Winger Tyler Ennis was celebrated as the team’s Most Valuable Player; defenseman Mike Weber was named the team’s Unsung Hero, and winger Nicolas Deslauriers was voted the team’s Rookie of the Year. All three awards were given out based on votes from their teammates.
Although he missed out on the club’s season finale due to a lower-body injury, Weber was still recognized by his teammates for his play on the ice this season.
“When your teammates think that highly of you it’s special,” Weber said. “I’d do anything for any guy in this locker room and while they didn’t need to do that for me, it’s obviously a nice gesture and I love them all for it.”
In 64 games played, Weber tallied 7 points (1+6) and accumulated 68 penalty minutes. However, those statistics don’t nearly begin to reflect the value that Weber offered his team.
Weber consistently proved willing to sacrifice his body on behalf of his teammates. Prior to Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, Weber ranked 12thin the NHL with 168 blocked shots.
“Mike is certainly a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve,” said Sabres head coach Ted Nolan. “He really does play hard all the time, and he’s well deserving of that award.”
In his first full season with the Sabres, Deslauriers was often a bright spot for the club due to his energy on a nightly basis.
Much like Weber, Deslauriers embraced the physical side of the game. Deslauriers added two hits to his season total on Saturday, finishing ninth in the league with 261.
“Hitting is a part of my game that I need to bring every night, and I felt like I could’ve done even more,” Deslauriers said. “It was my first full year here, and I’m just going to try and build on this and improve next year.”
Despite his ranking among the league’s best in hits, the 24-year-old also managed to remain in the lineup for every single game this season. That feat was one that no other Sabres player shared with the young winger. Deslauriers finished the season with 15 points (5+10) and 71 penalty minutes.
For the second consecutive season, Ennis picked up the team’s Most Valuable Player Award. The 25-year-old led the team in scoring with 46 points (20+26), and was lauded throughout the season by his teammates and coaches for his offensive ability, his consistency, and his increased level of confidence.
“It’s awesome,” Ennis said. “We have a great group of guys in here so anytime you can get recognized by your friends, your peers and your teammates it’s a great feeling.”
Although the season proved to be a tough one, the award winners are optimistic about the future, and are already eager to get back on the ice and prepare for next season.
“I’m excited about our young guys. I’m excited about the draft picks we have, and I’m excited about the future,” Ennis said. “It’s not always pretty and you can look at other cities that went through rebuilds, but I’m excited and I’m optimistic about our future. It’s going to be a good year next year.”
In addition to the yearly player awards, the Sabres also used pre-game introductions as an opportunity to honor one of their most enthusiastic supporters.
After accumulating a staggering total of 5,630 points on the Sabres Fan Advantage mobile app, Margherita Sperandeo was recognized as the organization’s “7th Man of the Year.”
“It’s exciting,” Sperandeo said. “It was a little nerve-wracking to be down on the ice, but it was totally exciting.”
The Buffalo-native dates her Sabres fandom all the way back to the minute she was born.
“I have been a fan since I was born,” Sperandeo said. “My parents took me to first game when I was toddler and I’ve loved hockey ever since.”
As Sperandeo grew up, her enthusiasm and eagerness to see live Sabres action grew as well.
“My sophomore year of high school, I saved up my babysitting money and became a 10-pack holder. When I graduated high school I became a 20-pack holder,” Sperandeo said. “Once I graduated college I decided to do a full season, and I’ve been a season ticket holder every since.”
Over the course of her time as a fan, Sperandeo has developed several favorite players. She loved watching players that were tough to play against like Matt Barnaby, Jay McKee, Rob Ray and Brad May. She also loved the skill of Pierre Turgeon, and the dominance of legendary goaltender Dominik Hasek.
Watching Hasek in particular played a prominent role in one of Sperandeo’s favorite memories as a fan.
Although she was due at school the following morning, Sperandeo was in attendance for Dave Hannan’s game-winning goal in the fourth overtime of Game 6 in the first round of the 1993-94 Eastern Conference playoffs.
“My teacher wondered the following morning why I was so tired. But the rule was that if I went to a Sabres game, I had to go to school the next day,” Sperandeo said. “I didn’t get home from the game until three in the morning, but I was still at school by seven.”
Like so many of her fellow fans, Sperandeo hopes that her support results in a championship in the years to come.
“I’d like to see them get to the Stanley Cup and win the Stanley Cup,” Sperandeo said. “And I want to be here and be a season ticket holder when that happens.”