Lessons of a full NHL season
by Randy Pascal
With his first full NHL season now behind him, and returning home for the summer, Marcus Foligno has time to reflect. Playing in 74 games with a
young, rebuilding Buffalo Sabres' team, Foligno scored just one point more this year than the total of 18 he racked up in just 47 games in the strike-shortened
Life in the pros can provide a rude awakening. "Going into training camp, I was in really good shape, played well, but then got injured in the last
exhibition game," said Foligno, recently attending a SRSA men's soccer game at Queen's Athletic Field with his girlfriend and her family.
"I wasn't able to play in the home opener. We had a tough run. We had a lot of young guys this year, and it was my first full 82 game schedule," he added.
"I learned a lot."
"For a player like me, I feel like I have a lot of tools, and when you play in the NHL, you have to put them all together," explained the youngest of the
two Foligno NHL brothers. "In my first full year in the league, I learned my lesson, that you really have to bring it every night."
Turning just 23 years old later this summer, Foligno understands the apprenticeship at this level is a gradual one. "You learn how to play a full season,
and you learn what they want from you. Whoever is on my line needs me to be a guy who can create space for them," Foligno continued.
"I can still put the puck in the net, I mean there's no better feeling than scoring a goal. But I'm probably not going to be that 50-goal scorer," he
said with a smile. "I need to be a guy who is counted on to get dirty, to stick up for teammates, and at the end of the day, to be a good defensive player
No surprise, given all of the above, that Foligno plans to spend relatively little time on the ice this summer. "It's a long season, and your joints get
a little beat up from skating every day," he noted. "You want to take a step back and let your body heal."
"It's great in the off-season to do maintenance for your body. I've learned that in this league, rest is a weapon." With the trade deadline move to part
ways with goaltender Ryan Miller, Buffalo GM Tim Murray signalled that the rebuilding process, in Buffalo, has begun in earnest.
It's a direction that Foligno both agrees with, and very much hopes to be a part of for quite a while yet. "I think we made a lot of gains this year,"
he said. "I think that Ted Nolan, as coach, is definitely the answer."
"I think we have the pieces in place now that are stable and will help us to rebound," Foligno opined. "But when it comes to building a championship
team, it's having a core of guys that can play up and down the ice."
"We have a core group of guys that are really going to get to know each other. I hope to be part of that. We can push each other and hopefully be a
team, at some point, like L.A., that can get to the Cup."