By far, it is the one thing for which fans who have gone through a solemn season like this one, can hold to in anticipation. There's always next season, right? It's crazy that the next time we see the Sabres play a meaningful game will be in October. Eh.
Of course, in our day and age of sports coverage and fandom, there are always two sides to the story and you must stick to one side while ridiculing and destroying the other. Brandon has a post up about reasons to be optimistic about the Sabres and that's fine and dandy, but it's my turn to destroy your optimistic prism of fanhood. This is a piece that will inspire you to call into the Whiner Line and make Sabres apologists block you on Twitter. A piece that will get me banned from the Sabres press box and get me unfollowed by Heather B-Funk. (Editor's note: Hmmmmm. -HB)
Here are a few stats to make you squirm a bit:
- The Sabres missed the playoffs for the 12th time in franchise history. Half of those misses have come since 2002.
- The team has only won 5 playoff series since Brett Hull's foot was in the crease.
- Since its last playoff series victory in 2007, 18 franchises have been able to advance in the playoffs and that number will more than likely go up this year.
- Lindy Ruff has won as many playoff series in his first two years as coach (5) as he has in the last 12 years.
- The Sabres were 19-26 against this year's playoff teams.
- Against the top 5 teams (points-wise) in the East (NYR, BOS, PIT, PHI, NJD), Buffalo had a 6-16 record. If you include the Panthers, the record goes to 8-18 against the top 6 teams in the East.
- The Sabres didn't have a winning record against any of the playoff teams in the East.
Yeah..we sucked. But guess what? There's more!! So, without further ado, here are five reasons to be angry at the Sabres for this past season and a way to tell all the optimistic fans to bite me!
(Hahahaha...I'm just playing America, you know I love you. -Eminem)
Roy, Stafford, Vanek (2nd half), Myers, Gerbe, Leino and Boyes didn't do nearly enough this year to help the Sabres advance to the playoffs. You can't blame injuries because Roy, Stafford and Vanek collectively missed 6 games this past season and all put up uninspiring numbers.
- Stafford went from scoring 31 goals in 62 games last year to 20 goals in 80 games this year. If I hear someone mention that Stafford couldn't finish one more time, I'm going to think he has erectile dysfunction. Yes, he played well down the stretch, but where was he during the first 60 games of this season?
- I wish we could go back to the days of Roy being Roy. Instead, we get Roy being Sh#$. His 44 points were the lowest he's had since 2004, excluding last year because of injuries. Yes, when you have to go back before the lockout to find your career lows in points, you are in trouble. So much for all those fans/media members who thought he was going to breakthrough after his decent season was cut short. Sorry, but he's not a #1 center and I think he should get moved because they aren't firing Lindy Ruff any time soon.
- I think the Sabres need to consider trading Vanek. Look, I like the guy and I'm not trying to get rid of him out of spite because I think he's a good player. But he's not a franchise player and if you are going to count on him to be the team's best forward, he has to perform better than 26 goals, only 8 of which came after January 1st. Yes, I know there are rumors that he's battling injuries, but I can't ignore the other times throughout his career that he has disappeared. He disappeared for most of the division title run in 2009/2010 when he scored only 28 goals. He only has 20 points in 36 playoff games and he just disappears too much. I just don't get how he can be a 2x 40-goal scorer and go down to Derek Roy numbers. He's an asset that I think can get a hefty return. You aren't going to get di#k for Roy or Stafford. To me, and I've been saying this since 2009, the top 6 forwards need to change.
- Seriously, every time I hear about Tyler Myers' impact on this team, I can't help but laugh because he was average at best this year. Can someone please mention that the guy was so bad during the first 6 weeks of the season that he was benched? Yes, Mike Weber and Grags played over him. Should I also mention that when Tyler returned in January, the team went 3-7-1 and were outscored 16-34? Again, tell me why he's so valuable? Look, I still think he can be a great defensive player, but he's not there yet and there are too many fans/media members who are more in love with the idea of this guy being Chara than seem to be actually watching what he's been doing on the ice. This is the 2nd year in a row where Myers started out slower than a snail and seemed to tread some water at the end. That's not good enough.
- Who doesn't like Nathan Gerbe? He's short, he's a pest and everyone can rally around an underdog. However, he just had a terrible year. Maybe it was a sophomore jinx or battling concussions, but 6 goals in 61 games? Not good enough. I'm not willing to throw him in the fire because he's only in his 2nd year, but he did score a lot of fluky-looking goals last year. Maybe he's not the pure scorer we thought.
- Brad Boyes...What else can I say? The guy sucked this year and robbed the Sabres of 4 million bucks. 8 goals in 65 games. Career low in points, goals and assists. Great deal, Darcy. Dude will be lucky to get a tryout next year. I know some will say that him playing with the likes of Ellis/McCormick had something to do with it, but I disagree. The guy played on the 3rd and 4th line which means he's going against the opposition's crud unit. For crap's sake, Adam Mair scored just as many goals in 08/09. Not to mention, he's been going downhill for three years now.
- People who want to kill off Ville Leino, I got news for you, he's not going anywhere because of his salary and production. The prenup is pretty much unbreakable. Yes, the Sabres were stupid for telling us that he'd be their #2 center, a position that we all know he can't play. Yes, he played better down the stretch. But 7 goals for 4.5 million? Eh. I do think he can bounce back if he's playing with a legit center (see: Briere in Philly), but he has a long way to go. BTW, when Tyler Ennis' agent references Leino's deal when renewing his client's deal, you will want to kill Darcy for giving that much to #23. I think Ennis could get 3-4 million a year easily.
4) Chicken or egg
Is it the QB or the OL that makes pass protection work in football? Well, we may as well have the same argument about defensemen and goaltending. Here's the dealio: Ryan Miller was awful from October-January, allowing 3 goals or more in 20 of 31 starts. I know a number of fans want to make reference to Lucic's hit being a crossroad moment for Miller, but what fans forget is that #30 was passed over for Enroth when he was struggling BEFORE the Lucic incident. Before the hit, Miller went five straight games giving up 3 goals or more. So, it is not like he was lighting the world on fire and this all came when their blueline was still healthy. Then the Lucic hit and blue line injuries happened.
Of course, things changed for Miller, as he allowed three goals or fewer in 18 of his last 32 starts to close out the year. Quite a reversal of fortunes, right? Then #57 and #10 got hurt last weekend and it became an excuse as to why Miller struggled against the Pens/Leafs. Here's the deal. The Sabres have almost 90 million bucks invested in their blueline, which makes me wonder sometimes why we need Ryan Miller if we have this "Amazing blueline." But on the other hand, if we started Enroth with this blueline, the world was coming to an end. I guess what I'm trying to ask is what makes this team function well in their own end of the ice, Miller or the blueline? If you look at a team like the Rangers with Lundqvist, they don't exactly have this blue line with star power, do they? I'm not trying to run someone out of the country here, but I'm just mentioning that all of this makes me head hurt which makes me angry.
(Editor's note: Lack of star power doesn't mean the Rangers defense isn't good. They have a combination of good, solid defense and a goalie playing out of his mind. Similar to the 2009-2010 Sabres who had a Vezina-winning goalie, an awesome Myers-Tallinder pairing and a very solid Lydman and Montador. Remember, kids, unfancy d-men are the best d-men. -HB)
(Joe's Note: Get over Hank and your love for dull ass d-men :P)
3) Injury excuse blows
Look, injuries did have an effect on this team, but for the 200th time, every team has them and the hyperbole I've been hearing from fans/media about them being the team's undoing are so misguided. The Flyers beat us without Briere, Pronger and Van Riemsdyk and they are the 5th seed. The Pens didn't have Crosby for most of this season and are a 4th seed. Plus, they were able to make it last yr without #87 and #71. The Sabres 05/06 team had key injuries to Briere, Dumont, Miller and Hecht and they still were able to keep on trucking without them. Yes, injuries will catch up to you in the playoffs when the competition goes up, but to beat teams like the Avs, Habs, Leafs, Tampa and other crappy teams, you should be able to make good and get in the postseason. Plus, the East is terrible.
The Sabres forwards should have been able to pick up the slack. Between Vanek, Roy, Pominville and Stafford, the scoring corps for this team missed only 10 games altogether. This is also the same group of forwards that guided the Sabres to the playoffs last year, a year in which the Sabres blueline had Myers, Sekera, Montador, Butler, Weber and Morissssonnnnn. The blueline was the weakest unit on the team, and yet, the forwards picked up their game and helped propel them to the playoffs. Well, not this year. They let them down. They're the main reason why we are sitting at home.
Now the injuries that everyone keeps pointing to are for 57/10. I know they had a 30-13-2 record when the duo was in the lineup, which I'm sure will be advertised to us in some sort of tweet or soundbite by the Sabres. Sounds great, right? Jeremy White may have a t-shirt with those numbers on it.
I'd also like to bring up that they were together when the Sabres gave up 7 goals against the Flyers in February. They were also together when they lost to Tampa Bay twice in October. They were in the lineup when they gave up 6 goals and Ryan Miller's head on a platter to Boston/Lucic. They were in the lineup when they lost to Winnipeg in early March. They were both in the lineup when they gave up 5 goals to the crappy Avs. Tyler Myers was in the lineup when the Sabres won three games in January. Christian Ehrhoff was playing when the team lost to the Islanders, Blue Jackets and gave up 8 goals to the Pens.
Now, that 30-13-2 record sounds awesome, right? No holes in it. Unsinkable stat, correct? Well, they said the Titanic was unsinkable and somehow an iceberg poked holes in.
ICEBERG JOE FROM NYC, RIGHT AHEAD!
The 10/57 combo were together for the first 20 games of the Sabres season and the team went 12-8. OK, not horrible, but they only went 5-5 against teams who are currently in the playoffs, which is where I'm going with this. If you can't beat the good teams, you probably aren't a good team, right?
The duo wasn't put back together until January 24th, and from then on their record against playoff teams during that stretch was 9-5. So, with 57/10 in the lineup, the Sabres were 14-10 against teams in the playoffs and 16-5 when they played against garbage teams. In other words, they did most of their damage against roody-poo candy-ass teams. So, yes.. Their record was better, but it wasn't like they were world beaters, right? No? Oh, jump off a bridge.
Bottom line: The Sabres had most of their core players playing throughout the year, especially at the forward spot. When #44 gets hurt and is replaced with #81, I'm not pressing the panic button. When #42, #36 and #22 go down with injuries, I think someone in Rochester can help maintain their 8 goal pace for the season. Again, the team made it to the playoffs last year with an average blueline and Tim Connolly as their #1 center. They could have made the playoffs with all these injuries and that's that.
2) We couldn't score on the horny kids from American Pie or Porky's
STARS!! STARS! WE NEED STARS! I've been saying this since 2008. The Sabres need to find that player who is going to make the opposition piss their pants and have night terrors. They need a star forward. They need Drury/Briere 2.0 because this team lacks a clutch performer when things are on the line. Plain and simple, they need more scorers. The Sabres had only one player ranked in the top 50 in points (#29). Two, count them, TWO players in the top 99 in scoring.
More stats for offensive futility:
- The Sabres scored two goals or fewer 43 times this year.
- This was the 4th lowest scoring season for the team in Sabres history.
- During his last 42 games, Thomas Vanek scored 8 goals.
- During a 46 game stretch, Drew Stafford scored 5 goals.
- During a 32 game stretch, Derek Roy scored 3 goals.
- During a 53 game stretch, Ville Leino scored 4 goals.
Keep in mind the many times the Sabres played against backup goalies. Thank goodness we sucked for most of the year. WE NEED SCORERS!
1) Faith in ownership, not so much with management/coach
I wrote last year that the circle of excuses were coming to end with the Sabres. If you told me in July of 2011 that the Sabres would keep Ruff/Regier after not qualifying for the playoffs, I'd say you were crazy. Of course, this season represented the ultimate mulligan for the Teflon doms.
Injuries, injuries, injuries.
You couldn't write it any better if you were Larry Quinn. Yes, Mulligan: The Sequel.
Here's the deal. I have a ton of faith in Black/Pegula (unless they start their year-end presser by giving history lessons on injuries and killing the media/fans for negative perception). I didn't think they should have fired Lindy/Darcy when they took over because my hatred towards Golisano made me want to give them a clean slate. I know they want to win and will put their money where their mouth is. I know the Sabres must be in the red for this year with all the money they spent on arena improvements and salaries. They will do everything in their power to provide the tools to win a championship.
The problem is, do we have Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor or Bob Villa using the tools?
If they keep making mistakes, it won't matter how much money T-Pegs gives to them.
A 65-million dollar payroll should not result in a 9th place finish. Yes, hindsight is a bitch when it comes to evaluating someone's actions because whenever Darcy makes a move, everyone greets it with a parade. Luckily, I'm using hindsight now. Look at what Darcy has done since Pegula bought the team. He traded for Brad Boyes, who had 11 goals in his 85 games here. I'm sorry, but I could have traded for someone that could have gotten that production. Then you have the Ville Leino signing, which looks like a joke so far. I'm ok with the Robyn Regehr trade because he didn't give up much and the idea of getting a stay-at-home d-man was a great idea, but he sure looked slow this year at times, didn't he? Alright, he was fine. I'm just being an ass.
I'm fine with #10, but I'm not making him out to be this fu#$en all-star d-man. Why? Because he wasn't one and not even the nut jobs in Vancouver or Buffalo could stuff the ballot box to get him in. Plus, it's not like Vancouver is missing him right now. (Editor's note: I think that might say more about the level of talent Vancouver has than it says about Ehrhoff but carry on. -HB)
Maybe I have a low hockey IQ but the guy was brought in to score and be a powerplay specialist. He had 5 goals this year. Am I selling him short? Yes...because I think apologists are buying into Robie drooling over highlights/telestrator of him playing the puck off the boards and trying to turn him into a Norris Trophy guy. To many fans are buying him like he's Captain Europe. The guy wasn't here last year and the team still went to the playoffs. Valuable? Yes. Reason the season went downhill after missing 16 games? Come on.
Then you go to the contract extensions for 8, 44, 42 and 57. Do any of them look like good investments right about now? I know it's early, but I think 3 of the 4 players listed regressed this year and I'm pretty sure I could find some guys to disagree about 44. As for his recent deadline deals, like I said at the time when everyone was ripping off their bras and underwear because of the pure excitement, we won't know who wins the deal until at least next year.
The biggest problem I have with Regier is that he loves his players and it takes heaven and earth for him to move them. Derek Roy should have been traded like 3 offseasons ago. Same goes for Stafford. Everyone knew that. Plus, there are also the Dominic Moores, the Shanone Morrisonns, the Rob Niedermayers, the Raffi Torres, the list goes on and on for terrible deals/signings.
He also continues to give chance after chance to the same 5-6 guys on this roster. Instead of adding players around the core, he needs to find a new core. They are not good enough and it was proven after Boston kicked their asses in 2010. It is not too late for Regier as I'm a forgiving person if you get us a FU#$EN PLAYOFF WIN, but he needs to be a risk-taker for once. Trade Vanek for Kopitar. Trade Miller for Kane. Do something to just shake this thing up for a change. Be creative.
As for Ruff, I'm so over trying to defend or defeat this guy. All I know is that he hasn't won a playoff series in five years and all of his scorers seem to be inconsistent as all hell. Leino goes from 19 goals to 8. Vanek goes from 119 goals from 2006-2009 to 86 goals for the next three seasons. Derek Roy goes from 32 goals during the 2008/20089 season to 17 this season. Christian Ehroff goes from 14 goals to 5. From line juggling that didn't make all that much sense to butchering the goalie rotation at the start of the season, the guy gets away with it and no one calls him out for it cause he's a "Buffalo Guy".
Again, tell me why things will change? Sure, Darcy will have an empty checkbook and if the trade deadline day shows anything, he can trade for a center and everyone will go insane and forgive him for all the shortcomings he's had in the past. He'll probably make some moves, but will they be the correct ones? History says 40/60 and that's me being nice.
If I owned the team, I would clean sweep, but we all know that won't happen.
Final word: Yes, this was a very bleak presentation by yours truly. Are there positives? Yes. Read Brandon's piece. I believe in giving readers and myself options to figure out how they feel about any of our teams here. I personally believe there are more negatives than positives at this point. I know Regier/Ruff aren't going to be fired, but they need to understand that the time is ticking when it comes to getting this thing right. I hope Pegs/Black explain that to them in a not-so-friendly way. Guns to the head, Sabretooth's head in Darcy's bed, company car becomes a Beetle, and Lindy gets a pink slip which was really a Valentine day's card (**Wink, wink**) as a hint.
As for this season, it sucked...royally. I wasn't all that into their run, which tells me that something needs to change because the product is stagnant and the storylines always seem to be the same. Look, I like Foligno, but don't you ever stop and say to yourself "Man, we are really kissing this guy's ass and he's only played like 15 games here." He may become a good player, but don't you want, like a star player to believe in and not just the idea of someone new? We are so desperate for change that we bust out the anointting oil more than they do in a porno to anyone who shows us any sort of positive and then turn it into a miracle on ice.
As I said on Twitter, this was probably the most disappointing/annoying Sabres season ever. It had too many valleys for my taste and showed a new side of discord and blame from the fans and media.
Take the last two weeks.
After the team beat the Caps, you would have thought the team was going to play until June from the fan reaction. The hoopla was insane and WGR was talking about who they'd want to play and were playing their playoff bumper/intro. Twitter was happy as hell. Then the weekend hit with the Leafs/Pens and the whole Twitter scene died with the cheerleaders crapping on the naysayers, which made me kind of snicker because the insanity 2 days earlier was just as impulsive.
The season was a mess from start to finish. Too many crappy storylines that I think made fans burn out by January. I kind of felt that and didn't really post all that much because it just felt redundant and the same crap. I was done with them by February and only making the playoffs would have restarted my engines. I even think a number of fans felt the same way and they were just trying to fake themselves into getting excited, but they knew this wasn't going to last much longer.
I think the lovers/haters need to just walk away for awhile. Don't even watch the playoffs and order HBO to see King Joffery get his head cut off. I think what this season showed me is that we take 3 games and make it out to be a defying moment and just get so emotional about it. It is an 82 game season and it felt like it went 162 games. I think a number of people had hockey burnout. I know fans were going gaga for Foligno, but I had a sense that a number of fans just wanted this season to end because they were exhausted from the drama and the 24-hour sports news cycle.
We all need to just refresh our batteries and just start over again as fans...and so do management and the players.
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