Let me be the last to wish you Merry Christmas and the first to wish you Happy New Years.
Now then, on to the nitty-gritty of this post.
Terry Pegula has purchased the Sabres from Thomas Golisano for 175 billion dollars, and this excites many people (including this writer). The general consensus around Buffalo is that something has to be done to shake up this team and make it a contender once again. I agree with this. Many people believe that the front office needs to be changed. Again, I agree. Many people think that Lindy Ruff deserves to lose his job.
Alright stop…Hammer time.
Lindy Ruff should not be fired for any reason. We all know the team has underperformed, netting 34 points in 15 victories as of this evening following a victory over Edmonton (kudos to Mike Weber). This is not Lindy’s fault. It’s Darcy Regier’s fault. Lindy Ruff has had many successes with this team, getting them to a Stanley Cup Final, several Conference Finals and even a President’s Trophy Year. Whatever he’s done must be working right because his teams have made the playoffs in five of his years as coach, advancing in four of them. The man knows what he’s talking about when he coaches.
Unfortunately, he’s not coaching much.
Darcy Regier should be fired for not making any “real” moves. I place real in quotes because aside from the yearly rental player the past three seasons (see: Raffi Torres, Dominic Moore, Steve Bernier) and the occasional free agent (Jaroslav Spacek in 2006, Jocelyn Thibault in 2007, Mike Grier and Patrick Lalime in 2008, Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn, Rob Niedermayer), he hasn’t made the type of move that makes us as fans (or people in the organization) go “WOW! GREAT MOVE!” Instead, it’s just “ho hum, he’ll be gone after 17 games.” NO! This isn’t what anyone wants. The last real move he made was to send Rhett Warrener and a draft pick to Calgary for one Chris Drury. Before that, he traded Chris Gratton and a pick to Phoenix for Danny Briere and a pick. Before that he dealt captain Stu Barnes to Dallas for Mike Ryan and a pick. And just before that, he traded one Rob Ray to Ottawa for future considerations.
After that, everything just seemed to stop. Moves have been few and far between, and all the moves made haven’t made a drastic improvement on the team to a point which has drastically altered the course of a season. Sure, there have been some successes (Drury, Briere, Spacek), but the majority have been failures.
I leave you with this nugget. Lindy Ruff can only coach the talent he’s given. If he is given no talent, how can anyone expect positive results? I sure can’t. Therefore it only makes sense that when Terry Pegula takes control of this team, he fires Darcy Regier and keeps Lindy Ruff.
Tonight the Sabres continue their trip through the sunshine state with a tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After the atrocity that was last night’s game, the Sabres currently sit at 10th in the east with a record of 13-5-4. Tampa, with their record of 17-10-4, are currently 7th in the east. The Lightning have won two straight.
The Sabres last game was a horrid loss to the Florida Panthers. Panthers forward Marty Reasoner netted two straight goals after Bryan McCabe opened the scoring. Things didn’t get much better for the Sabres in a game that saw Ryan Miller chased from goal after allowing four goals in the first period. The final tally ended up with a score of 6-2. The Panthers did a great job of sharing the wealth, with three separate players getting two assists. The Sabres did a great job of playing like crap, with only players ending the night with +/- above zero and three separate players at -3.
Tampa Bay’s last game, however, was a much different style of game. The Lightning took on the Atlanta Thrashers last Wednesday in a very close game. After Rich Peverly potted a goal towards the end of the first or Atlanta, it took a whole period until Tampa’s Sean Bergenheim tied the score late in the second. The game stayed at a gridlock all the way through the third period and overtime until Victor Hedman scored the lone shootout goal to eventually win the game for the Lightning. Goalie Mike Smith stopped every shootout attempt, much to the dismay of his (financially sound) counterpart Dan Ellis.
Let’s take a look at who is Hot and who is Not for these teams:
Derek Roy – Roy has had quite a successful season thus far despite the lack of success from the players around him. Amidst the mediocrity of this Sabres team, Roy has been a points machine this season. Throughout 32 games this year, Roy leads all Sabres players with 33 points. The next closest person is Thomas Vanek at 25. Roy’s 23 assists are good for number one on the team and his 10 goals put him at second. In the last three games, Roy has five points. Of those five points, four of them were assists, including an assist on every goal in Drew Stafford’s hat trick two games ago. Roy’s lone goal within the aforementioned set of five came last night against the Panthers. I guess someone has to be doing something for this team.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Steven Stamkos – Stamkos, a former #1 overall pick, has proven the past two seasons why he deserves such high accolades. On a more recent scale, Stamkos has netted at least one goal in two of the past three games with four points in that span. Couple that with the fact that Stammer has a history of playing well against the Sabres (he scored his first career NHL goals here) and well… You get the point. Look out for Steve Stamkos tonight, he’ll be like a Shark to blood in water against this weak Sabres defense.
THE ENTIRE TEAM’S ABILITY TO PLAY DEFENSE. SERIOUSLY. – The Sabres have been horrid on the back check as of late and it’s come back to kill us on numerous occasions. Last it was especially apparent on the penalty kill. At one point, every player on the ice was committed to the offensive zone in an attempt to get some offense going. The problem with this, however, is that no one was back to play defense when the puck was turned over. Eventually, the puck squirted out of the zone on the stick of a Florida Panther causing a three on one against Buffalo. In a last ditch attempt to get back, Jordan Leopold interfered with a Panthers forward thus drawing another penalty before the current penalty was even over. Three seconds later the Panthers scored (on the aforementioned three on one). Because of Leopold’s penalty, the Sabres were forced to stay on the penalty kill. What caused all of this? The team’s inability to play conservative offense and a lack of acknowledgment for the defensive aspect of the game. Situations like this are what have been killing the Sabres throughout the season. Couple this with a lack of fundamentals and horrible passing and it is easy to see how the Sabres have allowed 13 goals the past three games.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Mike Smith – Tampa has had high expectations for this netminder for the past few seasons. Unfortunately, Smith has never quite been able to rise up and meet these expectations. This has been especially apparent this season given Smith’s numbers. Smith is in the bottom 5 for the league for Goals Against Average and is second worst in league for Save Percentage. It should be noted that the only goalie in the NHL that has a worse Save Percentage than Smith is his partner Dan Ellis. Woah there Lightning goalies, don’t overwhelm us.
After getting chased at the end of the first, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller gets the start tonight. Look for Miller to correct the mistake that was last night. Hell hath no rath like a Miller scorned. After all, he is The Man, The Myth, The Miller (man it feels good to say that, it’s been far too long).
The aforementioned cluster-suck on skates that is Mike Smith will get the start between the pipes for the Lightning. Smith has split time with Dan Ellis all season so look for him to fight for every minute of ice time tonight. Also, despite the woeful stats I mentioned earlier Smith is coming off a one goal performance last Wednesday.
Game starts at 7:30 and as usual is on MSG.
Today was a decent day. I moved rooms at school, got to go home and have Mom’s delicious meat loaf (insert Wedding Crashers reference here). And I met and got to play with my new dogs, Daisy and Kody. Tonight was supposed to be awesome too, with the Sabres in Florida and LeBron James in New York against the Knicks.
After the meat loaf, the whole night turned sour.
I won’t talk much about Miami-New York (but the Heat destroyed the Knicks ). I want to talk about our hockey team in caps for a second. I, like you readers, have several questions: (*Ahem*)
UM…WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT!? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!? WOW!!
Alright, now that my anger is out of the way, let’s figure this out. Our Vezina Trophy winning goalie gave up 4 goals in 20 minutes on 10 shots. They played with no heart and they didn’t really improve, although the scoreboard says they scored twice. It was nauseating watching the team get outworked, out muscled, outplayed for 2.5 hours of my life…2.5 hours that I can’t get back. They had 43 shots on goal, but none of them challenged Tomas Vokoun. Most of the shots I saw were either directly on net, or extremely wide. This was pathetic; simply pathetic. In the 19+ years I’ve been alive, they’ve never looked more heartless than they did tonight as far as I’m concerned. If this were between 2005-2007, I’d have thought “Okay, Drury and Briere will dig us out of this hole.” After all, they’ve done it countless times coming back from 4 down (one game in March 2007 against Toronto comes to mind). Tonight after they trailed 2-0 I thought “This team stinks.”
I never wanted to believe that this team was bad. I wanted to believe that the 100 pt year last year was the stepping stone back to a Presidents Trophy and Stanley Cup by the end of 2012. After this loss, I’m convinced they cannot do it with this current team. And whether or not they change owners, GM’s, coaches, whatever, one thing remains clear: unless changes occur, this team will not go anywhere but to a top 10 draft pick every year.