Summer Bummer – Post #1: So, uh, what happened back there?
The “Summer Bummer” post series will consist of a series of posts (duh) throughout the summer as the Sabres offseason progresses. They could be very structured and make a good amount of sense OR they could just be random incessant ramblings that fall out of my brain in a more awkward fashion than Zdeno Chara trying to skate backwards. Some posts will be written by your’s truly and (hopefully) some posts will be written by guest writers. This could be great. Or not.
So, uh, what happened back there? Well, I will tell you what happened. It’s been about a month since the Sabres made their glorious first round exit and I, like most unhealthily committed Sabres fans, have still not gotten over it. However, such is life. You can’t always get what you want. Crystal Bowersox can’t win American Idol, Jack Sheppard can’t live if the island is in trouble and the Sabres can’t win a playoff series if no one (not named Grier) scores. That’s what happens, it’s just the nature of being a sports fan. I’m still young and I realize I have a lot to learn. This playoff series taught me a lot.
The main thing it taught me is that the Sabres won’t always win. I know that sounds stupid but it’s true. Until this year’s playoffs, the only REAL playoff series I had experience with were the ’06 and ’07 playoffs. As most people know, the Sabres were pretty much invincible during those playoff runs up until the Conference finals. Back then I just knew the Sabres would go far. It was practically assumed that if the Sabres faltered in one game, they would come back with a vengeance in the next. Briere and Drury would pave the way on offense with grinders like Grier picking up the slack. Throw in the occasional stroke of awesomeness by the young guns and you have a pretty good formula for success. This year’s team had a very similar formula. Young guns like Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis would make plays well beyond their age and experience. Mike Grier, Matt Ellis and even (dare I say it) Adam Mair stepped up big time and contributed both on offense and defense. However, the first (and most important) part of the formula was missing: Top Six Scoring. Both Tim Connolly and Derek Roy combined for a total of zero goals over six games. I know it is like beating a dead horse at this point but still. That is pathetic.
I’m aware that I’m about a month late but I really don’t care. After watching both the Blackhawks and Flyers dismantle their respective opponents some things clicked for me. Both the Hawks and Flyers have an awesome core of players. One team (the Hawks) built their core through high draft picks such as Patrick Kane, Johnathan Toews and Duncan Keith. The other (the Flyers) built theirs through trades and offseason acquisitions with guys like Daniel Briere, Chris Pronger, Daniel Carcillo. The Sabres have tried to do what the Hawks have done but have not been as successful. Derek Roy and Jason Pominville were supposed to be our Kane and Toews. The major difference between these sets of players is drafting. In my opinion, players are drafted high for a reason. Jonathan Toews was selected 3rd overall in the 2006 draft. A year later, Patrick Kane was selected 1st overall. The story with Roy and Pommer, however, is a bit different. Derek Roy was selected in the 2nd round at 32nd overall in 2001. Jason Pominville was selected 23 picks later at 52rd in the very same draft. 32nd and 53rd ain’t exactly 1st and 3rd. So if you’re wondering why our highly touted core isn’t as good as other teams, the proof is in the pudding. Or in this case the draft rounf.
However, that being said, the Sabres next generation core is actually shaping up to be something special. Instead of letting players take forever to develop, the team is drafting more naturally talented players and giving them professional experience at a younger age. The difference between our up and coming young core (Myers, Ennis, Kennedy, Gerbe) and our current core (Roy, Pominville, Stafford, Connolly) is natural ability and dynamism. Guys like Ennis and Gerbe have the potential to be game changers. Don’t get me wrong, back when Roy and Pominville were developing, they seemed like they had the potential to be something really good. However, they never had the raw talent that the current young guys have.
Yes, we may have heard this story before. We’ve heard Darcy and Lindy tout the next generation of talent. We’ve watched with optimism hoping their talent would pan out. And overall, we’ve been disappointed when their play turns out lackluster. This time, however, will be different. The next set of guys have surprised us with their fast development. Instead of management rushing the players into professional play, the opposite is happening. Tyler Myers developed ridiculously well and forced management to put him on the ice. The same can can be said for Tim Kennedy and even Tyler Ennis.
Speaking of prospects, last year’s first round draft pick Zack Kassian was arrested after a bar fight in Windsor. Apparently Kassian was involved in an altercation and ended up getting arrested. Kassian left his “opponent” (for lack of a better word) with minor injuries. If he wants to compete at the professional level, Kassian needs to mature greatly. It is great to have a player who is willing to get down and dirty and even have a bit of a mean streak. It is not great, however, when said player is immature and can’t control their own emotions. Remember, this is the same player who was suspended for 20 games after a viscous open ice hit in his first game with Windsor. Kassian better mature or all of his highly touted potential will be for naught.
In other news, the Sabres resigned Mike Grier to a one year deal. I’m about 3 weeks too late on this one but it’s still good to see a hard working player return to the Sabre’s roster. Not too much to analyze on this one. Grier plays hard and fits his niche well. A one year contract is the perfect time frame as well. With Grier getting older, his play will slowly start to deteriorate. Grier likes to go hard in the corners and that gets tougher with age. It is good to take it year by year with a player like Mikey G.
On a final note, game two of the Stanley Cup finals is tonight at 8:00 on NBC. I’m pulling for Chicago because they play a style of hockey that I really like. Also, they have Buffalo’s own Patrick Kane so that’s a plus. Also, they aren’t the Flyers so that’s a plus.
Until next time…