jason pominville:

3 Reasons Why Ya Can’t Fire Regier…Yet

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Darcy Regier was fired last night.

In your dreams.

But when you woke up, he was still here, and when you hopped on the Twitters, you saw that he squashed the Pominville Welcome Back Show that the organization had put together. That’s some weird unreasonable grandpa/dictator stuff going on there.

You want him gone. You want something new. Something with a clear agenda coming into the rebuild. Unfortunately, you’re screwed, because there are 3 big reasons ya just can’t get hang him by his old hockey skates yet.

Pominville Regier 3 Reasons Why Ya Cant Fire Regier...Yet

Don’t fret, Jason. You’re still big in our hockey hearts (and in our record books).

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The Paper Tiger

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It’s hard to figure out where we go from here.

It’s very difficult to envision what direction the Sabres are heading in as they now skate headlong into a rebuild. But that uncertainty is nothing new. This team has lacked direction for a good while now.

We had a great coach in Lindy Ruff, and a strong contingent of reliable, inveterate players.

But something went wrong.

After his departure, Jordan Leopold described the Buffalo locker room as “chaos.”

So what the happened? How does this all get fixed? These kinds of questions should never be a part of the discussion for a pro franchise. Leaders – be they coaches or team captains – are the guys who are supposed to have all the answers before the locker room, media, or fan base need to ask the questions.

The leaders on the Sabres failed in that capacity.

Jason Pominville wore the C. He was the most consistent player on the most inconsistent team. The offense couldn’t follow his routine on the ice, and whatever he said in the locker room didn’t translate well, either.

The other remaining leaders on the team, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller, have both voiced their desire to be moved to new teams if this is going to be a long rebuild. In other words, they have no faith in the system. No faith in management, the team, or their teammates, to turn this thing around quickly.

Are those the kind of leaders that we want in a rebuild, long or short?

What this team needs is confidence. Insistent, boisterous hockey players who can help lift the talent in the club up now. The Sabres don’t need guys who would wait to see what the team looks like after the draft, or after trades. This group needs glue, and Vanek and Miller’s remarks are sentiments that are nothing but more damage on a team that is already deeply rattled.

A locker room of chaos and an on-ice product that was much the same: that’s what we had this season with Pommers, Vanek, Miller, Regehr, Leopold, Hecht, and Ehrhoff in the lineup. It doesn’t make much sense. That’s a hearty group of guys that should have easily been able to stabilize the locker room and win enough hockey games to get the Blue and Gold into the playoffs. They didn’t. They were a paper tiger.

paper tiger 300x168 The Paper Tiger

Regier was quick to ship out his veterans at the deadline. All that remain are doubting Thomas, Miller, and Ehrhoff (with Hecht retiring with his family back to their home in Germany). I don’t think there is a coincidence here: the Sabres fell down hard when the names on that roster became real voices in the locker room, and real teammates on the ice.

What’s left of that group is a couple guys who want to find a way out of town. If I’m Darcy Regier, I wish them well and grant their wishes. It’s time to move on from proven failure, and find new heart for this team.

Simple enough.

We don’t need guys shaking their heads after a loss, wondering why the effort just wasn’t there. We don’t need players that spend any amount of time talking about how to get more cheers than boos out of the audience at the FNC. And we certainly don’t need players that are just looking for a way out of town.

What we do need is cohesion. We need everyone from the owner to the management, from the coach to the players, and all the way down to the media and fans to buy in.

The next leaders to make that happen may already be in the Sabres’ pipeline. They may arrive via the draft, or by trade(s). It doesn’t really matter. It is just time to move on, remove all the doubt, and allow for a new bloom of confidence and belief.

And that’s where we go, as grey and foggy as that future may be.

It’s time to take a leap of confidence.

Go Sabres.

 

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Sabres GIFs: Pominville “Takes Ovechkin’s Will Away”

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If there is any doubt over Pominville’s captaincy of the Buffalo Sabres, it should be silenced now.

Since being named the captain of the Sabres before the start of the 2011-12 season, #29 has been Buffalo’s most consistent forward, leading the team in goals and points. He plays in all zones of the ice. He’s on the power play and the penalty kill. He never gets too high, and he never gets too low.

And oh, after the Sabres hit rock bottom with their 12th straight road loss (5 in a row overall) in St. Louis on January 21st, Pommers called a team meeting. I have no idea what he said to the guys after that game, but the results speak for themselves. Since that game, the Blue and Gold have gone 19-5-5.

All that being said, sometimes being the captain is all about one moment – one big statement. Something clutch. Meetings aside, for Pominville, his best statements come on the ice, and he made a big one in Washington.

Pomminville Ovechkin 300x208 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

Triumph and disaster. It's nice to be on the triumph side of this play.

Much has been said about the “biggest game of the season” for the Sabres and Washington Capitals.

In short, the Sabres played 60 minutes of smart offense and suffocating, collapsing defense. The Caps rookie netminder, Braden Holtby, predictably succombed to the pressure under what his coach labeled as a “Game Seven.” The Ennis-Stafford-Foligno line continued to dominate, thrilling the raucous contingent of blue and gold clad fans at Washington’s Verizon Center with more of their patented 2 on 1 rushes.

Much has been said, but even this 5-1 victory was not without high drama. This thing almost got away from us.

The Caps dug deep, and had broken onto the scoreboard to make the game 3-1.  Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera had left with injury, and with Robyn Regehr in the box, the Sabres were down to 3 defensemen as they tried to kill off a powerplay and a Caps rally.

We all know what happened next.

 

 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

 

Triumph and disaster.

Here’s another look:

 

 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

 

Could this be The Goal of the 2011-12 season? With those Caps in position to rally, the Sabres’ captain met the Caps’ captain at the blueline, and the game became just that – captain versus captain. Pominville versus Ovechkin.

Pommers charged at Ovie, forced him to lose control of the puck, dragged him down to the ice, and then skated in for what turned out to be the back breaking goal of the “biggest game of the season.”

Pominville summed up the Sabres’ strategy after the game:

We wanted to take their will away.

Mission accomplished on that play on Ovechkin.

Then, a tip-of-the-hat from Ovechkin, captain to captain:

The goal on the short-handed — I should play [the puck with] my skate, not stick, but it happens. This mistake probably cost us the game.

For now, Pominville and the Sabres’ efforts cost the Capitals the 8th seed as well. Here is where we stand this morning:

ECS2 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

For Ottawa, Buffalo, and Washington, it is now down to a 5 game playoff series. One team will be left out when the final whistle is blown on the regular season. The Sabres are the hot team of the East right now, while both the Caps and Sens have been suspect in net, giving them both an equal share of troubles. Still, there is plenty of hockey left to be played.

Here’s the remaining schedules for each:

Ottawa:

  1. March 31 – @Flyers
  2. April 1 – @Islanders
  3. April 3 – Hurricanes
  4. April 5 – Bruins
  5. April 7 – @Devils

Washington:

  1. March 29 – @Bruins
  2. March 31 – Canadiens
  3. April 2 – @Lightning
  4. April 5 – Panthers
  5. April 7 – @Rangers

Sabres:

  1. March 30 – Penguins
  2. March 31 – @Maple Leafs
  3. April 3 – Maple Leafs
  4. April 5 – @Flyers
  5. April 7 – @Bruins

 

That’s a big stack of games for these three teams.

At least for now, the Sabres sit in the driver’s seat, alone in 8th. It’s been a long climb since January 21st, but who’s to say that they are done climbing the standings yet? Much work is yet to be done, but #29 and his Sabres have proven a heckuva lot in the last 29 games.

19-5-5. Let’s keep this thing going.

And again, as for Pominville’s leadership, there is no need to question it anymore, and there certainly isn’t any need to ask him about it. All he’ll do is continue to answer on the ice.

Go Sabres.

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Sabres Continue on Warpath, Staal Murdered on the Score Sheet, Good Times had by All

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So much for putting CoHo between Vanek and Pommers.

Their points last night may have been solely on the powerplay, but seeing both Vanek and Pominville on the goal side of the scoresheet today will relieve many Sabres fans who have been stressed out about that top 26-9-29 line.

Welcome back, guys.

“I didn’t see it,” Pominville said. “I just blanked out.”

Yup. That’s how it feels to wake up.

PommersHugless 188x300 Sabres Continue on Warpath, Staal Murdered on the Score Sheet, Good Times had by All

Game winner in OT! Hockey hugs: on the way.

How about some random Canes hate to go with your coffee today? Eric Staal was on the ice for all three of the Sabres’ goals last night. TKO’d on the score board.

eric staal plotting 1 300x200 Sabres Continue on Warpath, Staal Murdered on the Score Sheet, Good Times had by All

Murderous Glare Staal was murdered on the ice last night. Good job, Sabres!

Meanwhile, the (suddenly injury-plagued) Maple Leafs fell to the Pens last night, 3-2 in regulation. They are falling out of the race for 8th, as the Sabres keep finding the ways and the players to keep their surge alive.

So many good things to breathe in today. Like the standings:

ECS2812 Sabres Continue on Warpath, Staal Murdered on the Score Sheet, Good Times had by AllThe Sabres are now on a 12-4-3 roll, reminiscent of the 16-4-4 streak of last season, after Pegula took over this town. Can the Sabres do it again? That question has become the storyline of many NHL reports. We’ll see what happens. So far, the Blue and Gold have answered that question 12 times.

15 games to go.

Today’s #SeedsOfGreatness nod goes to Pommers. And Vanek.

Welcome back.

Go Sabres.

PS – Hey, Sabres – thanks for getting my note to 26 and 29! Biscuits are tasty, aren’t they? Have fun against the Bruins. They are 4-5-1 in their last ten. You are 7-1-2. You can do this. You will do this.

 

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Sabres Past, Present and Future: Not so Terrible, Actually

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“Lugubrious.”

WGRZ got on the Twitter yesterday and asked followers to give them one word that summed up the 1st half of the Sabres’ 2011-12 campaign. As a former SAT tutor, the word just tumbled out at the ready, and when I saw it on the glowing screen, it felt good. It felt right.

But since (and especially since sweating over the NHL All Star Draft last night, hoping that Pominville would not get picked last), I’ve realized that word is just as much about the last few seasons in Buffalo as it is about this one.

And yet, it’s actually not the right one – not for the past few seasons, not for the 1st half of this season, not for this season. And not for the coming seasons.

 

SadMiller 200x300 Sabres Past, Present and Future: Not so Terrible, Actuallylu·gu·bri·ous

adj \lu̇-ˈgü-brē-əs also -ˈgyü-\

Definition of LUGUBRIOUS

1
: mournfulespecially : exaggeratedly or affectedly mournful<dark, dramatic and lugubrious brooding — V. S. Pritchett>
2
: dismal <a lugubrious landscape>

I imagine most of the responses WGRZ got on this were synonyms of this. The Sabres – if they win the next 9 (completing a 10 game winning streak), and assuming the teams ahead of them go .500 (excluding gimme OT points) – would then be 2 points out of 8th. (Feel free to check my math on that, I was feeling too affectedly mournful to care when I did my adding a few days ago.) In any event, there’s your happy cup of Kool Aid. Drink up. This team is good enough at this point of the season to give us steady doses of hope as they stagger on to their way to mathematical oblivion.

As much as we may currently despise certain members of The Core, or the coach or GM, we’ve all been together in this for a very long time. It was after the lockout that everyone really came together, though. Back when the core was a bunch of kids trying to make the line-up out of Rochester, when the line of Vanek-Roy-Afinogenov was the Sabres’ 3rd line, and was tearing through the NHL’s best secondary defenses. Additions Drury and Briere were finally playing to their potential here. We were a team reaping the benefits of being freshly assembled and ready to take on the NHL’s best.

With Drury and Briere and then without, we’ve watched this new Core grow up. Heck, for many of the fans who joined the madness post-lockout, these guys are the only Sabres they truly know on a personal level. We’ve seen them succeed to the brink of the Stanley Cup, only to retreat broken and hobbled by injury. We’ve seen them make and miss the playoffs, finding and failing victory in Game Seven.

3monkeys 300x225 Sabres Past, Present and Future: Not so Terrible, ActuallyWe’ve same them leave.

Dumont, Grier, (and Grier again after he came back for a stint before retirement), McKee, Drury and Briere. They took a bit of our hockey hearts with them when we left town, which is easily evident on the Twitter when folks pined to bring them back, or were hoping that Briere would win that Cup even right after the Sabres were eliminated by his new and very hated Flyers squad.

The most recent tweak of the heart strings for me was seeing Brian Campbell’s selection in the All Star Draft. Say what you want about his contract, or Regier’s failure to convince him to take what would have been a completely insane home-town discount to stay here. I’ll freely admit I was devastated when Soupy left town. But just like I still pull for Briere, seeing Soupy up there in the All Star bleachers with Pominville just made me happy.

The real tweak, no, the real swelling of the heart happened when Pominville was selected off the “final 4,” by none other than Daniel Alfredsson. Not only did the captain of the Ottawa Senators swoop in to save Pommers from being picked last, but he did it by noting how Pominville beat him to win a series between the rival teams in the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals. He did it by mentioning how much he respects Pommers as a person and a player.

And oh yea, Jason is tied for 13th overall in scoring in the NHL – something else to be proud of. What are the chances these two spend some time on the same line together during the All Star game itself? That would be stupefying fun.

SabresHeadGear 300x205 Sabres Past, Present and Future: Not so Terrible, ActuallyAnyway, there he was, right up there in the bleachers with Brian Campbell, and didn’t we all feel good? Didn’t we all feel proud?

Yesterday on WGR 55, Ted Black confirmed once again that Ruff and Regier aren’t going anywhere – “even if we lose every game for the rest of the season.” That’s a pretty bold statement, in the face of virtual fan riots online over the current failures of this squad.

Recently, Derek Roy’s name has been bobbled about online as probable trade bait (along with Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht, and Paul Gaustad). Still, none of them have gone anywhere, either.

Maybe nothing is what is supposed to happen. We’ve seen this group thrive before the UFA additions of the summer. On paper they are improved, and in the earlier portion of the season, before players dropped daily from the roster with injury, the team was improved. They came out confident and earned a respectable 12 points in their first 10 games, with a goal differential of 29/22 (+7). Who’s to say that this same team, when healthy again, can’t do the same – or even better as they become closer as a team on and off the ice?

Maybe lugubrious isn’t the right word, after all.

The season is likely a loss, but the history, culture, and future is not.

This isn’t a time of rebuilding. It’s still a time for patience. Boyes, Hecht, and Gaustad are UFA’s at season’s end. This will take about $10 mil off the books (before the cap goes up), and will open up the purse strings again to improve the roster at the forward position.

The defense, while currently a mess, is getting healthy again. Younger players like Weber, Gragnani, Sekera, McNabb, Brennan, and even Myers are still making mistakes, but will only improve with the steady veteran presence of Leopold, Regehr and Ehrhoff. That’s nine names, with only 6 spots on the bench. “You can never have enough defensemen,” but you gotta’ think that Darcy’s hand will be forced to make a trade with a couple of these names. Let’s not forget that blue chip prospects such as Mark Pysyk are also on their way to the big league. Something is going to have to happen here, and it will improve the roster at the defensive position.

Maybe pining after the players who left us isn’t the best for our psychological health. We likely won’t get that 10 game winning streak, or enough wins in time to get close to that 8th and final playoff spot in the East. Both those notions are misguided. The team has found profound disaster this year on the ice and in the medical room. This should make us all a little more than gloomy.

But the future still looks bright. At year’s end, there’s going to be plenty of wiggle room for Regier to continue to bring in the right names.

We’ve all had enough watching players simply leave us behind. Briere’s been a constant reminder of that. Brian Campbell was an in-you-face reminder of that last night. Things are different now, though. We’re not casting guys aside. We’re bringing them in.

Not all of the additions are going to be amazing fits (Leino, Boyes). Some of them will be terrific (Ehrhoff, Regehr). And not all of our subtractions will feel right in hindsight (Connolly).

Overall, standings aside, Regier and Co. have put up a stronger squad this season. We’re going to have some growing/injury pains, but again, there’s nothing to truly indicate that the Sabres are done getting better. This season may be at a surprising loss, but the pieces are there, already, for future success.

And there are more pieces on the way.

This team’s success neither hinges on the past, nor on the first half of this season. It might feel awful right now, but the team is on the right course. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to suffer through the rest of this season, as the pieces come back together out of the medical room (unless, of course, that magical Kool Aid 10 game run actually happens – which it won’t). We only need to wait for that coalescence again, when the team is “freshly assembled and ready to take on the NHL’s best” once more.

After rethinking this, maybe I need to change my “word” back to what Ted Black preached early on: “patience.”

Looking at the big picture, I can get on board on that. I think I can finally get over the wrecks of the past. The ship isn’t sinking anymore. It’s time to ride out the storm.

Go Sabres.

 

 

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