Friday, December 6, 2013

The Blue and Gold solidify their hold on last place...

and interim head coach Ted Nolan seems out of answers.

3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 0, 1.

Those numbers represent the goals the Sabres have scored in the nine games since Nolan took over.

In looking at that paltry production, is it any wonder why the team is 2-6-1 during that span? Or, better yet, how on earth did the team actually win two games during that stretch?

"There's a certain standard I have to play to," said goalie Ryan Miller after last night's 3-1 loss to the Rangers, "and that’s keep a one-goal game with the ability for this team to tie it late and get points out of it,”

This team can't score.

At 1.69 goals/game, they're on pace to break a 60-year record for futility. The 1953-54 Chicago Blackhawks scored 133 goals in 70 games for an average of 1.9 goals/game.

A coach can put a player in a position to score, but it's up to the player to convert.

This isn't really anything new to the Sabres, they've had trouble finishing for year, even with the likes of Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy.

How many times did former coach Lindy Ruff say after a tough loss that the team had ample opportunity, but just couldn't finish?

It's the same situation now, save for the 85 or so goals that Vanek, Pominville and Roy would average over the course of a season.

Nolan came in with a positive, nurturing attitude touting the virtues of hard work and having fun. He wanted his team to play a little looser and play to their strengths. And, after a getting bogged down by "Proffessor" Ron Rolston X's and O's, he told his team to just skate and play the game.

And all of that has worked.

To a point.

The Sabres are playing much better hockey. They're playing hard, they're skating better, they're getting more opportunities.

But, they still can't finish. And Nolan's pretty much out of answers.

"Same problems," said Nolan last night. "We have to search for the answers. There's no one that's going to ride in here and fix it for us. We have to fix it ourselves. We have to look in the mirror and see what we can do to try and correct this thing, try to make it better."

He's right.

There won't be a knight in shining armor coming in and saving this "damsel in distress" hockey team. That's not how it goes.

What Nolan is looking at "in the mirror" is a coach of the youngest team in hockey. He's also looking at a coach who, according to WGR's Paul Hamilton, "is out of answers."

Hamilton goes on to say, "You could really sense the frustration in [Nolan]. He's not used to his techniques in coaching and motivating not working." And the reason, concludes Hamilton is that the Sabres don't have any "gifted goal-scorers."

What is Nolan to do?

Really, there's not much he can do, except continue doing what he's been doing even though it's absolutely brutal right now.

There is some skill on the team. Tyler Ennis snapped a wicked wrister past Henrik Lundqvist last night while Marcus Foligno was flat-out robbed on a wicked shot heading top-shelf.

Cody Hodgson, who was stymied on a breakaway last night, is still very young, but has a ton of talent and will be a productive goal-scorer.

His linemate, Matt Moulson, has shown that he can finish. Just get him the puck and a nano-second and he can light the lamp.

It's a tough go of it right now.

Not much you can do except "kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" as Bruce Cockburn once sang.

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