For more Sabres stats nuggets in 140 characters or less, follow me on Twitter (@SabresStats)

If you are like me, you’ve been waiting a long time for this NHL season to get going.  As I write this, it has been 286 days since the Sabres last took the ice.  The only thing keeping me sane is the fact that I only have to wait 2 more days.  Less than 48 hours until the festivities begin. 

I was curious about which players will start this shortened season with a running start and which will show the signs of a long layoff.  So I decided to crunch some numbers.  It’s what I do.  While I recognize that statistics can’t predict the future with certainty, they can give you an idea of what results are more probable than others.  I know this season has special circumstances.. some players have been playing overseas, some in the AHL, and some have been living with their actress wife in Southern California, but let’s see which Sabres have historically started quickly and which have stumbled out of the gate.

I went back and compiled data for every season that each Sabres player has played, whether they wore the blue and gold sweater or another.  Take a look at what I found.  The following table shows each player’s average performance in their first 10 games of each season.  It’s sorted by total average points.  Note:  This is the individual player’s first 10 games played, not the team’s, and I’ve only allowed seasons where the player played at least 10 games.

 

AVG TOTAL FOR FIRST 10 GAMES

 

G

A

Pts

Plus/Minus

PIMs

Marcus Foligno

6.00

4.00

10.00

8.00

0.00

Thomas Vanek

5.00

4.86

9.86

3.29

6.57

Jason Pominville

3.43

4.57

8.00

1.43

1.43

Christian Ehrhoff

1.38

4.50

5.88

0.50

7.50

Tyler Ennis

2.00

3.67

5.67

2.00

3.33

Jochen Hecht

2.00

3.25

5.25

1.42

4.83

Drew Stafford

2.50

2.33

4.83

0.17

6.50

Ville Leino

2.25

2.50

4.75

0.00

2.00

Tyler Myers

1.67

2.33

4.00

0.33

5.33

Nathan Gerbe

1.00

2.50

3.50

2.50

4.50

Steve Ott

1.22

2.22

3.44

-0.11

19.78

Jordan Leopold

1.22

2.00

3.22

-0.22

6.00

Cody Hodgson

2.00

1.00

3.00

0.00

0.00

Robyn Regehr

0.33

1.92

2.25

0.25

6.83

Andrej Sekera

0.00

2.00

2.00

-1.80

4.80

Matt Ellis

0.83

1.00

1.83

0.50

1.67

Patrick Kaleta

0.80

0.80

1.60

-0.40

15.00

Cody McCormick

0.67

0.83

1.50

0.50

15.67

TJ Brennan

1.00

0.00

1.00

0.00

6.00

Alexander Sulzer

0.00

0.67

0.67

2.00

2.00

Mike Weber

0.00

0.67

0.67

2.00

15.00

John Scott

0.00

0.25

0.25

0.25

10.00

Of course, we have to take some of the data above with a grain of salt.  Some of the players have only one year of data to analyze, like Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson, while others have several years under their belts.  Clearly, the longer someone has played, the more accurate the numbers will become.  So, setting aside Foligno for a minute, we can see that Thomas Vanek is the most consistent fast starter on the team, with nearly a point per game over those stretches and an impressive plus/minus rating.  For those interested in the totals, Vanek has 69 points (35 goals, 34 assists) and is a +23 over 70 games.  That would be a pretty nice season.  Another player that stands out is Christian Ehrhoff.  Nearly 6 points in 10 games is impressive for anybody, let alone a defenseman.

But when it’s all said and done, it would be fairly easy to predict what order the players would finish in total points.  Nobody would expect that Patrick Kaleta would average more points in his first 10 games of a season than say Jason Pominville.  It’s not fair to compare players to each other when they play different roles on the team and may have significantly different totals of ice time.  What is fair is to compare each player to themselves. 

So let’s look at how each player’s average performance in their first 10 games compares to their career average.  In order to do this, I’ve changed the base from 10 games to 1 game.  The first table shows the actual value difference between their first 10 game average and their career average.  The second shows the percent difference.

 

VALUE DIFFERENCE –

10 GAME AVG VS. CAREER AVG

 

G

A

Pts

Plus/Minus

PIMs

Marcus Foligno

0.170

-0.100

0.070

0.371

-0.640

Thomas Vanek

0.080

0.086

0.166

0.265

0.037

Jason Pominville

0.023

-0.013

0.000

0.069

-0.117

Christian Ehrhoff

0.038

0.100

0.128

-0.077

0.070

Tyler Ennis

-0.070

-0.023

-0.093

0.114

-0.027

Jochen Hecht

-0.030

-0.015

-0.045

0.022

-0.077

Drew Stafford

-0.040

-0.097

-0.137

-0.066

0.080

Ville Leino

0.055

-0.020

0.025

-0.041

-0.050

Tyler Myers

0.037

-0.127

-0.100

-0.050

0.053

Nathan Gerbe

-0.060

-0.010

-0.070

0.134

-0.060

Steve Ott

-0.028

-0.018

-0.046

0.010

-0.092

Jordan Leopold

0.012

-0.020

-0.008

0.019

0.170

Cody Hodgson

-0.020

-0.150

-0.170

-0.022

-0.110

Robyn Regehr

0.003

0.042

0.035

0.005

-0.267

Andrej Sekera

-0.050

-0.020

-0.060

-0.206

0.160

Matt Ellis

0.023

0.000

0.023

0.058

-0.143

Patrick Kaleta

-0.020

-0.010

-0.030

-0.033

-0.130

Cody McCormick

0.007

-0.027

-0.020

0.072

0.167

TJ Brennan

0.010

0.000

0.010

0.000

0.050

Alexander Sulzer

-0.040

-0.063

-0.113

0.155

-0.090

Mike Weber

-0.040

-0.083

-0.123

0.177

0.240

John Scott

-0.010

-0.005

-0.005

0.059

-0.620

TEAM TOTALS

0.05

-0.64

-0.62

0.85

-1.51

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

% DIFFERENCE –

10 GAME AVG VS. CAREER AVG

 

G

A

Pts

Plus/Minus

PIMs

Marcus Foligno

39.5%

-20.0%

7.5%

86.7%

-100.0%

Thomas Vanek

19.0%

21.4%

20.2%

413.5%

6.0%

Jason Pominville

7.1%

-2.7%

0.0%

93.2%

-45.1%

Christian Ehrhoff

37.5%

28.6%

27.7%

-60.7%

10.3%

Tyler Ennis

-25.9%

-6.0%

-14.1%

133.3%

-7.4%

Jochen Hecht

-13.0%

-4.4%

-7.9%

18.5%

-13.7%

Drew Stafford

-13.8%

-29.3%

-22.0%

-79.9%

14.0%

Ville Leino

32.4%

-7.4%

5.6%

-100.0%

-20.0%

Tyler Myers

28.2%

-35.2%

-20.0%

-59.8%

11.1%

Nathan Gerbe

-37.5%

-3.8%

-16.7%

114.7%

-11.8%

Steve Ott

-18.5%

-7.4%

-11.7%

47.6%

-4.5%

Jordan Leopold

11.1%

-9.1%

-2.4%

45.7%

39.5%

Cody Hodgson

-9.1%

-60.0%

-36.2%

-100.0%

-100.0%

Robyn Regehr

11.1%

27.8%

18.4%

25.3%

-28.1%

Andrej Sekera

-100.0%

-9.1%

-23.1%

-779.5%

50.0%

Matt Ellis

38.9%

0.0%

14.6%

752.5%

-46.2%

Patrick Kaleta

-20.0%

-11.1%

-15.8%

-434.0%

-8.0%

Cody McCormick

11.1%

-24.2%

-11.8%

329.3%

11.9%

Adam Pardy

25.0%

-46.4%

-37.5%

-1730.0%

-12.8%

TJ Brennan

11.1%

N/A

11.1%

N/A

9.1%

Alexander Sulzer

-100.0%

-48.7%

-63.0%

345.0%

-31.0%

Mike Weber

-100.0%

-55.6%

-64.9%

780.0%

19.0%

John Scott

-100.0%

-16.7%

-16.7%

173.0%

-38.3%

TEAM TOTALS

1.6%

-11.6%

-6.9%

69.6%

-9.0%

                   

 

What can we take from this data?  There appear to be 2 players that we can safely say jump out of the gate well, Thomas Vanek and Christian Ehrhoff.  Vanek and Robyn Regehr are the only players that have better performance in all 4 major stat categories (goals, assists, points, and plus/minus).  That’s the role we want Vanek to play, Regehr’s is a much different role.  Christian Ehrhoff has good offensive numbers but actually a worse plus/minus, which would indicate that he is either on the ice for a lot of opponents’ goals, or he is getting a good amount of his offensive production from the power play. 

And should come as any surprise that an even-keeled guy, our captain Jason Pominville, has the exact same number of points per game during the beginning stretch as he does for the rest of his career?  Makes sense to me.  He goes about his job in a workman like fashion and doesn’t get too emotional about his play, no matter what time of year it is.  Sounds like a good makeup for a captain.

So who tends to stumble out of the gates?  I’m going to ignore Cody Hodgson’s numbers for now and give him the benefit of the doubt.  After all, he has only played more than 10 games in one season, and he was only 21 years old at the time.  Then again, he’s only 22 now.  Nevertheless, I regress.  Back to the numbers. 

Drew Stafford appears to be a slow starter, with worse numbers in all 4 major categories.  Take the 2008-09 season for example.  Stafford started the season with 3 points (2G, A) and a -2 in the first 10 games, but finished the rest of the season with 42 more points (18G, 24A) and a +5 rating in his final 69 games.  Last season he had a respectable 5 points (3G, 2A) in the first 10 games but then finished the season with a flurry.  He had 11 points (6G, 5A) in his last 10 games.  I have to wonder if a shortened season will be harmful to Stafford.  He may not have time to find his groove, like he did in the latter half of last season.

Drew isn’t alone though.  Several players have lower numbers in all 3 offensive categories, including Tyler Ennis, Jochen Hecht, and Steve Ott.  But all three of them have better plus/minus ratings.  Possibly they start the season focused on defense and playing responsible two way hockey.  If that’s their goal, they seem to be accomplishing it.  At the same time though, their offense is suffering. 

What can we take from the team totals?  They score slightly more goals, but have less assists and points.  They also have a significantly higher plus/minus rating.  Analysis may tell us that they aren’t playing as cohesively on the offensive side of the ice (that’s why there are less assists per goal), but that they are playing together as a unit on defense.  Either that, or Ryan Miller, or whatever goalie was behind them, is a fast starter himself and has been standing on his head during the first 10 games. 

Maybe that’s what we can expect from them this year.  Whatever it is, it seems to be working for the Sabres as a team.  In 5 of the last 7 years they have started out of the gates extremely well, winning at least 4 of their first 5 games.  In the last 5 years, their average points earned after 10 games is 12.0, well above their total season paces.

So, if history really does repeat itself, expect Thomas Vanek and Christian Ehrhoff to look like the All Stars that they should in the next couple weeks, and expect Andrej Sekera to look lost on the ice and take extra penalties.  Maybe that will give TJ Brennan a chance to see some ice.  Maybe not.  Either way, expect Lindy’s team to be prepared and ready to play, as prepared and ready to play as you can be in one week.

One thing I know for sure, hockey is back and I, for one, can’t wait to get the action started and see how the numbers end up.  Drop the puck already!

LET’S GO BUFFALO!