What’s Going On?

by Ryan

Nathan Gerbe is a tiny hockey player.

No, really. He’s five-foot-six and weighs 178 pounds. Some say he plays bigger than his size, and he’s taken his fair share of punishment without complaint during his days in the NHL. He isn’t getting a growth spurt anytime soon. He is who he will be for the rest of his career.

That said, Gerbe is not here to bash bodies and fight people. He is on the Buffalo Sabres to score goals; to make defenseman miss and pick corners like he did at Boston College. He scored 35 goals for the Eagles in 2007-08 and picked up 30 in 57 games for the Portland Pirates the next season.

He has shown he can score goals in the American Hockey League, but it is very much unproven he can do the same in the NHL. The first ten games of his NHL career gave him one point, but it is wholly unfair to hold that against him.

Last season he did better, scoring twice and picking up five points in 18 games while appearing snakebitten around the net. Countless scoring chances sailed wide or were stopped impressively by a goaltender, but how much of that is luck or good play from the netminder? Tough to say, I suppose.

He played two games in the playoffs against Boston, picking up a goal and an assist. With Tim Kennedy shipped out in July and Tyler Ennis a shoe in to make the Sabres this October, many hoped Gerbe would be part of the next wave of Sabres talent to make “the leap.”

But he hasn’t. Not at all.

In 18 games, Nathan Gerbe has zero goals and three assists. He has played poorly to say the least. Yes, he didn’t actually start the season in the lineup. Yes, he’s still very young and yes he missed time with an injury, but to quote Office Space, I wouldn’t exactly say he ‘missed” any games.

Nathan Gerbe has been a ghost this season, if pure potential can have a ghost. He’s the shadow of a shadow. I barely notice him on the ice, and his game log is a string of zeros seldom interrupted by a penalty.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say this: Where is he and what is he doing on the team at this point? Gerbe has the lowest point total of any “regular Sabre” forward on the team. The only players with at least ten games played and fewer points than Gerbe are Shaone Morrisonn and Craig Rivet, the “captain” who basically played himself out of the lineup.

At some point you have to wonder when Gerbe will do the same. I was actively looking for him in the Boston game when I watched it again. The biggest impact he had was getting a stick to the face and drawing a penalty. Not exactly what you’re looking for from a “sniper.”

Luke Adam has made a much more important impact on the Sabres this season in just eight games. He already has a goal and is playing himself up the depth chart on a team struggling to score goals on a nightly basis. For as often as Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly are criticized for their play, both are in the top seven point scorers on the team.

Paul Gaustad has been virtually absent in many Sabres games this year and he has double Gerbe’s points. The same goes for Rob Niedermayer, Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta. Four players who represent the more physical end of the Sabres’ roster have all done more of the only thing Gerbe is here to do: Score.

Seriously, what the hell is Nathan Gerbe doing in Buffalo? If he can’t get sent down, what is he doing on the ice? He’s averaging 12:22 TOI per game this season, the lowest of his young career. Even at that number it seems like wasted time to me. Gerbe has brought absolutely nothing to the table, and at some point Ruff and Co. have to pull the plug.

What are we holding on to at this point? Getting him off the ice doesn’t end his career, and may give him some time to get things back together again. He’s proven he can score in the minor leagues, but he’s shown so little this season I have a hard time justifying a roster spot for him.

Or maybe they have no choice but to let him play, which is a much scarier conclusion. The Sabres already have dead weight on the roster in Craig Rivet, but maybe they don’t have a replacement in mind for Nathan Gerbe.

The phrase we’ve heard more than once this season is that the team just needs to work through things, and perhaps that’s the projected solution for Gerbe. Maybe so, but I’m starting to wonder how much the Sabres are willing to put into an investment that’s hemorrhaging money.

Nathan Gerbe is far from the biggest problem on the Sabres right now, but he sure isn’t helping them get any closer to fixing anything at all.

7 Comments

  1. Mike

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It seems like nothing has worked to get Gerbe going. I hate to say it, but if I didn’t somebody probably would have anyway: I think if Tim Kennedy were on the team he’d have been more productive. They totally kept the wrong dude.
    Nice use of the Ales Kotalik tag btw.

  2. Jesse

    Great post. Sometimes a story slips through the cracks and that’s when Ryan appears to grab it back.

  3. dorry

    gerbe is the same size as me. actually he’s got ten pounds on me. first of all he’s not 5’6″ he’s shorter. he hasn’t shown the ability he had in college to get into tight spaces and produce. anyway, when i saw him play in dc last month i was amazed that he was in the nhl. he is tiny. but he has skills and guts, but………i’d love to see him succeed but there’s something missing… is it jam, is it timmy kennedy?

  4. Jay

    At some point over the summer, the Sabres came to the conlcusion that Gerbe was better than Kennedy.

    Maybe it’s my disenchantment with Gerbe right now, but it’s starting to rub me the wrong way whenever I see or hear about how well the Sabres draft. Can we at least see how guys like Gerbe, Adam, Ennis, etc perform over an extended period of time in Buffalo before declaring the Sabres ability to draft to be above-average?

    Ryan, I think you nail the point exactly when saying that scoring 30 goals in the AHL does not mean that you’re gonna be a sniper in the NHL. Totally different competition.

    May be the correct answer to question “Gerbe or Kennedy” will turn out to be C) Neither. Tim’s playing in the AHL, and Gerbe looks with each game that he oughta join him.

  5. markb

    where do you get your images from? they are so random and awesome.

  6. The one positive you can say about Gerbe is that he’s at least been defensively responsible.

    As much as I want Adam to be the guy that is everything Tim Connolly never was and more, he just hasn’t impressed me yet. Great to see him get his first goal, and maybe that’s a sign that he’s taking some steps in the right direction, but the Pominville – Adam – Hecht/McCormick/Whoever line has been downright awful at times this season.