One could argue that power forwards are streaky by nature, yet Buffalo Sabres forward Chris Stewart still ranks as a stark example of “feast or famine.” The 26-year-old seems just as likely to suffer a penalty-minute-fueled meltdown as he is to score a tide-turning goal.
The storyline almost seems tired by now: the big winger hopes to silence his critics and find the consistency that’s escaped his grasp for basically his entire career. Even Stewart acknowledges those questions in an interesting interview with NHL.com.
“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t happy with my year last year, either. I feel like I have a lot to prove and it’s just going out and doing it. I’m going to come in and I’m going to be consistent. I think that’s been a knock on me. I’ve been able to put together good stretches and then go cold, but I think we have a coach like Ted Nolan who believes in you. I think it’s going to be hard not to have the best season of my career so far.”
Nolan backed him up on that point, telling NHL.com that he’s a “Chris Stewart-type of hockey coach.”
Stewart has plenty of motivation to put forth his best effort with a contract that expires after the 2014-15 season and the Sabres’ experience-starved roster likely encourages Nolan to give the winger every chance to prove himself. While it’s unclear if Stewart will get the chance to build on chemistry he believes he began kindling with Cody Hodgson in his five-game cameo with Buffalo last season, it’s difficult to imagine Stewart outside of the Sabres’ top six very often.
(Then again, he found himself in such a position more than once with Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis.)
At this point, it’s difficult to emphatically state that we’ll know what kind of player Stewart really is after the 2014-15 season since he’s been such an unpredictable performer through 382 regular season games and 19 postseason contests. Still, he can stand to make himself a lot of money – in Buffalo or perhaps elsewhere – if he flirts with 30 goals once again.
If his career path is any indication, it wouldn’t be wise to bet for or against that happening.