In scanning Twitter the other day, I had noticed a Tweet from a different blog with the title “Did Lindy Ruff deserve better from the Sabres?”. After choking back the rage and bile, I decided there was no possible way I could read this piece without wanting to drive carpet tacks into the head of my dick repeatedly. Since I’m fairly new here, I don’t think I’ve discussed the absolute disgust I have for Lindy Ruff at any sort of length. If you've followed me on Twitter for awhile, you won't be surprised by what's below - I loathe the man as much as the city insanely loved him. So let’s dig in a little.
First off, I don’t understand the thinking that this guy got a raw deal from the Sabres. Let’s be brutally honest, the guy should have been fired YEARS before last season. He was afforded multiple chances, with about 3 different sets of core players, 3 ownership groups, and 2 different sets of rules to get the job done here. I think that’s a fair shake. 15 years is about 8 times the lifespan of the average NHL coach. (I didn’t actually look this up, it’s a guesstimate) On what fucking planet isn’t this a “fair shake”?? There were plenty of times you could watch a Sabres game and see a listless, boring team going through the motions. Most every player who’s left here has had nothing kind to say about his coaching tactics, not to mention the guys who spoke up when he left here.
Tomorrow night the longest lockout shortened season in the history of sports is coming to an end. Seriously, it’s only been three months; I have the schedule in front of me and everything. If you want highlights only, this will be a quick read for you: season opener, three Boston wins, comeback against Montreal, snapping Pittsburgh’s win streak. There, you can go back to whatever it was you were doing before you got here; I’m only writing this because the Wild Card is some sort of wunderkind and I’m feeling inadequate. Actually I’ll give you one more highlight: waking up at the gate in JFK at 7:30am after Occupy Newark, surrounded by dozens of people with only hazy recollection of how I got there. Probably should have just taken Scizz’s couch invite instead of taking a cab to the airport at 4am, but I am thankful for whatever TSA agent kindly let me through security.
That still-intoxicated confusion amongst the chaos of a crowded airport terminal is indicative of the season we just watched. What happened? Why was everything so terrible? Why am I still wearing this Vanek jersey? Well, I watched nearly every game and I don’t have the slightest goddamn clue. All I know is this is the first season I didn’t see a win in person since 2003-2004 and I’ve spent nearly all of those seasons in between living hours away. Well that, and that there were many specific things that came together like some sort of horrifying, malevolent Captain Planet to ruin our evenings three times a week.
At first I was just going to list all the things that were horrible about this season but as I got to eleven it struck me that first, with enough time this list could go on perpetually as if I was writing out the decimals in pi, looking for an end, and second, I wanted to identify what was worse than all the others; what, when matched up against the other “worst” things on the list, made the others look better. Think of this like a Bill Simmons' NBA trade value column, except you’ve heard of these names and I don’t get paid for it. To properly settle this, I decided to seed the eight worst entities about this season and match them up in a tournament format to see what exactly would come out on top (bottom?), along with my analysis.
To the seedings: 9 (Honorable Mention): John Scott
- I definitely bitched about his presence on the ice more than some of the things found below, but when compiling this list I felt he may have gotten a bad rap from me. First, we all knew coming in he wasn't skilled at hockey. Two, it wasn't his decision to put him in the lineup constantly, leaving talented- err, less awful
players scratched. However, he would have cracked my top 8 if it wasn't for his photobombing post-game interviews
late in the season. So, thanks to some stellar off-ice moves, Scott does not make the most hated tournament. But seriously, get the fuck off my team now. 8) Jochen Hecht:
I’m not sure what I hate more, his complete ineptitude on offense, the rare moments when that ineptitude disappears, or the fact that everyone involved in making organizational decisions loves this guy for reasons beyond understanding. Ruff, Regier and Rolston have raved about this statue and I haven’t the slightest fucking clue. Giving Hecht top line minutes was effectively hoping for a 1-0 win or a 2-1 overtime loss, and despite this I STILL don’t trust them to cut ties after this season. He’s a fucking 80’s horror villain. Go away. 7) Drew Stafford:
Fuck Drew Stafford. Thanks for those two shootout goals I guess, dickface. 6) The Buffalo News:
This is primarily a credit to their belief that all the teams ills would have been solved if the owner had commented about Regier or the Pominville trade. Watching them slowly melt down during the season into petulant children was pretty funny when I wasn’t annoyed by the pettiness and lack of professionalism by people who actually do get paid to write for a living. Plus they’re fucking creepy. Solid dark horse as a six seed
Tonight the Buffalo Sabres take to the ice in the land of meth labs and man-eating sinkholes to attempt to do something they haven’t done once during this mercifully shortened season: win their fourth hockeypucks game in a row. If Winnipeg and Philadelphia win their games in regulation, the Sabres will suddenly find themselves one point removed from the final playoff spot with a game in front of 13,000 empty seats on deck Thursday night in the Everglades. Ten of their final fourteen games will be played at home and, despite all of this, some of you are despondent, downtrodden, terrified that they might win, that they might turn that puncher’s chance into a playoff berth.
Why is this case? Well the prevailing logic seems to be that the team is better served by finishing with a top three draft pick, buttressed by the sweeping assumption that if the Sabres sneak into the playoffs, Darcy Regier will be rewarded with keeping his job and this team will be thrown into some sort of perpetual mediocrity as true as our orbit around the sun. I can’t say I don’t understand this logic; the idea of giving this general manager a second crack under Pegula at assembling a roster would accomplish little more than hemorrhaging the fanbase and leaving us a few more years closer to death without a sniff at a cup. What I don’t understand is how people are willing to assume that this is black and white, that wins equal the general manager staying. Because drive-time radio pronounces it true? Because a WGR beat reporter who spent the entire football season telling you Chan Gailey wasn’t going anywhere is now saying the same about Darcy? Because TBN staff members that haven’t broken a team story since the Ford administration pronounce it true? For shame.
I don’t know what the owner thinks about the general manager’s future. Neither do you and neither do any of the local media. What I do know is management espoused a three-year plan to win a Stanley Cup (that has been shot to shit) and pledged to win multiple Stanley Cups under the new owner. I know the owner allowed or ordered the firing of a coach that had been involved with the team for the better part of three decades. I know that perennial eighth place finishes and first round exits are quite removed from the sixteen wins that it takes to win a championship. I know that no one who builds a business worth more than a billion dollars does so by accepting continuous underachievement and incompetence.
I also know that telling the fans that they’re being neglected, ignored and mistreated sells papers and ad space, and allows fans to wallow in the “woe is us” attitude that gets ingrained into your DNA at conception in this region. I know it’s the safe column to write, the safe position to take. I know Pominville, Vanek and Miller have contracts that expire after next season and the general manager himself has already bucked tradition and stated to local and national outlets that any changes that will be made will be focused on next season.
My point is that there’s at least enough empirical evidence to argue that the general manager is gone no matter what happens short of a conference finals appearance, right? There’s more than enough evidence to support the idea that columnists and radio hosts are trolling the fanbase by using Darcy as a boogeyman to get you to tune in or use one of your ten free page views (I’m not silly enough to assume any of our readers are also TBN subscribers).
Making it harder to accept even a slight run of success is the fact that we had finally embraced, welcomed the idea of hitting rock bottom. After half a decade of mediocrity this was going to be the year we finally said “fuck it,” and took the losses laughing instead of crying. We were ready, and then these, these ASSHOLES had to go and start winning! God can’t they do anything right!?
It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will - Sam Cooke
A bit dramatic?
Of course. But if I'm going to address the biggest news in Buffalo sports in the last several years (Sorry Bills only fans), then I'm going all jazz hands on ya and pulling out aaaaaaaall of the emotions. Some of my points/shitty metaphors/hot cakes are similar to the Yachtsman's from early Thursday morning, but I can't sit silent. I need to weigh in. Your loss.
Lindy Ruff has been fired after 16 years as the head coach of our "beloved" Buffalo Sabres. Am I happy? Abso-fuckin-lutely! Does this mean I hate the guy? Not in the slightest. In fact, I don't even dislike the guy. I still sort of love him in that used-to-be-cool-friend-from-high-school sort of way. You know, the guy who stuck around home too long after graduation and still wants to catch up when you stop through. You can only recall the same memories so many times before you realize your buddy has three kids, lives in a trailer, and has a wardrobe that only consists of camo and NASCAR t-shirts (Daytona 500 preview coming this Sunday morning!) Eventually you need to cut ties with the guy altogether.
Lindy was one hell of a coach and nobody can deny that. He lead the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals, two separate Eastern Conferences Finals, and a President's Cup. He worked his players hard, didn't take shit from the media, and overall was a coach to be proud of in our blue collar city. I really, really liked the guy. But things change. It is - scratch that - has been his time to go for awhile now. There is only one thing I want more than winning a Stanley Cup with Lindy Ruff, and that is winning a Stanley Cup. Period. It wasn't going to happen with Lindy, folks. This doesn't mean he is washed up as a coach by any means. Many talented coaches and players have worn out there welcome in the cities that made them famous and then went on to greater stardom. In fact, go ahead and expect it from Ruff #becauseitsbuffalo. I will say confidently that he was not going to win a cup in Buffalo. That window has closed and it is time for this franchise to move on in a new direction. Is the new path of the Buffalo Sabres going to end up in a lighting fast winning streak into the playoffs under interim coach Ron Rolston? Maybe. The tag "interim" is there for a reason. But right now it doesn't matter to me. The Buffalo Sabres needed to change things up....and quickly.
I hate clowns but felt this was a needed reference. Cheers if you get it.
I'm engaged to get married on June 1st. When the Sabres last won a playoff series, I was only dating my soon-to-be-wife. (I bring that up for another reason, but I'll get back to that in a moment) That was almost six years ago. I'm sorry but that's a long time for me. I refuse to accept mediocrity and sneaking into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed. As fans, we deserve more. We deserve 2006 again, but this time only better. I'm over the "small battles." Maybe it's because I live in New York City now and am surrounded by fans who demand only the top levels of success from their team, but that's what I want. I know I'm being selfish, but fuck it, that's where I'm at. I feel the same about the Bills.
I also bring up marriage because in a weird way (ok, SUPER weird way) this whole thing reminds me of the path I have taken. I'm willing to bet I'm not alone in saying that I have once been a relationship that went on past its prime. It's a scary situation to be in. You spend years with somebody and get comfortable with them. You know their friends, their family, every detail about each other, and for a little while, it works. You're happy. The world only seems like it can get better. But eventually it doesn't. Things stay the same, or even get worse. You aren't necessarily unhappy, but something is wrong. Somewhere, somehow everything stopped working the way it was supposed to, yet there you are, still in the same relationship, afraid to leave. Why? It could be a lot of reasons. You're used to it and you're comfortable, so why screw it up when you can always just keep trying to improve things. Maybe you're scared to walk away because of the fear of the unknown. What if I don't find anybody else and end up alone? What if the other person goes out and finds somebody right away and makes me look stupid? Maybe you just don't know how they hell to even begin to start over.
Finally, though, you have to take a chance. You have to get out of the dead-end and move on to a new path. It doesn't mean the past was all bad and terrible, in fact there were many good times, but in the end, you know this isn't where you're supposed to be. You know that you can either stay in what has become a bland relationship, or take a chance and see what else is out there.
This is how I have viewed Lindy Ruff and the Buffalo Sabres for the past few years. Sure I love Lindy and would love to win a cup with him, but things haven't looked all that great recently, and maybe it's time to take a leap and see what else is out there. Sure, there are going to be growing pains, regrets, and pure unadulterated ragestorms, but wading in the medicority of what this franchise has become is no longer an option. I refuse to accept it and I don't think you should either. Lindy Ruff and the Sabres have grown stale and now we get to see how the franchise reacts to new relationships. I'd rather take a chance and fail miserbale then watch the same half-assed work ethic from players that I truly feel have a ton of talent.
Like Sam Cooke once sang:
It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
Change is scary because of the uncertainty, but change is necessary in life to survive, just as it is in the sports world we hold so dear. It's been a long time coming, but change has to come....and it finally did. Now let's hope that this leap of faith is as successful as the one I took with the Scizzette almost six years ago.
After all, she is the one that lets me get drunk with all these meatheads, record it, and then post it to the internet. I hit the jackpot and here's praying the Sabres do the same with a coach in the very near future.
What an asshole.
El Barristo and Aps
Hey internet friends! The Sabres are mighty terrible, having dropped a snoozer to the East's worst team (actually the Sabres are now that), yet here we are to deconstruct the shit show and drink the beers.
This one, predictably, devolves into a #FireLindy party because, well, that's all we got. Prove us wrong, Sabres. Please prove us wrong. You won't.
As always, our hot takes are set against the noises of New York City and the inevitable guy wearing really nice shoes and looking for change.
Stream and download below, or here
Welp. That happened.
We went to the Sabres game out on Long Island last week, we recorded dipshit #hottakes in the midst of our drunkenness, and then I took my sweet ass time editing it all into a nice little package for you.
At least it's short, right guys?
If you enjoy those moments when we're the most wretched versions of ourselves, you'll love this one. If you prefer us when we're serious sports analysts, go take a nap while reading Buffalo Wins.
Music by the Jambrones, The Edgar Winter Group, The Doors and Eric Clapton. Download here
, or stream below.
Let's be real here. That was fucking delightful.
The lockout is over, we've had top-level professional hockey for two straight days, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the piss out of the shitheads from Broad Street. What do we have to be sullen about?
/looks at rafters to see meaningless divisional banners and a slew of Bandits championships /kills self
There's certainly plenty of history to support a pessimistic tone today because, well, #becauseitsbuffalo, but sports are fun and yesterday was tons
of it. Is it a sign of things to come? Are we destined for the playoffs after a disappointing end to last season? I don't know and neither do you. Shit like games and goals and saves all still have to actually happen. Let's enjoy it, ok?
No? The Sabres are inevitably going to disappoint us and cause me to retreat to my son's nursery for a week's worth of tears? Well screw you man
For the time being we have the luxury of being all optimism all the time, at least until Yachtsman jumps on here with his "fuck all the things" tone, so join me after the jump for generally delusional and premature observations on Buffalo's early version of HOCKEYPUCKSTIME. (and a gracious tip of the hat to our buddy Frank
for that one)
First off, I don't like Lindy Ruff.
Revision: He's ok, but I want him gone.
Whatever I think about my fantasies for the head coaching position of the Buffalo Sabres, it's pretty cool knowing that the future (and some current) players of our franchise are training with Navy SEALS as part of the team's Development Camp. If you've been following the Sabres at all this week, you know about this story. The team, frankly, is pressing the shit out of it, as are many in the blogosphere. It may be a tad gimmicky, but - to a certain extent - any good coaching probably is. It's team building at its core, and beyond that it's rad as shit to imagine that even a sliver of a SEAL's heart and grit and determination would rub off on our squad.
Whether or not its part of a public rebranding of this Sabres team (it is) that might raise questions about the total motivation for this experiment, I can't fathom how anyone could look at a team of players in a league that demands toughness and say that training with some of the toughest mother fuckers in the military is a bad thing.
But, there you all are, the contrarian pockets of our fan base that choose to second guess so much of what goes on within the organization as if you had any true insight into how the team would react to something like this. There you are, claiming that this might rub some players the wrong way (as if that's a bad thing; Stafford could use some fucking wrong way rubbing, I say.... that came out so very very wrong... my sincere apologies), and that it affirms the Derek Roy-led meme that Lindy is too tough on his millionaire underachievers.
A couple years ago, before my years in the Deeg, Yachtsman wrote about the need for the Sabres to play "out of character" if they were to have any shot at beating the Bruins in the 2010 ECQF
. Yachtsman observed that the team's only win up to that point was the result of just that kind of out of character play - the kind where the team actually hits people, throws some bodies around and - you guessed it - stands up for itself. The Sabres did not manage to do that, if you recall, and that was the end of our Northeast Division Championship season.
Ah, memories, pressed between the pages of my mind.
Two years and a few months later, we're finally starting to see the Sabres have some kind of commitment to that mentality beyond token gritty-guy signings (Mike Grier, for instance) or half-measures (any physical response from Paul Gaustad, for instance). They've brought in guys for whom toughness is not an out of character thing, and now they're running camps which involve training with Navy SEALS - again, men and women for whom toughness is instinctual and pervasive. Toughness that is more than fierce checks in the corner, but that guides how one responds to crisis and adversity. Physical intensity, heart, self-determination and self-reliance... all the usual buzz words that we love to throw around when we talk about our ideal hockey player. That's one of the things we missed in 2010 and since, and one of the things we all should want going forward.
So, unless you loved that 2010 team's lack of response to Boychuck hitting Vanek (or Ellis...) or last year's team's lack of response to Lucic's hit on Miller, quit your bitching about efforts to push a new mentality on the team by Lindy and his staff. So what if Lindy is tough on players and asks them to step beyond themselves, out of their comfort zones? Fucking deal with it. And if they can't, well... the sooner those hypothetical prima donnas speak up about how Lindy is mean and how they don't want to train towards team chemistry, accountability and perseverance, the sooner those hypothetical prima donnas can get sent packing off of my hockey team.
Let's Go Buffalo.
It sure has been a while since I dusted off my gloves and took the media to task for its latest absurdity in the sports world. Sometimes, these venomous hit jobs are directed at The Network - an easy enough target, what with the willingness to sit on apparent evidence of child molestation at Syracuse, only to run the story without even giving the authorities the opportunity to vet that evidence and find that, in sum, it was demonstrably false. And sometimes, these hit jobs are directed at Buffalo sports media - also an easy target, what with the spelling errors, the apparent desire to merely yuk it up with a failing, entrenched hockey coach and the pathetic derision of a blogger community which has arguably provided better and more insightful sports analysis over the past couple years. (Not here at the Deeg, of course. We are more than happy to be the slime scraped out of the bottom of the barrel, presented as food for your more carnal cravings. It's what we do.)
One of the things I've noticed about Buffalo sports fans is that they can tend to believe that their town is getting jobbed at every opportunity. It's certainly no surprise, given the history, but it can leave people with a lingering sense that, in essence, whatever we get in Buffalo is a class below what everyone else gets in other cities. Sports teams? Inferior from top to bottom. Local theater and music? Undeveloped and of poor quality. Government? Corrupt and ineffective in a way unseen throughout America. Schools? Underfunded and forgotten. Cheerleaders? Sixes instead of tens. (This one may be right).
Some of this is true. In many ways, other cities do have it better. In a lot of ways, though, Buffalo has the exact same problems as other cities, but has convinced itself that the grass is greener in New York City, in Boston, in D.C., in Philly. I've found this to be especially true when it comes to how we digest our local sports media in Western New York. There always seems to be a lingering sense that Bucky and Harrington and Hamilton and Sully are on a lower tier than the guys who cover sports in the big markets. With the internet, though, we can verify that this is simply not true, and never was this more apparent to me than during the post-game presser following last Friday's Rangers-Devils Game 6.
Dear God, it was brutal.
So, in keeping with the overlap between "media hit piece" and "mailing it in," here is the transcript of the questions asked to Rangers coach John Tortorella following Game 6. My thoughts are in italics.
WARPATH. God bless Google images for reminding me of this awful excuse for a video game.
After looking ahead to last Friday night's game with a certain sense of dread, only to see the Sabres pull out an absurdly uplifting victory over the East's best (well, best for now, at least), I'm yet again scratching my head in equal parts befuddlement, excitement and fear. Remember when I noted that the team's playoff chances were around 22% before Friday night? Well, now - after the glorious win at MSG on Friday, and then the solid 3-1 victory at the FN Center on Saturday - they're at 41%. And, with six games remaining, they only need to go 4-2-0 to kick that percentage up to 84%. (And, as @JeremyWGR tweeted this morning, tonight's outcome amounts to a 47% swing in probabilities for the team... not to freak out TOO much).
THIS SHIT IS FLYING OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST CRAZY BALLS. And, if you're curious, playing the role of Miss Ratched is Bucky Gleason, but only because he likes that sexy white uniform and I promised him I wouldn't give the role to Paul Hamilton.
Meeeeowwww! /worst photoshop job ever?
Nothing is as simple as statistics would have you believe, of course (hear that CV?), and until the team has clinched - a moment that will, in all likelihood, not come until the last game of the season - we'll all be sitting with bated breath, wondering if this team can keep this thing going. If you're like me, you've already looked at the schedule to see just how tough it will be these last two weeks.
We continue this Warpath adventure with Washington tonight in the biggest game of the season since the media and fan-manufactured rematch against the Bruins in the wake of the Lucic incident last fall. The Caps are coming off a convincing 3-0 win against the Wild Sunday, effectively eliminating Minnesota from playoff contention. Much like the Sabres, the Caps have failed to put anything close to consistent hockey together this season, ranging from frightening to pathetic. A couple weeks back, Washington seemed like it might have been dropping off the face of the playoff map, but the team has gone 6-2-2 since then, largely holding off the bottom teams of the conference and gaining some ground on the Southeast leading Florida Panthers. This leaves the Caps in a pretty similar spot to our Sabres, in that they've chosen to ramp up their play for this final playoff push, shaking off the reputation of a season of largely failed expectations.
Speaking of failing to meet expectations - AMERICA!
These similarities leave me and the rest of Sabreland at a complete and utter loss for predicting what kind of result we might see tonight. But, that certainly doesn't stop me from going all in with some classic poorly constructed analysis. HERE WE GOOOOOOOOO.... We need WAY more of this.
First, the negatives:
1. Thomas Vanek.
Conceding that the guy scored a goal on Saturday night (albeit one that relied on luck and hard work by Cody Hodgson), his all-too-frequent absence from the score sheet has been one of the more frustrating parts of the past three and a half months. Sure, the team is playing well despite this, but I tend to be skeptical that this is a good thing. Winning is great and all, but when you're winning even though your best forward is playing like hot garbage, you're still left with your best forward playing like hot garbage. Not. Good.
There are a lot of theories popping around the interwebs about his struggles lately. Some of the most asinine have speculated on his work ethic, aka the "Lazy Thomas" meme - always an absurd opinion lacking any basis in reality, I think - or him being a head case, aka the "Weepy Thomas" meme - again, something I tend to not give too much credence to. Personally, I think the guy is hurt, that Lindy is predictably keeping that information quiet and that TV is playing through a lot of pain during each game. Ribs? Shoulder? Your guess is as good as mine. Of course, my belief in this theory is, in part, dependent on my disbelief in the other possibilities of lazy and/or weepy Vanek, so take it with a grain of salt. But, for the punishment he takes in front of the net, and for his proven desire to bleed himself dry for the team, it certainly seems to be the most likely explanation.
If the Sabres have any real chance at taking this Warpath to the playoffs and beyond, this is a guy who has to get it going. OBVIOUS FACT. Tonight would be a great start. SECOND OBVIOUS FACT. I'm great at this.
2. Lindy's Ever-Baffling Line Shuffles
Has anyone figured out why Lindy seems hell bent on ruining each and every good line combination this year? I get that he's been swimming upstream against a team of underachievers in a season where he has been expected to push the franchise closer to a Stanley Cup, but I really wonder if there's a method to his madness. First we saw the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line deconstructed for the sake of getting other players going. All well and good, but we know how that experiment played out - Ville Leino still shitty and Luke Adam wallowing in the AHL. JACK ADAMS HE IS NOT.
When the team started tanking, the tendency to line shuffles was probably a necessary evil, but now that we're back in great form, the lingering question is whether Lindy will continue to tinker or whether he'll just allow the growing chemistry on these lines to continue that growth. Shit, even during the games this weekend, we saw glimpses of inexplicable line combinations. I'd cite them for you now, but I can't seem to find them on the google and Lord knows I was drunk as shit when I watched the games. No wonder my points are so unassailable. For now, the line of Ennis-Foligno-Stafford is still together and has been nothing sort of magical for the past couple weeks (more on that below). Will it continue with Gerbe's eventual return to the team, or will Lindy yet again sacrifice one of his greatest assets? Or what about the Tropp-Hodgson-Vanek line, which has also found some chemistry over the past week, allowing Hodgson and Vanek to each start making progress? If Kaleta comes back, is Tropp destined to leave that line in some grand reshuffle that makes room for Kaleta on the 3rd or 4th line while likely sending Tropp to play in the KHL? Kaleta ужасен в борющихся русских. Bank it.
In short: this is a team that is winning now, and winning in grand and unexpected fashion. DON'T FUCK IT UP, LINDY.
3. MORE LINDY HATE - WHY ARE OUR BEST PLAYERS PLAYING SHIT MINUTES?
This point is plagiarized from Yachtsman, but I suspect he'll likely (a) never even read this post, or (b) never post on this small issue, so I'm in the clear. Robyn Regehr averages 18:33 TOI for the year. This is less than Ehrhoff and Myers, our top D pairing, by more than 3 minutes. That wouldn't be insane if it weren't for Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Jordan Leopold also having more ice time than Regehr. This is monumentally stupid, and another example of how Lindy might not be the guy to lead this particular group of players into battle. Incidentally, if you need more evidence, Derek "Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, I'll Just Go To Chippewa in My Mandles" Roy averages almost 2 1/2 minutes more than Vanek. Nice tie, Lindy. You're doing it wrong.
There. I feel better. Now on to the good:
1. Ryan Miller
What can't be said about this guy? He turned around an epically bad season to re-find his All-World self, let the team ride his coattails as they finally remembered how to score, then gave a stellar interview to Pierre LeBrun wherein he got the media's and a not-insignifcant part of the fanbase's panties in a bunch when he yet again points out that his job is really hard and that the negativity bred by beat writers in the locker room is not necessarily appreciated. Translation: fat guys who don't no how to play sports should take it easy when tempted to take potshots at pro athletes for shitty performances. Duly noted, Ryan. I'll try to be mindful of that in the future. In the meantime, keep playing well so us fatties can keep our traps shut and enjoy watching your crooked eyebrows track down pucks. We love it when they do that.
With Miller playing better, suddenly anything seems possible for these Sabres (well... not ANYTHING. Baby steps). He's hit career numbers in shutouts this year, despite having a garbage squad in front of him on most nights and despite suffering two concussions this year. His overall averages are still mediocre (though, really at par with his sometimes mediocre career numbers, but that undercuts my general point so I throw it in a parenthetical), which is really an indication of how bad he was earlier this year and how lucky the team is to have survived to this point without imploding. Since the All Star break, his GAA is 1.87 and SV % is .937, with 5 shutouts. Make no mistake about it - the team's fortune is dependent on this guy, and for that we can actually all breathe a little easier about where this all might pan out within the next couple weeks. 2. Foligno-Ennis-Stafford
With all of the injuries this team has had to fight through this season, the most recent spat has brought about perhaps the luckiest bounce of the Sabres season. Marcus Foligno's call-up to the big club led to immediate success for him and the team. As if destiny was playing some part, his arrival coincided with Lindy's use of Tyler Ennis as a center. Add in Drew Stafford and his apparent revival as an actual contributor to the team - I know. WEIRD - and suddenly we have a line that is as explosive as the Vanek-Adam-Pominville that dazzled us at the beginning of the season. Apart from the fact that this suddenly makes me feel much better about this overzealous gem
I dropped about Stafford last summer, this is the line that is making up for the loss of production from Vanek lately (not to mention the continuing shit production from Ville Leino and Brad Boyes. Way to be consistent, lads).
Apart from their production, watching this line is fun as hell. They're buzzing every time they hit the ice, their goal celebrations are unadulterated moments of pure joy, and each of them bring their own unique slice of talent and skills, all of which compliment each other in a way that none of us could have predicted. Ennis suddenly seems like he could be the second line center to replace Roy whenever we're able to find the #1 center we've been looking for and can then ship his dead weight out of town. For this all Sabres fans can fervently rejoice. And finally...3. Two games left against the Leafs.
Listen. I get that the schedule looks rough for the last six - games against Caps, Pens, Flyers, Bruins - but it also includes two against hated rivals and perennial jokes, the Toronto Maple Leafs. For as frustrated as Sabres fans have been this year, we're yet again looking at a possible playoff berth and a Leaf team left holding their hats. Tim Connolly, fragile as ever, has proven all of us right (well, not ALL of us... I won't name names... but boy you look stupid, guy) with this season and his $4.75 million cap hit. He's missed about 15 games, which is actually on the low side, but has only scored 12 goals on the season. Which, incidentally, puts him five back of the aforementioned Drew Stafford and his $4 million cap hit. GLOATING IS FUN.
This may be tempting fate. Hell, having this blog at all may be tempting fate, so fuck it. These are two games that the team should win and has to win to make the playoffs. They are a gift from the hockey gods in the midst of an otherwise troubling last bit of games, and I am looking forward to a couple of nights where I don't sit down for the game with a deep and lingering sense of dread. The little things, folks.
Hoping like hell for a win tonight. Make it happen, boys.
Let's Go Buffalo.