This year has been a ridiculous roller coaster of emotions for Sabres fans. It goes way back to a little before free agency started, when they acquired Regehr and Ehrhoff. Then, on July 1st, when they got Leino. We were sure our beloved team was being built for greatness. They were being picked as favorites for the Cup. Expectations skyrocketed almost overnight. Starting the excitement over in Europe, the Sabres won both games over there and our confidence as fans started to skyrocket as well. Their record was 10-5 before heading into the game that supposedly changed the entire season.
After the Boston game, it took months for Miller to get “right” again, and regain his focus. It also started the just insane, baffling string of injuries that I haven’t seen the likes of in a long time. And I hope to never see it again. It started off with Miller getting a concussion and missing 9 games. Somewhere in that span, the team just fell apart, and started playing awful hockey.
The biggest notables for injuries were:
- A few days after Miller’s injury the team lost Tyler Myers for 19 games to a broken wrist.
- Ennis, missing two 17 game spans for a total of 34 games
- Ehrhoff was lost for 11 games
- Gerbe was out for 20 games
- Boyes and Sekera both missed 13
- Kaleta missed 15 due to injury, and another 4 from a suspension
- McCormick missed 25 games
- Weber missed 12 games
- And the longest was Hecht, with 60 games missed.
It was a long, long season. Only the Captain, Jason Pominville, and backup goalie Jhonas Enroth were dressed for all 82 games. At one point there were 9 AHL players on the starting roster for the Sabres. Many of these injuries overlapped, and it showed in their record. Finally, everyone started to get healthy, and after being in last place in the Eastern Conference in February, the Sabres went on a run similar to last year’s. It looked to be going well again, with the Sabres making a hard push into the 8th spot. Then, as it had happened so many times earlier in the season, the injury bug showed it wasn’t done. The Sabres lost both Ehrhoff and Myers for the last 5 games of the season. They also lost Myers for 3 games earlier due to a suspension. Losing your two best defensemen seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for this team. They never quit ’til the end of the season, and kept hopes high in Buffalo until the 3rd period in game 81. (Ironically it took us until game 81 to clinch last year.) Some people are blasting the injury excuse, saying to ‘Look at Pittsburgh, they overcame it.” Pittsburgh has the juggernaut known as Evgeni Malkin, who has 107 points, with 49 goals. They also have Neal with 40 goals. Must be real tough to win with that on your team. They also have that Sidney Crosby kid, I hear he’s pretty good when healthy too. The Sabres don’t have those huge superstars on their team. In order to win, they need to play well as a team. It’s hard to do that when half of your team is hurt.
There were some positives to this season. When everyone WAS healthy, they look pretty damn good at times. It took a while for Ehrhoff to settle in, but down the stretch he played very well. I’m glad he’ll be around for years to come. We discovered what an absolute BEAST Marcus Foligno is. I know everyone that watches the Amerks already knew this. From the moment he was brought back up he had instant chemistry with Ennis and Drew Stafford. I cannot WAIT to see this for an entire season next year. That line was probably also something that helped save face for the Sabres awful season. I hope Ennis gets a nice long contract – he deserves it. It was nice to see Miller back on his game after he got his head straight too. I just wish Ruff would learn how to better utilize his backup goalie. It’s like if he falters once, he freaks out and doesn’t play Enroth for a month. Meanwhile Miller can let in 5 goals in a game and won’t get pulled. I don’t get it. Sometimes I wish he never got spoiled with Hasek. We got to see a lot of the youngsters this season. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of McNabb and Tropp next year. I really like what I’ve seen with most of the Amerks. Who knows what’s gonna happen with Luke Adam. Kid’s confidence is just shot to hell, and I haven’t heard anything promising about him since he was sent back down.
I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to the roster in the offseason. Is this the last we’ve seen of Brad Boyes? Probably. Jochen Hecht? It’d be sad to see him go, but there’s a definite possibility there. What about Patrick Kaleta? This is the first year in 4 years that he’s played over 55 games. Is he too injury prone? I know the city loves him, but is that enough? Derek Roy is coming off his worst career year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Darcy try to trade him, as I heard he had already been on the block earlier in the year. I’m still willing to give Leino another year. I mean, he does have 5 more to go. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford traded, but his late success with Ennis and Foligno may have saved him.
All in all, this season took about ten years off my life. I know I invest way too much into hockey, and it’s just a game, but it’s the game I love. I honestly believe we are a top 5 team if they are healthy most of the year. I guess we gotta wait til next year to see for sure.
Kick Boston’s ass tomorrow. Let’s go Buffalo!