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Celebrating an Elite 1000 Games for Skinner



Jeff Skinner 1000 games

To reach 1000 games is an amazing accomplishment, and Jeff Skinner has done it in elite offensive fashion. He burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old, scoring 31 goals. 11 of his 14 seasons were at a 20-goal full-season pace or higher, with six at 30 or more goals.

He’s done it his way. The yappy, get-under-your-skin competitiveness brings the best out of him. His unique skating style focuses on edge work to get around opposing defenses rather than straight-line speed. His ability to work the puck around the net helps make up for not having an elite shot.

And yes, there’s been ups and downs.

He scored 40 goals on a line with Jack Eichel after being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Cliff Pu, a 2019 second-round pick (Pyotr Kochetkov), a 2020 3rd-round pick (Alexander Nikishin), and a 2020 6th-round pick (Yauheni Aksiantsiuk).

He managed only 21 goals combined over the next two seasons with Ralph Krueger at the helm. His resurgence under head coach Don Granato has seen him average over 30 goals over the last three seasons. His most recent stretch of the season has been tough, but let’s not forget he was in the running to be the Sabres’ All-Star representative.

Let’s look at what he’s brought to the league over his first 999 games and the significance of his 1000th.

The First 999

Jeff Skinner is not a complete player. His defense has never really been at replacement level. His powerplay scoring is on and off. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been elite at what he does well.

He made the Carolina Hurricanes out of training camp right after being drafted seventh overall. As an 18-year-old he ranked 33rd in the entire NHL in even-strength offense, per Evolving-Hockey.

Now, event-based metrics can be a bit deceiving when you consider Skinner’s shot location is mostly in-tight to the goalie. They can be boosted by glorified expected goal totals. At the same time, you want players who go to those areas, and he always has done so with great success.

33rd would make him an elite second offensive threat on a team, given that there were 30 (then 31, now 32) teams. Here are his even-strength offense rankings over his entire career, per season:

  • 2010-2011: 33
  • 2011-2012: 89
  • 2012-2013: 473
  • 2013-2014: 92
  • 2014-2015: 502
  • 2015-2016: 28
  • 2016-2017: 6
  • 2017-2018: 197
  • 2018-2019: 13
  • 2019-2020: 429
  • 2020-2021: 407
  • 2021-2022: 38
  • 2022-2023: 4
  • 2023-2024: 115

Four bad years mixed in, but Skinner bested his rookie rank four times while nearly matching it in another season. The Buffalo Sabres acquired him after a down season in 2017-2018, which surely helped get him at a great discount.

Remove the Krueger seasons, and he has ranked as the 43rd-best offensive player in the NHL on average with the Sabres at even strength. In other words, he’s been an elite scoring threat for the team when given the appropriate linemates and usage.

Skinner’s 1000th

1000 games in the NHL is different for Jeff Skinner than any other player in NHL history. He has yet to play in a playoff game. Playoff experience is usually the buffer between a player’s prime and reaching that 1000 mark, so it can be seen as a testament to him that he continues to perform at a high level.

The current mood around Skinner is frustration. He’s been demoted to the third line – one that played the least minutes in Buffalo’s last outing. He hasn’t scored since his hat trick in Seattle on March 18th. He’s not in his usual powerplay role as the bumper on the top unit.

Yet, even frustrated Sabres fans have a soft spot for Skinner. When he’s going, his energy is contagious. He brings a big smile to the rink. His goal song choices are off-the-wall and fun.

Whether it’s Miley Cyrus’ “Party In the U.S.A.”, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” or the current “Breaking Free” from Disney’s High School Musical, he has the home fans singing and dancing.

Regardless of the disappointment this season, Tuesday night should be a celebration. It’s time to celebrate an elite offensive player with an elite sense of entertainment.

After all, goals and fun are what hockey’s all about, right?