Vulgar Statistics: Who is Overpaid Part I: Forwards
This will be a part of a two part series taking the members of the Sabres and comparing them to other players in the NHL within the same salary class to see if they’re living up to their paychecks. Predictably, I will talk about the defensemen next week in part two.
We’ve all seen it, whether it’s on message boards, on article comments, in The Buffalo News, or on The Whiner Line, every fan has their own opinion of our players. Some guys are great, some are bums, some are worth their weight in gold, and some are worth a ham sandwich made with moldy bread. These opinions trend all over the place, but a few have stuck around for quite a while. Tim Connolly, Jochen Hecht, Thomas Vanek, and Paul Gaustad are overpaid, Drew Stafford and Cody McCormick are bargains, and so on. And the arguments go on and on into oblivion because they can’t really be definitively proven.
OR CAN THEY?!?
No, but we can get pretty close, and if I wanted to devote a month to this topic, I could get even closer. (And if anyone wants to pay me to do so, I’ll totally make it happen.) I took each player along with their cap hit and listed them with about 8-10 similar players around the league in that salary class, generally within $5-700,000 each way for the higher paid guys, and a little less for the grunts, tracking stats from the last three years. The stats I tracked were Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points, Time on Ice, Goals/60 minutes, Assists/60 minutes, and Pts per 60 minutes. (I will probably include some of +/-, Blocked Shots, and Hits for defensemen next week). When all was said and done, each salary class left me with an average to compare our Sabres to. If the player in question’s stats were mostly above that average, the conclusion is that they’re underpaid. If the majority are below average, they’re overpaid, and if there’s a mix, they’re adequately paid. (Note: All positions taken from espn.com. If you don’t like it, take it up with them.)
Regarding the selection of players, I tried to be as random as possible, but the same teams kept cropping up, especially with the guys at the top of the money tree. We all know who the superstars are in the league. As I said, I would like to be able to do a comparison to everyone in the salary range, but that just isn’t possible.
The Thomas Vanek Class
$6.7M (Backstrom, Datsyuk) to $7.8M (Nash)
Alright, there. Vanek is adequately paid. In fact, when ice time is evened out, he’s actually a bargain. Whether his shortcomings in the assists category can be attributed to selfishness, or a lack of talent around him remains to be seen, but either way, Vanek’s contract is just fine. This argument is done and over with and I’m prepared to mercilessly taunt anyone that thinks otherwise.
The Jason Pominville Class
$5.0M (Kesler, Kovalev, Carter) to $6.0M (Elias, Semin)
How weird is it that Pominville is the second highest paid skater on the team? That’s weird, right? To be perfectly blunt, Pominville has brought us durability and…crickets. And his injury this season can’t even be blamed, he’s compiling points at roughly the same pace he always has. A goal every four games, an assist every two. Yes, he is defensively sound, but I don’t think that’s enough of a justification to put him on a list with Alexander Semin, and Marian Hossa. Four million would sound pretty good for Pominville though. Speaking of which…
The Derek Roy – Tim Connolly Class
$3.75M (Giroux) to $5.0M (Kesler, Kovalev, Carter)
I keep correcting people about Tim Connolly. He produces at the rate that he should, he’s just never on the ice, or he never seems to have any heart in spite of that production. Is there any question Derek Roy is one of the most underpaid players in the league? What did Darcy have to do to get that contract? Never mind, don’t answer that. Roy is just a stud in terms of production, durability (this season aside), and endurance (Lindy has often said he thinks Roy could log 30 minutes of time, no problem). It’s too bad he isn’t about 5 inches taller and about 50 pounds heavier, he’d be unstoppable.
The I hate my life…er…Jochen Hecht Class
$3.0M (Filppula) to $3.9M (Zajac)
No one is surprised. Let’s just move on.
The Paul Gaustad Class
$2.0M (Zherdev) to $2.8M (Cleary)
I kind of went back and forth over what kind of player to try and compare Gaustad to. I didn’t want to fit him in with a bunch of scorers because Gaustad isn’t that guy. But then I realized that the focus of this isn’t the players, it’s the contract, and Gaustad’s contract was signed with the idea that he would see power play time and play second line minutes every once in a while and chip in offensively. Way to go Darcy.
The Drew Stafford Class
$1.7M (Van Riemsdyk) to $2.2M (Fehr)
Stafford is one of those players that you hope is trending in the right direction. I think he’s already topped his goal total from last year with a ton of games left to play. For a guy who has struggled to be what fans have expected, that is an encouraging sign. However, as I’ve said before, if there’s one thing Stafford has done consistently, it’s disappoint us. I’ll remain wary.
The Oh God Why Rob Niedermayer – Mike Grier Class
$1.03M (Brouwer) to $1.8M (Cooke)
Mike Grier kills penalties, Rob Niedermayer kills dreams. Both of them kill the Sabres.
The Kaleta – Ennis – Gerbe Class
$750k (Winchester) to $1.0M (Torres)
I was honestly surprised to see Gerbe stack up so well. Personally I think he’s completely useless and we’re better off filling that roster spot with a big guy who can at least beat someone’s ass every once in a while, but to each their own. Hopefully Kaleta can stay healthy at least one year and Ennis can continue to develop into Derek Roy II…er…yeah.
The Cody McCormick Class
$515k (Mair) to $650k (Chipchura)
Ah, bargain Cody. Why this guy was bumming around the AHL last year, I have no idea, but I’m glad Jochen Hecht got SARS and McCormick got his chance to shine in last year’s playoffs. Without McCormick, this season would be a complete disaster. In a few games, his fights have been the only things worth watching. It’s nice to have a legitimate tough guy that can actually win a fight for the first time since Android’s nickname was a cute reference to his supplemental advantage.
The Final Word:
This is, in a nutshell, why the Sabres cannot contend for a cup. You simply cannot succeed in the NHL with so many bad contracts. Quite the opposite, I think to win a cup you need to have everyone perform at or close to their level, and a few guys overachieve. Those overachievers can erase a few of a GM’s mistakes…but not when they’re Cody McCormick. A few extra goals from a third-fourth liner are a good thing, but they don’t exactly make waves over the course of a season. The team is bascially being crippled by Pominville, Hecht, Gaustad, Rivet, Connolly, Niedermayer, and Grier. Rivet and Niedermayer might be the worst two because when they’re out of the lineup, they’re not even missed. Pominville, Hecht, Gaustad, Connolly, and Grier are merely bad for what they’re paid…they do still contribute. Niedermayer and Rivet are just bad.
Hopefully the management, however that shakes out, will have the guts and the confidence to go out and begin to rectifiy those changes, and in the future not be coerced by fan outrage into doing something like signing that ridiculous Pominville contract.