Over and Out.

6 Apr

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!

Sad Times.

22 Jan

I haven’t written anything in a while. I wanted to, but this whole losing fiasco has made me semi crazy and madly depressed. But then a certain event happened, and I couldn’t hold back any longer.

So, I wanted to write this last night, but I was also feeling like I was going to cry, so it had to wait until today. I watched the game at Pearl Street Brewery last night with some friends, so I couldn’t always hear everything that was going on during the game. The one thing heard loud and clear was the absolute sadness in Tyler Myers’ post-game interview last night. I barely heard anything he said, but his face said it all. He looked like he either: A) had just gotten done bawling his eyes out, or B) was holding back tears, ready to bawl his eyes out. I wanted to give him the biggest hug and tell him that everything would be alright.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt the way about a player like I did last night. It really brings you back down to Earth and makes you realize that hey, these “super awesome athletes” are people too. Now, Tyler didn’t have the strongest game either, and I’m sure he was partly blaming himself. But he just looked completely miserable, like someone ran over his puppies right in front of him. I’m sure he’s not the only one who feels like him, but he’s still a young kid, so of course he’s going to display his emotions a little bit more.

 

This team is completely void of confidence, and it’s showing.  I honestly hope that this slump doesn’t hurt the young players. People have been saying for weeks how Luke Adam should get sent down to Rochester for a few games so he can regain his. The thing is, it’s not just him. Sure he hasn’t been as great, but look who he’s been playing with. He finally got reunited with Vanek and Pominville last night. I’m really hoping that line stays together for a few games. It was great earlier in the season. It was said Lindy took him off because his defensive game wasn’t as good as he wants it to be. But what this team needs is OFFENSE, and badly. See if they can get clicking again and make something happen out there. We all know that Derek Roy needs to stay far, far away from Vanek. We all love Jochen Hecht, but his stone hands just can’t seem to keep up with the 1st line. Who else does that leave? Gaustad? No. McCor -no. Leino didn’t work with them either.  When Adam gets going he can be a slippery little sucker. Reminds me of Vanek, actually. (I went off on a little tangent here but anyways)

I honestly don’t even want to get into anything else because it is utterly depressing.

 

Hockey is supposed to be fun. Buffalo is supposed to be Hockey Heaven. Here’s to hoping that they win in New Jersey, and then take a little time off during the All Star break, and just get their heads on straight.

We still love you, Sabres. We just want you to play up to your potential. We know you can be a good squad. Now go shut everyone up and show them.

The Strange Case of Ville Leino

30 Nov

It all started April 24th, on a semi chilly afternoon in Buffalo. It was Game 6 of the Buffalo-Philly series, heading into overtime. If Buffalo wins, they go on to the next round. If Philly scores, they force a Game 7.  Buffalo had won the previous game in OT, so everyone was anxious to see if they could pull this one off too. They didn’t need to wait long. In just under 5 minutes into the overtime period, Ville Leino puts a rebound into a virtually wide open net (because Chris Butler is a terrible defenseman, but that’s another story for another time). In seconds Leino becomes the new villain for Buffalo. Philly went on the win Game 7 and give Buffalo its second straight 1st round playoff exit in two years. I don’t know about you, but I stewed over Game 6 for a while.

July 1st brought Free Agency. Everyone was hopeful and excited for all the new changes that were going to be brought to the team. For once we actually expected  to see improvement. We had already added Ehrhoff and Regehr what else was in store for us? The big story was Brad Richards, but truthfully, I felt that was a pipe dream. For most of the day we sat around waiting for ANY big signing to occur. Finally a little after 4pm, we got the news. Leino had signed a 6 year, 27.5 million dollar contract.  At first I was stunned. I think my initial reaction was “FUCK that guy!” (I told you I had been stewing about Game 6 for a while!) But then I thought about the 09-10 playoffs and how great he was during them. I changed my tune pretty quickly about him, but was still wary of his contract.

I went on The Buffalo News to go back to this date, to see reaction and whatnot to this signing. I came across a quote from our old good friend Danny Briere who said:

“The fans are going to love him,” Briere said by phone. “I know personally I loved playing with him. He’s a very creative player, very strong on the puck, exciting to watch. He’s a clutch player, as you guys have seen in the playoffs. “It’s disappointing for me to see him leave but I’m happy that he’s going to a place I know very well and a place he’s going to be appreciated.”

Alright, stop laughing. Come on I’m serious! Alright fine, laugh away Chuckles. I am too. Leino has been anything but great. Anything but clutch. The fans absolutely do NOT love him and grow more and more frustrated every game with him. I spoke with a Philly fan right after we acquired him, and they told me, “Hope you like having someone who turns the puck over constantly in the offensive zone.”  I shrugged and replied, “Have you seen Tim Connolly and Max Afinogenov play? I’m used to this.”  Somehow this seems worse than those two. Maybe even worse than those two combined. (Slight exaggeration).  But honestly, he played pretty well in Europe and I was sure we were on the roses and rainbows track straight to the Cup.

Fast forward to present day.  He really HAS been a turnover machine. He seems like a lost puppy half the time. He had what I thought was his worst shift last night. Down by one goal with time winding down in the 3rd period, he gets stripped of the puck at center ice, and that gets turned into a breakaway going the other way. Enroth gets a piece of the puck and saves the goal. Play continues back down into the Islander zone, and Leino receives a pass across the crease for an easy wide open net to tie the game. Somehow the puck instead slides between his skates and harmlessly away. I’m actually not quite sure how Twitter didn’t explode in a rage. I’m not sure how I didn’t. I’m not sure how you get more worthless than that shift right there. So much for being clutch. The one good thing I did see him do was actually throwing a hit.

So where do we go from here? Truth be told, I have no idea. You can’t even scratch him because there isn’t a healthy player in sight to replace him with right now. The good news is that he doesn’t have any kind of no trade clause. The bad news is who in their right mind is going to take on that contract? Maybe Anaheim would like him, along with Drew Stafford?  In October I was fine with giving him leeway, because hey, he’s a new player, and needs a little time to find some chemistry. Tomorrow is the beginning of December. I think everyone is done giving him time. Speaking of that, let’s take a look at his stats leading up to this point. In 24 games, he has 2 goals and 4 assists, and is a -5. Not exactly impressing anyone with those numbers. Perhaps he’s missing Danny Briere by his side. Well, who do we have that is comparable to Danny? *Crickets*.  Yup, we’re screwed. *Note: We do have Ennis, but who knows when he will be fully ready to go. Also have they tried Ennis centering Leino? I want to see that.

 

Now, I know he is a better player than this. I watched a ton of the playoffs in 09-10. He was great.  I just don’t know what is going on with him right now. I do know one thing, I’d love for him to figure it out, and fast. This team is already getting killed by injures, we don’t need to see him go to waste night in and out on the ice. He had a couple of games very recently where he looked a LOT better than he did in October. I hope to god he goes back to playing like that next game. Who knows, maybe he just needs to get a goal or two here and regain his confidence, and things will fall into place. I know I hate seeing the word ‘Bust’ next to his name. I’m sure he does too.

 

But until then, so much for clutch.

 

 

Recap of the exciting summer.

16 Aug

I took another break over the summer, but holy hell Sabres hockey did not! So let’s recap this summer. Pretty much one minute after the horn went off at the end of the 3rd period of Game 7 between the Sabres and Flyers our minds shifted straight to July 1st. We wondered just what kind of magic Pegula and Darcy had in store for us. Well, we didn’t even have to wait until free agency to start to get some new faces on the team.

In late June we heard word that the Calgary Flames had asked defenseman Robyn Regehr to waive his no trade clause to come to Buffalo. This naturally got us all sorts of excited. Regehr is a tough, hard hitter. I’m sure all of the players on the Sabres are glad he’s now on their side. I’m also sure the West Conference is breathing a little sigh of relief as well. Especially Ales Hemsky. REGEHR SMASH!

Now we were all a little scared at what we might have to give up for him.  It turns out that it was an awesome deal for our side.  We acquired Regehr, along with former Sabre Ales Kotalik, and a 2nd round pick for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Butler was considered one of our weaker defensemen (and was my most disliked player, so I was ecstatic). Byron would have had quite the hard time trying to crack the Sabres lineup, so I hope he can have better luck on the Flames. I wish them both luck and can’t wait for Butler to undoubtedly score a hat trick his first game against the Sabres for karma against me.

 

Two days before free agency the Sabres acquired the rights to Christian Ehrhoff. This is the one defenseman I wanted the Sabres to pick up. I think I was running around my house doing cartwheels.  That same day they traded Steve Montador’s rights to Chicago for a 7th round pick. I didn’t think he was coming back, so I’m glad they got something in exchange for him, unlike recent years. The next day Ehrhoff was signed to a ten year – $40M contract. My jaw dropped when i heard that, how about yours? He has a great offensive upside to him, and I think he’ll fit in quite well here.

Fast forward to the next day: Free Agency!!!  What else could we possibly do!? All the talk has been about getting a true number 1 Center. Naturally everyone’s heads turned directly to Brad Richards, the best Center (or FA for that matter) on the open market. We kept our eyes tuned into Twitter and TSN to see where he and everyone else was going. Then finally at 4 pm the Sabres had news. They had signed Ville Leino, the villain  from Game 6 who scored the OT winner. My thoughts went from “First off, FUCK YOU for that” to “OMG please do that here! Welcome to Buffalo!”   Richards wasn’t coming to Buffalo, and I was perfectly fine with that. And then the next day he signed with the Rangers, and I automatically hated him anyways.

Cody McCormick was also re-signed to a multi-year deal.

With that ended all of the UFA signings. Now they had to focus on re-signing all their RFAs.

  • Nathan Gerbe was the first to be signed. He got a 3 year deal for 1.4M per.
  • Mike Weber was the next, signing a two year contract worth$ 1.9M.
  • Matt Ellis and Andrej Sekera were up next, with Reggie thankfully avoiding arbitration.  Ellis signed for two years at $525,00 per year. Sekera signed for 4 years for $11M.
  • That left two of the biggest pieces of the puzzle, Jhonas Enroth an Marc-Andre Gragnani. Enroth was proving himself to be quite the reliable backup. We could sense that Ruff was putting some trust into the young goalie.  Yes, you read that right, Ruff trusting a backup goaltender. We had to get him back.  He signed a couple of days later for $1.3M over two years. What we didn’t know is how close he came to signing with the KHL. Thankfully he didn’t.
  • Around 3 weeks went by until the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. Grags signed for one year at $550,000. I’m hoping to see him really blossom this year. He was very impressive down the stretch last year, especially in the playoffs.

Now all of the signings put us about 3.5 million over the cap. The easiest solutions to that are to bury Shaone Morrisonn and Kotalik. That will free up $5 million in cap space. Will this happen? Only time will tell.

Patrick Lalime said farewell to the NHL this summer. He had a great career, and his last couple years shouldn’t overshadow it. Thank you Patrick, you were the best teammate anyone could ask for. I’ll miss seeing your yellow beanie on the bench.

 

The Sabres also parted ways with the Portland Pirates this summer, and welcomed back the Rochester Americans. This benefits both sides greatly, as the trip between both cities is only an hour car ride away. I’m so excited to see the Amerks be a part of this organization again.

That about sums it up for this summer so far. Training camp is only a few short weeks away and I know we’re all ready for a great season this year! Let’s go Buffalo!

 

 

My dear Sabres…

27 Apr

For once I’m not overly pissed off and out of my mind upset after getting eliminated from the playoffs. This team showed so much character, grit, and heart over this season, that it is almost impossible to be upset at them. This is a team that pretty much overcame all the obstacles and battled back into playoff contention.

The future is very bright for this team. I, for one, cannot wait until July 1st to see what tricks Pegula and Darcy have up their sleeves. This team will be very exciting to watch the next few years. I have a feeling that we’ve only seen a glimpse of what’s to come.

The season’s only a few short months away. Until then, let’s sit back and enjoy the ride. Thank you for restoring some hope into the city. We can’t wait until next year.

I want to take a little time out…

25 Apr

I have been going through a tremendous amount of emotions today. I knew right after the Sabres game ended that I wanted to write tonight, but I didn’t want it to be about the game.

I would like to take some time right now to say how proud I am of this team.

We all know how much of a roller coaster season this has been. We were easily one of the worst teams in the beginning of the year, even hitting the rock bottom of the NHL standings at one point. After winning the division last year, not many of us could believe this. People were calling for Darcy and Lindy’s heads, saying we should blow the team up, get rid of Golisano. We couldn’t win at home. We could barely win on the road. Tyler Myers had about as bad a start to the season as possible. He looked nothing like the Calder trophy winner he was a few months ago. The same goes with Ryan Miller, who we later found out had been playing hurt since training camp. There were few bright spots in November. Finally winning a home game on November 13th against the Caps in OT, and again the following game against the Canucks, also in OT.

Things started to turn around a bit in December, at least fan-wise. We started to hear rumblings about Terry Pegula. It started to give us hope. As soon as we start to feel good about that, we get more bad news. Our leading scorer Derek Roy will be out for the rest of the regular season. Roy had been producing at a point-per-game pace this year. This was a HUGE blow to our team.

Or so we thought.

What happened in January I don’t think we’ll ever understand. The attitude of our beloved Sabres completely changed. Maybe it had something to do with Pegula, maybe they just were like, “screw it, what do we have to lose?” It all started on New Years Day with Stafford posting a huge hat trick against Boston, with his 3rd coming in the last 30 seconds of the 3rd period to tie the game. We went on to win in a shoot-out. It was his second hat trick in a row against the Bruins. Nate Gerbe made his name known for all the right reasons. Tyler Myers started playing like the Calder winner. January 21st was the last time we would see Patrick Lalime. We went 8-3-1 for the month, grabbing 17 out of 24 points.

Enter February. This was a historical month for the Sabres organization. Terry Pegula was announced as the new owner on Feb 22nd. The smiles on our faces only became wider, as we heard things such as “no financial restrictions.” My personal two favorite quotes were “Winning is not a goal, it is a belief,” and  “Starting today the reason for the Buffalo Sabres existence, is to win a Stanley Cup.” I was at the game against the Thrashers where Pegula was introduced, and it was magical for many reasons. One being the French Connection finally being reunited, unfortunately for the last time, as Rick Martin would pass away roughly 2 weeks later. I will never forget that game for that very reason.  Stafford went on to have two more hat tricks this month, bringing his season total to four. The Sabres kept a great point streak going of 7 games (5-0-2), not losing in regulation until March 8th.

March is where it really got interesting. Suddenly the Sabres had a shot at the playoffs. Something even two months earlier we thought was impossible. This team kept battling back, never quitting.  The Sabres were in a race for 8th place, along with the Rangers and Hurricanes. All of the sudden Toronto came out of nowhere an also threatened to challenge. Those were the games we needed to win, an failed to do so, getting beat by Toronto twice, and Carolina once in March. In the last Leafs game at the end of the month Ryan Miller took a hard shot off the collarbone. He would be day-to-day with an upper body injury.

That couldn’t have come at a worse time, right? Wrong. Jhonas Enroth to the rescue. His next game? At home against the New York Rangers. Enroth shut the door, earning his first shutout of the season, and two extremely vital points for his team. He had an alright game against the Caps, getting the loss in OT. His next game was once again, those pesky Canes. This could have easily been another shutout, had they not had one of the luckiest goals in recent memory. He also had probably one of the most bad ass moments i this game, where a shot hit him in the helmet and snapped a strap off. The refs didn’t notice it. He didn’t even blink, instead flipped his mask off, and made an incredible save to keep the game tied. I was officially impressed.He helped us earn points in all 4 games he played (3-0-1).

He might have saved our season.

Enroth and Miller split the last two games to close out the season.

At the end of the regular season the Sabres finished in 7th place. It’s been one hell of a ride. I’m not ready for it to end. I’m sure you’re not either.

Here’s to game 7, with a big addition to the team, the return of Derek Roy!

Bring it on. I believe in this team.

Go Sabres!

Even series.

21 Apr

I knew we would win game 4.  What I didn’t expect was another shutout.  It was a hell of a game.

It was my first time going to the party in the plaza.  All week long it said it was going to be 65 degrees.  Naturally, I was looking forward to this.  All day long it was super windy outside so I had been alright with that.  But then add that to the (barely?) 40 degree weather that was also occurring and I know why I can still feel the freezing air throughout my body four hours later. Holy HELL was it cold!  About midway through the first period I couldn’t feel my toes anymore.  I thought I wore enough layers.  I thought wrong.  Brr!  It was still a great game, watching with great people.

I had a feeling the Sabres were going to come out strong, and they did. I was very happy with the way they handled the physicality of the game tonight. They weren’t taking shit from ANYONE.  I’ve watched Myers drop Briere over 5 times now.  Myers certainly had his mean streak going tonight, and I couldn’t have been happier to see that.   Carcillo wants to bump Miller?  Miller isn’t gonna take that either, and he retaliated. Feisty Miller is my favorite Miller. 

I don’t think Richard’s elbow warrants a suspension, but it definitely should have been a major. Watch the replay. He sees Kaleta, and instead of just bracing for the hit, he intentionally elbows him in the head. The really sad thing is the big hockey media right now are saying that they would have done the same thing. I don’t understand it.   Kris Versteeg said,

“I think (Richards) was just protecting himself because you never know what Patrick Kaleta is capable of.  He is a dangerous player out there when it comes down to it. You never know if he’s going to run you from behind or if he’s going to hit you without the puck.”

Um, Kris. Have you seen who you play for? Your entire team is filled with dirty players.  I’m not saying Kaleta is a saint, but all he was doing was going for the check. Maybe Richards should have just taken it like a man instead of throwing an elbow. And the Flyers are going to complain about the penalties called on them? Hi, watch Game 2 and think again about opening your mouth. When you have morons like Hartnell and Carcillo on your team, you’re going to get some penalties called on you.

SOMEONE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD FIX THAT EFFING POWER PLAY. I hate nothing more than watching wasted lengthy opportunities go to waste because of our garbage plays.

Pominville scored the only goal of the game. I take credit for this one because before the game I asked if Pominville was still playing this series.  :p 

About midway through the 2nd period I thought to myself  “Is this seriously going to be another 1-0 game? Apparently it’s the only way we can win games.” Of course there was no way in hell I was saying that out loud, jinxes and all.   At the end of the game Shelby said pretty much exactly that. I looked at her and said I was thinking that earlier but couldn’t say it til the end of the game. Great minds think alike, duh.

RYAN MOTHER FUCKING MILLER.   Holy crap.  Where did this beast come from?  He was unreal, just..  wow.  I think the Flyers talking shit to him works wonders for him. Keep at it boys.  It’s only going to help us in the end. That save he made when Briere was in all alone on him, I forgot to breathe for about a minute. He absolutely deserved everyone, inside and outside, chanting his name. Even Lindy said he was chanting with the crowd. 

The scrum at the end was ridiculous. I need to watch it again tomorrow on the replay because I was too busy celebrating the shutout to pay attention, but the bad blood between these teams is starting to boil over. Spearing Gerbe, really? He will crush your soul. Myers will continue to crush Briere, and anyone else who gets in his way. Better stay away from Miller’s crease, because he doesn’t give a shit either. We aren’t scared.

I’m glad I braved the harsh conditions for this game. The party in the plaza is awesome. Hopefully there will be a round 2, so it’ll be a bit warmer for the next time I can go!

I’ll leave you with little bit of awesomeness.

http://i.imgur.com/sBKhc.gif

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