Quick Hits

by Ryan

My laptop has been on the lam recently, so while I’m at a computer I thought I’d put out a few thoughts on the Sabres.

Pat Kaleta was sent back to Rochester this morning. While it’s easy to say I disagree with the move, Pat isn’t going to be a regular Sabre this year and I can deal with that. He will have a place on this team very soon, at the very latest when Andrew Peters’ contract is up next summer. I would follow the link just to watch the video of Chris Philips getting wrecked. Good times.

– Today I feel much better about where this team is heading. It always helps to see the number in the W column go up, but that felt like a hard fought win last night. The Roy/Vanek/Stafford line was good again, and aside from one huge brainfart by our two-time All Star their defensive effort was pretty solid.

– Hecht saved my life with that poke check in the last five seconds. If that shot gets off I undergo the Ludovico Technique to ween myself off hockey.

– I think the All Star Break will do this team some good. Last Friday’s Thrashers game was supposed to be the turning point, but having a game the next night killed all the momentum a 10-1 final gave. Taking a solid road win into the break has to build some confidence, and after the weekend they have a quick Florida road trip against two much weaker opponents. We won’t know how things have turned until Wednesday, but it feels good to head into the ASG with a win, even if we are hovering at .500.

– In honor of the All Star Game I’ve been compiling an “All Balls Team,” celebrating the best of the worst players in the league this season. That will see the light of day sometime tomorrow.

– The BfloBlog game thread had some interesting comments on Thomas Vanek. I’ve thought Vanek has been playing better as of late, but I’m curious to see what other people think of his game. Everyone has an opinion and we have a comment option… don’t be shy, boys and girls.

4 Comments

  1. dave in Rocha

    Couple things:

    http://mirtle.blogspot.com/2008/01/so-much-for-all-star-break.html

    According to this, SJ is sending down not only their borderline AHL/NHLers, but also Setoguchi, who has 100+ games in the NHL. Sounds to me that instead of having Kaleta sit on his ass for 4 days they think he’s better off playing in Rocha’s two games. Can’t say I disagree. We’ll have to wait for Tuesday to see if either of the injured guys come back, or if The Kaleta comes back up.

    – Vanek. You asked for comments on him, so here goes:

    I am firmly of the opinion that his performance is the result of A) his contract, B) his promotion up the depth chart and C) the mental ramifications of A and B. I have never seen him as “lazy”, and if anything, I’ve noticed an increased defensive awareness from him this year. I’m not saying he’ll be a Selke candidate anytime soon, but I have noticed him busting his ass to come back on 3-on-2s.

    I can’t tell though what is the best course of action to take to get him back to where he can be. In terms of wingers we didn’t really lose anyone since last year (Zubrus = rental = doesn’t apply here), so it’s not like he’s buckling under the weight of suddenly being our best scoring winger. What we lost was centremen which caused Roy (and whoever he happens to be with) to shoot up to the 1st line. So does that mean we need a new top centre to pair with Kaiser Jochen and Pommers? Or do we pair that new top centre with Vanek and hope that a line of Roy-Pommers-Kaiser can deflect some heat? Or do we grab a Dumont-like older scoring winger (like, perhaps, Dumont? please?) to take some attention away from Vanek? I dunno. I do agree that benching him won’t solve anything. It might be the right message to send to Max who has been careless and half-assed, but not to Vanek.

    All that said, there’s no way he’s the next Miro. I cringe whenever I hear people suggest that.

  2. Heather B.

    I think Vanek has been much better the last little while. He’s still snake-bit goal-wise but he’s going to the net, standing in front of the net, getting back on defense, all that good stuff. I don’t get the lazy thing because I think he’s trying really hard, possibly too hard. He’ll get sorted out. He’s in year one of a seven year contract and while he may never do enough to make people think he’s earned his contract, it’s far too early to decide he’s a total bust. He’ll do his share. For a mixture of reasons, it’s just be a tough season for everyone.

    All that said, there’s no way he’s the next Miro. I cringe whenever I hear people suggest that.

    Absolutely. That’s ridiculous.

  3. RJ

    Dave,

    Thanks for the Mirtle link on the Sharks, I wasn’t aware teams were doing something like this. It’s a smart move for sure, but I’m not sure if that’s what they are doing with Kaleta. I hope it’s the case, however.

    As far as Vanek, I agree with both of you with regards to his “laziness.” Vanek is not the fastest of hockey players, and I’m okay with that. His positioning on the defensive end has been better this year, even if his +/- doesn’t show it.

    With his scoring touch, I can’t help but think the pressure of being “the guy” has a hand in it, but as Dave said, a lot of our offensive struggles may come from not having enough true centers on the team. When Paul Gaustad is arguably your best C you are in serious trouble.

    I do agree with Heather, Vanek will turn it around. He needs to play with that cocky edge we saw so much last year. Having steady linemates in Stafford and Roy may help, but he needs to take this team on his back like he did with Minnesota a few years ago.

    The people who saw him at HSBC in a Golden Gopher uniform know what he can really do, I just hope we can see it while he wears blue and gold.

  4. BK

    i think vanek will haver a monster year in 2008-09. looking over his career, he has had a few slight dips in production when reaching after reaching new plateaus, but has always come back stronger.

    consider:

    1999-00, Sioux Falls: 15 G, 33 points for a 16-year-old rookie.

    2000-01, Sioux Falls: a year of experience and he nets 19 goals and 29 points in 6 less games.

    2001-2002, Sioux Falls: monster year – 46 goals, 91 points.

    2002-2003, Minnesota: 31 goals, 62 points, nicely done.

    2003-2004, Minnesota: 26 goals, 51 points. Plays in 7 less games than previous season.

    2004-2005, Rochester: 42 goals, 68 points in 74 games. Again, nicely done.

    2005-2006, sabres: 25 goals, 48 points. Definitely undergoes adjustment period and sits a few games in playoffs, but generally is an asset.

    2006-2007, sabres: monster year with 43 goals and 84 points.

    frankly, that does not look to me like the career path of a player who lazy, or untalented, or a stupid, or a bust, or anything else that idiot fans want to write. vanek, like most of his teammates, is struggling through a season where everything that can go wrong, from day 1 (a slow start by miller, myriad injuries, chemistry issues, an unfavorable schedule, vast improvement by montreal and boston, and so on, oh yeah, and drury and briere left) to the present.

    will the sabres make the playoffs this year? maybe. but i have a feeling they are a couple moves away from being a cup contender again. if the bandwagon lightens a little between now and then, so be it.

    bottom line, though, vanek is going to be a perrault-style badass in this league, watch and see.