Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be

The questions are many and fleeting, but the one that keeps coming back is surprisingly simple: Do we want this to happen?

If you called it a night before February became March, I’ll catch you up on things. The Sabres looked like a team interested in winning a few more hockey games this season. There was no Paul Gaustad-induced hangover, a team left without a heart and a honk.

They looked strong, played good road hockey and got scoring at all the right times. Derek Roy got things started, Brad Boyes made a nice play in front and that defense moved the puck up and out. Christian Ehrhoff played the kind of game you wouldn’t mind seeing for the next decade.

Oh, and Ryan Miller was lights-out for the umpteenth time this month. Yes, the guy pulling the ‘I miss my best friend‘ routine on the off sure day brought his gear to the barn when it was time to lace them up. Who knew a franchise goaltender could comment on the business and personal side of the game, then manage to keep the two separate?

There are plenty who will try to make this game about The New Guy or The Old Guy or the other guy. I’m sure there’s an apt comparison to toughness and necessity lying in Tyler Myers attempting to fight with a busted glove-holder, but let’s save that for haphazard tweets and daydreams.

Wednesday night’s game was about what’s left of this team right now; where it’s going and where you want it to go. The Sabres — surviving the deadline that almost wasn’t — have emerged looking ready to grind this thing out after all.

It’s an oddly refreshing result after much hand-wringing over the direction this team is going. On Monday the Sabres maximized the value of an expiring contract, made an (traditionally) unorthodox trade that filled an immediate need and made the franchise better in the long term. Pretty good Monday in my book. Not a ontology-shifting Monday, like some seem to have taken it, but change is change. Let’s embrace it.

Stepping back a bit, they’ve clearly played better hockey over the last few weeks. After more than ‘a few’ weeks of subpar hockey, they’ve turned it around. One could agonize over the standings and weigh what’s best for this team, but my patience for that topic is wearing thin. I’m not sure it matters anymore, really.

You could feel differently. I’d imagine many of you do, which is why I wonder what we want to get out of the last score of games or so. I know I was entertained by the effort the Sabres put out at Honda Center on Wednesday night. I’m hoping they do something similar the rest of the way.

In some way, perhaps unjustly, Monday made me feel better about what lies ahead for this team in the long term. A few faxes or phone calls to the league office in New York City has changed a lot of minds, at least for now. They will try and try again. Good.

What I’m seeing on the ice, however, is much more comforting. There’s plenty of hockey to be played. For the first time in a long while, I’m really looking forward to it.