(Note: This will be a series leading up to the start of the scheduled NHL season. I will look at each player who will definitely be, or could possibly be, on the opening day roster for the 2012-13 Sabres and speculate on their potential strengths and weaknesses during the year.)
Nobody had a more Jekyll and Hyde-like season last year than Luke Adam.
After starting out with 14 points in his first 20 games centering Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, Adam looked like the Buffalo Sabres’ next big prospect. His big body and physicality, coupled with his soft hands, made him an excellent compliment to the likes of Vanek and Pominville.
But then the injury bug hit the Sabres and although Adam was not bitten directly, he was impacted in an indirect fashion by being taken off of the top line.
Once that happened, Adam scored six points in his remaining 32 games with the Sabres, including a 20-game scoreless streak that ended only with his demotion to the Rochester Americans in the AHL.
It was not merely his line shakeup that hurt Adam, however. Shaky defensive zone play crippled the breakout attempts of his line. Bad neutral zone reads also hurt any transition offense his lines hoped to create. Coach Lindy Ruff just was not impressed with his learning curve.
Once Adam was sent down to the Amerks, his play did not improve, as many expected. Instead, he scored only 13 points in 27 games, a far cry from his AHL Rookie of the Year-worthy 62 points in 57 games the season before in Portland.
So, where does this leave Adam in the eyes of the Sabres brass?
It’s hard to say, really. With the drafting of five centers in the 2012 NHL Draft, including Mikhail Grigorenko, who has the chance to make the team out of training camp, it doesn’t look like the Sabres see Adam as a long-term center prospect.
This was cemented by his move to left wing in the Sabres prospect camp’s scrimmage, where he played on a line with center Cody Hodgson and Corey Tropp. He also spent some time during his demotion to Rochester on the wing.
But that move does not necessarily make for an easier transition to the NHL for Adam. The Sabres are pretty well set on wing right now. The position of need is center, so if Adam can get the mental part of his game remedied, he may have the inside track to the Sabres’ third-line center role.
But despite his cons, Adam is a far more talented option even at fourth-line center than Cody McCormick. Look for Adam to start off the year fighting for a center position in the Sabres organization. His high point totals in the beginning of the year may be due to Vanek and Pominville, but he has the offensive talent to make a difference on the Sabres roster.
Prediction: 65 games played, 12 goals, 14 assists and 26 points, spending most of his time switching between the third and fourth lines (probably limited to the fourth if Grigorenko makes the team).