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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
When Drew Stafford arrived at training camp last month, even head coach Lindy Ruff said he took a double-take when Stafford walked through the door. Stafford’s lean frame from the previous year had now become trimmer and even more toned. Coming off a career-high 31 goal season – and armed with a new four-year-contract – Stafford spent the summer refining the workout regimen that contributed to his success last season.

“It all started two years ago when I wasn’t playing as well as I could have been,” he explains. “I felt like I could’ve been doing more to get better, and it started with my conditioning and fitness in the summertime. I lost a lot of weight and I trimmed up. This allowed me to get a little faster and a little more explosive. I also worked on my shot a lot more. I shot a lot more pucks in the summertime and that definitely translated to the ice.”

Stafford scored 31 goals in 62 games last season, and was among the league leaders with a 17.3 shooting percentage (31g/179 shots). His 62 games played were second only to Sidney Crosby for fewest games played by a 30-goal scorer; and he was tied for fifth in the league with an average of .50 goals per game. Stafford also tied with Washington’s Alexander Semin by scoring a league-high four hat tricks – with all four coming in a span of 60 days from December 15 to February 13.

Buffalo’s first pick (13th overall) in the 2004 Entry Draft, Stafford says his on-ice improvement is not only a direct result of what has happened away from the rink, but from getting older as well. 

I thought I maybe had it figured out when I was younger, but I really had a ways to go in my development and the type of player I could be. - Drew Stafford
It really came down to what I could control – my work ethic and my fitness. But it also had to do with the natural maturing process. I finally started to grow up.”

Now in his sixth NHL season, the 25-year-old Stafford (he turns 26 on October 30) was rewarded by the coaching staff last week when he was named as one of Buffalo’s four alternate captains along with Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy

“It was a little bit of surprise. But for me personally it’s definitely an honor. It’s something that I definitely appreciate a lot. I’m very grateful for them recognizing me in that kind of way.

“At the same time, I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to do what I’ve always been doing. On or off the ice, I’m not really a ‘rah rah’ kind of guy. I mainly just try and play and lead that way. It’s not going to change how I prepare or play. We have such a diverse group of guys, it doesn’t matter who’s got a letter because everyone leads in their own way.”

Stafford gained national attention recently when his “Fu-Man Drew” workout went viral on YouTube, and it’s currently at more than 32,000 views. He had become known for his satirical videos and Twitter usage a few years ago, but don’t expect this video to take Stafford away from his current focus. He’d much rather let his play on the ice speak for itself. 

“I just kinda got of sick of Twitter and all that stuff. I don’t have time for that anymore. Besides, I don’t really have much to say anyway.”

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