By Mike Harrington
Click the video above. That's Sabres winger Drew Stafford scoring a goal. You might have forgotten what that looks like because the clip is the last time it happened -- on March 31 in Toronto.
Of the 691 skaters who have played at least one NHL game this season, exactly 400 have at least one goal entering tonight and Thomas Vanek remains the leader with 11. The list of the goal-less includes some big names like Henrik Sedin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter.
But of the nearly 300 players without a goal this season, no one has come up empty more often than Stafford. Stafford is tied for 29th in the league in shots on goal with 40 -- but is No. 1 in shots for players without a single tally.
Here's the list of the leaders in SOG by the goal-less group:
Drew Stafford BUF 40
Ryan Clowe SJ 31
Marek Zidlicky NJ 30
Drayson Bowman CAR 29
Dougie Hamilton BOS 28
Shea Weber NSH 28
Alex Goligoski DAL 26
Max Pacioretty MON 25
Dan Girardi NYR 25
Drew Doughty LAK 25
Ryan N-Hopkins EDM 24
Mike Kostka TOR 24
Roman Josi NSH 23
Zack Smith OTT 22
Jochen Hecht BUF 22
Ryan Johansen CBJ 21
Eric Johnson COL 21
Raphael Diaz MON 20
Ryan Suter MIN 20
Stafford had a great chance Tuesday in Ottawa, but fanned on a perfect one-time pass on a 3-on-2 break, the puck heeling off his stick as he skated down his off wing on the left side. He hung his head on the bench for several seconds after that shift.
"I'm trying to do my best to keep Drew in the right place so he doesn't get too frustrated, which will allo whim to get on the board," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "We've seen him ... go on a run and get incredibly hot. I've seen [Thomas Vanek] go through incredibly tough stretches and get hot. It tends to happen with a lot of good goal scorers."
Stafford is on year two of a four-year, $16 million deal signed largely on the heels of his 31-goal season in 2010-11. That's turned out to be largely a mirage because Stafford had four hat tricks and three two-goal games that year. That's 18 of the goals in just seven games.
Stafford had 20 goals last year as his shooting percentage dropped by nearly half, from 17.3 to 8.8. Now? Nothing.
"You just have to keep with it, keep working. You can’t give up," Stafford told John Vogl of The News today. "You can’t let the negativity creep in. You can’t show up to the rink the next day and be moping around because that just brings everyone else down. It’s times like these that a good thing I like to say is, ‘The game reveals your character.’
"Good or bad, you always have to make sure that you’re always having the right attitude because guys feed off that. The streak that I’m on here that I haven’t scored, if I’m moping around the locker room that’s just bringing other guys down. It’s part of my role, as well, as a leader on this team to bring that attitude and bring that work habit where I have to show up and continue to get better."
For Vogl's full story on The Stafford Slump, see Friday's editions of The Buffalo News.
(Stafford photo: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)