While We’re Here…

by Ryan

A few weeks ago we looked at the shift in Vanek’s game by the numbers, with the promise that we would check back in after another ten games. Vanek’s injury will shut him down for over a month, so that means we only have eight games of data to look at. Let’s see what Vanek’s totals are, starting with his previous numbers.

Here is Vanek’s game log:

First Five Games: 7G, 2A, 32 SOG

Next Ten Games: 5G, 1A, 33 SOG

Next Ten Games: 6G, 2A, 31 SOG

Next Ten Games: 7G, 1A, 34 SOG

Last Eleven Games: 3G, 8A, 21 SOG

And now, the more recent numbers:

Last Eight Games: 4G, 6A, 13 SOG

To be fair, those eight games include the Ottawa game, in which he only had 3:07 in ice time. Still, it’s obvious his shot totals were going to be far less, and his assist total is still higher than any point during those first four periods. Vanek’s game has changed significantly over the last 19 games, and his decrease in goals and significant drop in shots proves it.

This time let’s forget about the reasons, and instead look at Vanek’s impact on the Sabres as a whole. It’s pretty clear that Vanek hasn’t played terrible over the last 20 games or so, but it is obvious his game has changed. Take away the hat trick on Wednesday and you don’t have much in the way of goal scoring, and that’s what he’s getting paid to do.

In fact, Vanek’s six shots against Toronto are almost half of his shot total over the last eight games. Over that stretch he was held without a shot three times, not including the Ottawa game on Saturday. That may not seem like a big deal for some players, but consider this: the Tampa Bay game on January 21 was the first time Vanek was held without a shot since March 22. That’s a very, very long time.

That’s not to say that Vanek won’t be missed. In fact, he most certainly will be. Vanek was a big part of setting up Stafford and Connolly, and they will be looking for a new winger on the top line for about a month now. Still, it’s not difficult to argue that this may be the best time to lose a guy like Vanek because he’s not being relied on so heavily now. Connolly has stepped up, Miller has been spectacular for at least a month now, and the balance in scoring has slowly returned.

Atlas will be missed, and he’s still a point per game player this season. However, this doesn’t mean the team is offensively crippled without him. Visual evaluation of the team over the last few weeks says so, and the numbers confirm it. A fractured jaw may derail Vanek’s quest for 50 goals, but it doesn’t fracture the Sabres’ postseason hopes.