Show Your Work


During the Sabres game on last Tuesday night, with the score tied at one in Montreal, I started thinking about all the things that can go wrong with this team.

I spent so much time tabulating the list in my head that it started spilling out of my mouth, and it actually sounded pretty convincing.

The expectations are just part of the potential pitfalls. There is the blue line that is just beginning to mesh, a young center making your top line go and a backup goaltender that is (for once) demanding some playing time with his abilities.

A look at the early success the team has had does little to settle the ever-growing list of questions that come with the gradual easing back in to the hockey season.

Most of all, what happens when this team struggles? Historically, they tend to get that question out of the way rather quickly. Last season’s October atrocities were more rule then exception, and many seasons of my youth were spent wondering if Buffalo would make a ‘much-needed’ trade before the Christmas break.

What happens if this team, with a passionate, deep-pocketed owner, finds itself in a similar situation this season? Does a quick trigger finger take over and bring a big change? What player goes? Will fans regret a lack of patience?

It sounds terribly pessimistic, but how long will it take for this new regime to make its first mistake? How will fans react?

As I said all of this and heads began to nod, Luke Adam wins a faceoff with seconds left in the second period and Thomas Vanek snaps in the game-winner. Ryan Miller came up with 40-something saves in Montreal and Buffalo takes four points on the road to Florida.

Crisis averted, I suppose.

Still, as well as the Sabres have played in the opening bars of this season, those questions are what I wonder about more and more.

There is far too little known about this team than I’m comfortable with. It is a big group of moving pieces, and many of the vital ones we have little experience with. Tonight the Sabres will play just their fourth home game this year. There is so much hockey left, so much to get right or wrong or somewhere in between.

Thomas Vanek is playing well right now. So well, in fact, that a prediction I made during the first game of the season (50 goals) doesn’t look so crazy right now. Vanek looks like the best player on the ice when he’s out there with Luke Adam and Jason Pominville. His passes are crisp and his creativity looks to be at an all-time high. Life is good for the Austrian and anyone who is skating with him.

But we’re not even in double digits for games played this year. There will be Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and Easter. Halloween is Monday and by the time we observe another ‘holiday’ we could see Vanek a member of three different line combinations. Or hurt. Or frustrated and off his game.

It is extremely difficult to gauge just what is going to happen with this team, and so the expectations are all over the place. In a way that’s a good thing, if only because so many people are being optimistic about it. That’s a nice feeling to have so early in the process, and I hope people keep that disposition when the team inevitably struggles.

Right now that isn’t happening, and the more wins they rack up now the easier it is to get comfortable with this team once the holidays roll around.