Thomas Vanek is producing Hart Trophy-type work for the Buffalo Sabres, yet his team remains hapless despite his surprising success.
The Austrian winger scored a goal and two assists to push his league-leading points total to 19 on Sunday, but the Sabres couldn’t find the scoreboard when he was off the ice. The Florida Panthers scraped out the win in regulation, topping Buffalo 4-3.
To give you an idea of how dependent the Sabres are on Vanek, chew on this: they’ve only scored eight goals this season without the 29-year-old forward collecting a point. He’s factored directly into about 70 percent of Buffalo’s 27 goals.
Despite boasting the clear points leader – no one else in the NHL has more than 16 – the Sabres rest at the bottom of the Northeast Division with seven points (3-5-1). Only Florida (six points), Philadelphia (six) and Washington (five) have fewer standings points in the East.
That’s troubling stuff, especially when you consider how difficult it will be for Vanek to approach his unexpected production for the remaining 40 games of this season.
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.