More often than not, a team’s needs are defined in certain roles they’re lacking. A team may be lacking a number one center or a top six winger. Rarely do people say this team needs a 60-point center or a 45-point wing. Every person has their own idea of what a top line center or a top six wing will contribute to the team. Well, it’s time we find out what a top line center or a second line wing really means in terms of offensive production. Some have the perception that a top line center should be a 75-80 point player at minimum. Is this the case? Well, the numbers say not necessarily.
This is broken this down as simple as possible; the numbers are just taken from NHL.com and a top line center is defined as a top 30 scoring center in the league for that season, a top line left-wing defined as a top 30 scoring left-wing for that season, or a second line right-wing as anybody in the 31-60 range in right-wing scoring for that season. Then the average production was tracked as well as the highs and lows for each of the three positions (C/LW/RW) on the top three lines for each season since the lockout. We will go over each position individually and then summarize everything at the end as well as using these numbers to find where certain Sabres fit in.
All of the numbers are provided in the slideshow. Derek Roy was included because one of the most popular debates over recent years was whether or not he is a top line center.
Now, we will classify each Sabres player based purely on last season’s production. Of course, not everything is based purely on offensive production but it gives a pretty good barometer of where a player stands. We will use the following classifications.
High-end – Upper 20% for any range
Above-average – 61-80% range
Average – Middle 20% for any range
Below-average – 21-40% range
Low-end – Lower 20% for any range
Thomas Vanek – AVG 1st line LW
Jason Pominville – Above AVG 1st line RW
Drew Stafford – Low-end 1st line RW
Tyler Ennis – Above AVG 3rd line C (82 game pace of a below AVG 1st line C)
Cody Hodgson – Below AVG 2nd line C
Ville Leino – Low-end 2nd line LW
Nathan Gerbe – Low-end 2nd line LW (82 game pace of an AVG 2nd line LW)
Luke Adam – Above AVG 3rd line LW (82 game pace of a below AVG 2nd line LW)
Cody McCormick – 4th line C
Cory Tropp – 4th line RW (82 game pace of an AVG 3rd line RW)
Patrick Kaleta – 4th line RW
New incoming players
Steve Ott – Low-end 2nd line C/AVG 2nd line LW
Derek Roy – AVG 2nd line C
Paul Gaustad – 4th line C
Brad Boyes – Above AVG 3rd line RW
This post is meant for nothing more than to just provide a little bit of context. The motivation for this was all the times it’s been said how the Sabres need a legitimate top line player or how Drew Stafford barely even qualifies as a top six player. Perceptions of what a top line player or even what a top six player is seems to be significantly skewed. Again, you can’t base everything on offensive production but it gives a pretty good barometer of where a player stands.