The Sabres, 10 Games Deep: 3 Things
Hey we’re only 2 points out of a playoff spot!
From there, it’s all bad news.
Let’s quickly get the caption puns out of the way, before we go into actual analysis:
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Onto the analysis…
From our season preview:
Remember the “Hardest Working Team in Hockey?” By far, that Ted Nolan led squad was not the most talented group of guys in the league, but they were fun as hell to watch. And they were a hell of a team to play against.
This year’s squad is an intriguing mix of – dare I say it – elite talent AND fear inducing grinders. Obviously, Vanek, Pominville, Ennis (possibly even Grigorenko) et al will put up the points. This team has never really been at a lack for goal scoring in recent years. The trade of Roy for Ott might seem like a swap of points for punches, but that is far too simple. That trade might be the centerpiece around what is really an entire culture change for the Sabres.
A return to a “Hardest working team in Hockey” mentality.
A return to a team that opponents fear to play against.
Yes, the Sabres haven’t played a single game yet. But they look fearsome on paper. And don’t think for a minute other teams haven’t been reading up.
And there’s your latest example of the infamous “looks great on paper” sports narrative.
1. The Obvious
The Sabres can’t win faceoffs. There is little to none in the terms of secondary scoring. The defense, which looks great on paper, has stacked up like this on actual NHL ice. The goaltending (especially in the backup role) has been brutal – and that’s a problem that stretches far beyond this season.
— Dave Davis (@DaveDavisHockey) February 6, 2013
2. The System (we love you Lindy, but GO AWAY)
It’s a tried out and dried up act: the Sabres have had to go on historic winning streaks and late season pushes to try to make the playoffs over the past years. The team, with or without Derek Roy and Tim Connolly, cannot play 60 minutes. Youngsters like Luke Adam and Tyler Myers are imploding. Thomas Vanek is playing well – because he learned how to embrace the ice again while playing FOR A DIFFERENT TEAM.
Pegula, Black and Co. have always preached “patience” to the fan base with this team, but the track record of failure and late season desperation, along with all the other losing markers, are there. He had a good run with Briere and Drury, but those Better Days were a long, long time ago.
There are plenty of coaches out there capable of fixing this team. Ruff has failed to do so, for too long.
Sorry Lindy. I love ya, but it’s time.
3. How do we fix this?
Well, firing Ruff is a start. Blowing up the roster is another option. Doing both is yet another appealing direction.
Oddly enough, this team should be better. It’s more than one line deep in scoring, and has a nice group of bangers that can chip in goals themselves. The defense has good vets and promising youth. (See above season preview quote.)
However, put them all together on the ice, and well, you get the picture.
Pegula has preached change only for long term success. In the long term, Ruff has already been a failure under this ownership. That’s one obvious step for ownership/management to take. As for the roster, don’t expect anything rink-shattering from the trade market. That being stated, it is curious to see how long this team can stay three offensive centers deep. With Hodgson, Ennis, and now Grigorenko vying for #1/#2 center time in the near future, one of them will have to go. Regier could go in a dozen directions here. Hell, he could send an offer sheet for Ryan O’Reilly. He could do nothing. Whatever he does do, it will have to be for short and for long term benefits.
Whatever. We’ll leave the trade speculation to HF Boards.
Let’s return to our season preview to close this out, wherein we touched upon the importance of the first 10 games:
Don’t take this lightly, folks. We’re in a 48 game season here. Teams that stumble out of the gate have a scant 38 game window to catch up, having to pin their hopes that the one or more teams ahead of them in their Conference’s top eight will stumble. Teams will be treating these games like playoff games, for the most part, so stumbling will be a rare thing to see from good teams. Yes, the Sabres have gone 300-2-1-1 in the second halves of the last 3 seasons or whatever, but seriously – the horses that stumble out of the gate mine as well be euthanized right there on the spot.
Here’s some terrible math to back up this terrible analysis:
So, the Sabres win just 3 out of 10, and everyone is over the moon they bought all those tickets so early. If a team needs to finish with 46 points (last year’s Senators were the worst in the league to make the playoffs with 92 points in the 82 game swing), the Sabres would need to earn 40 points in the final 38 games. Advanced math tells us they would need to win 20 of those 38 games to get in.
So yea, the 1st 10 games will be kinda huge.
We’re just 2 points out of the playoffs. Right now, from 14th place in the East, those 2 points look like a mountain.
Good luck with this mess, Darcy.
And one last thing – can we just put this ridiculous MSM “time on ice” nonsense to bed right now?
— Scott Michalak (@ScottyMCSS) February 5, 2013