Since the start of this season it’s been quite evident that the Sabres have dead weight on the roster. Three players, Tim Connolly, Maxim Afinogenov, and Ales Kotalik, all have similar contracts expiring this summer, and with the influx of forwards both on the active roster and in the system it seems obvious that some of these players will no longer wear a Sabres uniform come October. Since it’s likely that only one will be signed at the most, we made a case for each player and pitted them against each other this season. So just past the halfway point the question is: who’s winning?
Well, it’s not as easy a question as you’d think. Here are the numbers:
Kotalik 40GP, 10G, 13A, 23PTS, -5, 20PIM, 12PPP (.575PPG)
Connolly 13GP, 5G, 5A, 10PTS, -1, 0PIM, 4PPP (.769PPG)
Afinogenov 34GP, 2G, 10A, 12PTS, -14, 12PIM, 5PPP (.352PPG)
Now, judging from that it’s safe to say that Maxim Afinogenov is not winning anything this year. In fact, based on his numbers and his game I’d say he’s been one great big pile of fail this season. No matter what happens the rest of the year, he will not be wearing #61 for Buffalo this fall. His game has been a mess, he’s moped about not getting playing time, and you can hear his $3.5 million salary being thrown into the boiler down at HSBC Arena if you sit still long enough.
However, who is having a better season is still a little bit in doubt. It’s pretty obvious that Kotalik has the superior numbers, and he very well may have another twenty goal season. Connolly has missed a lot of time again this season, but as we’ve said before, when he’s in the lineup he produces. His 3/4 point per game average this year is about the same pace he’s scored in his career with Buffalo, and is the highest percentage out of the three players this season. When Tim Connolly is playing it feels like he is productive, and it turns out that he is. That can’t be said about the other two.
We all know that Max has struggled the last two seasons, but you could argue the same case for Kotalik as well. Despite scoring 43 points last year there were stretches in which I completely forgot he was on the team, and this season he has shown similar trends. There are just some games where it’s obvious Ales is coasting, and his work on the power play is spotty at times as well. For someone known or his shot he hasn’t taken many, and he certainly isn’t our best defensive forward.
So here’s the question: can you overcome Connolly’s injury troubles and say he’s having a better season? If not, does that make Kotalik the more valuable player, or is Tim Connolly someone you’d want on this team come October? It’s a hard question for me to answer because so much of the future is uncertain with Connolly’s injuries. However, I still value him above Kotalik simply because Connolly is more productive when on ice.
It’s not a perfect answer, and one that is certainly affected by my affinity towards Connolly as a player. There is a big part of me that wants Connolly on the roster next season, but my practical hockey mind says it’s too great a risk to sign him and he probably won’t reduce his salary enough to make it feasible. I know my biases, and I was wondering if perhaps you’d share yours. So, just past the halfway point in this season I’ll ask again: Connolly or Kotalik? We all know Afinogenov is as good as dead to us, but what about the other two?