Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Buffalo Sabres: Abysmal, Horrendous & Laughable

by CT

Abysmal. Horrendous. Laughable. These are just some of the words that describe the
Buffalo Sabres this season. Coming off a relatively “big” win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Friday the 13th, the ‘bres were looking for their first back-to-back wins since a 5-1 trouncing of the ole’ Ottawa Senators (still one of our most dominating wins of the season). They started their grueling 7-game road trip heading to the Colliseum to play the lowly Islanders.

The result: Michael Grabner again owned us and our only big game (ha) player choked on a penalty shot with 1:24 left, leading to a 4-2 loss. Making it 6 losses already this year to teams in 13th-15th place in the (Eastern Conference) standings. Not exactly the track record of a pre-season pick to win a division. The following game? An embarrassment and a game that pretty much sums up the Sabres season thus far. A 5-0 drubbing by Hockeytown’s Red Wings.

You would think the old Blue and Yellow (cue music) would have responded. A team
whose strength was once games on the road and that was once 8-3 away from HSBC er F'N Center, now find themselves 8-11 in games on the road. What we got was not a response. What we got was what we’ve had all season, a team that lacks any big time players, real leadership, any grit, any true size (I don’t know what their obsession is with mini mites), and any clutch goals in crucial situations. Don’t try to argue and say that Pominville is 14th and making his first AllStar Game appearance. He will cool off and knowing we are a big hockey market, GBetts had to put someone in the game.

Watching the Sabres play the Red Wings on Monday was like watching a real NHL powerhouse scrimmage a Junior Varsity hockey team. It’s no wonder Detroit has 4 cups and 6 cup appearances since ’95. It’s sad really. Detroit celebrates cups on the
reg, seemingly being a contender every year. Here we in Buffalo are, wet-dreaming of the “good ole days” when we got 4th place . Those are the “glory” days.

Making it to the ECF and losing 2 years in a row is considered a success. If this
was a stepping stone for finally coming out of the tourney and making it to the show, that’d be one thing. But it’s not, the Sabres have regressed to the point where it is baffling. We finally got an owner who seemed to care, making renovations, supporting our town, and spending to the cap. However, by constantly defending Lindy and Darc, blaming our failures on injuries and accepting 11th place his motto should be “From here on out we have one goal and that is to be complacent with mediocrity.”

Spend to the cap- hurr-freakin-ray. Problem is, what did he spend it on? Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff and RobYn Regehr…oh boy, this could be a whole separate topic. Robyn Regehr hasn’t been incredible but hes been solid. He is definitely filling the role of 4th defensemen. The guy is tough and seems to make pretty good decisions with the puck. Leino and Ehrhoff on the other hand? Yikes.

Now, I will be the first to admit these guys sounded sexy to me when we signed them. Leino was the Sabre killer who shined in the playoffs and Ehrhoff was the #2 defensemen on a President’s Trophy winner. Boy, do I wish we didn’t have 2 Jochen Hecht’s and a Hank Tallinder back. Both Leino and Ehrhoff have been injured/suspended and it’s almost as though they’re trying to do as little as possible.

When you see Leino it’s like they cloned Hecht’s game, put a beard on the guy and overpaid him by about $3 million. Seriously, what does this guy do? 10 points? Although I can’t blame him because he’s had one slightly below-average, 53 point year (and this was playing with Briere and Hartnell). There hasn't been one strong point of his game so far other than he can turn back and forth with the puck in the corner for way too long. Good grief! Another wnywatercooler blogger may be correct when he says this is the worst contract in Buffalo sports history. And if you want a fun game, try and predict how many times Leino is going to fall to the ice each night. On his roughly 16 minutes of ice time each night, it’s pretty much a lock hes going to hit the floor at least 5 times. You think its funny now but watch.

Furthermore, Ehrhoff…frag-i-le. Holy cow. This guy was supposed to be a smooth, puck moving, 15-goal, 50 point defensemen. We gave him 10, yes 10 years, which at 4 million per, seemed like a steal. My how it has been the opposite. Tied for a team 2nd worse -11, Ehrhoff has been the pits. Fans find themselves cringing every time he has the puck in his own zone and on the power play? Does he have a clause where he gets a bonus for other teams potting SHG’s? Buffalo is 4th worst in the league with 5 shorties allowed and its almost a lock Ehrhoff is responsible for 3 of those. Way to go Terrance.

It’s always important to stay optimistic especially because of what the Blue and Gold
did last year after Christmas. Yes they were only 1 of 3 teams to make the playoffs after being out on Jesus' birthday. It was 8 points at that. Their stats on Christmas were almost identical. They had the exact same record at the halfway point this year, 18-18-5, as they did last year. Last year was the exception, not the rule. If that type of record happens in 2 straight years it’s not coincidence it’s habit. But face it Buffalo sucks. The GM sucks the coach sucks, everyone is overpaid.

When Kevin Sylvester is doing play-by-play, our broadcast team goes from half-suck (Harry Neale is the absolute worst) to completely-suck. Gaustad sucks. Our fans are weak and soft- even the players have said it. Even Tyler Myers sucks again. It’s hard to read this and argue with any of those points. Its hard to look at the standings, see that we have 43 points and are 3 away from LAST PLACE in the conference and say we don’t suck. Oh wait, we’ve had injuries. Guess what, every team has injuries. Yes there must be something in the water in Buffalo because the Bills suffer the same issues every year. Guess what, maybe our players are too weak to cut it and surprise our strength and conditioning staff….yup, sucks. Terry Pegula basically insulted fans intelligence by saying the only reason we’re not good is because of injury. You can’t develop chemistry, blah blah blah. No Terry it’s because the guys you have on the team are limited in what they can do.

They’re not motivated because they’ve heard the same speech over and over again. When Lindy Ruff started here, 56k was a fast internet speed. Bill Clinton was JUST STARTING his second term as president. There have been approximately 170 coaching changes since Lindy took over. Are you shitting me? The guy has been to one Cup and lost and that was only because of Hasek, lost in 3 ECF and that’s it.

Look up how many playoff series the guy has won since 2006-2007. Lindy is loved dearly in the Queen City, myself included. I firmly believe if he goes somewhere else,
he’ll win a cup. It’s just not going to be here. Him and Darcy have got to go. Brian Burke has even gone on record saying Darcy is basically impossible to do business with. I firmly believe that Darcy has just been holding on and been trying to not get fired for roughly 5 years now. He has been riding the Drury/Briere acquisitions to the ground and still takes no blame that they left. He has been forgotten this year because he’s spent to the cap. Well guess what, he still sucks and will never land another GM job again- if he ever gets fired.

It’s time to realize that guys like Paul Gaustad are great in theory- size, leadership, grit but he is a fourth liner period. He’s not meant to be a go-to center on the 2nd line. Guys like Derek Roy and Drew Stafford have worn out their welcome. Yes, Roysie was a point per game player before his injury. But guess what, injuries change a players game, just ask Timmy Connolly. And yes Stafford did light the lamp 30 times last year but I think that will be the peak for his career. It’s like he’s afraid to shoot the puck. Numerous times he has point blank opportunities and he has dished it off only for the puck to end up in our own net. And not to mention these guys lack of defensive zone play. Wait, goaltending hasn't been mentioned? On to Ryan Millsie Swiss Cheese Miller.

This guys is the symbol of what’s wrong with the Sabres. He had one good year, got paid and now he sucks. Nobody wants to trade him for fear that he’ll be good somewhere else. No one wants to part ways for fear of what we won’t get in return. This dude can’t handle criticism even though he's 42nd in Goals Against Average and 40th in Save Percentage. Remember there are only 30 teams in the league and no those are not typos.

I am not sure if Enroth is your franchise goalie yet but it’s pretty clear like most professionals he would take most of the blame and not throw his teammates under the bus. Miller did have one good (not great) year when he won the Vezina and he got a Silver Medal. But guess what? His team lost in the 1st round of the playoffs because he got outplayed by a backup and he let in a poor angle “golden” goals to lose the Olympics and let down his country. Hockey is a team game and there is 20 guys out there each and every night. Ask anyone though, it starts from the net out. Goalies are supposed to have amnesia, in that they are supposed to forget about goals that they just got burned on. Miller is a head case. He can’t handle pressure, can’t handle the media and basically can’t handle any adversity in big games whatsoever. You’re not going to win many games when your “superstar” goalie is worse than last in the league statistically.

I say blow it all up. This team doesn’t have solid goaltending to bail out a horrible
offense, and cant get timely goals to bail out struggling, head case goalies. Finish this year out but after that its time to clean house and start over. Get rid of the GM who is lost. Get rid of the coach who changes line combinations more times than Drew Stafford hits the chip strip. Get rid of a head case goalie whose overvalued while you can still get something for him. Get rid of mini mite forwards who can’t handle the playoffs and promote Kassian, Enroth, McNabb, Tropp to full time duties. Last year I wrote an article like this and we took off. Ideally, that will happen again but realistically the Sabres are lookin' at a bottom 7 finish and a lottery pick. #1 overall pick anyone??!?!

1 comment:

  1. Well hopefully the Buffalo do a better job this season and start playing for real.