First of all, let me start this post by saying that it is entirely built on an assumption. Usually in argumentative writing (or any form of argumentative structure), it is dangerous to build an argument based on assumption. This is not one of those times. Sometimes, assumptions can be used to analyze a situation that we hope won’t come true in the future. This is one of those times.
During Sunday night’s game, Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo hit Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel pretty much directly in the head. “Hit” is a term used loosely here. “Flying elbow straight to the unsuspecting dome of Ruhwedel” is a much better used term, in this instance. I don’t think the league endorses that sort of rhetoric, though. Not yet, at least. News came through on Monday that Rinaldo (to the surprise of pretty much no one) would be suspended four games. For those keeping score at home, that’s the remainder of the regular season. You can see the NHL’s full decision on the ruling as well as the “hit” itself (again, a term used loosely) right here:
The point of this post is not to argue the length of Rinaldo’s suspension. I just finished listening to Matthew Coller on WGR (who you should follow on Twitter) talk about how the length of the suspension is fair when juxtaposed with the rest of the suspensions. Coller is correct. Four games is not out-of-place among the list of hits-to-the-head suspensions this season. Except, of course, among John Scott’s 7 game penalty and Pat Kaleta’s 10 gamer (but that’s a story for another day, nevermind, anyway).
Here’s where things get tricky and assumption-y. What if this hit occurred in game 80 of 82 for the Flyers and not game 78? Clearly, a bit of “the narrative” here was an overwhelming sense that Rinaldo would get the conveniently-timed four game season ender. This way, he wouldn’t miss any playoff time and the NHL wouldn’t be responsible for potentially hampering a team’s playoff chances. It’s neat and tidy and no one gets hurt from it. Well, no one except Chad Ruhwedel. He could have recurring head problems, chronic headaches and all sorts of other fun things that come with concussions. But hey, that’s why the NHL is CLEARLY taking this hit out of the game. I mean, look, it’s out of the game right?
Anyway, IF the NHL did time Rinaldo’s suspension in a way such that he wouldn’t have to miss any playoff time, doesn’t that set up an awfully scary precedent? Basically, that’s the NHL saying “If you slam your elbow into a guy’s head on the 15th game of the season, WE’LL THROW THE BOOK AT YOU! But if you do that hit in game 80… Weeeeeeeellllll, we’ll just see about that.” Why should one part of the season be unaffected by timing, yet another part solely hinge upon it? It’s dangerous and sends a terrible message.
Moreover, shouldn’t guys be suspended just as heavily at the end of the season for these types of hits because it is so close to the post-season? I’ll do you one better, NHL. If the hit was deserving of say 5-6 games, then suspend Rinaldo into the playoffs. Let the idea of missing precious playoff time serve as a deterrent for this type of vicious headhunting. That way, when the season is winding down and a guy from a contending team hits the ice, he says to himself, “Okay. I need to play my game but I need to make sure that I’m still around to play my game in the playoffs.” Timing of the game in which the hit took place (and it’s context to the season) should have no place in the decision-making process.
Just to reiterate, I’m not saying that timing was THE ONLY factor in the NHL’s decision. According to the NHL’s suspension history this season for guys that played for teams not named “The Buffalo Sabres”, this suspension lines up.
as per @SalSports research, 7 non-sabres suspended for hits to head this season got combined 21 games. Kaleta/Scott/Myers combined 20 games
— howard (@hsimon62) April 8, 2014
So, if you take anything away from this post, don’t let it be that the NHL only gave Rinaldo 4 games because it was convenient. Though that definitely could have been a factor, the suspension is fair (relative to its brethren suspensions).
It’s still scary to think what would happen if the Sabres and Flyers played Sunday night’s tilt in Game 80 of the season (where there’d only be two regular season games to burn on a suspension) and Rinaldo threw that hit. Sadly, the only thing that would likely remain the same would be the damage to Chad Ruhwedel’s cranium. If the NHL is actually serious about removing hits to the head, one would hope that they’d treat every suspension length the same, regardless of timing. A player’s physical and mental health is not confined to times set by the NHL scheduling office, and neither should the league’s suspension process.
It’s been quite a while since I last wrote anything about the Amerks. While there are many reasons for this, the biggest is that I’ve just been too lazy to provide updates outside of Twitter. A one-word summation of the Amerks’ season to this point would be disappointment. That’s not to say that the Amerks are a terrible team, of course. They simply aren’t performing at the level most fans hoped they would. After the jump you’ll find my thoughts on their season to this point. Read More…
The Edmonton Oilers could really use a goalie. It’s no secret. They’ve got all the offensive potential in the world and some solid defense too. Between the pipes, however, they’ve got the ever-underwhelming Devan Dubnyk and the Russian enigma (to put it lightly) Ilya Bryzgalov. So yeah, they could use a goalie. It’s for this reason that every time trade rumors start brewing, the idea of shipping Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to Edmonton always seems to pop up. Buffalo needs high-end scoring, Edmonton needs veteran goaltending. It makes sense. It’s for this reason that whenever deals and deadlines are brought up, Sabres fans pack the bags of a young, explosive Russian who wears Oilers’ Blue and Copper and send him to Buffalo to swap Copper for Gold. It’s for this reason that Sabres fans perpetually bring up one trade: Ryan Miller to EDM for former first overall pick Nail Yakupov (the aforementioned explosive Russian).
But more on that later. For now, the Sabres are streaking. They are playing balanced hockey and actually staying in games. Moreover, they’re putting an exciting product on the ice and winning games. You read that correctly. Winning. They’ve won four of their last six and have gotten points in six of their last seven games. They’ve put together an exciting and respectable streak. This piece, however, isn’t about how the Sabres are winning or why the team is doing so well or even what the team is doing to get wins. That doesn’t matter. To this team, winning can’t and doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? 22 games, that’s why.
The Sabres started the season with 22 regulation losses. I crunched some numbers on twitter yesterday (read: went to NHL.com) and came across an interesting tidbit. In the 2011-12 season, which was the last full NHL season, the Vancouver Canucks finished first in the West and won the President’s trophy. They finished the season with 22 losses. That’s two less losses than the Sabres currently have. So the Sabres have already accumulated more losses in half a season than the best team in 2011 did in a full season. Basically, the Buffalo Sabres played themselves out of a playoff spot in October and November.
There has been some talk among Sabres fans that the team could make a push for the playoffs if they keep playing hockey like they are right now. It makes sense that this mindset is happening. As I said earlier, the Sabres are playing great hockey and are definitely finding a way to win games they shouldn’t (like the one they just played against Washington where they were outshot 50-17 and won 2-1 in a shootout). That being said, this sort of discourse is a bit ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I want the Sabres to make the playoffs as much as the next guy, but there is a certain point where you have to be realistic (especially as a Buffalo sports fan).
There are 43 games left in the regular season for the Buffalo Sabres. One fan I conversed with said that they could see the Sabres playing .500 hockey for the rest of the season. Okay, sure. Let’s say hypothetically (VERY hypothetically) that Buffalo wins half their games from here on out. That puts them at 33-45-4 to end the season. In 2011/12 the last team to make the playoffs did so with a record of 41-31-10. That was when the Ottawa Senators beat out the *gasp* BUFFALO SABRES for the last spot in the East. The Sabres would have to go 31-12 in the second half of the year to meet that. THIRTY ONE WINS WITH ONLY TWELVE LOSSES. We haven’t even won 33 games in the first half of the season.
Bad teams can have good streaks. At separate times in 2011/12 the undeniably-worst-in-the-league Columbus Blue Jackets put together streaks better than the one the Sabres are in right now. They won 4 straight at one point and put together a 5 for 6 streak to end the season. Last year Florida, one of the worst clubs in the league, had a streak where they went 4 for 5. They followed that success by losing six straight. Point is, bad teams have good streaks. The Sabres can get streaky if they want. Like a college Freshman at DI sporting event, they can streak their little dic- er, rather… hearts… out. They still played so historically terrible to start the season that nothing, save for a catastrophic conference collapse and a win stretch of literally legendary proportion, will change their playoff hopes. Not even putting John Scott on the power play.
“Well sure, they won’t make the playoffs but what if they play their way out of our precious top-3 pick?!” Oh don’t worry random quote interjected into this piece, that draft pick is safe too. If the Sabres win half their games from here on out, as mentioned in that previous scenario, one might think they’d play out of a high pick. Wrong. If Buffalo wins half those games, they will end the season with 33 wins. Those 33 notches in the win column would be two more than the Montreal Canadiens who picked 3rd overall that offseason.
Furthermore, 33 wins to close the season would be one more win than the 32 that the Edmonton Oilers finished with in 2011/12. So if the Sabres are somehow able to scratch and claw their way to winning half their games from here on out, which is a feat that is so highly unlikely it’s actually laughable, they will still only scrounge together a record that would easily have them select in the top three. Their record would closely resemble that of the aforementioned 2011/12 Edmonton Oilers, a team that went on to win the 2012 NHL Draft lottery and pick first overall in that upcoming Entry Draft. And who did Edmonton select with that first overall pick? An explosive Russian forward whose inability to find himself in the NHL has put him in plenty of trade rumors that would bring his team a goalie. With the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, they selected a young man by the name of Nail Yakupov.
They did it playing better hockey than Buffalo is right now. So yeah, the Sabres draft position is safe.
When I was growing up playing hockey, there was one thing coaches used to repeat over and over and over ad-nauseam. I’d hear it from my coach (my dad), I’d hear it from the assistant coach (my best friend’s Dad), I’d hear it from other players, and I’d hear it from the most important voice to ever exist: myself. This one thing became a defining facet of my entire hockey career and for better or for worse (okay, pretty much for worse) became a cornerstone that I developed my game around (aside: I should take this time to point out that I played hockey from age five until age fifteen and was, to put it nicely, mediocre. Basically, I was about as “Drew Stafford playing the year after a contract” as they come.) Anyway, the one thing that every coach loved to harp on was this: You can’t teach size.
In youth hockey I’d watch some behemoth, hit-a-growth-spurt-way-too-early, “holy balls is this kid on steroids”, 13 year old out-play everyone on the ice. He’d steal the puck, go end-to-end propelled on stilts for legs and blast a stupidly fast shot past some poor 12 year old whose pads were too big and was probably day-dreaming about boobs or video games or boobs in video games, anyway. “Welp, you can’t teach size,” I’d hear someone rationalize from down the bench.
There were two problems with this idiom, at least from my underachieving, youth-hockey playing point of view. The first problem was that I was generally in the bottom five players for size on every single team I was on. I didn’t hit my growth spurt until a year after I quit and it was pretty much a guarantee that I was always one of the smallest players on the ice. The second problem with this height-based theory was that IT WAS TOTALLY CORRECT. Hit the jump to read more about my inadequacies and how Tyler Myers is tall.
This afternoon marked the first meeting of the season between the Lake Erie Monsters and the Rochester Americans. The question on this fan’s mind was whether the Amerks’ domination of the Monsters would continue from last season, or if the Monsters would remember how to play hockey against the Amerks. It turns out that the latter was the case. The final score was 2-1 in favor of the Monsters in a shootout. You know the drill, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly are after the jump. Read More…
Friday night marked the first of ten meetings between the Utica Comets and the Rochester Americans. This is also the first ever meeting of the Comets and the Amerks, as the Comets moved from Peoria this summer after the Vancouver Canucks purchased the Peoria Rivermen. I’m confident in saying that every Amerks fan in the building was hoping the game wouldn’t turn out like the home opener. Unfortunately for the busload or so of Comets fans in attendance, the game was indeed the opposite of last week with the Amerks winning by a score of 4-1. After the jump you’ll find The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Read More…
Last night marked the first of four meetings between the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Rochester Americans. If you hadn’t already guessed by the title, the Amerks’ home opener did not go as well at they had planned. At the end of the night the final score was 8-1, Griffins. Sometimes the score isn’t indicative of how a game actually went (see: Sabres at Red Wings, 10/2/13), but in this case it is an accurate portrayal of how things went. After the jump you’ll find The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Read More…
The puck hits the ice at 7:30 PM NDT on Friday between the Providence Bruins and St. John’s IceCaps marking the first meaningful AHL hockey game in 107 days, 21 hours, and 39 minutes. That’s right folks, it’s been that long since the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Syracuse Crunch in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals to win their first Calder Cup in the team’s 12 year AHL history*. It’s only fitting, then, that the last team to win a Calder Cup game, and the first team eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs open their seasons together. The Rochester Americans will be looking to make the playoffs for the third time in as many years; only this time they hope to avoid the bitter disappointment of their last two trips to the Calder Cup Playoffs. After the jump you’ll find a breakdown of who is on the Amerks’ roster and some thoughts on their depth. Read More…
Alright everyone, I’m about to go all Bill Nye on you and ask you to CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING (cue: echo). Let’s pause for a moment in recognition of Mr. Nye and his awesome show. Here, watch the theme:
See, wasn’t that a nice throwback? Anyway, here we are in late July talking about Bill Nye and wondering what’s going on with hockey and what in the world I’m getting at. As I said about four sentences ago, I’d like you to CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
The Buffalo Sabres will lose Ryan Miller to Free Agency.
Before you go all crazy and close this article (not that I mind, I already got your precious page view anyway), stay with me. There are a few things that need to be recognized in order for it to be realized that the Sabres could very easily see Miller walk away on July 1st. Hit the click through to read on.
I’m not exactly sure what Darcy Regier has planned for the Amerks next season. And let’s be honest here, neither do you. As much as we want to be entirely “doom and gloom” about their chances next season, it’s simply much too soon to be declaring the season an utter failure. Remember, it is currently July 10 and the Amerks’ season doesn’t begin until sometime around October 4 (their home opener). Let’s take a look and see who they’ve lost and gained since free agency began on July 5. Read More…