The first seven games of the 2010-11 hockey season have been interesting to say the least. The Sabres are currently 2-4-1 and have… struggled. There has been a major injury, not a whole lot of goals and lots of rumblings about what the team should do. I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable drawing conclusions from just seven games because they don’t want to be wrong.
Because I always have that fear, I think I can manage to eek out some thoughts before tonight’s game against Ottawa.
No one is pressing a “panic button”, but for some reason the only thing people wanted to talk about when the team struggled was just that. Kate did a good job of lampooning that thought, but it is important to note the difference between panicking and being worried. It is okay to worry about a struggling hockey team, but panicking is selling your season tickets and becoming a Leafs fan. No one but the most die-hard of Clarke MacArthur fans have done that, so there’s no need to remind ourselves sanity remains intact.
I find the influence of media on fans extremely interesting. Despite what we would like to believe, the major media outlets have an enormous influence on the “talking points” and general opinions on the team. Even people who fans claim to not value have the merits of their opinions compared and contrasted endlessly. It’s sort of funny, really, but I wonder just how much people realize how helpless a situation it is.
For example, one of the things Chris and I spent an entire podcast talking about was whether the Sabres should consider firing Lindy Ruff. However, what the conversation devolved into was whether we should even be talking about it. One of the reasons why we rarely do discuss it is that the major “hockey voices” in Western New York have other targets in mind when they assign blame for the Sabres (Regier, Tim Connolly, etc…) and so Ruff almost never enters the conversation.
In the end, I’m more interested in why the conversation doesn’t happen than I am in actually having it. Which is weird, I guess, but maybe I just took too many communication classes in college.
Speaking of Tim Connolly, tough times for number 19 around these parts. Right now most people would rather find him caught in some sort of bear trap than on the ice, but I honestly think he’s going to turn things around and have a pretty decent season.
You could claim I have a soft spot for Connolly, but I can’t recall a time he didn’t come up big in a contract year. It’s pretty clear he won’t be on this team next season, and maybe not even come March; but I doubt he flounders all year with his career on the line.
Another player I’m not worried about at all is Thomas Vanek. Despite a lack of points I think he’s played pretty strong hockey so far this season. He’s one of those players that I never seem to worry about no matter how bad he’s doing because I know what’s possible with him.
Vanek just… is. You know he can break out the Atlas impression at any time, and all he needs is for one goal to squeak in and he takes over. For as down a season he had last year, losing Vanek in the playoffs was the biggest reason the Sabres crumpled like a sheet of lined paper. When Thomas Vanek got hurt in Game 2 the mood in the building completely changed and the team never recovered.
That’s the value Vanek has to the Sabres, and that’s why I just don’t listen to people who say he doesn’t skate hard enough or isn’t worth the money. He’s Thomas Vanek, a quiet star that is much more important than we’d like to admit.
Vanek scored on Wednesday, and if he can manage to put one in tonight the Sabres may be a lot closer to .500 than we think at week’s end.
I really like Cody McCormick. I think the role he has played on this team is essential to what they want to accomplish this season. He can fight, he grinds shifts out and that hard work results in goals around the front of the net.
Scoring goals will not be what he is about, and I don’t expect a goal every four games like we’ve seen. Cody’s job is to stand up for his teammates, have a solid presence on the fourth line and not do anything stupid. He’s done all of that this season, and he’s done it better than we’ve seen in some time.
The more Sabres fans look at the brief experience we’ve had with McCormick, the more they wonder why he didn’t see the big club last season until it was far too late. I can’t imagine he played much differently in Maine last season, so other than a lack of roster spots, what was keeping him down there?