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The Sabres Observer

Revisiting The Vanek Ice Time Debate

Should Buffalo’s star forward be spending more time on the ice?

Thomas Vanek (6 goals, 4 assists in 7 games) is fourth in the NHL this season in points per game, but his ice time lags behind other players who are off to hot starts.

16 players have 9 or more points in the early season scoring race, and Vanek has averaged less ice time minutes (17:10) than all of them except for Tyler Seguin.  The NHL’s top scorer thus far, Phil Kessel, has played 20:32 per game.

I’m not going to pretend to know better than Lindy Ruff how to manage his players, but these facts are noteworthy when you consider that it’s been an ongoing debate dating way back to Vanek’s 43-goal season in 2006-07.  The issue was brought up and broken down statistically by a blogger last season, and Ruff was even questioned on the subject by a German reporter a few weeks ago when the Sabres were in Europe.

It’s true that Vanek doesn’t kill penalties much.  But many on that list of 16, including Kessel, Tavares, and the Sedin twins, don’t play shorthanded either.  And Vanek isn’t the only player in history to have seen a little more of the bench during bad games. 

You could argue that Ruff is keeping ice time under control early on due to the European adventure, but that hasn’t stopped Anze Kopitar of the Kings from logging 22:34 per game while matching Vanek in points.

Whatever side you take on this, it’s pretty safe to say things aren’t going to change in the near future.  Buffalo’s penalty killing units (4th in the league at 90.9%) without Vanek are doing a great job, and it’s hard to imagine that Ruff, even with the possibility of losing Tyler Ennis for a period of time, will rock the apple cart too much with his team off to a healthy 5-2-0 start.

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Part of the reason for Vanek’s lack of icetime is the same reason people have been optomistic about the Sabres prospects, 4 good lines. I’m sure if you look at the icetimes of the other top scorer’s teamates, you will see they are not as high as the sabres’. Later in the year, if the team is in a fight for playoff position, I’m sure the top scorers’ icetime will pick up. For now, Lindy will just keep rolling the lines.

Posted by Ryan from Jamestown, NY on 10/24/11 at 08:46 PM ET

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]