Yesterday on WGR's Mike Schoppsie and the Bulldog, one of the topics was that the Sabres don't seem to be enjoying themselves right now. It was somewhat spurned by a caller who's young son pointed it out while watching them practice.
The discussion evolved into the fact that this Sabres' team isn't having any fun.
And, they're not.
The simple fact is, it's no fun losing.
No true professional athlete would say they're having fun out there when their team is inconsistent and out of a playoff spot, nor would they utter the words, "we're just gonna go out there and have some fun" as a way of getting out of a funk.
Back in the 90's when the Buffalo Bills were in the midst of their consecutive Super Bowl loss streak, I remember Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly saying that they're gonna go out and just try to have fun as a way of dealing with pressure. That attitude was a harbinger of the disaster that was about to happen.
As the Sabres continue in their funk, not one player should feel as if "going out there and having fun" is the best way to deal with the pressure of losing. They neither have the talent, nor the pedigree nor the rich history to feel so bold as to eschew hard work in favor of fun.
It's worth repeating: it's no fun losing.
Who is having the best season for the Sabres thus far? It would be Thomas Vanek.
Does he look like he's having fun out there? No.
For him it's all business. It's all hard work. It's paying the price to score a goal.
Vanek never has been the most graceful one on the ice, and he's floundered and tripped over himself as he stretches for something that's just out of reach, but it doesn't matter. He is doing whatever's necessary to get the job done. It's a fourth-line mentality in a top-line player.
Vanek has busted through every threshold that's stood before him since he signed that $50M contract. As he's matured, so has his play. He's still hard on himself for missing an opportunity, but his overall game has developed immensely over the last four years.
He matured to the point where last season he was given a letter and helped lead the team to the playoffs after a dismal start. This season he was clearly disappointed when he didn't get the "C" sewn on his sweater, and what did he do? Stepped up his game. He is on a pace for his third 40-goal season. He's on a pace for career highs in assists and points as well.
The headline for today's Buffalo News article is, Following Vanek's example may cure Sabres' scoring woes.
Maybe it should read like this, "Following Vanek's example may cure the Sabres' immaturity, ineptitude and inconsistency woes."
The Sabres "scoring woes" are a direct result of not putting in the hard work on the ice, of not going to the places where goals are scored, of trying to look to cute and of a general apathetic approach to stretches within the game.
Sabres' players can hide behind the "just gonna go out there and have fun" front, but are they really? Are they really enjoying it, or are they just looking good for the camera?
Are they interested in the Stanley Cup? or the red solo cup?
Big thanx to Cabin for turning me on to the video.
Edit: this from the Tonawanda News on January 9
“We had high expectations at the start of the year. We knew that,” said Sabres center Derek Roy, who has only eight goals and 24 points. “Going forward now there’s low expectations. So now it’s easier to play. We just play loose, play fun. Go out there and play hard.
“I think scoring goals has been a key factor this season. The goal scorers got to go out and execute.” (hmmmm...like Thomas Vanek?)
What a surprise, Roy shows his "leadership" by saying "play fun."