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No One Said Winning the Stanley Cup Would Be Easy

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Well that certainly didn’t turn out like we Sabres fans had hoped. I refer to both the Maple Leafs game as well as the entirety of the season so far. Now heading into the Christmas break, we are downtrodden and looking in on the teams with better playoff position like street urchin children staring in through a window on merry revelers eating a huge feast.

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Spare a shilling, sir? Per'aps a scrap of food or an overtime point?

Yeah it sucks right about now. All the offseason hype is fading, the Pegulamania has died down and fans are growing negative. Perhaps rightfully so: the on-ice product isn’t what we want or what we were promised by the Sabres front office.

Steve Jobs is one of my all-time heroes and something he said seems appropriate:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. -Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

We can’t know how the story will play out for the Sabres. However we can take solace in the fact that we’re all in it together and that we now have an owner willing to do whatever’s in his power to make a championship happen. I’m willing to take some lumps with the team and see how this shakes out. It’ll be a hard, long road but well worth it.

This is, after all, Hockey Heaven. Hockey Heaven doesn’t mean that you automatically win every game or that they just hand you the Cup at the end of the year because Pegula hath declared it to be so.

Hockey Heaven isn’t about winning the Stanley Cup RIGHT NOW. It’s about much more than that. Yes, the Sabres are 3-5-2 in their last ten games and injuries shouldn’t be an excuse for that. But we can ride the wave, secure in the knowledge that the Sabres are willing to go for broke. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have a decade of winning with maybe a couple of Stanley Cups over one quick season where we won it all and then degraded quickly into mediocrity?

If the ship doesn’t get righted quickly, we may see a trade or two. I don’t expect Lindy or Darcy Regier to go anywhere soon, as the Sabres management has emphatically stated (and we’ve reiterated) they’re not going anywhere.

Yeah, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. However, when we finally do reach the promised land, it’s going to be soooo much sweeter.

A merry Sabres Christmas to you and LET’S GO BUFF-A-LO!

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Have no fear, another Amerk is here

Perhaps the whole ‘ hey, a lot of Amerks are playing for the Sabres right now’ topic has been over done, just a little. But, would you rather talk about the Pens game on Saturday night? I think not.

It has gotten to the point where I’m pretty sure the Sabres take up most of the transactions list on various hockey websites. We have brought up Amerks and injured them, the Amerks who have stayed behind are injured. The current injured Sabres are slowly being forgotten, no one really remembers Brad Boyes or where Zack Kassian actually belongs.

We’re a mess, and it oddly enough may not be what is leading to an unlucky streak.

Since we started ordering the youngins like you order socks, I have been waiting for Marcus Foligno to get the call up. I don’t mean casually checking updates to see who would be next to make the hour and a half drive on the 90, I mean putting customers on hold at work to check my twitter, and informing the vice president of our office why I was doing that.

Not to mention, watching left wingers go down, and getting a little too excited for yet another injury.

Regardless, here he is (here being Ottawa for the time being). I’m a little annoyed, because I was excited to see at least some common Amerks at the game on Wednesday, but what can you do? The excitement of your first NHL game, especially playing against an older sibling, entails for a mighty good time, regardless of whether it is a win or a loss.

Mike Foligno’s recently open schedule should also allow for him to be in Ottawa tomorrow night, and I do mean that in the kindest way possible.

In the past few weeks, the Sabres have been dissected in their losing woes, trying to figure out what is going wrong. A team made up of rookies would concern other teams, but it’s really anything but unfamiliar territory with the Sabres. Some of our strongest current forwards were once impressive call ups. A number of rookies this year have played to the extent that has left us saying ‘ that’s okay, Brad Boyes, take your time.’

While prancing around the Amerks website, where I swear I heard crickets chirping, I came across the current roster and took an in depth look at it.

Here’s a peek:

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All the X’s indicate inactive players. With the exception of Chris Clackson, ‘ inactive’ is code for ‘ currently in the Buff.’ Kassian and McNabb were called up relatively close together, and have almost missed half the current season in Rochester.

In addition to all the transactions, the Amerks have also recently lost Finley and Morrisonn to injuries (apparently, when translated to the AHL, that’s a bad thing). Stuart and Tropp are both called up and injured. If memory serves me correctly, the big boy team cannot return a call up if they’re injured. Remember when Nate Gerbe was just hanging out here for awhile two years ago?

With the exception of the injuries, the invasion of rookies has been good luck (at least, for the rookies). Though I will be relying on twitter and text messages while at work for his NHL debut, I really hope the luck of the call ups will carry on to Foligno.

Sibling rivalry can fuel some very dangerous things.

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Thumbs are up

 

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A Weird Start To The Sabres Season

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Well the Buffalo Sabres are nineteen games into the season and I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way things have shaken out thus far. (And if you say you predicted exactly this, let me know who your Super Bowl favorite is, because you’ve got some mad prognostication skills. Or skillz, if you prefer, yo.)

Nineteen games in and we have no idea what this team is. Fans of Stephen King may be aware of a saying that things have “gone 19“; it means things have gotten really inexplicably weird.

It may well be weird, but things rarely go according to plan for a sports team. We expected Ryan Miller to be the man with Johnas Enroth filling in admirably at times – instead Enroth has to be THE man again. So far he’s shown that he CAN be the man and the Sabres have two very good goalies. Where does that leave Miller when he returns? A 50/50 split? Do the more level-headed among us start to seriously ponder a trade of Miller and going with Enroth? Our all-star and Vezina-winning goalie doesn’t inspire confidence the way Enroth has been. It’s 19, man.

Christian Ehrhoff was supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. And you may not get that saying because sliced bread doesn’t sound exciting, but have you had to put up with cutting your own bread for any length of time? HAVE YOU? It’s not fun. But all seriousness aside, Ehrhoff is a minus 4 and while he’s taken 41 shots, only has 1 goal (that’s a 2.4% shooting percentage).

Marc-Andre Gragnani (I like to pronounce his last name “Grag-nanny” because it’s fun) has been a disappointment as well. Weber lit a fire in the D for a bit but quickly got hurt. Myers has been craptastic, then benched, then superman for a game; will he continue the superman style of play or revert back? And just when you think Boyes and Leino can do nothing, their line seems the most dominant for us in a game (despite, y’know, not actually scoring).

This team is all over the map. But you know what? I love it.

We couldn’t predict this, but would we really want to? That’s part of the excitement of sports. It’s why we watch, why we oooooh and ahhh, why we cheer, why we bet on the games. Er, well, if we’re somewhere LEGAL to do so of course.

The Sabres are 3rd in the Eastern Conference and while not perfect by any stretch have different players stepping up every night. To me, it’s an amazing ride.

To be honest, I don’t want the team to win the President’s Trophy. We’ve all seen how the team that wins that does – more often than not they get ousted quickly by a “worse” team that had to work harder to get into the playoffs. I want the Sabres to do well enough to get a decent seed (say 3rd or 4th) but go into the playoffs hot.

This Sabres team is already starting to gel. It’s not how we thought it would shake out, but it’s coming together. It’s weird, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Enroth Versus Miller and a Goalie Controversy

I am prepared to eat crow about Ryan Miller… a little bit at least. (That’s ok, I’ve heard it tastes like chicken.) In a previous post I ranted a bit about how great  he is and how quickly the Sabres goalie controversy would be over. Well, the next game our Millsie lets in 5 goals despite getting a win against Winnipeg.

To be completely honest, the post was going to be a “two sides of the story” and present the argument for Miller and then for Enroth. Well, I got lazy plus the post would’ve been too long if I’d done the Enroth part. But there’s a lot to be said for Enroth as well.

The biggest argument in an Enroth vs. Miller debate is that Enroth just wins, baby. Enroth was a stunning 9-2-2 last year. His save percentage was .907 with a goals against of 2.73 – nothing to sneeze at, but nothing stellar. (Ryan Miller’s 2nd worst GAA was a 2.73, in 2006-07.) This year young Jhonas is 4-0-0 with a save percentage of .952 and goals against of 1.41. Absolutely incredible even though it’s only four games.

Meanwhile our Vezina and silver medal-winning Miller is getting lit up and seems to be fighting it. He’s certainly not living up to his Defense Independent Goalie Rating.

But it’s not all his fault; the defense is hanging him out to dry. How many point blank chances did the Sabres give up against the Jets? No goalie can do it by himself.

The big question I have is why does the team seem to play tighter with Enroth in net? Is it simply because they feel they HAVE to, because they think Miller can bail them out if they get sloppy? Because Enroth is a “kid” that they have to be sharp around and protect more?

Miller’s got 5 wins to 5 losses and isn’t doing great statistically. His save percentage of .913 is 29th in the league. His GAA of 2.74 is 37th in the league. Of course you have to factor in goalies that have only played a couple game, but still. It’s bad.

Miller isn’t going to blow up because of the scrutiny on him and go off the rails. He’s been playing hockey his whole life and is having a bad stretch exacerbated by bad defense around him. Lindy Ruff will get things figured out settled down at some point.

But that doesn’t change the fact the RIGHT NOW, Enroth may be the better play. The arguments for him are you can get the kid some work, Miller is off his game, and the team just plays better around him. Maybe there’s something to Enroth’s personality that the team takes to better, I don’t know.  (But what would explain the team’s success over the last 7 years with Miller?). Plus apparently he looks like an ewok:

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I don't see the resemblence, but I'll leave it for the ladies to decide.

Goalie controversy? Sure. Miller can certainly regain his form, but the backup is always the most popular guy in town. The talk will continue until Enroth falters badly or Miller is insanely dominant. That might be a while.

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On the Rick Jeanneret and Hawerchuk HoF Induction

What an amazing induction to the Sabres Hall of Fame for RJ and Hawerchuk. Hawerchuk was always one of my favorites, but I think my fondest memories of him are for how good he was in NHL ’93 and ’94. Sad? But true.

Who didn’t tear up just a little for Rick Jeanneret’s video clip and speech? How lucky have we been to have him? I think more than any one person he is the franchise. It will be sad when he retires, but we need to count our blessings as fans.

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Best idea for a Hall of Fame induction ever.

Watching the clip of RJs calls was awesome, but the Steve Shields fight made me realize something: we have the rootenest, tootenist, fightingest goalies ever. Check it: Steve Shields vs. Sean Burke, Steve Shields vs. Garth Snow and then Marty Biron vs. Ray Emery. I know goalie fights are very infrequent and while I can’t find a stat, it seems like we’ve had the most out of all teams. Might be a good way to determine our Goalie Controversy: see who’s the better fighter. My money’s on Enroth.

The shots of Jeanneret’s family were sweet. His Mom at 91 cheering for him and kind of dancing was awesome. Also cool that the whole Jeanneret  family wore white jerseys with the number 40 on them – for the 40 years of calling games. I couldn’t figure out what the “PxP” stood for though  –  @slackin pointed out to me it was for “Play by Play”, duh! And the hand-crafted real steel sabres that Hawerchuk and RJ got, combined with the display of crossing the swords? A simple idea yet brilliant.

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Last but not least is the new Book of RJ shirt that Hockey Heaven came out with. Today only they’re putting it on sale for $15. I know, they’re a sponsor and yes I am panning for them. But I’m proud to do so, as we loved Hockey Heaven before they were a sponsor will continue to pimp them even after they are (well, hopefully they stay a sponsor forever!). Heck, I’m a proud owner of one of these myself. How better to honor the voice of the organization? This shirt is good… scary good.  

Thanks to Rick for all the work over the years, all the laughs and all the memories. Hopefully there will still be many more to come!

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