No Magic Numbers

by Ryan

The Buffalo Sabres are 6-8 in games that are tied after two periods.

If you are looking for a stat to explain why the Sabres aren’t making the playoffs, let’s start there. Think about it: all this team needs to do is win one period, twenty minutes of hockey, and they are below .500 trying it. That’s a lot of points down the drain, and a sign of a team that’s unable to come through when it really matters.

How many games do you remember saying “just win one period”? How many games where they were tied or down just one goal, but everything went to hell in the third period? How many leads have slipped in the final frame, the Sabres unable to close the deal.

Points count the same, every game all season. The Sabres’ failure to secure those points has been a bad habit, one well documented over the past two seasons on this site. Of course there were excuses: injuries, bad bounces, a tricky team here and there. Maybe the team was tired, as their record on short rest is abysmal over the last few seasons. Maybe, just maybe, they simply dislike playing on Saturdays.

Whatever the excuse, I’m tired of it. As fans we may have had a hard time judging this team from game to game, but the overall trend is unmistakable. It’s a straight line. This team is going nowhere, and nowhere isn’t good enough. This isn’t a team struggling in the wake of Miller’s injury, this is a team playing uninspired hockey with its two biggest stars unable to shoulder the load alone this time around.

The Buffalo Sabres are underachieving through and through. Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, Dan Paille, Maxim Afinogenov, Henrik Tallinder. And on and on. This is a team full of unmotivated, under productive hockey players saying the right things and doing the opposite. Worst of all, we’ve known about it all along. Here’s what I wrote back when Jason Pominville signed his contract extension:

What is important to note is that Darcy went out and got his guys. Regier gets so much flack for just doing his job, but you have to admit he is going about things exactly how he wants. Forget about last summer and the missed chances. Since July 1st everything has moved the way he wanted, even in dealing with Brian Campbell and the development of young talent.

These are his roster moves, his draft picks, and his contract negotiations. What Regier does so well is find guys he likes and trust them to come of age. The system has taken on a different look with the loss of Rochester and subsequent addition of Portland, but nothing has changed about the way he drafts and the way he signs players.

There aren’t many expectations for this year’s Sabres team, but you can’t say that Darcy hasn’t put together a roster worth watching. All he can do is sign them and look towards next year. How they perform and respond is up to Lindy, and that’s the part I’m less sure about.

The question we are left with is this: who is responsible for this team’s failures; the guy bringing players in or the guy coaching them?

Now it’s quite fashionable these days to say Lindy Ruff should be fired, and I honestly have no idea where all that came from. For years Lindy Ruff was the untouchable idol of hockey in Buffalo, and maybe this is a sign that something really does need to change. People aren’t happy with Ruff, and suddenly the things we said earlier this season aren’t being objected to anymore.

Since the Ottawa Brawl game this team just hasn’t been the same. That moment was the kind of thing that should propel a team to a Stanley Cup. Instead, they couldn’t beat Ottawa two days later and couldn’t beat them in May. They coasted down the stretch, coasted in the postseason, and aside from Thomas Vanek becoming Atlas now and again they’ve coasted over the last two seasons.

The truth is that I have no idea what should change with this team, but I do know that nothing will. The management is locked in, but something has to give. I know that Andrew Peters should not have been on the ice last night, and he should not be signed this summer. I’m not the biggest Matt Ellis fan on the planet, but anything was better than 2:16 of fail from Peters.

I don’t want to hear Lindy Ruff say he’s “embarrassed” for the fans. We don’t need his sympathy. We need him to get through to the players on this team, or we need new players. If there is a fair criticism of Darcy Regier since losing Briere and Drury it is that everything he has done has been preventitive. We traded Campbell because we didn’t want him to walk, and we signed Pominville, Hecht, Miller, Connolly, and Roy for fear that they would walk or be stolen.

I wonder if moves like that actually translate into wins. What we do know is that Sullivan is right, they clearly make for brisk jersey sales. We don’t have much to prove it means anything but mediocrity where it really counts, and that’s cause for concern. With more finesse players with little size coming through the pipeline, we may just may see more of it in the future.

We all have plenty of questions, and I think that’s good. It’s better to question what is happening to this team than just sit back and “trust” what’s going on. But I think we all need to understand the circumstances, as well as the unliklihood of immediate change. The stakes are high and the signs are there, but the numbers just don’t add up.

The magic numbers turned out to be false, and this season is the price we paid for that mistake.

2 Comments

  1. Everything Darcy has done has been with an eye on keeping the team afloat – forget taking risks to improve the team, the fans will still come as long as the team is “decent” and looks like it has an outside shot. Just keep things on an even keel, and everything will be OK with the team’s bottom line.

    But there are fundamental flaws with this team, in the sense that the on-ice and in-room leaders have been stripped from this team. And forget Briere and Drury – that’s not where the issue is. Go back a little further to where this team lost McKee and Grier – warriors and leaders who were respected by their teammates. Throw Dumont into the mix too, in the sense that you never had to question whether Dumont was going to show and play with heart. These players were “replaced” with Connolly’s, Pominville’s and Roy’s – long on talent and showmanship, short on hustle and grit.

    They’ve gone from “scary good” to just plain scary……..

    http://hockey-sense.today.com/

  2. NoUseForANickname

    Hecht has gotsta go.