On Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres distributed team awards to three players prior to their season finale against the New York Islanders.
Goaltender Jhonas Enroth
was named Unsung Hero, center Zemgus Girgensons
was celebrated as the Rookie of the Year and center Tyler Ennis
was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player. All three awards were given based on votes from their teammates.
While he has missed the last month of the season with a knee injury, Enroth’s play over the course of the season kept the Sabres in a number of games. The nomination caught the 25-year-old goaltender a bit off guard.
“I think I was a little bit surprised by it, but I appreciate it a lot, especially when it comes from the guys. I’m very proud of that,” Enroth said.
After backing up Ryan Miller for the majority of the season, Enroth became the Sabres’ top goaltender when Miller was traded to St. Louis on Feb. 28. However, Enroth went down with a lower-body injury on March 16 against Montreal and that opened the door for many others to get a chance in net.
Enroth has taken the injury in stride and drew a lot of positives from the past four weeks.
“Yeah, obviously I was disappointed,” he said. “I think I’m kind of glad it happened because I got a chance to step back and get a different kind of view. I think that was good for me and I think it was something I will take with me into next year.”
One of the Sabres’ most surprising young players this season has been Girgensons. All season long, Girgensons provided tons of energy with his physical play while also adding 22 points (8+14) in 70 games.
"It's great. It's awesome to feel that your teammates respect you and make a vote for you, so it was just an amazing feeling," he said.
Girgensons was also served as an alternate captain for the final game of the season. The Sabres clearly have high hopes for the 20-year-old Girgensons, who looks to take his game to another level next season.
"The ‘A’ was just an honor to wear. It doesn't happen to a lot of guys, especially at age 20,” he said. “I was pretty excited to wear it, and I hope I can be a leader next year for this team."
Ennis has been one of the top players that the Sabres have counted on when in need of a goal. Ennis surpassed the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career this season, ending the year with 21 goals to go with 22 assists.
“It’s awesome, it’s so nice that the guys voted for me. Great group of guys, and it’s an honor to be named MVP amongst my peers,” he said. “Thanks to the boys for voting for me, I know it would be nice to be the MVP of a first-place team, but anytime you get an award like that it’s definitely an honor and I’m very thankful for it.”
The Sabres also took the opportunity to recognize their 7th Man of the Year, James Osiadlo. A 42-year season ticket holder, Osiadlo has a number of wonderful memories about the Sabres dating back to the franchise’s early days in the Memorial Auditorium.
“My best memory is getting to watch [Gilbert] Perrault, Reggie Fleming, all the old-timers,” Osiadlo said. “Eddie Shack was The Entertainer. My buddy and I were walking down Terrace Drive and we see this guy in a long red trenchcoat walking. We say, ‘Who could this be?’ It’s Eddie Shack. Punch Imlach told him that he wasn’t gonna be playing, so he left.
“Next thing you know, we’re inside the Aud, we hear ‘Eddie Shack, please report to the locker room.’ I look at my buddy, we both say, ‘He ain’t gonna be reporting.’ But that was one of the better ones. Just being in the old Aud Club, meeting Rob Ray, Brad May, [Matthew] Barnaby … it was good times there.”
Having seen so many players come and go over the course of four-plus decades, Osiadlo said his favorite player from the current Sabres roster is the son of a former Sabres player and captain.
“I would go with Marcus [Foligno], really. Mike Foligno was always my favorite,” he said. “So Foligno and then Hodgson, too."
James’ daughter, Alex, participates in the SABAH program and has gotten the chance to meet many Sabres, including Foligno. Foligno took part in a ceremonial puck drop before the game with Alex. James dropped the puck in what was a special moment for the family.
As the Osiadlos look forward to a 43rd season as Sabres season-ticket holders, James said he is excited about the team’s future and hopes that they can take big strides forward in the offseason.
“More improvement, more improvement. That’s the only way up,” he said. “With Ted Nolan there and things moving forward, everything should be better.”