As students return to school for the beginning of spring semester, I would like to hand out my grades for a group of individuals who spent a little too much time in the mess hall, and not enough in the gym (well rink if you wanna be all technical about it). But before we get to the report card, allow us to set the stage for what transpired from July 1st, to now.
The Buffalo Sabres currently head into the All-Star break tied for last place in the Eastern Conference. Now hold that thought, let is sit, and process that. Last place in a conference where the Sabres were predicted by numerous outlets on television, magazines, and of course here in Buffalo to be world beaters and run roughshod over the conference. Those extremely lofty expectations driven by the acquisitions of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, and forward Ville Leino, equaled a parade down Delaware Avenue with Lord Stanley riding shotgun with owner Terry Pegula. But as the season transpired, those Sabres quickly turned from Stanley Cup contenders, to a team on the edge of extinction from even the playoff picture. Here is my report card on this embattled squad from the Queen City.
Goals For Rank: 14th EAST (25th NHL)
Avg: 2.37 goals per game
Lindy Ruff has an uncanny ability to turn potential 30-40 goal scorers, into 15-20 goal grinders with his constant emphasis on back-checking. All I have seen this year is an unhealthy dose of dump and chase, which is the most torturous style of offense I’ve ever seen. There is no creativity moving the puck past the opposing blue line. Seeing Derek Roy trying to stick handle by the Red Wings was borderline comical showing just how inept Buffalo has been in driving the puck towards the net.
Forwards With Extra Credit
Jason Pominville (17-30-47): The captain has proven he wants to lead his team by example. He is a great two-way player who can play all facets of the game, scoring on Brodeur in the shootout against New Jersey last night to keep it going proved to me that he still wants to win. Pominville will play in the NHL All-Star game for team Alfredsson tomorrow night.
Nathan Gerbe (4-13-17): This modern day Pat Verbeek just impresses me more and more each and every game he plays. Nathan plays with such ferocity and conviction that I wish would be rubbed off on his fellow forwards. Their enthusiasm is as noticeable as Ron Paul is to any corporate media outlet that covers the GOP nomination.
Forward Overstaying His Welcome
Roy and Stafford are among Ruff and Regier of Sabres who have been here too long.
Derek Roy (9-16-25) (-11) Roy has been a poison to the Sabres with selfish play, lack of effort in the defensive zone and lazy penalties, costing Buffalo a goal last night against the Devils. Roy is the senior tenant on the team, and a change of scenery is desperately needed for both him, and the fans.
Goals Against Rank: 11th EAST (3.00 per game) 26th NHL
Fast Fact: Only one defenseman is on the plus side in +/- (Marc Andre Gragnani +10)
Where to begin with this bunch? Let’s say that it is another carousel of pairings from the injury ravaged Myers/Regehr, to the painful Leopold/Weber line that
resembled little more than pylons for forwards to navigate around.
After the Lucic hit on Miller Nov 12th, the Sabres are 10-18-5.
Ryan Miller (12-15-2 3.07GAA .899 sv %)
Jhonas Enroth (8-9-3 2.59GAA .919 sv %)
Blame the defense all you want, but you can’t help but notice that Miller has not had the same spring in his step this season as he did in previous campaigns. Jhonas Enroth has run into poor luck after having stellar performances in starts and in relief appearances for Miller. I understand that they pay Ryan Miller to be their franchise goaltender, but the more Miller falters, the more I’d like to see Enroth take the reigns for a couple games.
“Wait, why is he trying to stickhandle his way towards the net!?”
Lindy Ruff has overstayed his welcome here in Buffalo. The NHL is now an offensive game. Lindy has not realized that yet and continues to play dump and chase like it was Boughner, Wholley, and Holzinger out there. Mostly all of the players (except Gerbe/Pominville) seem to have quit on him. The Sabres had no business winning that game against New Jersey, they only managed to put up 14 shots all game!
This squad has their team picture next to the word underachieving for many reasons. To keep it short and to the point, the Sabres need to be rid of the Larry Quinn era entirely. We got rid of the slugs on the uniforms, now it is time to be rid of the slug on our bench, and the slug sulking in our front office. Until that happens, that mangy silver challis may never darken the doors of First Niagara Center.
Despite the overall grim outlook for the team, two players were rewarded with trips to the All-Star Game tomorrow. Pominville will play for team Alfredsson and rookie Luke Adam will be opposing him on team Chara.
-Special thanks to Lars Lewis for his reporting and analysis.
Let us know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.