Alex Kotalik Shootout Award – Ryan Miller
Behind only Antti Niemi for the league lead in shootout wins, Miller is undefeated in the skills competition at home and has a pair of victories on the road to boot. One of his losses came in the shootout defeat in New Jersey when he came on late in relief of Jhonas Enroth. Counting keepers who have seen at least five shootouts, Miller has the fifth best SV% and is easily Buffalo’s best shootout performer over the course of this season.
Judge Smails Mulligan Award – Mikhail Grigorenko
This is more a mulligan for how Grigorenko was handled. Think if the organization could go back to the tee and try this one over they would? Grigorenko didn’t prove too much during his first stint here and was relegated to fourth line duty when he did see the ice. Hopefully this doesn’t affect his development as he could be a key piece of the future of this franchise.
Tim Horton Award for the Best Defenseman – Christian Ehrhoff
Back-to-back wins for Ehrhoff with this award. For the second-straight year he has been the most consistent member of the blueline and has had some brilliant advanced stats to prove as much. As much as Darcy Regier struggles to sign the right players, he knocked it out of the park with Ehrhoff.
Phil Housely Award for the Best Offensive Defenseman – Christian Ehrhoff
Buffalo’s leading scorer on the back-end. 22 points (5+17) puts Ehrhoff at the top of the heap. He’s been Buffalo’s best defender for two years running.
Mike Wilson Award for the Worst Defenseman – The 2013 Buffalo Sabres
Of all the Sabres defensemen I’d probably say that Tyler Myers’ inconsistencies and the struggles that Jordan Leopold dealt with put that pair in the running for this individual award. However, as a team the Sabres were incapable of defending all season long. Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth saw the most shots in the NHL and the team had the worst puck possession numbers too. Horrible team defense all around.
Best In-Arena Addition – Alumni Plaza & French Connection Statue
There weren’t too many bright spots this year but the addition of the Alumni Plaza and French Connection Statue was a class move by the Sabres. Not only does this look stunning but it sets the stage for future statues of players like Dominik Hasek and other Sabres legends.
Worst In-Arena Addition – Drumline
In theory this was a cool idea and I supported it. Yet it wasn’t well executed. The pep-band idea is a strong one and I do think this was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately most of their drumming was mostly ineffective and didn’t even make sense at times. It’s something to build on in my opinion.
Best Tweeter – @MatthewWGR
Spitting hot sports takes and backing them up with analytics all year, Coller is typically a voice of reason when it comes to goaltending, quality play and just basics about the Sabres. His posts on the WGR website are solid and he’s a must follow for Sabres and Amerks info.
Best Media Member – Brian Duff
Duffer was a great addition to the broadcast team last year and locked it in this year as the host. His fireside chats with Harry were always compelling and in a down season, his tie and pocket square combo was always an interesting storyline to track. If there is a play-by-play spot opening with the Sabres broadcast, he should get serious consideration.
Mike Wallace Award for best interviewer – Mike Harrington
His postgame exchange with Ron Rolston after the Rangers game was, well, disconcerting.
Goal of the Year – Thomas Vanek vs. Tuukka Rask
This came down to this beauty and Cody Hodgson’s filthy one-man show against Carolina. This one came in a win and capped a hat trick.
Save of the Year – Ryan Miller vs. James Neal
When I consider incredible saves I want it to be an example of phenomenal goaltending. Diving highlight reel saves are great, but are born from desperation. Miller’s robbery of Neal was a great read and simply perfect goaltending.
Hit of the Year –Patrick Kaleta on Travis Zajac
Punishing hit in a game in which both Kaleta and Steve Ott put a pair of massive hits on the highlight reel. This one was easier to find on YouTube, so, winner.
Fight of the Year – Patrick Kaleta vs. That Plug from Philly
Sometimes people forget Pat Kaleta is a lefty, typically those guys get punched in the face 15 times.