The Sabres have been on a fun run lately, and I hope they keep things fun for Sabres fans, but the mathematical reaper is coming for our boys in Blue and Gold. Well, not all of them. Some of them will likely be sold off to playoff contenders, something that the Sabres were before a couple things happened.
That 12 game home losing streak. (I said it before, but it bears repeating – just 5 wins in those 12 games and we’d be skating in the top 8.)
The Sabres were close last night. The second period came to a close before the game winner was up on the scoreboard. Then, before Buffalo could head into the locker room for an inspirational “ribbing” by Lindy Ruff, Mike Weber was being assessed a cross checking penalty.
Sure enough, the Sabres heroically survived the ensuing :47 of the 5 on 3, before giving up a goal on a deflection during the remaining 5 on 4. Weber was excused from the box, and for all intents and purposes, the Sabres were excused from the playoff race.
Then again, at least for me, one of the greater mysteries of this season happened: Lindy Ruff put him in the pressbox for the start of the season. And there he sat, and stayed, while fellow youngsters Marc-Andre Gragnani and Andrej Sekera were kept on the ice along with the other 3 offensive-minded defenders (Leopold, Ehrhoff, Myers). Weber didn’t get out onto the ice until November 2nd, and his play was terrible. He’s currently on pace to have his statistically worst career season in points per game and +/- (he’s last on the team in that latter category now – quite the reversal from last season).
He’s certainly regressed. Whatever happened up in that pressbox for the first month of the season wasn’t good. Lindy had chance to play Weber before November, to give him some ice time with Regehr, or anyone for that matter. For whatever reason, he never did.
Weber’s pro development has stalled. His play hasn’t been the same since last season, when he had found consistency and tenacity at the NHL level.
Well then, maybe it was fitting that Weber took that cross checking penalty that sunk the Sabres last night. For better or worse, it was the perfect statement play by a player who was passed over by his coach and who is now overdoing it to try to get his team and his own inconsistent self going again.
As a result, the Sabres remain mired in 14th place. The win would have put them within 6 points of 8th. Now, one bad hockey decision later, they are just 5 games away from oblivion.
Back on January 28, 2011, the Bills were officially a loss and the Sabres looked to be on their way towards the same oblivion. Now in 2012, we’ve seen another epic collapse by both franchises, and though the Sabres are still only showing the symptoms of death, they’re near enough to it to safely assume they’ll be pronounced DOA long before the playoffs begin.
It’s a familiar feeling, isn’t it? The shroud of impending failure is a heavy one, and it’s hard to struggle out from underneath the weight of it all. Heck, even Ryan Fitzpatrick, when recently describing the Bills’ epic fall, lamented that the team “wasn’t ready for prosperity.”
Someone get that team a heavy course of sports pychology, or a team colonic. If we have to get used to winning football games before we can embrace winning, then we’re doomed.
But we’re all still in this together. And aren’t we a hearty, resilient fan base?
It comes with the territory: happy anniversary also to the Blizzard of ’77, also a January 28th phenomenon.
That storm really put a mark on Buffalo. Even in winters like this one, where the permafrost can’t seem to get a grip on our lawns and our backyard rinks sit in slush and waste, sports broadcasters are quick to note their surprise that they didn’t have to dig their way out of the hotel on their way to the stadium.
It’s a heavy lot to carry – all the losses, the disasters, the reputation – it can seem like a bit too much at times. But we carry along, we dig ourselves out, we keep sporting on, even in the face of another year and another pair of sporting disasters.
The hunt for triumph will continue anew, this year, after our newest smattering into seasonal oblivion is mercifully complete.
From Moby Dick (C. 42, “The Whiteness of the Whale”):
Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues — every stately or lovely emblazoning — the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge — pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him.And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?
We are the wretched infidels of the sporting world – that much is clear, just as clear as that annihilation seems always around the next corner. But we will never quit the fiery hunt, either. That much is resoundingly clear, (am I correct ‘Bills Mafia’)?
Meanwhile, a few more weeks of winter remain, along with a few more gasps of hockey.
One year is in the books for me, and it ended just as profoundly miserable as it began. Here’s to hoping next season gives me some profound success to write about. Take heart, sports fans, and never give up. It’s about time we lift that white weighted veil, and find a way to stab success through its heart.
2Posted by Scott Michalak on December 2, 2011 at 9:06 am
Tonight features the iconic matchup of Mike Babcock’s “The System” versus Lindy Ruff’s “The System.” May the best philosopher win.
To go along with this head to head chess match, we at BSN are proud to rebuff it with a even more snarky than usual version of Sabres Twitter BINGO. I’ll warn you ahead of time – this one is not going to be very winnable. And it’s kiiiiinda wordy.
Frankly, you can just put your dabbers back in the drawer for this one. Heck, it ain’t like we ever actually give out prizes to the winner anyway.
Prepare yourself for a heavy dose of old Tim Connolly, Darcy Regier, and Jochen Hecht jokes.
Gerbe doing his honey badger thing and creating the play that led to a goal. TENACIOUS G!
I’d heard earlier in the day that Miller was getting the start, then about 15 minutes before game time Enroth got the nod. Not sure if this was planned or Ruff was just going with the hot hand here.
A group of about 15 or 20 Sabres fans in Buffalo hats with horns were at the game. Think they just showed up randomly like that? Also, how cool would it be if we had thousands of fans at FN Center with those things? You can get your own here.
Eric Karlsson has a gorgeous mullet that Patrick Kane should be jealous of. Not sure which is better, his mullet or the Zubaz that Gerbe and McCormick were sporting during their trip to the hospital that showed during intermission.
Speaking of sweet hair, Sens’ coach Paul MacLean has a monster walrus ‘stache. And does remind one of Zoidberg. As @brianbund’s wife pointed out, Lindy Ruff’s mustache is nowhere near as noticable. Two different men with two very different staches. I want to see an NHL coach mustache competition.
I am much more leery about breakaway / 1 on 1 situations with Enroth than with Miller. With Miller in net I have no worries for that, but more worry lately on the easy goals. Enroth stops the easy ones but isn’t as skilled with 1 on 1’s.
Maybe it was just me, but it didn’t seem like there was a lot of Sens apparel in the arena. As @ScottyMCSS said, there was a guy in the front row wearing a Billabong shirt. Are you a fan of either team? If so, why not show it? If you like another team that’s not playing, wear stuff from that team. Show your loyalty, dammit!
Early on, we still looked horrible at giving away shorthanded chances. Meh.
Rick Jeanneret is an amazing personality with a unique voice and we love him – but I really had no problem with Kevin Sylvester as play-by-play guy and Danny Gare as color.
I did sort of miss Rob Ray’s interjections. Sometimes he’s thought of as a goonish athlete and RJ has even ripped on him, but he often provides nuggets that make you think. He’s not polished at communications, but that endears him to me. Kind of like a puppy behind the glass. He’s really cute and makes you smile sometimes.
Gragnani may not be nearly as NHL-ready as we’d thought after last year’s playoffs. A good reminder to really think about the sample size we had to go on.
Gerbe is so awesome that I think he’s got the most hockey talent per cubic inch. That goal he created was all about his tenacity. I saw @JoeBuffaloWins call him Taz and I loved it. Add that to the growing nickname list for Gerbs.
Man, Regehr can HIT. Nice to see him smash a couple of guys with perfect timing. How come he didn’t get the Carubba Collision? I thought his were more devastating, but the one they chose had two guys performing a double smack and looked better on the surface. #RegehrSmash
Derek Roy is looking great and perhaps close to back to 100%. He stole the puck away several times and controlled it for quite a while with some slick moves.
The Leino/Roy/Stafford line is looking good, with Leino creating some nice chances.
Win or lose, the shootout is THE most exciting part of a hockey game. However it still seems a little unfair to me that it can decide who gets a point. It takes away the team aspect. If we win, I’m ok with it but if we lose, I’m bitching. I’m guess I’m ok with it so long as it never makes it into playoff hockey.
This game is going to do very little to douse the flames of the Miller versus Enroth controversy by some of the Sabres faithful. Me, I think Enroth is fine … for a BACKUP. He’s still nowhere close to Millsie. That much was evident on breakaways and during the shootout, although Enroth *did* get better as the shootout went on.
That’s it and that’s all. (The whistles go whoo-whoo.) Any thoughts as to this format? Something we should continue? Did it make you chuckle, chortle or interested at all? Please comment below and let us know whether it should be continued.
Posted by John Monahan on May 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm
For an NHL organization to excel and win the Stanley Cup, it must start at the very top of the organization. In that, the Sabres have been pretty fortunate with ownership, aside of course from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The Sabres rarely missed the playoffs under the ownership of Seymour Knox and say what you want about Golisano, but he single-handedly kept the Sabres in Buffalo. Plus, during Golisano’s stewardship, the Sabres made it to two consecutive conference finals just after a tumultuous lockout year.
And now, we have the Pegula era.
It’s been a heartwarming start to the new era, and I think most Sabres fans would lift their caps to Terry Pegula (I just had to work a bad hat company pun in there).
To see how well (or poorly) the Sabres may do, we should look to a team that has done something similar recently. The Tampa Bay Lightning were bought last year by Jeff Vinik, who has completely overhauled the franchise, bringing in new general manager Steve Yzerman and new coach Guy Boucher.
As should be the case for the Sabres, everyone in the Lightning organization has bought in to what they’re doing. From an article at NHL.com talks about the Lightning’s changes:
Any system, any role for a player starts with acceptance, and the guys in the Lightning dressing room almost sound like robots with the way they praise “Mr. Vinik” and “Mr. Yzerman” for how they laid the groundwork before the season even started.
When Boucher asks the players to tweak something or try something different, they do it. When Yzerman makes a personnel move, the players believe he has made the team better.
The Sabres seemed to buy in to Pegula right from the get-go. And the Sabres had the advantage of a smoother transition as they didn’t need to learn how to play a new system. Ruff and Regier stayed in place; probably a wise move by Pegula but time will tell.
Tampa Bay, unlike Buffalo, didn’t have a great goaltender. They picked up 41 year old Dwayne Roloson who is leading the playoffs in goals against at 2.17/game. The Sabres, of course have an all-star in Ryan Miller and a steady backup in young Jhonas Enroth.
The other thing Tampa Bay needed to complete their transformation? A veteran number 1 defenseman:
“We needed somebody that was going to be able to log a lot of minutes, have the speed to play against top lines that are fast, have the size to play against bigger lines, be able to play in the power play and the penalty kill and have leadership” Boucher said. “So if you put that down as a shopping list, that’s a pretty big shopping list.”
A big shopping list, indeed, and something the Sabres need as well. You can talk about how well the young defenseman are maturing, and they are, but it may not be happening fast enough. Will they be ready by playoff time next year? Maybe. Maybe not. Acquiring a big-time, hard-hitting, veteran blue liner is something the Sabres will no doubt look at this offseason.
Of course you can add any players you want and if they don’t gel, you have nothing. From Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin:
“From what I’ve seen from the past few years, this year the biggest thing has been the structure of everything — the organization, the team and then the system on the ice. It has really come together this year, and all around everyone knows their role, how to act in every situation and how to play.”
Judging from the Sabres 2nd half finish, they came together as a team very well. The young core should mesh even further in the offseason. Hopefully Brad Boyes will feel more comfortable and find his role in the Sabres offense. The young guys have gotten a taste of the playoffs and by the time next spring rolls around should be prepared to do much better.
By all accounts, the Sabres seem to be pretty solid and Terry Pegula has the ship sailing in the right direction. Now it’s up to Regier to add a just a few more critical pieces.
Go Sabres.Nope can’t use that, it’s Scott’s signoff.
Let’s go Buffalo!Nah, too cheesy and doesn’t translate well to text.
Attaboy, Darcy!Umm… in a word, no.
It’s their rink, it’s their ice, and it’s their &%$in town. But tonight we got our fans with us!Too obscure?
All hail Pegula!
You know what, I’ll just quit typing and end the post like that.