After a 6-3 shelling at the hands of Carolina on Thursday, it didn't take head coach Lindy Ruff long to get that choking feeling and move veteran center/winger Jochen Hecht up to the third line.
Ruff used this as his excuse/reasoning, "We tried to be a little bit harder on [Eric]Staal. We used [Steve] Ott and [Patrick] Kaleta and Hecht against him," he said. "It was the only reason. I thought we had to try to slow [him down]." Staal had the hat trick vs. the Sabres in Carolina the night before.
Of course, that meant rookie Mikhail Grigorenko, playing in his fourth of possibly five "tryout" games was demoted to the fourth line.
Grigorenko, who had been middle-of-the road, but was showing signs of progressing, turned out to be a casualty of Ruff's reliance on the "tried and true." Hecht is one of Ruff's favorite players, one that he believes he can count on in all situations.
From the moment Hecht was signed to a one year deal, everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before he climbed up the lines into a spot that was beyond his talents (that would be anything above the fourth line.) Sure enough, it was last night.
In years past, Ruff has been seen as stunting the growth of his young players either being too hard on them or putting them in a position to fail. Now, even though Grigorenko has done what's asked of him, he gets demoted to a line with fighter John Scott and little Nathan Gerbe.
At today's skate, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald thinks that Ruff may have some remorse. “It’s like burning a game,” Ruff was quoted as saying.
Sure enough, they only have five games to decide whether the 18 yr. old center sticks or gets sent back to Jr. At 6:48 of ice time, to get a better "match up," Ruff did burn a game. And further burned his reputation of leaning on "his" guys into the brains of every Sabre fan.
Being on the third line getting 10-12 minutes a game is not a bad way to get introduced into the NHL. Doing what the coach tells you to do--focusing upon defense, even though you have mad offensive skills--should get you more ice-time, not less.
Ruff screwed up last night. Everyone in Sabreland knows it (except maybe for Terry Pegula and Darcy Regier) and I would hazard to guess that Grigorenko's a little perplexed at Ruff's decision.
Let's hope "Grigs" has the wherewithal to get past it and move forward.
There's a reason I dislike twitter, other than the fact that it's inane. One should never trust an initial reaction while dealing in disappointment.
After last night's loss. I wanted Lindy Ruff to be fired. I also wanted to see WGR's Paul Hamilton and Howard Simon and Chris "Bulldog" Parker canned as well. What the hell, I wanted Jeremy White and Mike Schoppsie fired too, like I always do.
It's an obvious overreaction, which is why twitter is pretty much useless, unless you want to laugh at someone.
But, here are the reasons why the aforementioned should at least be on notice:
Lindy Ruff--Relying on an old stand-by--Jochen Hecht--to get the job done. The Sabres lost 3-1. His "old standbys" have gotten him to the playoffs twice in the last five seasons, never getting the team past the first round.
Howard Simon--What a sore loser. Still. Before the 'Canes home-and-home, Simon had the audacity to belittle the organization with an article entitled 'Canes mediocre since raising the Cup. He is, of course, sure that Buffalo would have won it had they not fallen on hard times vs. Carolina back in 2006. But why bag on an organization that at the very least is not that far below the Sabres? Oh, and no comment section either.
Paul Hamilton--Sabres D-man Tyler Myers is off to a slow start--again. In an interview with Hamilton a couple of days ago, Myers had the "audacity" to laugh at a perceived lack of confidence in himself. A laugh Hamilton described as "condescending." Whoa there, pardner, nobody does that to THE Paul Hamilton. Myers has now got himself an overweight beagle annoyingly barking up a storm. Yesterday the hound almighty opened up his post-game article with, "Since I felt Tyler Myers was playing worse than he does, I figured I'd make him my focus this game." Talk about condescending. Really? Oh, and as usual, no comment section.
Chris "Bulldog" Parker--Bulldog's been really annoying lately, especially when it comes to the Bills and specifically Ryan Fitzpatrick. The season's over, and despite a Syracuse reunion at the top two spots on the coaching staff, and a possibility of a reunion with their QB of the last three seasons, it's back to the old punching bag, Fitzpatrick, and Bulldog's article, Are we done with Fitz? Yes, Bulldog, we know you're done with Fitz as a starter. But your plan, "if [you] were the Bills--pick the best [QB] I can with the 8th pick and hope he's ready to play in September?" Really? I'm glad you're not the GM. Like the Bills don't have holes at linebacker (at least two,) CB and WR. Glad I don't listen to you and that Schoppsie guy anymore.
Mike Schoppsie--Shoulda been fired long ago. Arrogance and perceived "entertainment." This is the same guy that once had some suggestions to help Ryan Miller get out of his goaltending slump. Schoppsie's suggestions were based on his time as a goalie, in an intramural floor hockey league. This is also the same guy who said faceoffs are not as important as people make them out to be. My suggestion is that you ask the Sabres about Carolina's go-ahead goal last night. Or go ask Edmonton why Nail Yakupov was able to tie the score with 4 seconds left in the third. What a maroon.
Jeremy White--The Jim Rome wannabe shtick is old. Has been old for a while. A waffler who said that he's happy to have the NHL back, yet was willing to boycott NHL players during the lockout. Said that he'd watch AHL players play for the crest. Never went to a Rochester game during the lockout.
Like Mike Trivisonno said one time down here in Cleveland. Fire all the media.
Yeah, can fire 'em all, except for WGR's John Murphy.
Would like to say thank your, Mr. Murphy, for your knowledgeable and insightful journalistic approach to the Buffalo sports scene.
Oh, and thanks for letting us know that 2013 unrestricted free agent Logan Coture of San Jose' is a huge Buffalo Sports fan.
Back to the Sabres.
Lindy "the tinkerer" Ruff held firm to his top two lines for three games with only the top line scoring. It would seem as if he'll be changing things up a bit for the afternoon game tomorrow at Washington.
Tomorrow's skate will give us more of an insight, but making one simple move may be a good way to approach things--exchange Steve Ott for Marcus Foligno on the second line.
Having Ott replace Foligno will give Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford the same kind of forward Foligno is, only he's more experienced, has played with star players in a top-line/top-six role and he has produced.
Plus, having Ott ready to take faceoffs will allow Ennis to "cheat" a little more knowing that he has an excellent face-off man in waiting should he get tossed. Maybe that's what Ennis was hinting at when he said,
"Maybe another big guy on my line, we could be mutual at it and cheat on draws and have them take some. I have to improve at it."
Ennis is presently 38.6% on draws. Ott is at 61.9.
Rookie Grigorenko is 57.2% on draws.
Foligno dropping down with Grigorenko and Gerbe on the third line would still give that line a power forward presence and it might even help Grigorenko.