Prior to the start of the season, the Sabres were a lock to be in the run for Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Fast forward 28 games, the Sabres may be playing themselves out of drafting either one of the highly sought after prospects. After winning seven of their last ten games, the Sabres are one of the hotter teams in the league currently, and are finding success without the help of some of their top players. Both Cody Hodgson and Chris Stewart have gotten off to tumultuous starts to the season, and are mightily underperforming. If the Sabres want to be a successful club down the road, they will need both of these players to elevate their level of play.
After coming off of his first career 20 goal season, expectations were high for Cody Hodgson as he entered 2014. To say the least, Hodgson has not even come close to these expectations, as he has recorded just one goal and two assists in all 28 games this season. To make matters worse, Hodgson has compiled a rating of minus 11, and once again has posed as a major defensive liability. If Hodgson isn’t producing offensively than he’s not adding much value to the team. He hasn’t contributed, by any means, on the power play, and is ineffective on the penalty kill. Although Hodgson, just a year ago, signed a six year contract, it’s hard not to ponder his future with the Sabres.
Since being acquired by the Sabres in the Ryan Miller trade, Chris Stewart has not come close to reaching his full potential with the Sabres. Although Stewart has shown the odd glimpse of being a dominant two-way power forward, he has just three goals and four points to show for it. Ted Nolan recently took exception, and made Stewart a healthy scratch on Tuesday night, when the Sabres hosted the Kings. Stewart plays a physical game on most nights, and has scored 27 goals in a season, but the results just aren’t showing for Stewart this season. Hopefully the benching will be a wakeup call for the veteran.
There have been many rumors surrounding Stewart as the season has progressed. The Boston Bruins are in the market for a big top six forward, and Stewart would be the perfect fit. There is no doubt that Sabres GM Tim Murray will be asking for quite a bit in return, but a trade would benefit both teams, as the Bruins would get their top six forward, and the Sabres would acquire more pieces to help strengthen their rebuild. Even if a deal for Stewart doesn’t fall through with the Bruins, there are still plenty of teams who would kick the tires on the veteran forward, as he could prove to be a valuable piece, especially to a contending team.
The Buffalo Sabres hold a record of 10-16-2, which is better than what most people would have thought their record would be. What’s even more impressive is that the Sabres have done this with hardly any contribution from two key forwards in Hodgson and Stewart. With the season about a third of the way through, there is still time for both forwards to pick up their play and help the team win. Hodgson needs to start finding the back of the net and improve in his own end, while Stewart must play physical and show up to play on a night to night basis. Both of these players still have time to turn their seasons around and make the most of the final 50 plus games. Hopefully they can find success and help the team continue to win games.