Note: This was written almost exclusively on my smartphone, and then hastily spackled together as soon as I had access to a working laptop. Needless to say, my current commitment to cogent argument is about as strong as Tyler Myers's commitment to completing passes out of the zone.
Let's get something out of the way early, shall we? The Sabres are a good hockey team. For all the griping amongst the fanbase about defensive lapses or offensive slumps or goaltending performances - all of which can cause their fair share of hair-pulling in any given game - there is enough talent on the team that I am generally willing to believe that this team will put together enough wins to get into the playoffs and make a decent run of it. I'm excited about that.
That caveat out of the way, the Sabres deeper and more fundamental problem as I see it, and has been shouted from the mountaintops in the 19 or so hours since last night's festival of suck - rearing it's ugly head early in the season, familiar to fans of this team who cherish grit and heart and pride and self-preservation up and down the roster - is testicular.
In other words, this team needs to sack the fuck up.
For those keeping score at home, it bears mentioning that the other hallmarks of recent Sabres hockey: (1) porous defending, (2) inexplicable commitments to players who don't produce, (3) whining about calls we don't deserve and (4) tired memes about "needing to be better."
Ladies and gentlemen, your Buffalo Sabres.
When Milan Lucic runs Miller, the short-sightedness of our team - perhaps by design - makes sure that the sole focus is on winning the game. Yet, in doing so, this team - as it has done for so long - conveniently ignores the reality that their 60 minute effort doesn't exist in a vacuum. Their actions have consequences. And their inactions make them look, plainly to all those teams preparing to play them next game or week or month, like spineless turds skating around the ice, hoping that talent alone will bring them to the promised land. From game to game, on the micro level of analysis, this strategy is not necessarily a bad one. Yet, as we know all too well, the in-game behavioral trends of this team tell a much broader story about what they expect - undeserved respect on the ice - and what they will accept - teams treating them like a group of overpaid skill players who will NEVER defend themselves or, more importantly, their goaltender.
Fans have struggled with this reality for long enough, and the team would have us believe - each time this issue comes up - that they understand the need for progress. Yet, for all the times we see token strides to get tougher guys on the roster, we're yet again back at square one, struggling to find answers about whether this team will have what it takes.
"I can do more. I'm embarrassed that we didn't respond the way we should have. It falls on myself. I look at myself first, and I wasn't good enough." ~ Paul Gaustad
I want to believe Goose when he responds - in words, not actions - like he did in his postgame interview last night. But, with the echoes of last night and those from the past still ringing in lockstep with my weekend hangover, when presented with quotes to those that followed Miller being slewfooted by Gomez, or Vanek being assaulted by Boychuck, I can't help but settle on "Are You Fucking Kidding Me?" as the default reaction to these tired excuses.
This is a good team. But, until they start playing with enough self-respect to fight and scrap when they're basically being played for bitches, they're still a ways away from a Cup.