By John Vogl
Drew Stafford lost his scoring touch, sweater letter and confidence. During the 46 games under Ted Nolan, he got them all back.
Stafford, an alternate captain once again, has risen to become a veteran presence on a team that needs one. It's why the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association has named Stafford as its nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Writers in each city nominate one player, and a winner is chosen from the 30 candidates via a PHWA vote.
Stafford lost his "A" and was benched by former coach Ron Rolston after struggling last year and at the start of this season. He enters tonight's game against New Jersey with 11 goals and 18 points in the last 25 games.
"With everything that’s gone on, I think I’ve just trying to be part of the solution as much as possible and do my best each and every day, on and off the ice to try and contribute in a positive way," Stafford told the PHWA today. "It’s extremely hard. At the same time, every now and then you can take a step back and realize what I’m doing for a living and where we are, it’s really not that bad. When that usually happens, you get a new perspective and a little boost of energy.
"Most of the time when you focus on other things in life, like your family and your friends and the support you have, everything usually kind of takes take of itself. The trying times you go through, all the adversity, it reveals the true character of some guys. I definitely was able to stick with it and pretty much drag my career out of the abyss. That being said, I feel like I have a lot more to go, and the glass is definitely half full."