Reports coming out of Buffalo that Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston are OUT and Pat LaFontaine is being hired as President of Hockey Operations of the Buffalo Sabres.
Oh for everything that is good and holy, please let this be true.
Reports coming out of Buffalo that Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston are OUT and Pat LaFontaine is being hired as President of Hockey Operations of the Buffalo Sabres.
Oh for everything that is good and holy, please let this be true.
Vanek*, Hodgson, Ott, Foligno. At this point, these are the only players I really care about being on the Sabres roster after this season.
Thomas Vanek gets an asterisk because, given his current trade value, he could probably command a first round pick, a top prospect, and a roster player from a top Cup contender at this year's trade deadline. So while I'd love to build around Vanek over the next five years, it would probably be stupid not to trade him now, especially when you have to believe he'll be leaving as a UFA after next season.
If Darcy Regier has already offered Vanek an extension based on this year's performance and he's turned it down, Regier in no uncertain terms should trade him at the deadline. Therefore, given the fact that Vanek hasn't signed an extension, I would think it logical to conclude that either a) Regier hasn't offered one (which is grounds for dismissal), or b) Vanek has refused it (which is grounds for a trade).
So here's the real deal: If I'm GM of the Sabres and Thomas Vanek is no longer on my team, I'm almost by definition in full rebuild mode. Therefore, considering Regier told The Buffalo News just last week that he's "not in a blow-it-up mind-set," I think this is all you need to know to realize he really has to be the next guy out the door. As in, prior to free agency.
I don't arrive at this conclusion lightly. Click on the "Darcy Regier" category on the right sidebar, and you'll find that I've been plenty conciliatory towards the GM over the past year or so. Critical? Of course. But because, for example, it's largely pointless to complain about a GM's inability to retain players who decide to leave via free agency, it's instead better to judge him by the acquisitions he makes.
Remember, in one calendar year Regier added Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino, Robyn Regehr, and Cody Hodgson. In hindsight it might be easy to find fault with at least some of these moves, but it would be disingenuous to argue that they didn't look attractive at the time. He followed this by unloading everybody's favorite whipping boy, Derek Roy, in order to acquire Steve Ott. Considering Ott is one of the only players on the entire team willing to lay it on the line every game, g'head and argue that this was a bad move.
So like any other GM in the history of sports, Darcy Regier has made bad moves and good moves. Over the years my biggest critique of his has always been his absolute loyalty to Lindy Ruff. I believe this unwillingness even to consider making a coaching change no matter what flies in the face of what it takes to be a GM in the first place. I think it prevented him from recognizing his team's generally soft play and what at least seemed to be the players' propensity to tune out its coach for extended stretches over multiple seasons.
Indeed, I thought Regier and Lindy Ruff both should've been fired five years ago, but because it became clear that this just wasn't going to happen, I guess I just began to accept reality and make the best of the situation. Still, while Regier obviously took responsibility for firing Ruff last month, I highly doubt this decision was made in isolation. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if ownership initiated the decision and gave Regier his marching orders.
And herein lies the rub. Despite Regier's efforts the past couple seasons to put together a talented roster -- it's hard to argue this team shouldn't be performing much better than it is -- the Buffalo Sabres organization has been exposed as hopelessly reactive, one lacking a vision of what it takes to be a winner. This became plainly evident in the release of Lindy Ruff, who was in no uncertain terms fired by the fans, not by a proactive management group.
In short, if leadership truly believed Ruff had overstayed his welcome, he would've been fired well before the team finally feared that fans would stop showing up for games. (Alternatively, if Pegula and Co. actually believed Ruff was their guy, the right move would've been to retain him and attempt to improve in other areas.)
If the Sabres former coach had been almost anyone other than Lindy Ruff, this little sop to the fans probably would've passed without much fanfare. But when you're talking about a guy who coached the team for 16 years, you're left wondering why the ownership team, now in its third season with the club, retained him as long as it did if it didn't believe he was the best man for the job.
I reiterate, I was not disappointed in the least that the Sabres organization decided to make a coaching change. Sometimes the best coaches lose their teams, and it appeared this was the case in Buffalo. However, this move looked less like a team reluctantly doing what it had to do and more like a flailing organization making a desperate attempt to do something -- anything -- to effect positive change.
But reality eventually catches up to you. And it appears that the reality in the Sabres front office is that, despite the lofty rhetoric about bringing Stanley Cups to Buffalo, management doesn't have a very effective game plan for winning.
Right now it almost seems that the Sabres are not just failing to make the right decisions, but they're doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
You can't blame a professional sports franchise for playing its best players, even sometimes to a fault, when it becomes clear that wins are less important than seeing what your team's made of. But that doesn't necessarily mean the team's making the right decision. We saw this very thing begin to unfold last week when Mikhail Grigorenko was sent back to his junior squad and T.J. Brennan was given away for almost nothing (a fifth round pick).
(Pretty soon you're going to tell me the Sabres are going to hang onto Ryan Miller for another year and let him leave for nothing after throwing Pat Kaleta under the bus!)
The Sabres are finished for the year, if for no other reason than the fact that teams are playing only within their conference this season -- meaning that everyone above them in the standings (everyone but Florida at the moment) is going to continue to get points every night. So why not give Grigorenko the chance to play with the best forwards on the team and see what he can do in that role? Despite what Regier's trying to sell, he's not going to learn anything new in juniors.
Regier's rationale for trading Brennan was that he would be claimed off waivers, as evidenced by Florida's willingness to spend a pick for him. Fair enough, but as Bucky Gleason wrote the other day, he's only 23 -- though he played fairly poorly, he's very young for a defenseman and they often need a few years to develop, so he should've at least been playing out the remainder of this failed campaign so the Sabres really got the look at him both sides deserved.
On the other hand, I'm not the GM. If Regier isn't planning to re-sign Brennan next season, then you get what you can get for him now instead of getting nothing down the road. Just seems this kid has enough potential in his shot and skating ability that he could've at least been packaged as part of some bigger trades.
Which leads to my biggest concern. If things just aren't working as currently constructed, why even give Darcy the authority to make decisions on whether to rebuild or not as we run up to free agency? Why let him determine whether to trade Miller, Vanek, and/or Pominville in the first place? Why not just clean house, for better or worse, and start the heck over? After all, you can't get much worse than 29th.
Assuming the likelihood of Regier's departure prior to the trade deadline exceedingly slim, I think we can reliably judge Regier's competence by analyzing the rather simple Thomas Vanek Effect: If Vanek either does not sign an extension or depart via trade by the 2013 NHL free agent deadline, Darcy Regier should be fired immediately.
This would be one of those situations where the "management team" needs to know the deal in advance. Because if Darcy doesn't understand this very simple concept, he is the last person you need manning the phones on deadline day.
File this under "Most Ridiculous Goal Ever", or maybe "Hurculean Effort". Either way, Cody Hodgson's second goal last night must have Vancouver fans crying in their coffee this morning, and should have every other Sabre not named Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, or Ryan Miller reevaluating their level of effort.
Feast your eyes on this gem. Hodgson literally beats all six Hurricanes on the ice for one of the sickest goals I've ever seen!
So Pat Kaleta got five games for this hit on Brad Richards of the New York Rangers last night.
I have no issue with the penalty called in the game (a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for Boarding), or with the suspension handed down by the league. While Kaleta has made great strides to change both his image and the way he plays the game, this was a dangerous play and was dealt with appropriately.
My frustration lies more with the way the NHL arbitrarily metes out its punishments. It started with Colin Campbell, who had an awful track record with the way he handed down punishments.
Take the hit by Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty in 2011.
One could argue that this play was signifiantly more dangerous than Kaleta's check on Richards last night, yet Campbell decided that this hit warranted no additional discipline. You'll never convince this blogger that Chara didn't know exactly where he was on the ice and that there was no intent to injure. You'll also never convince me that Campbell wasn't influenced in his decision by the fact that his son played for the Bruins at the time of this hit.
When Brendan Shanahan took over, I thought things would improve and, for a brief period, they seemed to. But it wasn't long before we were back to the same old same old.
Exhibit B: Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller.
This time, it was Shanahan who decided that no discipline was warranted. Coincidence that it happened to be the Bruins again? I don't know.
What I do know is, even though these are just two examples, there are many more that all combine to suggest that the league seems to pick and choose how it applies its rules. While I understand that it must be difficult to review and decide on some of the borderline plays, the two examples shown above seem abundently obvious. And, to many of us, the way the disciplinary rules are applied seems random and arbitrary.
The one thing I'll give Shanahan credit for is at least he publishes a video record of each play that is reviewed, along with his explanation of why he made his decision, so, at least he owns it. But that doesn't make it easier to swallow when fans are trying to understand why some players get punished and others don't.
Well, as you all know, the deed has been done. For the first time in 16 years the Buffalo Sabres have played a game under a coach not named Lindy Ruff. (Well, except for that time Jordan Leopold tried to kill Lindy and James Patrick coached a couple.)
To put this in perspective, I've been through six jobs, three houses, two states, two dogs, the birth of two children, and all but one year of my married life, all during Lindy Ruff's tenure as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.
It's no secret that I'm a Lindy Ruff fan. If you read my posts on this blog, you already know that. The guy has spent almost his entire professional life in the City of Buffalo, first as a player and then as a head coach. The guy bleeds blue and gold. He IS Buffalo. You can say what you want about his system, that it stifles talent, whatever. I think he's a good coach with a long career still left in front of him. He led the Sabres to a President's trophy. He took them to their only Stanley Cup appearance in my lifetime. (Technically, I was alive for the Flyers Cup in '75, but I was four, so I wasn't really paying attention.)
It's also no secret that, by the mid-point of last year, I had finally conceded that Lindy had. in hockey terms, lost the room. I went long stretches last year where I believed that the team had a talent problem, not a coaching problem. But then I watched them go out and put that brilliant run together and I realized that, hey, these guys CAN play hockey when properly motivated. And what's a coach's job? To motivate players through a very long season. So... even I, superfan of Lindy Ruff, could only be led to one conclusion... the players simply weren't playing for him anymore. It was clear that Lindy needed a change of scenery. At the time, I said I'd still be sorry to see him go.
And I am.
I had a brief flicker of hope after the first game of this season. But the fact is, the team looks no different now than it did for most of last year. They show flashes of brilliance but then they give away the puck in their own zone, or they stand by and watch as an opponent skates past 1, 2, 3 of them to fire point blank on Miller, or they do any other of a myriad of things that make me clinically insane on a nightly basis.
And so, I freely admit that this move had to happen. Yet, like many, I was stunned when I heard the news. Even though I myself had been calling for it for a year, I never thought Lindy would actually be fired. Part of me probably still didn't even want him to be. We all know how loyal Darcy Regier is to Lindy and, when I heard the news, the first image that popped in to my head was Ted Black literally holding a gun to Darcy's head as Darcy fired Lindy.
So with all of that on my mind, I couldn't help but get a little misty as I listened to Lindy's final press conference. I was also moved by the following story that Thomas Vanek related in Paul Hamilton's article yesterday on WGR's website. What makes it so poignant is Lindy was famous for riding Vanek especially hard.
Vanek had a final emotional moment with Ruff before he left. Vanek said, “It was very difficult. I went in to shake his hand and he gave me a hug and said, ‘Keep going, you’re doing well’ and I just told him ‘Sorry I couldn’t do more’.”
But, back to the press conference, the guy proved he is a class act, even on his way out the door. I wish more than anything that he could have brought the cup to Buffalo and left a hero rather than a scapegoat for a struggling team.
I am hopeful that a new voice and some fresh ideas will get this team turned around. I'm also hopeful that more player changes are coming. My jury is still out on Darcy Regier. I think he's a really shrewd businessman who makes killer deals. But I also wonder sometimes about his ability to judge talent. I mean, he did let Danny Briere walk away because he thought Chris Drury was better. And he did build the current defense, which is a complete trainwreck. And he has kept Jochen Hecht and Andrej Sekera for entirely too long. But that's a post for another time.
So, here's to a new era of Sabres hockey. And thank you Lindy, for everything. I know you still have many successes ahead of you.
Well I guess this is as good a day as any to start blogging again. I told myself (sorry for not sharing it with the four of you that read this) that I wouldn't spend the energy on this blog until the Sabres turned things around. And technically they have yet to.
But the firing of Lindy Ruff is good enough for me at this point. If you've read anything on this blog throughout the last year and a half you know we all think it's been long overdue.
We'll never actually know what really went wrong and why this team refused to show up on a nightly -- or even a shift to shift -- basis; why promising young athletes shriveled like raisins; or even more so, who actually pulled the trigger in the end: Regier or Ted Black? As much as I'd like to know these mysteries, ultimately they've become moot today.
I'm just ready for that fresh breath of air I've oh so longed for. I'm ready to be excited again. Hell, I'm just ready to finally stop cheering unfavorably toward my own team.
We'll find out soon enough whether or not Ron Rolston is the answer. I wouldn't spend all my chips in confidence. But I will vote yes to "it can't be any worse than it has been." Like Arby's once said, "change is good." Similar to the sports world where it isn't just good, it's necessary.
But as a diehard Sabres fan, I never thought this day would come. Especially so soon -- as funny as that sounds. But Lindy was there since my freshman year of high school. I'm now thirty. I can't get over how excited I am to see someone else swing the bat.
From a grown man's standpoint though, I feel somewhat bad in the end -- especially when you hear what good of a guy he is. You don't want to see anyone lose a job. I know personally what it feels like to be the one delivering the bad news. And it isn't fun firing anyone, but it's usually for the better.
So even if they keep up with the losing and miss the playoffs this year, I'm more than fine with this decision. I would've liked to see them be a little more proactive in their decision making, but in all, hope is restored -- for now. And I can at least rest easy knowing the sinners can finally lace up their skates south of [hockey] heaven tonight.
For the first time in ages, I just shut off a Sabres game well before it was over. Well, not really, it was over shortly into the 3rd when the Habs scored their 4th goal, which is when I turned it off.
I'm tired of being an eternal optimist. I'm tired of caring. The Sabres could come back and win this game 13-4. I honestly don't care. The power play is awful. The defense is a complete and utter joke. There is no secondary scoring. And there are no consequences for any of it. Tyler Myers continues to cost this team dearly on a nightly basis. Lindy Ruff refuses to bench Myers. GM Darcy Regier refuses to fire Lindy. Ted Black refuses to fire GMDR. And I refuse to care anymore.
I'm embarrassed that I took the first game of the season as such a positive sign. Duped again.
I'll continue to watch when I can and if there's nothing better on TV, but unless something drastically changes, I'm not going to spend the energy on actually caring. I've got a list of other stuff to worry about that seems to grow larger by the day. Buffalo sports teams are no longer on that list until the teams themselves start caring again.
We tried to believe this year would be different. We really did.
I can't argue that it was a bad idea for Darcy Regier to add grit to the Sabres lineup in the form of Steve Ott and John Scott. I mean, who wouldn't take Steve Ott?
I wrote just the other day that Regier should try to trade Tyler Myers for Ryan Getzlaf. I'm officially backing off that position. I don't want Getzlaf on this team.
Because Getzlaf isn't a great player? No.
Because Regier could trade for Evgeni Malkin and after a month we'd be complaining about how shitty Evgeni Malkin is.
Buffalo doesn't have bad players. Hell, they have a lot of really good players and one from Austria who's playing out of his friggin' mind to no avail.
For the umpteenth year in a row, we've eagerly anticipated the start of a season with a roster that could've been a helluva lot worse, only to watch the team show all sorts of signs that they have no interest in playing for their coach.
Rinse. Fucking. Repeat.
I don't think Regier is a bad GM. I don't think Lindy Ruff necessarily is a bad coach, either. And if they weren't best men in each other's goddammed weddings, I think things would've turned around by now.
But they're best friends, and because Regier has made it clear he won't fire Ruff, and because Regier was just handed a contract extension, we are shackled with this duo for who knows how many more years. That is, shit ain't gonna change any time soon.
So it's pointless to bitch about this team any longer. I have resolved to enjoy this train wreck until Sabres ownership realizes what a legion of fans already knows.
Last year ownership could hide conveniently behind the injury excuse, so when the Sabres rattle off another six losses in seven games, I simply hope they do it while relatively healthy. I honestly think a 15 game losing streak with a starting lineup is the only thing that even has a chance to get through to Terry Pegula and Ted Black.
I realize that finding the right GM/coach combo isn't as easy for a hockey club to do as it might seem to the average fan. After all, Brian Burke worked wonders for Toronto, right? But in the time that GMDR has held onto Ruff, he's also allowed guys like John Tortorella and Kevin Dineen to hone their skills in the organization and leave for greener pastures.
I've finally come to the realization that I want to see the Sabres either win every game or lose every game. All this in between where we pine for them to show up and at least pretend to give a shit and maybe make a run at the end of the year to sneak into the playoffs comes up short for me now. I have a two-year-old; I don't have the energy to give a crap about this team any longer if it insists that delusion is the key to success.
So I was going to come up with a list of players that I would either trade or cut immediately. But then I realized the list would be a lot shorter if I just named the ones I'd keep. This, of course, is only relevant to any discussion about organizational success if Ruff is fired, so bear in mind this is merely an exercise in futility.
But here we go:
There are several players who I'd like to see stick around (and let's face it, probably will), like Tyler Ennis and Christian Ehrhoff. And I put a couple on the list to keep that I could probably part with but who are there because they're important to the success of others (Pominville because of his chemistry with Vanek) or because of their potential (Grigorenko, especially with Joel Armia coming to town next year).
But then there's just the dead weight like Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers, and Ville Leino (who wins the award for Best Contract Signing Ever) and the otherwise irrelevant, like Ryan "The Kneeler" Miller, Nathan Gerbe, Cody McCormick, and Andrej Sekera.
As I said at the outset, all of these players are good, even for the NHL. But they're either not the right fit for this team as it's built or they've already just mailed it in.
Tyler Ennis checked a guy in the closing minutes of the Panthers game, so you know these guys can hit if they want to. Even though I have the Center Ice package, I admit I haven't studied every other team closely enough to see if there are any other defensemen in the league who flat-out refuse to hit guys behind the net five-on-five. But I'd be surprised if there were. I mean, it's like Ruff has a rule against it.
There are flashes of brilliance with this Sabres team, but overall they can best be described as a team that doesn't put in the effort until it's too late. In my experience this is the result of coaching.
Ruff said he wouldn't be able to bench Myers or even limit his ice time once he found out Sekera was out for the Panthers game. Bullshit. He has Brayden McNabb rotting in the AHL while Myers's candy ass flits around the ice turning the puck over like it's a Russian hooker.
Here's what you do: You scratch Myers, call up McNabb to give him a well-earned shot, and trade a motherfucker to make room for him on the roster if you're too afraid he'd get nabbed off waivers (which he would) when you sent him back.
That's how you run a team. Instead, Ruff and Regier are like two parents who give their kids everything, then go to work and complain to their friends that their spoiled brats act like assholes who take them for granted and refuse to work for anything.
There's a reason they say it's a lot easier to fire a coach than to replace an entire roster. It's because it is. And in a watered down league like the NHL, success and failure is almost single-handedly more the result of coaching than it is the players on the ice.
Memo to Ted Black: Start there and work your way out.
I've been meaning to plug my buddy Kevin's new blog for our reader for the past couple weeks.
That wasn't a typo. I think we have one reader.
Kevin used to host my favorite sports blog but now has a gig at Trending Buffalo, where he reports on the reporters at Buffalo Sports Media Watch.
In case you're unaware -- yes, dear reader, I'm talking to you -- The Buffalo News online edition now charges for article views.
Internet porn is FREE, but the dinosaurs at TBN think it's a good idea to charge readers to click around their average-at-best website.
The best part is that if you have any IT savvy at all, you know you can just clear the cache of cookies from your browser and TBN renews your free trial of a handful of page views. So because you can do this every time the site prompts you to pay to continue reading, all their new policy really does is piss people off.
Newsroom dinosaurs like to blame blogs and bloggers for the downfall of newspapers, but they're missing the point. They really need to blame bloggers for exposing their irrelevance.
Somehow I doubt they'll ever acknowledge that. But I'd be interested in getting Kevin's take on all this. Welcome back, my friend!
I forgot what it was like to have the Sabres being talked about for positive reasons instead of negative. Check out the front page of NHL.com this morning.
Once that sinks in, check out the League Leaders page, where you'll find that, after last night, Vanek leads the league in points with 15. FIFTEEN POINTS IN SIX GAMES PLAYED! That's just stupid.
As a matter of fact, this is the first time I can remember in a long time where two Sabres (Vanek and Pominville) were in the top five points getters outside of EA Sports NHL on my XBox. The tandem are #1 and #4 respectively in Points, #2 and #3 in Goals, and Vanek is #2 in Assists. That's a pretty powerful line when you've got two players in the top five in so many categories.
Truth be told, I'd trade the red hot start of the top line for some secondary scoring and a couple more points in the Win column, but hey, it's nice to see the Sabres getting attention for the right reasons for a change.
Enjoy it Sabres fans. It's been a while.
Well, here we are again, shades of last season, with the Sabres on a skid and needing a win against a very tough Boston team. I'm pulling out the stops and wearing my Stafford sweater for this game. This means two things... 1) Stafford will get his first goal tonight and 2) He will be traded because I own his jersey.
By the way... my debut post this season about swagger? Yeah... that was a one time thing apparently.
Well, off we go.
Update: 17:07 1st - Scott and Thornton drop the gloves immediately off the faceoff. Scott lands several solid punches before Thornton loses an edge and falls. Wishing that fight would have gone the distance. I'm sure there will be more!
Update: 11:30 1st - Boston has had a couple solid chances. Now they head to the PP on a slash by Leopold.
Update: 8:22 1st - I'm surprised by the number of bad passes by Boston. They're spending a lot of time chasing the puck down. They don't look like a 5-0-1 team in this period. They are creating some good opportunities though. Sabres are going to be in trouble if they don't slow them down.
Update: 6:21 1st - You haven't lived until you've heard Rush's Subdivisions performed on the pipe organ.
Update: 5:18 1st - Pominville has excellent chance. Solid save by Rask who makes another solid save on Scott 30 seconds later.
Update: 4:20 1st - Boston gets another PP on elbow by Scott.
Update: 1st Intermission
Not a bad period by the Sabres. They've done a decent job of holding Boston at bay. Some moments where things got chippy, but nothing out of control. Killing off two power plays didn't help their cause, but at least they killed them. Miller has played well and has made some big saves. So has Rask. The Sabres need to generate some better chances in the 2nd, but overall, I have no complaints so far.
Rob Ray, regarding Rask: "They gotta get banging this guy!" oooooooohkaaaaaaaay.
One more update - Thornton left after the fight with Scott and will not return. :( Sniffle.
Update: 18:22 2nd - Vanek with a strong goal off pass from Cody Hodgson! 1-0 Good Guys.
Update: 16:08 2nd - This is what I'm talking about! Sabres generating a lot of offense and good chances early in this period.
Update: 14:46 2nd - Poor defensive play leads to Boston goal by Peverly.
Update: 14:27 2nd - Pretty good scrum in front of the Buffalo net leads to Buffalo PP.
Update: 12:58 2nd - GREAT PP chance for Sabres.
Update: 12:17 2nd - Boston Goal: Marchand. 2-1 Bruins. More awful defense as Marchand skates around not one, but two Sabres to score that goal.
Update: 9:06 2nd - Buffalo's defense is a COMPLETE JOKE in the 2nd. Marchand scores again. 3-1 Bruins.
Update: 4:31 2nd - Lucic levels Sulzer from behind. Maybe now John Scott will kill him.
Update: Upon replay, the hit from behind wasn't as bad as it looked at the time. Buffalo ends up with a 5-on-3 on which they won't score.
Update: 3:13 2nd - REVERSE JINX IN THE HOUSE! Vanek scores on the PP. 3-2 Boston. Still 1 minute of 5-on-4.
Update: 1:41 2nd - Exceptionally strong play to keep the puck in the offensive zone leads to a great goal by Tyler Ennis off a fantastic pass from Vanek. Vanek racking up another big points night. 3-3 game.
Update: 2nd Intermission
Well THAT was interesting. The Sabres defense got manhandled in the 2nd period, giving up three goals, all of which would have been prevented by a competent college defensive pairing. But the Sabres came storming back, scoring a PP goal and then playing the strongest hockey I've seen from them in a long time to keep the puck in play in Boston's end, leading to Ennis' goal shortly after returning to even strength. If they can continue to play the way they played that shift, they will win this game. Frankly, I'm impressed that they rallied. Last year they would have tucked tail. You can see these guys trying to fight through it this year. They are trying to right the ship and I dig it.
Miller is still playing strong. None of the three goals so far were his fault. If I'm Lindy, I'm playing eeny-meeny-miney-moe with my defensemen during intermission to decide which ones are scratched and which ones are sent down to the Amerks. Other notables so far: Foligno, Vanek, Ennis, Ott, and Stafford all had a solid period.
Update: 18:20 3rd - Tyler Myers' suckiness leads to 4th Boston goal.
Update: 17:33 3rd - Jesus Christ! I can't type this fast. Sulzer scores from the top of the circle to tie it up again. Heads up pass by Grigorenko. 4-4 game.
Update: 13:06 3rd - Vanek to Hodgson on a one-timer goal. 5-4 Good Guys! Lateral movement is not Rask's friend.
By the way, if you're keeping score at home, TV has 4 points.
Update: 10:03 3rd - Sabres defense continues to play poorly, tripping over each other, generally looking confused.
Update: 8:59 3rd - FANTASTIC save by Miller. Boston getting literally a dozen chances in a row. Miller puts on clinic, keeps Sabres in the game.
Update: 8:35 3rd - Myers continues to hurt the team by taking a 4 minute double minor for treating Daniel Paille's face like a pinata. Myers needs to sit.
Update: 8:04 3rd - Sabres catch a break as Foligno gets hauled down, cutting Boston's man advantage in half.
Update: 5:56 3rd - Miller is playing off the chain tonight. HUGE save on Bergeron.
Update: 3:55 3rd - Two GREAT chances by Ennis. Fans on both.
Update: 1:31 3rd - I was going to say Miller should get the first star... until Vanek scored that goal. Holy cow! Another 5 point night, and he made Rask look foolish on that one. Fantastic!! 6-4.
Update: :13.6 3rd - Pommers scores on a breakaway empty netter to ice the game.
Update: End of Game
It wasn't pretty, but great job stealing a much needed road win in Boston. Miller was ridiculous tonight. So was Thomas Vanek. They should share the first star as far as I'm concerned. The defense as a whole was abyssmal. Tyler Myers needs to be benched. I don't know what's wrong with him but tonight was his worst performance as a Sabre, and that's saying a lot after the first 6 games he's had.
Vanek continues to play like a premier forward. His pass to Ennis was pure above-and-beyond effort and his final goal made a mockery of Rask. He carried the team tonight. It's great to see, but he's famous for disappearing for long stretches, and no one can maintain the point streak he's on right now. At this rate he's on pace to match the huge point totals of Mogilny and LaFontaine back in the day. But it would be nice if he can keep playing at this level.
What impressed me most was that the team never quit. They had a rough patch in the 2nd, but they fought back and made it right. For Mille and for the offense, it's gotta be tough watching your defense play so poorly as you continue to bust your ass to stay in the game, but there's a noticable difference between this team and the team last year. I hope it continues.
On a down note, my jersey brought no luck to Stafford, although I thought he played a solid game.
That's it, I'm out. Good night.
After starting the season 2-0, in large part due to finding themselves the beneficiary of some calls that usually tend to go against them, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves at 2-3 after five games.
I'm digging a season where every game matters, by the way.
By no means are the Sabres in panic mode after dropping three straight. But given this abbreviated campaign, wins and losses at least seem to carry more weight than usual -- even though I keep telling myself it's still all relative.
That said, this type of situation certainly makes me feel like I'm much more justified when overreacting to what's going on on the ice. So maybe you think I'm crazy when I suggest that the Sabres trade Tyler Myers as soon as possible.
There are three main reasons I say this: 1) The Sabres are in need of an elite center, 2) they desperately need more offensensive weapons than merely Thomas Vanek, and 3) Tyler Myers apparently is a 6-8 pussy.
Despite adding some much-needed grit to the lineup with the additions of Steve Ott, John Scott, and Marcus Foligno, I'm still convinced the Sabres are two bold moves away from being taken seriously. Assuming one of these bold moves isn't going to be a change behind the bench, the next best thing is to go after Ryan Getzlaf (which I wrote about last season and would link to right now if I weren't using a work computer with a Windows 1927 browser).
It seemed to be conventional wisdom last year that a trade for Getzlaf started and ended with Tyler Myers. Assuming this were even possible this year, I doubt Darcy Regier would move him (which is another issue unto itself, but I digress), but I think you at least offer him up.
Maybe this is what you should expect from a 22-year-old who throws a $10 million signing bonus in the bank, but if all you're going to get out of a 6-8 defenseman is a guy who can skate the puck out of the zone (when he's not putting the puck right on an opponent's tape), well, we've already got four other ones who can do that.
Put simply, if you're not going to use a 6-8 frame to bruise the opposition, you're not worth very much (and certainly not $5 million a year). Now that Grigorenko is up for the year, I can't off the top of my head think of any center in the league who'd be better than Getzlaf at showing the new kid the ropes on the job. To say nothing about the instant firepower you'd add to both regular shifts and the power play. And Getzlaf's also 6-4.
I'm not arguing the Myers can't or won't improve. After all, you'd have to count on the Ducks valuing him as highly as they value Getzlaf (maybe even a little less given that Getzlaf's in a contract year). This move would be risky because Getzlaf is a free agent at the end of the season, but I'd think Regier would be able to offer him several million good reasons to stick around in Buffalo, especially with Myers's salary off the books.
I was happy to read today that Robyn Regehr and Alex Sulzer are going to be scratched in favor of Mike Weber and T.J. Brennan tonight. It shows that perhaps nothing is set in stone on the back end. But with eight NHL defenseman on the roster, you have to think there are some moves in the works.
Brennan, especially, needs to be playing every night now that he appears to have proven he's ready for a full time gig in the bigs. He can't be sent to Rochester because he'd almost certainly be claimed immediately. And if his AHL fight two weeks ago against Syracuse Crunch winger Richard Panik is any indication (Panik gave rookie Zemgus Girgensons a concussion with a cheap hit), he's already proven he's tougher than Myers too.
The biggest disappointment for me so far this year is the absence of Brayden McNabb, who last year looked like he was poised to give this team a much-needed physical upgrade on defense for years to come. At 6-4 himself and now a 2013 AHL all-star, he belongs with the parent club as well.
The Buffalo Sabres are stacked at D. It's time to utilize Myers's greatest asset -- his trade value -- to simultaneously add some more size and spark down the middle while making room for defensemen who are willing to clear the front of the net and make their opponents pay the price in the corners.
WGR has posted the following poll question on their website today:
"How much more time should Lindy give the Stafford-Ennis-Foligno line before considering a change?"
Seriously?? We're seriously having this discussion three games into the season? Just because a line isn't scoring doesn't mean it isn't playing solid hockey. I'm at somewhat of a disadvantage because I only caught the last 13 minutes of last night's game, but what I saw of this line in the first two games didn't warrant breaking them up. So they haven't scored 14-bazillion points in 3 games like they did during their run at the end of last year. They also had an extended off-season without the benefit of a full training camp and preseason to get their game legs back.
Holy cow, people, give them a chance!
So, let's recap. When last we saw our heroes, the season had just ended with most Sabres fans hating the team, hating the coach, hating the GM, hating the president, and the love affair with shiny new owner T-Pegs in serious jeopardy. For a very large part of the season, Ryan Miller played awfully poor hockey, as did the team in front of him. Lazy and sloppy were the watchwords of the season. The team showed very little passion.
Then, somewhere in late January or early February, when it was almost too late, something happened. I envision it being a lot like the scene in Christmas Vacation where Beverly D'Angelo goes into the garage, flips on a light switch hidden behind the freezer on a whim, and blinds the entire neighborhood with the brilliance of Chevy Chase's Christmas lighting display. The Sabres, in much the same way, fumbled around in the dark before flipping a switch that blinded the NHL with their brilliance. Suddenly, down was up, left was right, darkness was blinding light, and the Sabres put together a stretch that got them to within a couple points of the playoffs after being dead last in the Eastern Conference.
Although out of the playoffs, fans were left with some slight optimism that some changes would be made and the team would come back to pick up where they left off. Then a couple of key aquisitions were made, John Scott and Steve Ott being the biggest. And somewhere along the way, Darcy drafted well. And there was hope. And then came the lockout.
I'm not going to get into my thoughts on the lockout, or how it's absurd for players to think a business can stay viable when putting 57% of its revenue to labor. Suffice to say I was squarely with the owners this time. What I will say is the lockout left me bummed out about the lack of a season. It left me not really caring much about the players or what was happening, or if there would even be a season. At the very least we should have all been blogging once the lockout ended but, as recently as this morning, I was feeling very ambivalent towards the whole thing.
Then I watched the season opener.
I've been a fan of Buffalo sports teams long enough to know not to get my hopes up this early in a season. Things can, and often do, go horribly awry with our teams. But I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised today. With only a few changes, this appears to be a completely different team from last year's train wreck. It's obvious that the Sabres finally got tired of being the laughingstock of the NHL. If the Sabres are looking to change their image, they went a long way towards doing so today. Which brings me to the topic of this post... swagger!
This team had swagger today! Not the swagger of the new kid at school who acts tough but is terrified on the inside that everyone will find out he watches Glee and drinks chai tea. They had the attitude of a team that has strength behind it, and that strength came from Steve Ott. I'll admit, I only knew a little about Ott when the Sabres traded for him, and most of it was from Googling his highlight reels. After today's performance, I'd say he's going to be a nice addition to the team. He made the entire team tougher just by his presence. Marcus Foligno, no prima donna himself, played like a beast in the presence of Ott. And Drew Stafford throwing down with Hartnell doesn't happen without Ott and Scott on the roster this year to watch his back.
I said last season that I don't care about losing games if the team is giving 100%. While sloppy at times, this team let it all hang out. And I loved every minute of it. A perfect example was Cody Hodgson's goal in the 3rd period. Vanek skates in, shoots, and Hodgson comes screaming in from the parking lot to jam home the rebound. Another example is that not once but twice, Sabres players hustled to beat out icing calls and keep plays going. There isn't a single player on the team who would have put that kind of effort in last season.
And while I'm on the topic of Vanek, five points in one game? Craziness! Congratulations to him on a huge day.
Again, I'm going to be cautiously optimistic because I'm tired of getting my hopes up only to see them dashed, but today was a great start. As I said in this post a year ago, almost to the day, the Sabres needed a heart transplant to turn things around. I'd say they got it with Steve Ott, along with a healthy dose of swagger.
Ahhhh... 95 degree weather, shorts and flip flops. Yep, it's the perfect time to start talking hockey again on Swordplay. I guess we can officially call this "Day 1" of the new blog year.
I must admit, Regier has been impressive: He's drafted (what appears to be) well; he's brought much-needed toughness to an incredibly once tough-less team; and he's already foreshadowed the possibility of using his many assets to score that "big name" superstar (hopefully a true #1 center). Albeit subtle, I honestly didn't think that this off-season was going to turn out this exciting at all, let alone this quickly.
But amid all my excitement I still find myself overwhelmingly bummed out. And if you're one of the eleven readers of this blog, I know you probably think I'm gonna start taking shots at Ruff and Miller. Not the case, homeboys and girls.
Now, I don't want to get all "Bucky Gleason" on you right away, but I'm really disheartened over the amount of ignorance that bleeds through the veins of Sabre Nation. And I'm not just talking about many of the fans, but the likes of both Buffalo hockey media -- state-run and non-state-run.
First, you have Kevin Sylvester (I honestly don't know if I really need to expand on that topic, but I will, I will). I think we can all agree that he was the worst play-by-play man in the history of sports. Duh, the Sabres obviously knew that too. But they're nice guys up there in Buffalo, so they took the only broadcaster worse than Phil Simms and Joe Beninati and gave him his very own morning show. Q: Harmless, right? A: Holy shit, no! I'm definitely on the fence, but I'm pretty sure that he's even more horrifying as an analyst.
He just lacks the ability to give any real insight when it comes to anything Sabres or hockey in general. For one, he operates under the cloud of Terry Pegula, so even if he did have anything slightly detrimental to say about the team, he couldn't (which ultimately renders the show irrelevant). But even more so, he's barely educated enough about the players on his own favorite team, what do you really think he knows about anyone else in the league?
It just seems that he hears something or reads something and then, BAM!, it's all of the sudden the topic of discussion for the next two hours. It's extremely tiring to me. First it was Bobby Ryan Day (he's so last season); then it was Shane Doan Day (great, another winger); then it was Rick Nash Day (the prize of the league, yet another winger). Wednesday was Brenden Morrow Day (another winger yet again, but anyway). I read Tuesday night on nhl.com that St. Louis was inquiring about Morrow. Ok, I took it all in. Found it kind of interesting. But then thought to myself: Would ol' Kev have mentioned his name had he not read that article yesterday? I don't know for sure, but I'd put most of my chips on probably not.
And I won't even get into how much the show reminds me of an episode Beavis and Butt-head when Sylvester welcomes Andrew Peters on as his sidekick.
But for reals, I've wasted far too much of my fingertip breath on him already, so let's move on to Howard Simon.
Now, I don't want any of you to be confused over what I'm trying to say here. A comparison cannot be made in any way, shape, or form between Simon and Sylvester. Howard Simon is a true professional radio host. Loud and most of the time funny, he puts the "personality" in radio personality, while Kevin Sylvester is just the luckiest guy on the planet (a guy blessed with more "right place at the right time" shit than I would have in 30 lifetimes).
But regardless, Simon's POV is still off-base. It was only ten days ago that he said something along the lines of "Vanek AND McNabb for Bobby Ryan." Seriously? It's apparent that he hasn't been watching the same Buffalo hockey that I have been for the past seven years. Maybe not even the same NHL.
Maybe he's overpaid when it comes to his productivity, but Vanek is basically the exact same player as the other guy Simon covets: Rick Nash. Crazy, am I? Hardly. Rick Nash has played 520 games since the lock-out. In that stretch he's accumulated 451 points. Not bad, that's an average of .87 points per game. In that same period of time, Vanek has played 27 more games, scoring only 4 less points, giving him a .82 point per game average -- 5 hundreths of a point less.
So these dipshits in the Buffalo media spend their whole day wet-dreaming over a guy that they pretty much already retain. And on top of that, Howard would apparently give up this much for Bobby Ryan when the Sabres already have a statistically superior (Nash-like) player. So let's change it up a bit boys.
I'm not saying they never have, but one would think that they would spend a little more time talking about the number one center this team desperately needs rather that the array of identical flavors of the week floating around this time of year. God knows how long we've been doing that.
But I'm not gonna sit here and say it's only the fault of the people on the airwaves. The Buffalo fans have to take responsibilty for their own stupidity as well. I ask you to start watching and understanding the games rather than reading stat lines and yelling "SHOOT!" on a power play. And educate yourself on other players around the league rather than just focusing on Milan Lucic.
Sabres fan are given the benefit of the doubt for living in a cold (hockey) climate, selling out the arena even when their team sucks, and talking shit about having ice girls because it's an "insult" to their team. But this doesn't ipso facto mean they necessarily understand hockey. As my brother likes to say, any team that doesn't have ice girls doesn't really deserve to win the Cup in the first place. But I digress.
Take the article comments in the Buffalo News, for instance. I realize a few dozen regular commenters in a newspaper aren't necessarily representative of all of Buffalo Hockey, but at least half of them can't even spell the players' names correctly. So, I'm sorry, if you don't know how to spell Pominville or Hecht after seven years, you're a goddamned idiot who -- wait for it -- ipso facto doesn't know shit about hockey. So I don't care what you think about Ruff and Regier.
I think it's pretty safe to assume that at least 80% of Sabres fans comprise the silent majority who buy their tickets, attend the games, sit quietly until someone scores, and generally understand the organization and ice hockey in general. Sadly, however, it's the other 20% that we have to hear from on a recurring basis that's basically starting to drive me insane.
I know we can't do much about mental midgets in the media, but you'd think the Sabres organization would at least try to put a little better veneer on its broadcast team when it comes to complementing Rick Jeanneret.
So Mr. Black, would it be too much to ask to at least be able to look at some friggin' ice girls?
WGR is running a series of articles on their website about what advanced stats say about each player. Here is the story on Drew Stafford. Coincidentally, I came to a similar conclusion four months ago in my response to Trevor's GM Challenge when I said the following about Stafford while everyone was calling for his head:
"Stafford is the second biggest disappointment on the team this year. He was a beast last year, with a career season. I honestly thought he was on his way to being a 40 goal scorer. Then he signed his new contract. Then he disappeared. Here's the thing though. When I watch him play, he's doing the right things. He's getting good chances. He's working hard. He's got 127 shots which puts him right on the heels of Vanek and Pominville. I don't understand why his aren't going in and their's are. If anyone on this team is truly snakebit, it's him. the play is there, the goals are not. We know he's capable. He stays."
Shortly after that, Stafford was paired with Ennis and Foligno and the entire line, led by Stafford, went on a point-scoring tear!
It's nice to be validated by someone who actually analyzes hockey for a living.
I hope everyone is enjoying the playoffs. It's been a wild ride. And, this cup final has been great so far. Jonathan Quick?!? Who knew? He's already broken a playoff record for shutout minutes. He went 8 games without allowing a 3rd period playoff goal. He certainly found his stride at the right time and the Kings look like they're going to ride him all the way to a Stanley Cup.
Once that wraps up, I'm anxiously awaiting the NHL draft and Bills training camp. Until then, enjoy your summer!
Since Trevor and Jon already gave their "season over" posts, I figured that I wouldn't bother giving my take on it. I convinced myself that it would have just been redundant, having no choice but to repeat most of the things they already said.
But since then, there has been plenty of news surrounding the Buffalo Sabres. And honestly, I still found myself not really wanting to write about them, but the more I sat and thought about it the less I could help myself.
If you're not aware of what the numbers above indicate, I'll give you a clue: The three and the five relate to how many times the Sabres have missed the playoffs, and the five and the ten explain out of how many years it took to reach those previous numbers, respectively.
So which ones look better to you? The smaller numbers or the bigger numbers? Either way you choose to look at it, both sets of numbers say the exact same thing: Every five years the Sabres only make the playoffs twice. But if you read Darcy Regier's latest comments, he's optimistic because they've actually made the playoffs twice in the last three years. Holy-splitting-fucking-hairs. So we'll just forget that in those two playoff appearances, his team was given the grand honor only eight teams per season get to share: a first round exit. [golf clap]
I guess we can look at the bright side about the last decade as we officially can't say this team's play is completely inconsistent anymore. [yawn]
One thing we can say is the what most of the Buffalo media has already taken care of: How can this team finish such a high-expectation yet disappointing season without explaining themselves in an end-of-season press conference?
Lindy Ruff had already taken care of his guys during their final practice of the season. He berated his players twice -- before and after their longest (and most pointless) workout of the season -- pointing out missteps and errors that ultimately cost them a berth into the playoffs. He singled out veterans for lack of leadership and production but applauded some of the younger players for stepping up and helping their late push.
After this information hit the Buffalo News, some fans that commented were enraged that Ruff spent so much time criticizing his own guys while not taking any time to put some of the blame upon himself.
I definitely understood where these fans were coming from but I felt differently. While I hardly think the perfect time to call out players is in a meaningless practice succeeding the game that found you eliminated from the playoffs, Ruff is still entitled to handling his players as he sees fit. Would it maybe have been a little more beneficial to take this action before the season spun completely out of control? Sometime in December, perhaps? Of course, but nonetheless Ruff was well within his rights. He doesn't answer to his players; he's their boss.
Granted, when I was thinking this at the time, I was expecting that Ruff would have to answer the tough questions from 1) his boss(es) and 2) the media -- with some of these questions taking place in the setting of a press conference.
But the answer was nay to both. I guess we all know now that it doesn't go down that way in Buffalo these days. By the Sabres organization letting Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier cover their faces with their sport coats and run off to their limousines while dogging hordes of pocket recorders and notepads, it gave me the proof that these two men are untouchable; that they basically answer to no one.
It's a funny feeling as a fan when you know there could be a possibility of great upside if a change was made, but with every new failed season, you still retain a certain fear and somehow know in the back of your head that nothing will ever change. Well not ever, I guess; everybody dies eventually. But still, it's a slap in the face of the fans who pay money to watch this charade -- I know, I know, there are strangely still just as many R&R supporters as there are haters. I'm still working on understanding that one.
But for people like me who figure things won't change (yet still reserve that place in my brain where I hope that I might be wrong someday) feel even more disrespected [enraged] when that fucktard Ted Black rushes out to WGR three days after the season ends so he can announce his unchanged faith in Ruff and Regier.
I mean, couldn't you at least wait a month and fool us into thinking that you looked long and hard for their replacements but couldn't find any suitable prospects? Believe me, I probably wouldn't have bought that either, but it would still beat listening to Black's pompous/cunty -- I'm smarter and better than everyone -- explanation behind announcing the inevitable so quickly.
It leaves me little hope that there will be any success in the near future. I almost want to go out on a limb and say this team won't win anything substantial (even a division title) until they get yet another owner.
Remember, Pegula once said that his daughter would quit playing tennis if she were under the same scrutiny as the Buffalo Sabres are at times. Obviously this belief has trickled down on how he treats his coaching staff, management, and players altogether. And Ruff and Regier's names might as well be Jessie and Kellie, because they now have a boss that is just as comfortable pampering them as if they were his own daughters. This belief has undoubtedly been reflected onto everyone from the top down. And I don't know about anyone else, but common sense would say that this very belief will hold the Sabres back from ever reaching the highest level in one of the most intense professional sports.
So it's a good thing that tennis and hockey don't have too much in common. Because if Pegula really wants to deliver on his initial promise, eventually he'll most likely be forced into changing his outlook on criticism first. And only time will uncover if he'll actually ever be open to that idea.
But currently at least, it doesn't appear to be the end of the world to some fans, but one day even the most loyal Ruff, Regier, Black, and/or Pegula supporters will find themselves turning on one, two or all of them. Patience only lasts so long, and I don't know many people patient enough to wait through another decade of only making the playoffs 40% of the time.
And if your mind works anything like mine does; where a first round exit isn't even noteworthy of making it, you can go ahead and lower that number to 20%.
THIS is what I wanted to hear from Ryan Miller. I wanted to see some humility, some ownership. Spelling mistakes aside (a little editing, please, WGR), I'm glad to hear that Ryan Miller recognizes that he was having issues prior to the Lucic hit, and that he has to play better.
I feel like at least one comment was directed squarely at me (I know it wasn't... Ryan Miller doesn't even know this blog exists) when he mentioned being called a Prima Donna. Yeah, I've called him that quite a bit this season.
I can't argue with the guy when he says he hunkered down and played his best hockey. There's no doubt that from January to the end of March, he was arguably the best goaltender in the NHL. Since he's not going anywhere in the offseason, I sincerely hope that he finds a way to maintain that level of play throughout the course of the season next year. If he does, his comments today went a long way in restoring my faith in him and I'll hop right back on his bandwagon. But man, the play HAS to be there. And I'm not backing off my comment the other day... fix that glove hand in the off season!
In what may very well be my last post until free agency opens up, I'd like to get a few more random thoughts out of my head now that I've had a night to sleep on it.
What upsets me most about this season is how the Sabres sqandered it early on. They went from 1st in their division, to dead last in the East, and then found themselves dominating through February and March to claw their way back into the picture. Did injuries contribute? Absolutely. This past week proved, to me at least, that this team cannot function without Tyler Myers and/or Christian Ehrhoff. Having both out at the same time was a recipe for disaster. HOWEVER(!!), injuries cannot be blamed for a three month stretch from early November to the All-Star break where the Sabres couldn't win a game to save their lives. You can't blame injuries for laziness, sloppy play, bad turnovers, etc. At some point the rest of your team needs to act like professional athletes, and step up and take over. Tell me again about how injuries wrecked the season. Then explain to me why Pittsburgh, who had the same if not worse injury problems this year, is squarely in the playoffs while Buffalo is not. Go ahead... I'm waiting to hear the logic. The Pens had injury after injury after injury. They went huge chunks of this season without the best forward in hockey. Period. Did it slow them down? Sure, but they still managed to win enough games to get in.
I will give Darcy credit. He pulled off another of his patented amazing deals that brought Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer from Vancouver for Kassian and Gragnani. I was unsure about Sulzer. I'm not anymore. I like his style of play a lot. Hodgson had a slow start, but he came around nicely during the final push and I think he's got a lot of potential. Darcy also (and I still can't believe this) stole a 1st round draft pick for Paul Gaustad. I would LOVE to have heard how that conversation went down! And I wouldn't be surprised if Gaustad didn't end up back in Buffalo this off season, which would mean Darcy got a 1st round pick for a rental! Like I said in January in this post, I've always like Darcy's style. He does make shrewd moves. But in no way does he get a pass for his inaction when this team was floundering. For example, I'll be the first to admit that I had no idea Marcus Foligno was going to make the impact he has in such a short time. (But, then, it's not my job to know such things.) Darcy clearly knew what he had waiting in the wings or he would never have traded Kassian. Why, then, did he wait so long to call up Foligno for some much needed offensive help? Why did he wait so long to try to make a trade? Why was Lindy kept when the team clearly wasnt' responding?
The way I see it, Darcy has one last chance to prove he should keep his job. I want to see how he drafts, and I want to see what he does in free agency. In that post I referenced a minute ago, I mentioned a few other things that the Sabres need to do. First and foremost, they need a legit #1 center. Whether they accomplish that through the draft or free agency doesn't matter, but they absolutely need to address it. I'd also like to see them go after another center as well, as they are very weak at that position. And, I would still like to see them go after TJ Oshie in the off season. To date, he has played 78 games for the Blues and has 19 goals, 33 assists, 52 pts, and is a +16. Got that? A PLUS-16! The moves Darcy makes in the off season should determine his fate.
My next complaint is the treatment of Luke Adam. Yes, the kid struggled, but the entire team was struggling. How do you single him out of that mess and make HIM the whipping boy? Rookie player, struggling team, and frequent line changes didn't help him at all. He's now been relegated to Rochester with no hope of coming back up. The Sabres took a talented kid and broke him. Some of that is on Adam, but much, much more of it is on the management and coaching staff. I don't know that he will bounce back in Buffalo/Rochester. I think his only hope now is a fresh start in another system. Sad, because I had high hopes for him.
As for Lindy, I really do still like the guy, and there's no doubt he somehow managed to turn this team around in the second half, but I still believe his tenure in Buffalo should come to a close. Too many mistakes, too many excuses, and not enough passion from his players for much of the year. A big run at the end does not make up for pissing away an entire season. As I've said before, I'll still be sad to see him go.
Ryan Miller. I have to say, he played like a champ down the stretch. When he's firing on all cylinders he's unbeatable. But I have BIG problems with his disappearance for fully one half of the season. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Don't blame the Lucic hit because his problems started a full two weeks before that. I don't know what caused it, and I don't know what got him back on track, but when you're paid like an elite netminder then you'd better freakin' act like one, and that means being a leader, and it means not pouting like a 4 year old when your team does something you don't like, or isn't playing the way you think they should, or when the media has the temerity to actually question your months-long string of bad play, or whatever your complaint of the day is. Suck it up, keep your mouth shut, and play like a leader. And, for the love of all that is holy, PLEASE work on your glove hand this off season.
I'm really torn on Miller now. Half of me wants him to stay and the other half is completely over him. The problem is, it depends on consistency. As a fan, I can tolerate a lot more of his antics when he's playing like a Vezina candidate than I can when he's playing like a sieve. Bottom line, I really do like Miller, but I'm not gonna cry if he goes elsewhere. Not that THAT would ever happen.
Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee that, because of the late run, the team will still go after a top line center but no other changes will occur. We'll hear all summer long how injuries hurt the team, and how management is happy with the core group of guys and how much grit and determination they showed down the stretch, and blah blah blah. They'll gloss over the fact that there was ZERO grit and determination from November to January. They'll ignore how utterly lazy the team was. They'll forget about the complacency. They'll tell us how this team, when healthy, can accomplish anything. You know what? I call shenanigans. If you need to have every single player on your roster healthy to win then you might as well hang up the skates and throw in the towel.
This team needs major changes in the off season. Period. And if you reeeeeally like the core, then you at least better get a couple more top tier defensmen, and some backup forwards that can step up and play when guys like Vanek and Pominville get hurt.
One more thing... If Jochen Hecht is in a Sabres uniform next season I am going to lose my sh*t!
Yeah, I know I rambled, and I probably said nothing that everyone doesn't already know. Tough. I'm still busy being bitter about what could should have been.