The next time the Sabres face the Hurricanes, it might be against a very different looking team.
Canes Hated Canes, currently at 6-10-3, are at the bottom of the Southeast Division are are languishing at 14th overall in the Eastern Conference. While no decisions have been made to change coaches or move players yet, plenty of changes will come to Raleigh if the Canes continue to play losing hockey.
From the Raleigh Observer:
If the “Mo Must Go” movement was initially the work of a vocal minority the last time around, it’s a wink-wink joke among everyone this time, on Twitter, on message boards, on the radio. No one is happy with 14th in the conference and last in the Southeast Division, but few believe Karmanos and Rutherford will actually fire him again.
Unlike eight years ago, though, fans aren’t buying what they’re selling. Through nine home games, attendance is down 3 percent from the same point last season, and although that may not sound like much, it’s more than 5,000 total tickets. That’s almost a half-million dollars in tickets and concessions that went unsold, real money for a team that pinches every penny. And that doesn’t include the untold cost of growing fan apathy.
In other words, tonight is the Sabres’ chance to stick a dagger in the heart of Raleigh. Remember when the Flyers’ “GM for Life” Bobby Clarke “resigned” in the 2006-07 season, after the Sabres devastated his team 9-1? It was, in a word, glorious. The Flyers also fired then head coach Ken Hitchcock, and a whirlwind of trades shook up the roster entirely.
"Off with his head!"
Tonight, the Sabres have a chance to explode another NHL team, and another hated rival. While rumors swirl around the tenure of Maurice, there isn’t a player on the roster wondering what city he’ll be playing in come December.
Rutherford has been working the phones. The Hurricanes have showcased free-agent bust Tomas Kaberle in the last two games, and Bryan Allen may be on the block as well. But no trade is going to change a dressing-room culture that resulted in one of the most flaccid performances in recent memory Wednesday night (against Montreal).
Eric Staal’s captaincy was a topic of intermission discussion during TSN’s Canadian broadcast Wednesday, and it’s a fair question whether he’s experienced enough to navigate a team through this mess, or whether he can lead by example at an NHL-worst minus-18.
Hey Staal, want to come to Buffalo? We’ll have to utterly destroy you first, but we do need a center, and you won’t have to worry about being a captain anymore.
Or course, rumors are just that – rumors – but the Hurricanes are in serious trouble. Since their Cup win in the 2005-06 season (thanks to the Sabres running out of healthy defensemen in the Conference Finals), the Canes have only made the playoffs once, in 08-09. Their consistent middling play has given way to awful play. By all marks, it’s time for a shake up.
And wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Sabres were able to deal the death blow to those Hated Canes tonight?
At the risk of sounding redundant:
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In all the bad that happened during the Buffalo Boston game the other night, there was a little somethin’ somethin’ that we should all treasure for the highlight/GIF vault for the 2011-12 season.
After Lucic took out Miller, and soon finding his team down 3-1, Patrick Kaleta decided that the Sabres were not going to completely turtle. So he turned Chara inside out.
Note how Chara throws his right leg down, in a noble effort to save his butt from being broken by the ice (or vice versa).
This is not to say that the Sabres did in fact step up and deliver a message. Hits like this should have been happening all game long after the Lucic incident. And they should have been happening to Tim Thomas.
Word on the street (Twitter) is that Corey Tropp will be making another gritty appearance for the Blue and Gold tonight against New Jersey, with Cody McCormick out with injury. While the current Sabres core tries to rally around its identity (again) and prove their toughness (again), it’s nice to see a bumper crop of nasty and talented kids in Rochester ready to come in and do some damage to opponents and to the scoreboard.
Kassian, Foligno, and McNabb are all soon in the Sabres future. (Probably a year away, barring injuries to the big club.)
As for tonight: foil up, Kaleta.
Let’s get mean.
Let’s hope this lasts for more than just one game.
Here’ how the “Mike Weber Watch” concluded after last season:
There’s been a lot of talk that Weber made it onto the ice for last night’s game against the Habs because of the Lucic incident, because Myers failed to respond to what was happening at the time. Which is ridiculous. Myers should return, but Weber should stay in the lineup. Not only do the Sabres need more than one defensive defenseman (Robyn Regehr), but there’s also this issue:
That’s pretty alarming. All three were listed in the top 25 in the NHL in the GvA department. Myers, the scratch, had at least been hitting, but Marc-Andre Gragnani has had issues all season long asserting himself along the boards. He’s an open invitation for teams to enter the Sabres’ defensive zone on his side of the ice without thinking about getting hit.
Weber is -3 on the season, but the above list of egregious giveaways and uninspired lack of hitting are the real liability on the ice so far this season. I like Gragnani and what he brings to the power play, but that specialization is only good for a few shifts a game, if that. Let Ehrhoff, Leopold, Myers and Sekera take care of the PP. The Sabres need more grit on the blueline.
If Myers returns, hope for Gragnani to take a turn in the pressbox. (This, of course, is up to Lindy Ruff. So don’t hold your breath.)
More on Weber’s season thus far:
- After 2 games played, Weber is already 10th on the team in hits (9).
- At his pace of 4.5 hits per game, Weber “would” have 76.5 hits after 17 games played. Regehr has 47.
- The Sabres need teeth. Weber’s got them.
Click on the link above – it will take you to buffalo74, where the “Mike Weber Watch” will be ongoing throughout the season. For today, here’s a screen shot of the watch from last night.
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Ryan Miller stayed behind.
After getting crushed in the open ice by Milan Lucic, and unable to return for the 3rd period, Miller stayed behind in the visiting locker room to tell reporters just how angry he was about getting smacked. From the Buffalo News:
“I just stuck around because I wanted to say what a piece of [expletive] I think Lucic is. Fifty pounds on me, and he runs me like that? It’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city see him as a big, tough, solid player. I respected him for how hard he plays. That was gutless. Gutless. Piece of [expletive].”
Why should Miller have to hang around the locker room while nursing an upper body injury, in order to send a message like that? Because his gutless team couldn’t do it for him on the ice. After the big bad Bruins issued the challenge by feeding Miller into the ice, the Sabres slumped over, skated around, and took it like true victims.
Captain Jason Pominville, on the ice when Miller was hit, failed to pounce on anyone after the play. Coach Lindy Ruff stood behind the bench, looking somewhat ruffled, but didn’t throw any sticks on the ice or even throw an f-bomb (if my lip reading was correct he only asked for a 5 minute penalty instead of a 2 minute minor).
Tim Thomas, tending goal at the other end, had nothing to worry about. The tone was set, and everyone knew a response wasn’t coming. The Sabres skated around limp and distracted, feeding their abusers with chance after chance to make it all worse.
6-2 at the final buzzer.
I imagine the Blue and Gold just wanted to get off the ice, to escape the horror, maybe just get to their room, light some candles, and cry along with a Tori Amos cd.
We’ve been calling for Mike Weber and his toughness to be inserted into this soft, offensive-minded defense all season long. But what change can one player really bring to this team? Can Mike Weber affect the attitude on the ice more than Robyn Regehr? Let’s not forget about Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, and Nathan Gerbe – to name a few – there’s plenty of bodies out there that should be very willing and able to fight back.
Instead, we had Ryan Miller, waiting injured in the locker room to bark at reporters. That’s it. That’s what we have, a lot of bark and no bite. I would have gladly taken a 6-2 loss if the Sabres responded by running Thomas or starting a brawl or three.
But that wasn’t going to happen. The Sabres had teeth to fight back. And that is nothing new. Again, from the Buffalo News:
“You know, we wouldn’t accept anything like that,” Lucic said. “We would have [taken] care of business. But we’re a different team than they are.”
The Sabres are in a good spot right now in the regular season standings. They’ll make it to the playoffs. But when push comes to shove, as it does in those hard fought playoff games, what kind of response will the Sabres have? History and reputation tells us that they’ll back down and drop out.
If I am Terry Pegula I am working Monster.com right now and hiring as many sports psychiatrists as possible. The Sabres were victimized last night, sure. But it wasn’t Lucic. They did nothing about it. They victimized themselves.
And that is a troubling thought.