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.
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.
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.
When the Sabres dealt veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues yesterday for draft picks, fans weren’t overwhelmingly surprised. It has been made quite apparent at this trade deadline that Darcy Regier and his Buffalo Sabres are sellers. Regier has said that pretty much every member of the Sabres is available as trade bait with names like Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford and even Ryan Miller crossing the lips of those who spread trade rumors.
Although many fans are excited at the prospect of overhauling a very underwhelming and seemingly apathetic team, I think it’s time we all rein it in just a little bit. I was conversing with Dan Sterlace (@dansterlace) on twitter this morning about the state of the Sabres (mainly Thomas Vanek) and I used a word that I think fits what the Sabres need to do right now: Renovate. (Hit the jump to read more!)
There’s no denying the monstrous success of the Los Angeles Kings this pos-season. They are on an absolute tear and have only lost two games in the entire playoffs. Their torrid pace coupled with the fact that they play an exciting brand of hockey has made them a breakout team that seems unstoppable.
Think back to the start of this playoffs, however, and one will remember that this King’s team squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed, the very same seed the Sabres were gunning for in the East. The Kings put together a disappointing regular season and seemed to have a lack of production as their Achilles heel. Hit the jump to see a comparison of the Kings and Sabres from one point of view. Read More…
Two years ago I got my best friend, Josh Strate, into NHL hockey. Josh is from Canton, NY which is not far from Potsdam and very far from NHL hockey. Josh, along with every other kid from Canton, grew up watching St. Lawerence University and Clarkson University do battle on the ice. St. Lawerence has seen some great hockey players grace its ice, including Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverly.
During our Freshman year of college, Josh and I watched the Sabres duck out in the first round of the playoffs to the Bruins. After that series Josh was hooked. The next season he began following the Sabres with me during pretty much every game. Despite my efforts to make Josh a full time Sabres fan, he decided that he wanted a team of his own. Unfortunately, Josh picked the Bruins. I couldn’t be mad at him because he didn’t really know that the Sabres and B’s don’t get along. Long story short, Josh spent the year learning all about the Bruins and was rewarded at the end of the season with a Stanley Cup victory.
Three days ago Josh told me he wanted to contribute to The Ruff Writers somehow. We decided that a game preview would be best. Consider this your opportunity to learn all about who’s who for the Boston Bruins before the game tonight. Without further hubub, I present Josh Strate’s Boston Bruins game preview. Pay attention, you could learn a thing or two. Hit the jump to see what Josh had to say. Read More…
The summer before eighth grade I was on top of the world. That summer I was coming off of a successful Bar Mitzvah, I bought my first guitar and I literally had no responsibilities in the entire world. I spent every day bumming around with my pals and doing a whole lot of nothing. The only time I spent not playing street hockey, I spent riding my bike. I was an unstoppable machine of summer. The jewish community recognized me as a man and I’d be damned if I didn’t act like the man. The pinnacle of my summer, the aforementioned bike riding, would also prove to be my downfall.
While riding one day, I hit a bump in the sidewalk. My bike stopped dead underneath me. My body, however, kept moving forward as if nothing happened. I flew over the handlebars, arms outstretched like a mini superman. I was way too cool to actually buckle my helmet so naturally it flew off my head as I flew to my demise. I hit the side-walk hands first. My right wrist absorbed the 100 pounds of shock that was my body. A nearby construction worker called my mom and she took me to the hospital. About three hours later I was sitting at home with a broken wrist. The greatest summer in the history of ever had come crashing to an end. Read More…
Before I proceed with this post I would like to take care of a couple housekeeping issues. First of all, Hi. How are you? It’s been a while since I posted but I miss you all dearly. Second, sorry that the theme of this site keeps changing. Every time I find a theme I like it has some sort of restriction that blocks my path. We’re sticking with this current one. Stay posted as new header and background images are forthcoming. Third, the title of this post is a Weezer reference. That is all. Enjoy this post (if you can decipher it).
It says a lot that Jhonas Enroth only needed one goal from his offense to pull out a win a last night. It says a lot about the Sabres that they could only muster up one goal last night. It says a lot that Jason Pominville is on a six game point streak and Thomas Vanek’s streak hit four. Basically, lots of things were said last night.
Hit the jump to read more. Read More…
This is a guest post written by a good friend of mine named Arun Morace. He is a journalism student at Hofstra and an avid sports fan. An analyst by nature and an antagonist by definition, Arun’s insightful view of sports helps fuel his knack for great sports writing. I received an email from him today that read as follows:
I wrote this real quick today; maybe you can take a look at it, or print it out and smack me in the face with it the next time we play hockey if you think it sucks.
Here is what Arun sent me… Enjoy!
News of the Sabres’ recent multi-year deal with backup goalie Jhonas Enroth has to have people begging the question: Are the Buffalo Sabres getting ready to deal franchise goaltender Ryan Miller? Enroth was superb in limited action last year, posting a 9-2-2 record, with his first three wins coming in the shootout (an NHL record), and with one of those wins being a 1-0 blanking of the playoff-bound New York Rangers. Maybe the Sabres liked what they saw, and are prepared to lean on him while using Miller a bargaining chip to upgrade the team as a whole.
The Sabres cannot win the Stanley Cup by relying on Miller alone, which is the doomed strategy they’ve employed in the years since losing Chris Drury and Danny Briere. The last line of defense can only win you so many games. The back end has been fortified in recent years, with the emergence of Tyler Myers and the acquisitions of Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff, but the offense remains stagnant, as only Thomas Vanek finished the season ranked amongst the top 20 scorers. Read More…