Sunday, October 31, 2010

october's horror

forget the classics like halloween, night of the living dead, the shining or nosferatu, tonight as you try to put a little fright into this halloween, watch a replay of last night's shutout loss in dallas...or, you can go back to the 6-3 loss at the hands of philly...or how about the game two clunker vs. the ny rangers...maybe the entire season thusfar can all be encapsulated in one play last night by tyler myers where he got his pocket picked on the pp, got it back, tried to do too much, got his pocket picked again, gave up on the play, and was too late on the back-check as his man scored a short-handed goal...this was not the tyler myers we saw last season...nor is this the team that started out last year on fire, eventually winning the n.e. div...

those who predicted an epic fail by this season's team are prancing with chests puffed full, snarky "i told you so's" bellowing from their proud lungs...those who predicted an extension of last season's team and an equal, if not slightly stronger run this season are choking with embarassment...(shrugs)...fine...

regardless of anyones opinion, these are the facts for the sabres as they gladly say goodbye to october:

wins:  3, tied for last (njd, phx, edm)
points:  8, tied for second last (edm, fla)
eastern conference:  14th
n.e. div:  5th

goals/game:  2.50 (22nd)...(#1, tampa, 3.50)
goals against/game:  3.17 (23rd)...(bos, 1.38)
shots/game:  33.2 (5th)...(sjs, 35.6)
shots against/game:  28.5 (10th)...(stl, 25.8)

powerplay:  13.0% (20th)...(sjs, 31.8)
penalty kill:  74.5% (27th)...(bos, 93.1)

faceoffs:  47.5% (27th)...(sjs, 56.4)

there's plenty of time for analysis the next few days as the sabres return to the ice against boston on wed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

ch-ch-ch-ch-changes in the air?...hopefully...part 2

as previously mentioned, the 40th anniversary edition of the buffalo sabres is stuck in limbo with management and coaches in place and a reluctance on the part of general manager darcy regier to move any of the "core," top-six players...since regier has shown a penchant for little change within the core, it's up to managing partner larry quinn to force regier into making a trade of significance...and he's done it before...

back in july, 2003, darcy regier refused to part with 2002 draft pick (#11 overall) keith ballard in order to obtain chris drury...quinn stepped in and forced regier to do it, and it worked out pretty well ...(note:  quinn was also instrumental in drury's departure as well)...

would quinn do it again?...i'm not of right now he has his own personal problems as he recovers from heart surgery at the cleveland clinic, so it's safe to say that he has other things on his's expected that he'll be in the hospital for at least a few more days...hopefully, once he regains his faculties and feels well again, he'll have had some sort of epiphany to the effect that stagnation is causing the sabres fans to become restless and that it is beginning to show at the box office...and it will only get worse if things continue as they are...

should quinn do it? actually shoulda been done this off-season (if not a few years ago)

what should they do?

paul hamilton on wgr's "roundtable" brings up daniel briere's present situation with the flyers...basically briere said that life's easier right now because he's not seeing the likes of zdeno chara very much in the course of a game...when he was in buffalo, he would see chara the whole other words, he was going up against the top d-men in the could also add that he was facing the opposition's top checking line as well...

with those top players tied up for most of the game, production fell to the second and third lines...with briere anchoring the sabres top line, chris drury's line and derek roy's line thrived...thomas vanek had a year worthy of a $50m poach attempt by then oilers gm kevin lowe...

with the departure's of drury and briere, the likes of roy and vanek were asked to step up to the top-line and face the top-defenders in the league while the rest were counted on for secondary scoring...the results were two missed playoff years in a row and question marks as to whether or not they could produce in that situation with that style of play...

last season saw an emphasis on vezina-winner ryan miller and the defense lead by calder-winner tyler myers...production from the top-six forwards was stunted, but defense carried the team to the the playoffs vs. the boston bruins there was no scoring from the sabres top-centers--roy and tim connolly-- vanek looked fully able to handle his top-lw role, pomminville contributed and rookie tyler ennis contributed in a depth role...once again, on the whole, they looked over matched in their roles...but, still, nothing was done...

so now we're 10 games into the season and the sabres are faced with a few areas that are weak:
  • ryan miller still has not hit his stride, although much can be attributed to a mediocre (at best) defense
  • the defense is off to a rough start with tyler myers going through growing pains, jordan leopold is still adapting to the new climate, but has played very well, and shaone morrisonn had the triple-whammy of adjusting to a new team, a d-partner and dealing with an early season injury
  • on offense more adjustments with rob niedermayer, cody mccormick and nathan gerbe coming in and tyler ennis beginning his first full season
  • scoring from the forward lines are down, with some players being non-existent
i believe that all of these will work themselves out, save for the last point...which is on the backs of the top-six "core"...

the #1 line that will face the oppositions #1 defenders is vanek/roy/drew far, roy started hot and has cooled down, vanek started cold and is heating up, stafford is still inconsistent...i do believe that vanek is a top-line player...roy can produce in a top-line role facing top defenders, but is better suited to the second line...stafford is more like a third-line rw...

nothing new, the sabres are still lacking a true #1 center while #1 rw is, and has been, even more of a major problem area

that could be overcome if the second line hasn't...and therein lies a major problem...

the line of jochen hecht/connolly/pomminville was the most consistent line the sabres had last season...a line the helped get the team off to a great start...this season, that line started out slow, some would say were "invisible" on a nightly basis...

with the sabres #1 line taking on top-defenders, this line has the opportunity to do some damage...connolly should be able to handle #2 center duties, but looks out of it most nights...pomminville is a solid #2 rw, but has been injured...hecht is a #3 lw, but is capable of playing #2 as long as there's chemistry between him and his linemates, as proven last season...

right now, the invisibility of connolly means the sabres are lacking a player to take on the #2 center position...

what are the sabres options in regards to filling these holes?...regier would say that these players will "grow into them"...on the other end, some sabres fans would say trade everybody except miller, myers and ennis...

maybe quinn could tell regier to address one area...even if the second line starts producing, there's still areas that could use some help on the top line...although i'm not privy to, nor claim to be privy to, any inside information concerning the availability of players, by the looks of, it here are some players that might be available:
  • jamie langenbrunner, rw, nj devils--the devils are in worse shape than the sabres and one would have to think that some changes are coming...langenbrunner brings alot to the table--he has two rings, is a leader still capable of top-line duties, and is clutch in the playoffs...potential top-line:  vanek, roy, langenbrunner
  • simon gagne, lw, tb lightning--gagne's a goal-scorer...he's been injury-prone lately, but when he's on the ice, he's a top-notch lw...presently he's goalless in six games with his new team and is a should not be a problem moving vanek to rw (i actually think he'd do much better there)...potential top-line:  gagne, roy, vanek
  • chris drury, c, ny rangers--(ducks for cover)...i know all the criticisms and hatred for the guy, but he brings a lot to the table, has two years left on his contract with only this one being financially atrocious and would certainly help in the secondary scoring role and top-six leadership role...ny was a bust for him and the team...potential second-line:  hecht, drury, pomminville
these are just examples based upon what might be out there and how they would help fill a few major holes in the sabres top-six...of course, there's always the "internal salary cap" which would need to be addressed if any of these three, or their ilk, were brought in...(ummm...tim connolly makes $4.5m this season...hint, hint)...
the bottom line is this, darcy regier needs to shake-up and strengthen the top-six...larry quinn is his boss...if quinn says do it, it'll get done...if it doesn't happen soon, whether this team turns it around or not in the near future, the bottom line will be adversely affected...and i'm pretty sure that will not please larry quinn

ch-ch-ch-ch-changes in the air?...hopefully

a slow start by the buffalo sabres equals widespread panic amongst some fans...(shrugs)'s not for the other extreme, general manager darcy regier stated that the components are there, they just need do redirect their focus and become more passionate...

some fans are calling for major changes, like firing head coach lindy ruff and/or regier, or minor changes like firing assistant coach brian mccutcheon (for an inept powerplay)...some are looking to player movement via trade, waive or buyout (names like tim connolly, craig rivet and jochen hecht are being thown about) as a way to shake things up...some put bags over their avatars heads...and some would like to see this:

then there's the group that still bemoans the loss of chris drury and daniel briere...and max afinogenov...and brian campbell...and hank tallinder...and even tim kennedy...fine...whatever...what's done is done, but if you want to wallow in what-shoulda-beens, go ahead...

simple facts:
  • the buffalo sabres got booted from the playoffs last season in the first round
  • at the end of season press conference, both larry quinn and darcy regier said significant changes need to be made
  • the buffalo sabres are 3-6-1 to start the 2010/11 season, their 40th anniversary season
  • larry quinn is part owner/managing partner of the buffalo sabres
  • quinn has done a great job with the bottom line
  • quinn is likes darcy regier as his general manager
  • regier helped stabilize a franchise in turmoil when he came on board
  • regier built an exciting team for the post-lockout nhl
  • those two teams went far and the excitement remained through two non-playoff years, although it diminished until their playoff appearance last season
  • regier also has stated that lindy ruff will remain on as coach as long as he's the gm, and there's no reason not to believe he'll remain true to that
  • ruff has also been a stabilizing factor for the buffalo sabres during his tenure and he works with the team that was given him
  • there has not been a change to the top-six on this team--save the trade of ales kotalik in 2009--post-drury-briere
  • there has not been a impact trade to bring a player in since 2003 (drury)
based upon the above facts, its safe to assume that:
  • larry quinn will be with the sabres as managing partner
  • darcy regier will remain as general manager at least for this season
  • lindy ruff, barring a total collapse, will remain on as coach (his contract also runs out at the end of the season) and with that comes the probability that assistant coaches mccutcheon and james patrick will remain on as well
  • because of regier's belief in his core and a myriad of reasons (in his eyes) not to make a significant trade, there (in all probability) will be no movement in the top-six forwards
  • because of the turn-over on the back-end with the loss top-four d-men tallinder and toni lydman countered by the additions of jordan leopold and shaone morrisonn, pretty sure that the latter along with captain craig rivet and steve montador will make up the "veteran" part of the d-corps...tyler myers leads they "youth" portion and either andrej sekera, chris butler or mike weber fill the final spot in the line-up while the other two will be in the pressbox...
you're probably asking yourself, "what's the point, boos?"

first off, the extremes are, well....the extremes...this 3-6-1 sabres team is not as talented as regier would think, nor does it have the leadership that he believes...on the other side, there is talent on this team--ryan miller is the reigning vezina winner, there are players like thomas vanek, derek roy and jason pomminville who do produce (although not as much or as consistently as we would like,) the defense--although in a bit of a rut right now--is solid and the bottom-six, veteran role players can--and do--contribute in a significant way to the sabres success both on and off the they have two promising rookies in tyler myers and tyler ennis who are contributing...

but, as we all know, a move of significance is needed...since status quo reigns supreme with regier, nothing will probably get done unless this man gets involved:

"yeah, i'm ultimately responsible for the buffalo sabres"

what should he do?...tune in...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

deja vu all over again

broken record, stale, deja vu..."if there's an orignial thought, i could use it now," sings bob dylan...

although it's not that original, it is pretty rare to see the gm take the fall for a team instead of a coach...
--some of the hallmarks of the last 3+ seasons were seen last night as the sabres got thumped by the flyers:
  • failure to bring it for a full sixty minutes
  • failure to capitalize on opportunities
  • the inability to cope with physicality
  • folding up the tent at the first sign of adversity
  • desperation when victory is out of reach

when the going gets tough, the sabers wilt, and they have done so for the past 3+ seasons...
--it's all about "la core," the group that was locked up long term
--it's all about the leadership that was to emerge in the abscence of chris drury and daniel briere...that still hasn't
--it's all about darcy regier's penchant for icing a vanilla team, his slow approach to change, his steadfast belief that his core will magically turn into the islanders dynasty...
--it's all about failure to add any top-half players via trade or free agency to alter "la core" over the past 3+ seasons
--it's the same story, failures acknowledged, excuses made, significant changes promised, no significant changes made..."we tried, but things didn't work out," "it's a tight market," "not much out there," "what we have is better than what was available," "the price was very high," etc, etc, etc...

regier's been a good gm, ardently loyal to his staff of coaches and scouts...from head coach lindy ruff and his assistants brian mccutcheon and james patrick to pro scout jon christiano and amateur scouting director kevin devine...

he's also very loyal to the players that were drafted by former head of amateur scouting, jim benning as well as the work of  former rochester americans head coach randy cunneyworth, two figures who were instrumental in the drafting and development of, "la core"...

more on that later...

until then, please enjoy this musical interlude:


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the bruhaha over tyler ennis on a "checking line"

as alluded to in the 2010/11 sabres season preview, lindy ruff will have a tough time finding a spot for tyler ennis...he's a legit top-six forward who was ahl rookie of the year last season--as a center...he's fast, quick, and "greazzy" (ruffs word,) he creates space for himself and his line mates, has innate on-ice vision, can tinkle the twine when the opportunity arises and he's an excellent set-up man...

problem is, as a center, whether we like it or not, he's behind derek roy and tim a left wing he's behind thomas vanek...ideally, he should be on the second line with connolly and whomever logging 16-19 mins. per game while jochen hecht--the sabres #2 lw right now--would seem a natural fit on the "checking line" with rob niedermayer and mike grier...unfortunately, it seems as if connolly's inept with anyone other than hecht on the left side...thus the quandary for ruff...

jason pomminville is still recovering from a concussion and should be back within a week to ten days...hearken back to last season when the only consistent line was hecht/connolly/pomminville...go back to late in the season and into the playoffs where connolly disappeared when hecht was out with injuries...out of sheer necessity, ruff must play hecth with connolly in order to maximize production from his #2 center...which in and of itself is a travesty...

add in the fact that ruff likes balanced scoring and would love to be able to get production from at least three lines, and you have ennis playing left wing with nieds and grier...

we've all learned to dismiss the notion that darcy regier will make moves with his top-six...for the past three seasons "la core" has been untouchable...therefore, what you see is what you'll get up-top...

for his part, ennis has taken it all in stride...he started out the year with derek roy and somehow transformed him from "dipsy-doodle" derek to "drive-to-the-net" derek...the results?...roy sat atop the nhl leaderboard for goals and points...until, of course, roy got full of himself and contracted a severe case of "maxitis"...the individual play increased as did the turnovers, the scoring went down and, as shown in the ot goal by ilya kovalchuk vs. the devils, roy was so full of himself that he felt he was above the team and his coach leaving defense to those without his "skill-set" that same time-frame, jason pomminville was injured, shaone morrison was injured and the whole team went into a funk at home...and so did ennis...

ennis was/is going through growing pains both literally and figuratively...he added 5 lbs. to his 5'9" frame during the off-season and the opposition was getting a better handle on his game...things weren't working for himself and the sabres on offense after the first few games...add in the fact that a top-six winger (pomminville) went down thereafter and you have some line juggling...vs. atlanta on the road,  the "reincarnation of adam mair" was consumated as 4th-liner cody mccormick, played top-six minutes along side connolly and hecht...he notched a goal in that game and in the following home loss to ottawa connolly notched his first two of the season and was named the second-star for the game...ennis was relegated to the 3rd line in these new combinations....

in the game vs. atlanta, the first game with these new line combos, ennis notched his first goal of the season and notched his first point in three games as he blew past the thrasher d and walked in on chris mason to open the scoring....that play showed just how much quicker and faster he than his new line mates...the moans and groans and fever-pitch calls for ruff's head had subsided as both mccormick and ennis scored goals in the 4-1 victory, a victory which snapped a five-game losing streak...yet, in many fans' eyes, this was just another case (albeit completely unfounded in this blogger's eyes) of ruff inhibiting the offensive abilities of gifted players through his system...

yes, the ennis/nieds/grier combination is a strange one, but not too strange...ennis' talents are sick, especially when compared to his two line mates, as are his speed and quickness...and you'd think it would destroy him mentally, but it hasn't happened yet as evidenced by his two goals, one assist and plus-three rating in the three games this line has been together...imo, unlike "la core" which came before him, ennis seems to have the intestinal fortitude to overcome obstacles and play the game with the utmost professionalism no matter what his role is...he sticks to the system and makes the most out of his line mates and the time he has on the ice...

it actually may be a plus that ennis is on a line with nieds and grier...these are two vets who have been through the rigors of a long season with one of them winning the cup (nieds, '07, anaheim)...they've pretty much seen it all in their 33 years (combined) in the nhl...they know trends, they study tape, they grasp the nuances of a shift, period, game, month, season and post-season....they have a complete understanding of "ebb and flow" as well as "peaks and valleys"...all of this experience is now imparted upon ennis and it seems as if he's the type of player who will soak it up like a sponge...

now, i pose this question to you, the reading audience:  would you rather have anyone from "la core," meaning roy, drew stafford or connolly, teaching ennis the nuances of the game or would you rather have the veteran influence of nieds and grier? this situation, i'd rather have the latter...

in 1974 a small but spunky goal-scorer came into the national hockey league for the buffalo sabres...there really was no room for danny gare in the top-six, even though his skill-set warranted that...he ended up on the "checking line" with two of the best in the business--don luce and craig his first two seasons, gare had 31 goals and 50 goals respectively...being with two of the best checkers in the game did not inhibit gare...neither should ennis be inhibited on a line with nieds and grier

Monday, October 25, 2010

gripes that are not sabres-centric

“We need that line to compete a little bit harder on nights when it’s going to be difficult,” ____ said. “Because they are going to be closely monitored by the other team. Get to the front of the net, get your nose dirty, score an ugly goal. We have to figure out how to do that. We just have to compete harder,” he said. “Be willing to go into dangerous areas and battle when we’re there.” ...

that was not buffalo sabres coach lindy ruff, it was toronto maple leafs coach ron wilson...

in that same article, the globe and mail's james mirtle sums up toronto's top-six group of forwards...[they] are closer to Lady Byng candidates than hardnosed, front-of-the-net types, however, just one sign that personnel may be part of the problem when it comes to winning ugly when necessary...

sounds familiar, doesn't it?

if i were a devils fan, i'd be ticked

if i was a devils fan who attended the game last night, i'd be ticked...ilya kovalchuk was a healthy scratch, martin brodeur was on the bench until johan hedberg (in his first start of the season) got the hook and the devils, outside of the first two minutes, played an incredibly listless game...

on kovalchuk:  it was speculated, according to msg analyst ron duguay, that kovalchuk and devils head coach john mclean had a further information has been released but this is what mclean had to say, “That’s between him and I,” MacLean said, “That was my decision"...and he did not elaborate on the reasons for scratching the two-time 50-goal scorer...
kovalchuk is an incredible offensive player, an elite sniper in the nhl...perhaps mclean found his defensive play offensive as well...who knows, but one thing for sure, the off-season turbulence is affecting the devils, who are off to a 2-5-1 start...

brodeur was given the night off, until he was summoned half-way through the game...hedberg, who had a 12-2-2 record vs. buffalo and a gaa of 2.25, got the hook after giving up four goals on 15 shots...

the sabres played a totally different team in the devils...basically they had a pretty easy night...some notes:

--mike weber had a solid game after a rough first couple of shifts and looked real confident in his first game of the season patrolling the blueline
--it seems as if tyler myers needs to add an extra inch to his stick, and maybe he should dump the composite stick for a wood's as if the puck is always half-an-inch out of reach (maybe because myers grew an inch since last season) and is bouncing off his stick more often than not...yeah, he's having a rough start, but there will come a time where the game will slow down and it will start making sense again...he's going through some changes--height, weight, opposition, d-partner...kinda like going through puberty all over again
--chris butler seems to be rounding into his'08/9 form, which is a good thing

it'll be interesting to see how these three acquit themselves throughout the of now andrej sekera and butler have had the most ice-time, and of the two, buts has looked much seems as if the game has slowed for him

tyler ennis has been on a line with vets rob niedermayer and mike mentioned in another blog here, it's a good thing...the gripes from sabredom have been about him wasting his talents on the third line with checkers and defensive-minded players were at a fever-pitch when this line was announced...just to remind everyone, danny gare came into the league as a scorer and spent his rookie campaign with don luce and craig ramsay, two of the best defensive forwards in the league...he had a 50-goal rookie season...

on hank tallinder:  jerry sullivan of the buffalo news brings up the point that maybe tyler myers is having a poor start because of the loss of hank tallinder...the article is more about the loss of tim kennedy, but he ties in hank as part of "the core" hank really didn't do much for me...yes he had a comeback year last season, and that can be attributed more to myers than anything, but he was one of the biggest wusses on the team...two instances where he failed to protect his goalie, the face of the franchise--the scott gomez (nyr) hit on ryan miller and the chris phillips (ott) hit on miller as well...totally inexcusable...

lack of compete was a hallmark of henrik tallinder when he was in seems as if tallinder carried it with him to new jersey as exemplified in a play where 5'6" nathan gerbe out-competes 6'4" tallinder for the puck setting up a bang-bang, derek roy to thomas vanek goal...

myers will shake his for hank? long and thanx for all the fish


Thursday, October 21, 2010

a little practice time, and le' thrash equal a "w"

some random thoughts after the sabres 4-1 win over atlanta last night:
  • it's true, after six games in nine nights, the sabres finally had a chance to work on some things during a couple of practice sessions...the first thing lindy ruff did was emphasize that being spent after a grueling workout is a good thing...they were dog-tired...but it was a good practice, d-pairings were allowed to get a feel for each other as well--tyler myers/jordan leopold, steve montador/chris butler, craig rivet/andrej lines got a chance to work with each other and they had some time to work on the pp as well...
  • jason pomminville is still recovering from his concussion, tim connolly is playing like he has a concussion and drew stafford is back to his old self...a definitive quandry for ruff when constructing lines...enter cody mccormick...having connolly center jochen hecht and mccormick was a very "interesting" move and drew the wrath of many sabres faithful...maybe ruff was thinking that mccormick could "teach" connolly how the game is to be played and that hard work every shift will produce results...connolly had his best game of the season last night (not saying much, but it's a step in the right direction)...personally, i think connolly's reached the point of no return, but for one night it worked...
  • the other line that was "very interesting" was rob niedermayer centering mike grier and tyler ennis...once again, the sabres faithful were shaking their collective heads with some spewing vile hatred for ruff because of this...the trouble that ruff will have this season if no changes are made and the personell produce like they did last season, is where to put ennis...sure, ennis is way too fast for grier, too fast for niedermayer and he's a top-six player relegated to a checking line...yet, he scored a goal on a break and had another golden opportunity mere seconds later...this combination will not last...for now, though, you've got two savvy vets imparting their knowledge on an extremely talented kid who's willing to learn...would you rather have one of the core like connolly, derek roy or drew stafford teaching this kid?...i wouldn' part of "the new core" ennis needs to stay away from "the (present) core" as much as possible..
  • both of those line combinations were a "stroke of genius" for one night, at least, and it helped that they were playing le' thrash, who were "enjoying" their first game back from a road trip...they're not the defending champion chicago blackhawks who can win on sheer chutzpah while playing a mediocre game...
  • thomas vanek has a wicked slapshot...unfortunately he's rarely able to uncork it...last night he scored on a laser...he's done this before, and on nearly every occasion, it comes from the right side where the right-handed vanek is opponent-free when he winds up...why he's not on the right side more often is beyond me...maybe they should forget about finding a #1 rw and just move vanek there, thus opening a slot for ennis in the top-six on the left side...(knock, knock, knock)...darcy, are you there?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

maybe this was what lindy was thinking

lindy ruff was on wgr yesterday...

listening to the interview with howard simon and jeremy white, i decided to cut through the diplomacy and "coach-speak" and delve deep into the responses to find out what he really was thinking...

my interpretation of what ruff's answers really meant:

--is the team as bad as it looks during the slow start?
"no it isn't. obviously we've had a little chemistry issue on lines...we got to dig our heels in and prove we're a better team."
--what he really meant--man howard, these guys have really sucked lately and they are as bad as they've looked...we put the lines together, but they don't seem to trust one another in any combination...until our top players get their heads out of their arses, we'll continue to suck

--why is the effort so inconsistent?
"we haven't worked together as a five man unit on the ice. we've talked about it at length...we haven't been good blueline to blue line...especially at home...most of it has been turnovers...i think the second part of it we were a split second slow with decisions in the offensive zone...we hung on to the puck too long, it allowed the other team to gain the coverage it wanted..."
--what he really meant:  jesus, mary and joseph, i thought we got rid of that individual, dipsy-doodle, turnover crap when max left...this team gets too damn cute, especially at home and i hate cute, and cute is what many of our "skilled" players aim for...ya know, ya gotta look good, when you score, eh...that is IF you score...gotta be highlight reel, too...oh, and can't let anything happen to the face either, gotta look cute for the camera...

--how much do you and the coaches shoulder the blame for the poor start?
"i'll take full responsibility because it's my responsibility for the way the team plays"
--what he really said--yeah, forget the fact that are #1 scorer listens about a third of the time to the coaching staff, oddly enough, that's when he scores...go figure...a couple more in the top-six are weak, inconsistent sissies who won't hit, won't skate hard and can't score, yet have the audacity to think they know it all...they don't friggen' listen...and don't even get me started with the lack  of top-six additions or the fact that "the core" is untouchable...urrrrgggghhhh!!!

--you've been here a long time, do you ever worry that you're not getting through to the players anymore--
"no, sometimes i think that's all a lot of crap. to be honest with you...we've had a lot of changes we had four or five players last year, four or five players this year...were diggin' in, this adversity should just make us tougher, if not, then we're not the group we think we are"
--what he really meant--horsesh!t!!!'s laying the foundation to get me fired, that's what it is...i've got five or six, thick-headed numb skulls who play the system when they want to...unfortunately, these floaters really don't want to put forth the think another coach could get them to do it?...yeah, for a few games, until they reverted to the thick-headed, numb skull floaters that these players really are...i've done my best to get them to play the way they can, to teach them that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger...and what did i get?...have i mentioned that they look cute for the camera?

--do you ever worry about your job security, especially in a slow start:
"you know, the one thing i'm not gonna do is panic and worry about..i worry about the way the team plays..."
--what he really meant--you're kidding me, right?...cripes howard, i've been here a long time and i can get the most out of what's given me...can i get fired?...sure...will i get fired?...yeah, i've thought about i care?...yeah, i enough to take the heat for this group of soft-but-skilled players who don't listen, perform inconsistently and who cry when the going gets enough to take the heat off of my boss...the s.o.b. who put this roster me...i want to stay in buffalo, but if i get canned, those are the breaks

--tim connolly, what have you seen outta his game and how does he fix it?
"it falls under the general category...we have to put away the individual play...that are turning into in ten...will make tsn's top-ten...and if you're not scoring with that play, and it's going the other way, your linemates get frustrated...tim connolly's not the only one"
--what he really said--tim connolly's driving me nuts, just like max used to and like derek roy still does more often than not...why darcy ever re-signed connolly, i'll never know...he's acting like a bone-head on the ice and not only are his linemates pissed, but so is everyone center in this league?...yeah, maybe five years ago for a short time, but too many boinks to the coconut have really messed him up...meh, only got one more year with him...i friggen hope

--when do you go to the gm and say, this team's not the team we thought it would be?
"...(chuckles) darcy and i talk on a daily basis...we're always talking about what we see in the team...we've gone through some changes and with morrisson out and pomminville out we've had some players in bigger takes some time."
--what he really said--f#ck, howard, way to put me on the spot...can't stand the team that i've been given...darcy and i have gone at it for the past three seasons concerning personell...he throws me some bones on the bottom-six and lower-pairing d-men, but i can't get anything up-top...there his little friggen babys...this is the team as i thought it would be--great when it's easy, fetal position when it's tough...makes me wanna throw up...but in darcy-world, they're a "cup-contender"...cripes, give me one leader in the top-six...give me one player who combines grit and finish...give me one or two players with those attributes and i'll get to the finals once, i wanna slap him silly sometimes...he's driving me nuts with this core sh!t...i'd better stop...(looks around for something to kick)

--do you still believe in your roster?
"we'll find ways to win"
--what he really said--ummmm right, howard...we'll win once miller gets in his groove and once myers gets out of his funk...until then, this group seems hell-bent on finding ways to look cute in a losing cause

Monday, October 18, 2010

hank tallinder?...really!!!???

you have got to be kidding me!

who had a front row seat as ryan miller was run?

ohhhh, and who had a front row seat when ryan miller got run...again?

and who did absolutely nothing?

yeah, you knuckleheads, #10, hank tallinder

next thing you know, sabres fans will be moaning about the loss of tim kennedy and how his bottom-six contributions are missed...ohhhh, silly me, the whiners are already bringing that up too...absurdity reigns


Saturday, October 16, 2010

is it time for the first "fresh start" of the season?

"what the *&%!$%$#!!!???"

an exasperated lindy ruff shows his frustration...his wrath in this case is directed at the officials, but the source, more than likely, is his players and their lackluster performance on an early season homestand...

0-3-1 is would be one thing if it was the product of a poor team playing the elites of the national hockey league, it's quite another when a defending division champ refuses to put for an effort commiserate with their talent...

a hallmark of the post-chris drury/daniel briere buffalo sabres is lack of compete, inconsistency as a team, floating stars, as well as displaying a sense of urgency and/or desperation only when it's too late...the end result, 1-3-1 to start their 40th anniversary season...

it's nothing new...blah, blah, blah, "we've got to put forth a better effort," blah, blah, blah, "we need to bury our chances," blah, blah, blah, "it's not good enough," blah, blah, blah, "it's unacceptable"...all of these are terms nearly every sabres player has used throughout the last few years...
blah, is what the sabres faithful saw for the first four home games of the 2010/11 season...

lindy ruff's solution?..."The guys that are going to put the work in are going to play," he said..."I told the guys after the second period, guys were going to play who were going to compete the guys who were playing the best were going to play. I didn't care who it was"...that's why tim connolly saw all of two minutes in the third period last night...that's why thomas vanek has seen his ass plastered to the bench more than once over the past three seasons...ya can't have your "superstars" floating...

as for tonight's game vs. chicago?..."We might play three lines," ruff said, "we might play 2 1/2 lines. They know that. The gig's up now. You can sit on the end of the bench."

yeah, it could happen...but it could be another case of blah, blah, blah...we've heard it before from the coach, and he's done it to an extent, but ruff's hardly an extremist in situations like this...what does it lead to?...bouts of inconsistency where invariably and inevitably we'll here these two words come from the mouth of the sabres head coach:  "fresh start" 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

some thoughts on the devils game

  • derek roy--congrats on having your name up-top in the league for scoring, does that mean you can float in ot and let one of the league's premier snipers skate into the slot uninhibited?...dude...that was lame at best, but really abhorrent for a "leader" on this team
  • andrej sekera--ummm...the puck in your own face-off circle is very important...especially in overtime
  • ryan miller--single-handedly got the team a point...please, leave the ambassador role for the off-season...this sabres team is gonna really need you......again
  • attendence--a sell-out?...really? (shakes head)
  • cody mccormick--nice work dropping them with a big dog, way to show some passion
  • pat kaleta--easy there, you're smarter than that
  • drew stafford--how many times have we seen staff play like puke, have a kick-ass game after a talking to from lindy ruff, only to see his game deteriorate back down to puke a few games later?
  • thomas vanek--was knocked on his ass numerous times while battling for the puck, but just kept fighting,..."got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" (bruce cockburn)

3rd period/ot faceoffs
  • over the first two periods, the buffalo sabres went 19-11 in faceoffs
  • from the third period on the sabres went 2-12 on the dot...
  • the sabres did not win a faceoff from the 6:10 minute mark on
  • tim connolly lost all five of his faceoffs, including both in ot
  • derek roy lost six of seven
  • rob niedermayer lost his only faceoff
  • paul gaustad won his only faceoff
if this team, as a whole, played with emotion, i'd like them more...they'd probably win more...and am pretty sure that the fan-base would develop an emotional attachment with the team...right now the buffalo sabres look lame

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the niklas hjalmarsson/jason pominville incident

  • as with every forward holding the sidewall, jason pominville took a quick glance over his shoulder to evaluate his situation
  • did he have the peripheral vision to see an opponent streaking in at 5:00?...possible but not probable in relation to the millisecond he used to look over his shoulder
  • niklas hjalmarsson saw an opportunity to go after the puck, and if it meant separating the player from the puck with a crunching check, then so be it
  • pominville was highly vulnerable in that situation along the boards as he was looking to gather the puck and move it out of the zone
  • hjalmarsson did not let up on his check and hit pominville in the right shoulder blade...the force of which sent him face-first into the glass causing him to collapse
niklas hjalmarsson is hardly a goon, nor is he considered dirty and there's no reason to believe that there was malicious intent to injure, but a shot to the back-side of an opponent can, and should, be considered a blindside hit...players were made aware that these hits would draw the attention of, and a suspension from, nhl disciplinarian colin campbell...

as of this writing, a decision has not been handed down...a 2-3 game suspension would be warranted in this instance...sorry, nik, no matter how clean your (short) past is, the nhl needs to take action if they want to begin to be taken seriously...

Monday, October 11, 2010

what to do if stafford rides the pine

we're two games into the 2010/11 season and already head coach lindy ruff pulled two wingers aside for a little of them was thomas vanek who's a league-worst minus-5 thus-far and has no points much less goals...

the other?

drew stafford...wgr's paul hamilton put it best during the home-opener debacle vs. the ny rangers, "Drew Stafford had a great first period in Ottawa and has been back to being Drew Stafford since. It just makes you wonder if he had a Trent Edwards preseason. It's only five periods into the season, but it does make you wonder."

should stafford continue to falter and get removed from the line-up (which will become more of a probability with every passing period) what should ruff do with the lines?

unless they bring up a right winger (kassian?) or trade for one (highly unlikely) some line juggling will need to be done...a possible solution would be this:

sure, that joche hecht, rob niedermayer, mike grier line is one helluva shut-down line and, yes, you may believe that hecht should be a bottom-six left wing (i don't,) but the fact of the matter is, the hecht/tim connolly/jason pomminville line was the best and most consistent line on the team last season...until hecht got hurt...look what that did to connolly...that line should be reunited...

who takes hecht's place on the "third-line?"...would have to be nathan gerbe...actually, not a bad scenario for him or the team...he gets to play with two defensive-minded, savvy vets, and the team adds some scoring potential on the third line...

the fourth line would remain the same--cody mccormick, paul gaustad, pat kaleta

so what about the other "top-line?...for that i ask this question, why can't vanek play right wing?...he's right-handed and there's no reason that the switch from left wing would be a detriment, because he had an off-year last season and is off to a piss-poor start this year...if tyler ennis and derek roy could work their magic with the likes of stafford one that line, having vanek would be even fact, that may even open things up further for him...

ennis, roy, vanek
hecht, connolly, pomminville
gerbe, niedermayer, grier
mccormick, goose, kaleta

just a thought

Sunday, October 10, 2010


hubris, as defined by webster's dictionary, is "exaggerated pride or self-confidence often resulting in retribution"...

after a 2-1 win on the road against their long-time northeast division nemesis, the ottawa senators, the buffalo sabres returned home the following night for their home opener vs. the new york rangers riding high...and why shouldn't they, right?...that's two wins in a row vs. the sens, their special teams were vital in the win, and they played a very disciplined team-game to pull out a hard-fought, one-goal victory...

as we've seen so many times in the post-daniel briere/chris drury era, this team seems to think that with a victory of substance under their belt, they'd somehow passed through some magical thresh-hold...that they'd achieved a level of greatness where they could simply take the ice, put on a wonderful display of speed and skill and breeze to an entertaining victory over the opponent...any opponent...but, in  nearly every case, mostly in front of the hometown fans, it ends in disaster, like the egg they laid last night in a 6-3 loss to the ny rangers...

"We had a period of maybe 10 minutes in the second period where we put the work boots on," said head coach lindy ruff after the loss last night. "I'm pretty disappointed with our work ethic. We had pucks we didn't want to go get."

in 2007/08 season there were many games like this, and the end result was missing the playoffs...the excuse was there, the turbulent off-season had left this team reeling...the new leadership group which included many from "the core"--derek roy, jason pomminville, and thomas vanek as well as vets like tim connolly and jochen hecht (among others now departed) were in a transition phase and it might take a season for them adjust to their new responsibilities...fair enough

the 2008/09 season saw the team miss the playoffs once again...and, again, the excuse was there--ryan miller was lost for a stretch and the back-ups couldn't hold the fort...thomas vanek went down as well...good-bye of carry-overs from the '07/8 season was their failure to beat the teams they should have...many of these losses, like the previous year, were due to a hubristic lack of work ethic and a vainglorious approach towards their "lesser" opponents; all the while skating with a sense of entitlement instead of a sense of purpose...

last season the additions of mike grier and steve montador, as well as trophy-winning seasons from ryan miller and tyler myers, seemed to balance out "the core's" hubris and the team skated their way to a northeast division title and a #3 seed in the eastern conference playoffs...yet they lost in 6 games to the underdog boston bruins..."the core" was mostly silent in the series and once again, injuries--to vanek, hecht and connolly--were mildly used as an excuse...

the thread that runs through the last three seasons is that when the sabres win, they play a solid defensive team-game in all three zones, which is a 180 degree turnaround from the high-flying, immediate post lockout years of briere and drury...when they lay an egg, like they did last night, more often then not they play an individual game that often times tries to mimic those briere/drury years, ""That's not NHL defensive-zone hockey. That's summertime shinny" said defenseman steve montador last night...montador along with d-partner jordan leopold were the only two sabres with a plus-rating last night (+1)...

that's not professionalism either...and professionalism is something that's been lacking over the past three seasons...yes, the additions of craig rivet, grier and montador, as well as rob niedermayer this season has slowly instilled a sense of professionalism team-wide (and hopefully amongst the youngsters,) but they all play bottom-six roles up-front or lower-pairing roles on the back-end...none of that professionalism was brought in for the top-half of the team as encapsulated by this brief in-game comment from wgr's paul hamilton, "[tyler] Ennis was streaking down the near side boards waiting for a trailer to break to the net but no one arrived. [derek] Roy was too busy trying to draw a penalty and let the referees know there should have been an infraction called."...and that's the sabres #1 center we're talkin' about...

it's real early in the season and just like one should not have been planning the parade after the win over ottawa, one should not be jumping off the bridge after this stinker either...but it will be interesting to see whether or not "the core" can shun their sense of entitlement and follow in the footsteps of their bottom-half counterparts like niedermayer, grier and montador...all the talk about learning their lessons after the first-round loss to the bruins last season and the ensuing  talk about individual sabres "maturing" over the summer, went out the window with last night's performance (or lack thereof)...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the journey of a thousand miles...

begins with derek roy driving to the net...twice for goals in a 2-1 win for the sabres...

methinks that this is a good sign for roy...mehopes that it'll continue the entire length of the buffalo sabres hockey season...metakes the role of "doubting thomas"...for now...

roy is not really known for this type of play, which makes me think that he caught the sens d and goalie a bit pretty sure the rest of the teams take notice and will be ready for him in the future...could derek "dipsy-doodle" roy become derek "drive-to-the-net" roy?...not really sure...

i do remember a guy named maxim afinogenov who was highly skilled and flashy...whenever he drove to the net great things would happen...but those instances were too few and far between...

congrats to roy and the sabres for beating their nemesis, ottawa, in their season opener...a great way to start their 40th anniversary season...

some interesting articles: 
robert "rip" simonick has been with the buffalo sabres for 40 years...buffalo news columnist bucky gleason culls some very interesting info from the equipment manager including this, "People don't believe me when I tell them these guys had their own ashtrays on the road with their numbers on them. Gilbert, Jerry Korab, Rene [Robert], Rico [Rick Martin], all of them. Now, they have six beers [for the entire team] after a game. Back then, it was more like six cases."

"holy mackerel," the buffalo news chats with rick jeanneret who says that after 39 years behind the microphone, "he's closer to the end than the beginning."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

captain, my captains...who should they be?

who will wear letters this season?

my guess:

captain--craig way ruff strips him, unless rivet lands on long-term injured reserve

jason pomminville--he wore it last year, hasn't missed a game in years, offers consistent production
tyler myers--no dread here...pretty satisfied that this kid's got the talent and desire to handle anything

rob niedermayer--he's got the ring, and the experience
thomas vanek--vanek is ready to pass through another thresh-hold

other potentials:
derek roy--although he really needs to concentrate on his game, especially scoring
jochen hecht--he needs to focus on his game as well...would prefer his '09/10 season to the '08/9 season
paul gaustad--dude, what happened?'re on the fourth line now...can you stay healthy?

'10/11 predictions for the sabres

the predictions are's where the various internet sites and media types think the sabres will finish the regular season and/or how they rank league-wide to open the season...

*****disclaimer--this blogger does not take any responsibility for loss of hair and/or sanity and/or any physiological disorders incurred by the reader after digesting the following prognostications, nor does he take any responsibility for damage inflicted upon a computer and/or blackberry and/or any electronic, information-gathering device due to reader disbelief/exasperation and/or outright fury from exposure to the following predictions/rankings*****

ross mckeon, yahoo--20th overall, 10th in the conference, 3rd in the division: "It’s good to see a team that missed out on the playoffs for consecutive seasons not make longtime GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff scapegoats."

tab bamford, bleacher report--2nd in the div., 6th in the conference...interesting to note that he has toronto as 1st in the n.e. div, 3rd in the conference and has the leafs beating the sabres in the first round

kevin allen, usa today--1st in the div.

odds to win the stanley cup:  sabres, 26-1

mark ritter, the bleacher report:  2nd in the div., 7th in the conference

tsn power rankings:  buffalo #9

pierre labrun, espn:  2nd in (weak) div.
power rankings, #12

matthew barnaby, espn:  1st in div. (4:55 mark)

ryan lambert, yahoo/puck daddy:  Ryan Miller plays a one-man show in Buffalo for 70-something games and the Sabres still miss the playoffs.

joe yerden, nbc/pro hockey talk:  1st in div.

e.j. hradek, espn:  1st in div.

mike brophy, the hockey news power rankings:  buffalo #14 behind montreal (#13,) ottawa (#12) and boston (#11)

john shannon, the hockey news; bob faulds, the hockey news:  1st in the div.

alan muir,  1st in the div.

ira podell, ap hockey writer:  1st in div.

wes goldstein, cbs sportsline:  power rank, #13

buffalo news--
mike harrington:  2nd div., 5th conference
bucky gleason:  2nd div
john vogl: 2nd div., 4th or 5th conference

howard simon, the bulldog, pat malacaro, brian koziol:  1st div., 3rd conference
greg bauch, jeremy white:  2nd div., 4th conference
mike schoop:  3rd div., 8th conference
paul hamiltion:  3rd div., 7th conference

tsn:  2nd n.e., 6th conference

greg wyshynski:  3rd div., 8th conference
sean leahy:  3rd div., 8th conference
ryan lambert:  3rd div., no playoffs
dmitry chesnokov: 2nd div., 6th conference
justin bourne:  2nd div., 7th conference
erin nicks:  2nd div., 5th conference

cbc (all based upon points, not division champs)...eastern conference--
nabil karim:  8th
jeff marek:  7th
scott morrison:  6th
tim wharnsby:  miss the cut

brad may:  miss the cut, lindy ruff will be the first coach fired