Monday, December 31, 2007

Odds and Ends on an Off Day

With rumors of Marv Levy's impending resignation, let me just take this opportunity to offer my fellow bloggers a friendly reminder that "resign" and "re-sign" are not the same thing. They mean pretty much the opposite really and are therefore not interchangeable.

Well, our Ice Bowl tickets have officially changed hands. Today Kate dropped by to snatch them up and it was a picture of agony. Initially I refused to let go and she finally had to pry my fingers away one by one while the sound of my sobbing echoed across the Southtowns. Unfortunately there is no medication that can heal this particular brand of pain. Okay, I'm kidding. We whined and moaned about how the Sabres have been playing, said a prayer that Soupy doesn't end up overpaid, giggled over the big story in the paper about the musical career of Drew Stafford (complete with awesome photos), and assured each other that Ryan Miller loves playing in Buffalo and will be here forever and ever and ever. And then the tickets were happily and proudly passed on to what I'm sure will be a loving and appreciative home. Plus she brought delicious cookies!

And now, the very first Top Shelf Book Review! Rayzor's Edge: Rob Ray's Tough Life on the Ice by Rob Ray and Budd Bailey

I received Rayzor's Edge for Christmas which turned out to be very helpful since reading is, thankfully, not a weight-bearing activity. I read this during my first couple of days home from the hospital. I didn't really expect much of out of it which is probably a good thing because I would've been disappointed. It's not bad, there's just not much to it. I ended up a little sorry that I read all the excerpts featured in the Buffalo News at the time of the book's release because they were some of the most interesting parts of the book. Again, what's here isn't boring but it just feels incomplete, like huge chunks of Rob Ray's career were skipped over. I give Rob credit for being completely upfront about how he feels about people - if he likes them he says so, if he doesn't he says that too. I was disappointed that we didn't get more on the whole John Muckler/Ted Nolan/Dominik Hasek dynamic. Rob says the players were being told different things from different sides and none of them really knew what was going on and while that's probably true, it didn't make for very exciting reading.

Still, despite what may sound like a lukewarm review, it was a good, quick read and I think anyone who was a fan of Rob or the team during his playing years will find something to enjoy. If nothing else, the book definitely gives you the feeling that Rob is sincere in his love for Buffalo and the people here and that's worth something. I might have gotten a little teary-eyed while reading the last page. Then again, that could've been the wooziness from the pain killers.

My favorite story from the book:

After a particularly lackluster game, Ted Nolan canceled the scheduled day off and told the players to show up for practice the next day. He had everyone skate in circles for twenty minutes and then shoot on the goalies for ten minutes. They went through that rotation a few times, skating, shooting, skating, shooting, no one quite sure what was going on. Then Ted stopped them all, screamed, "You wasted everyone's time last night and today I wasted yours!" and turned around and left. Wonder if the fellas had a similar practice this morning...

A few Rob Ray YouTube moments (Pay attention, Andrew Peters. This is how you fight in the NHL):

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hey, Look, Ma! A Title!

So remember what I said yesterday about enjoying Brian Campbell's candid remarks in Bucky's last column? Turns out I totally misread myself. Those comments have wormed into my brain and my mind has decided, without me even realizing it, that Soupy's a whiner. (I came to this realization last night when I found myself yelling, "Shut up, Soupy!" at all his commercials and pointing out every single tiny mistake he made on the ice.) But seriously, zip it, Soupy. Negotiations taking too long? Then lower your price and sign on the dotted line. What's that? A player shouldn't sign a stupid deal just to make everyone else happy? Yeah, well neither should a team. And if Soupy gets to add to his price tag with every goal and assist, shouldn't the Sabres be able to subtract from his price with every mistake? I'm thinking something like $1,000 for every shot that misses the net? $1,000 for every turnover? Double that if it's a turnover in the defensive zone. I think we should definitely deduct $5,000 every time Soupy forgets he's a defenseman and lets an opponent get behind him.

Okay, moving on...

Today is my 30th birthday! My mom called to chat and my brothers sang to me (a bit half-heartedly) over the phone. Mark ordered me food from Outback and also brought home a Carvel ice-cream cake. But the Sabres? They totally didn't care that it was my birthday. What was that game? If that was a preview of the Ice Bowl, I might be glad I'll be watching it from the couch in my warm apartment.

- I hate to be one of those people who yells, "Shoot the puck!" but seriously, SHOOOOOOOOOT THEEEEEEEEEE PUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK! Tough to beat even the most average goalie if you flatly refuse to put the puck on the net. Thomas Vanek! When you are IN THE SLOT, don't pass the puck!

- Every Sabre should give Ryan Miller $100 out of his next paycheck. With the exception of a couple of softies against Ottawa, he's playing his ass off. At this rate, he's going to have to score his own goals if he wants a win. It's okay for the WHOLE TEAM to play well ON THE SAME NIGHT. Really, it is.

- Can we please let Nolan Pratt play? Please?

Dear Sabres,

While tonight was my birthday, I will accept presents on New Year's Day instead. Here's what I want:
- A game filled with offense and goals. Let's have some good old-fashioned pond hockey with a final score of 10-7.
- A Henrik Tallinder goal.
- Jim Lorentz on the microphone.
- Aww, heck let's give Toni Lydman a goal too.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Kevin already made part of my point over at Bfloblog but I promise I didn't realize that until just now. I wrote this entry on paper first since it's kind of tedious to sit at the computer for too long so I'm going to pretend we had the same thought at the same time. Okay, here goes...

I read Bucky Gleason's column today about the Brian Campbell contract negotiations with some interest. Don't worry, I'm not going to attack Bucky too hard. He makes some good points and it's nice to hear a player be somewhat candid about what he wants. But lost in the "Brian Campbell wants to be a Sabre for life!" rah-rah-rah is this: Maybe the Sabres don't feel like Brian Campbell is worth the numbers currently being discussed.

One of the tough parts of having a young team is that the players aren't going to stay as inexpensive as they are right now forever, particularly with the way the market has exploded in terms of money and years. At some point some hard choices are going to have to be made. Maybe the Sabres looked around at upcoming contracts and RFAs and decided Campbell was the one they could cut, the one they could replace. Maybe they're not being lazy and stupid but careful and thoughtful.

I'm not saying that's what's happening and I'm not even saying I'd agree with it if that is what's happening although overpaying Campbell for five plus years does make me a little nervous. But it's a possibility, one that's not particularly far-fetched, and it's not even mentioned. I find the Buffalo News stance on management vs. players and agents - management is dumb, unfeeling, and probably deceitful, players are agents are upfront, fair, and honest - bizarre. If I'm not going to take what Darcy Regier says at face value, why am I going to take what everyone on the other side of the negotiations says at face value? If I'm going to assume that Regier and Larry Quinn are twisting what they're saying to make themselves look as good as possible, why wouldn't I assume that players and agents - particularly agents for cryin' out loud! - are presenting rose-colored versions of events too?

While we're here, let's lose the idea that Campbell and Jaroslav Spacek have become the number one pairing on the defensive side. Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman have struggled and I have no problem with Lindy Ruff and the Buffalo News calling them out. They could be and should be playing much better. But while Campbell and Spacek are playing increased ice-time, they're still not pulling a lot of time against top lines. According to Behind the Net (the very best hockey stat site on the internet), Tallinder and Lydman are still pretty far ahead of Campbell and Spacek in quality of competition. Despite their inconsistency, they're still on the ice against the opposition's most talented players more often than not. I think Brian Campbell is a little less of a mess than some fans say, but let's not get crazy. He's not going to be stopping Ovechkin, Crosby, or Heatley any time soon. Also, leading the entire team in Goals Against while on the ice? Brian Campbell.

Update: I was having a bit of a break-down during my last entry but I've been in better spirits the last couple of days. We jimmy-rigged something that kind of sort of lets me take a shower and wash my hair and it's amazing how much that helped my spirits. Also, a laptop has been ordered. We were talking about that before you guys suggested it in the comments but post-holidays isn't the best time to make a high-end purchase like that. But I think you all guilted Mark into throwing caution to the wind. So thanks!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No one looked particularly great tonight - on either team, really - but Ryan Miller was a little soft in spots and that was the difference.

And that's about all I got.

I have to say, I'm not sure how this whole blogging thing is going to work over the next couple of months. It's such a pain in the ass to get to the computer due to the arrangement of the furniture - I have to kind of shimmy in, leading with my casted foot (which is both awkward and nerve-wracking) and once I'm in the only way I can actually sit down puts me at a weird twisted angle that is terribly uncomfortable not that anything about this is comfortable. I will admit that I missed huge chunks of the game because I could not get situated. I was hot and cranky and emotional and god, this blows so bad. What am I supposed to do for three months if I can't even get on the #!!$%@! internet? I was doing okay earlier - I read for a long time, I managed to microwave myself lunch, I wrote some Christmas cards, I played Guitar Hero (and passed Mark which was really my primary goal). It seemed like a fine day... Until I realized I'm going to be living this day every day for three months.

See?! This has nothing to do with hockey! So I don't know, we'll see what happens. Maybe as this becomes more "normal" I'll deal with it better. Right now I'm just a big frikkin' miserable baby and I know you're all tired of listening to me complain already. (It's okay, you don't have to deny it.)

Uhhh... Go Sabres!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Injury Update, A Little Hockey (Very Little)

Some hockey coming up but first! a quick injury update since there are all kinds of rumors floating around out there including one that the ankle is a cover for the real reason behind the visit to IR: post-concussion syndrome. (Nothing like a little Tim Connolly humor, eh? Thanks for the much needed laugh, Mike.)

Long story short, I didn't pussy foot around with some piddling little injury. I blew that mother up and good. It was immediately apparent that I'd done some real damage - the waves of nausea, the feeling that my entire body was on fire, and the fact that I barely recognized the thing attached to my leg as a foot were all major clues. I won't go into gruesome descriptions but when the ambulance attendant who brought me in ducked in my room later to check on me, the first thing he said was, "Oh, look! All your toes are pointing in the right direction again! That's good!" In addition to complete and total dislocation, I fractured something on both sides of the foot which was causing the whole ankle to come apart. Via surgery that same evening, the doctor pushed everything back together, inserted a steel plate, and screwed it all in place so it would heal correctly. Because of the severity of the injury and the fragility of the bones involved, I have to stay off it completely for "2-3 months, most likely 3." No weight-bearing activities at all in the meantime and no walking cast.

All of this adds up to no work, no play, and most importantly no Ice Bowl. I know. It took Mark a while to get to the hospital - he leaves for work before I do, I couldn't remember his work number (I couldn't remember my home number) and had to look it up in the phone book once I arrived at ECMC, and he takes the bus to work and had to scramble to find a ride) - and even then it was a while before they would let him back to see me. By the time he was standing in front of me I had moved past "Well, isn't this a jolly good adventure!" and was full-force into "Please just cut it off, feed me, and let me go home!" and greeted him with something along the lines of, "It hurts, I'm starving and dying of thirst, I'm tired of being here, and they're probably not going to let me go to the Ice Bowl!" We talked over some options, the best choice being hunting up a wheelchair and seeing if the Sabres could hook us up with some kind of wheelchair accessible seats, but between the hordes of (possibly tipsy, surely boisterous) people, the unknown weather, the delicacy of the injury, and the freshness of the surgery - I won't have even been in for my first post-op check-up/x-rays by then - it just seems like kind of a stupid risk to take. I want to see Ryan Miller playing in his favorite Sabres toque but I'd also like to walk without limping for the rest of my life. Basically, I've made the responsible, adult decision... And I don't like it one bit, dammit. Mark's still going to use his ticket - it's okay, I insisted - but he's not sure yet who he's taking. Hook me up with a laptop so I don't have to drag this ridiculous cast over here and sit all uncomfortably for the next 3 months (I've been working on this entry off and on for two days) and it's all yours, first come, first serve. If you're going and you stop by here afterwards, I'd appreciate a "It really blew and you're lucky you got to watch it alone from the warmth of your living room" comment. In other words: lie to me, baby.

(Also, to any Sabres reading this, evidently I was out of the hospital too quickly for any visits. But never fear! I totally accept house calls! Email me for my address!)

Anyway... I was pretty devastated the first few days afterwards. I was nauseous, wanting to eat but unable to actually do so, light-headed, and exhausted, all of which made standing up and moving around pretty difficult which made any thought of the next three months pretty dreary. But now that I've shaken off all the anesthesia (two doses of general, one dose of local in a very short period of time) and started weaning myself off of the pain medication - no Vicodin addiction for me, thanks - I'm feeling more clear-headed. I have a few books to read, some movies to watch, and Guitar Hero to conquer. I'll be fine. I won't even miss the Ice Bowl. I won't. :::sniff:::

A quick word about the recent home and home with the Flyers. (I was home but delirious for the first game but mostly conscious for the second one.) That's the team I expected to be cheering for this season. Not flawless hockey but hard-fought and emotional hockey played by a team that looked like it had something to prove. I don't know if they truly needed time to get settled into new roles or if they needed to get that close to being back in the playoff hunt or if they just needed to see one of the former Sabres live and in-person, but the team that played the Flyers? I love that team. I hope that team sticks around.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Urgent Press Release

Top Shelf creator & writer Heather B. was placed on long-term IR today with a lower body injury. She dislocated & fractured her left ankle in an incident Thursday morning with black ice. Full-recovery time is expected to be 8-12 weeks although Heather B. hopes to being light blogging workouts after the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ryan Miller - Stars 1-3

A few quick hits on the Islanders game since I'll admit, I was in and out all night. I was really in the mood to watch a game last night - I ended up watching the Sharks/Ducks games on Yahoo (I'm nursing a little bit of a thing for Joe Thornton) - but tonight? Eh, I wasn't feeling it. Probably didn't help that the Sabres were... not really good.

- The Sabres were noticeably more sluggish after Derek Roy went out. He's been really buzzing lately and they missed his zip.

- Jochen Hecht had probably his worst game of the season. I'll cut him some slack though since he's been so solid.

- Dmitri Kalinin looked pretty good considering this was his first game back after such a long absence - calm, dependable, and even a little bit physical. I don't know what happens when Teppo Numminen comes back and I'm not going to hazard a guess right now. We'll just have to see how Tri plays and how Teppo looks after his return. Although I thought Nolan Pratt had earned a spot over Nathan Paetsch so what do I know?

- Ryan Miller won this game. He could've been all three stars. He's really put together a nice string of games. But geez, could he get a little help? Out shot 43-17? Pretty sad. That's expecting an awful lot of your goalie. I'm glad we're winning close games, but like Rob Ray said during the postgame show, that's playing a dangerous game. Some of the opponents we have coming up aren't going to be as easy as the Islanders.

- Speaking of Rob Ray, he was full of crazy little asides tonight. I think my favorite was the following exchange:
Kevin (doing highlights): There's Denis Savard, coach of the Blackhawks -
Rob: He spit on me one night.
Kevin: Did you deserve it?
Rob: No!

ETA: I knew I was forgetting something! I just wanted to say my piece on Chris Simon's suspension. As someone who works with emotionally disturbed kids (I hate when people say "as someone who..." - sorry), Simon looks very much like one of them all grown-up. He appears to need help that's far beyond what the NHL can offer him. I have some sympathy for him, but I feel pretty good in saying that it's not safe for him to be working a job that involves high levels of emotion and adrenaline and hard physical contact with others. Most of my kids would be powder kegs waiting to blow in that kind of situation and Simon doesn't appear to be much better off. He should've been gone for the season at the very least.

E(again!)TA: This is what I really forgot. This exchange during the postgame interview with Jason Pominville cracked us up at our house.
Rob: Jason, how does a team with so much offensive talent only manage to create 17 shots on goal?
Jason (tapping headphones and looking around): What? I didn't hear that question.

I'm sure Pommers was being sincere but it totally had that, "You're breaking up! I'm losing you, Rob!" feel about it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Uncluttering My Mind (Keep Reading, There is Hockey Eventually)

A few non-hockey complaints:

- I cannot believe how much Christmas cards cost. I found these awesome Where the Wild Things Are cards but it was $16.95 for ten cards! That's highway robbery! I bought some dinkier cards and they still cost me $17 but atleast I got a lot more of them for my money. Also, they were a pain in the butt to open! What's wrong with a regular ol' box, card manufacturing people?

- I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the lowest denomination gift card McKinley Mall offers is $20. I'm only supposed to spend $10 on my Secret Santa! I'm a fabulous Secret Santa because I ended up just spending the $20. I was too lazy to even think of somewhere else to go much less actually get in my car and go there. (Enjoy, Ralph!)

- Hollywood, can we please get on with this whole strike thing? Pay the writers already. YOU NEED THEM and I'm not going to be happy if Lost gets pushed back for your crap. I'm enjoying the plethora of pro-writer websites and videos out there. Let's face it, in a P.R. battle between producers and writers, writers definitely have the advantage. Here's my favorite video, "A World Without Writers," which takes a look at how some of our best movies might have fared without real writers. The lines from Gone With the Wind and Citizen Kane are my favorites. Although the Blade Runner one is good too.

- Not shocked about Roger Clemens and not buying his denials, disappointed that Andy Pettitte didn't come clean when his name first came up a year or so ago, relieved that Jeff Bagwell is still clean as far as we know. His name is the only one that would really devastate me. Also, someone please make John Kruk shut up.

And now a little hockey:

- I'm not down with this whole Scott Niedermayer thing. I think Scott is a great player and he's wonderful to watch and I understand that Brian Burke told him to take his time and think about what he wanted to do... but just because Burke gave him that option, it didn't mean Niedermayer had to use it. If he wanted to retire, he should have said, "Thanks, but I really want to move on." If he didn't want to retire, he should have been ready to go when the season started. No one player - no matter how talented he is - should be more important than the other guys on the roster. I suppose his teammates might all be fine with him only playing part of the season and with the team having to shuffle everything around and move players to make room for Niedermayer's return, but I don't know, it strikes me as unfair in a pretty severe way. I hope this doesn't lead to older players regularly playing partial seasons.

Oh, who am I kidding? I drafted Scott Niedermayer in my fantasy draft and he totally screwed me. Unlike his real-life management, I'm not forgiving him any time soon.

- I'm going to the Flyers game Friday night. I have very mixed feelings about this. At first I totally wanted to go because I wanted to be there for Marty Biron's first game back but then Daniel Briere went and muddied everything up by signing with Philly. The family is going though so I got roped into it. I'm not entirely sure how Danny will be greeted and I'm not entirely sure how I want him to be greeted. I don't think I want him to be cheered like a conquering hero. He left and really he wasn't even here that long. I kind of want to feel like everyone's (finally!) moved on. But he did give us a couple of really special years and he was, by all accounts, wonderful in the community so I'm not sure I want him to be booed mercilessly either. If you see a confused looking woman in the 300s who looks like she can't quite decide whether to boo or cheer, that'd be me. I am clear on one thing though: No video tributes. Seriously, can we just stop talking about that?

- Mike Harrington totally stole my Patrick Kane headline! Okay, he beat me by 15 minutes or so. But still! Speaking of Mike Harrington...

- ...Since I'm usually complaining about the Buffalo News, I will throw them a little praise and say that I've been really enjoying Mike Harrington's work. He comes across as both knowledgeable and fair which is a nice change of pace. His Sabres Edge blog is good stuff and he seems to really get blogging more than some old school journalists do. The quality of the conversation in the comments is touch and go since it sometimes brings out the crazies (although it's calmed down considerably since the free agency days), but the writing itself is top-notch and he often includes some interesting links to other sites and papers. I found his link to a recent Rochester Democrat and Chronicle bit about an AHL team ganging up on Patrick Kaleta cool since we don't hear much about the Rochester guys. I may be the only person in Buffalo who doesn't really want to see Kaleta in Buffalo any time soon so I thought it was a particularly good read. (ETA: It was actually John Vogl who linked to the Kaleta piece. My bad! The spirit of the above remains the same however.)

- Thanks to everyone who played along with me on the last post. While I hope it goes without saying, I'll state for the record that I love when fans of other teams pop up over here. I think one of the coolest things about the blogging world is getting to know other fans and teams more. I like knowing how other people are feeling about their teams and I like occasionally seeing that hockey exists beyond the Sabres.

I also love how loyal WNY transplants are to their hometown despite where life may take them. All the stuff I said about Buffalo being the kind of city that grabs you by the heart and never lets go was absolutely sincere. It's not a perfect city and it's certainly a place with its share of problems, but it's my home and I love it. Here's a glove tap to all you Sabres fans spread across the country. Wear that blue and gold with pride! LET'S GO BUFF-A-LO!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Dear Sabres Nation,

It's recently come to my attention that some of you are invading other team's arenas and quite frankly, acting like jerks. Stepping on posters? Wearing t-shirts that cleverly use the word "puck" in place of another word? Booing the home team? My god, people, what are you, animals? (Warning: There is a link included but for the love of all that is holy, don't follow it! You shouldn't be reading non-Sabres blogs! And if you're here and you're not a Sabres fan, get lost already!)

After some input from outside sources, I've put together the following list of rules for behavior when watching the Sabres outside of Buffalo. Please read and follow.

1. Do not wear any clothing that suggests you're rooting for the Sabres. Certainly do not wear anything that is directly anti-home team. Seriously, you're in someone else's building. Use your manners.

2. Do not make any vocalizations of excitement, happiness, joy etc. when the Sabres do something positive. Goals should not be cheered, great plays should not be admired, and for the love of all that's good and right in the hockey world, do not chant "Let's go Buff-a-lo!" Honestly, trying to drown out the locals? That is so uncouth. Polite applause is acceptable as long as you remain seated and stare straight ahead the entire time. Do not ever cheer louder than the home team's fans. If that requires total silence, so be it.

3. Do not direct any negative vocalizations toward the home team. It's not hard, folks. Home team = always good and right. Does it matter that you're not actually cheering for the home team? Are you slow? Because we've clearly established that no, it does not.

3b. As an addendum to rule number 3, do not, under any circumstances, boo the home team's star player. What, were you raised in a barn? It does not matter that getting booed is part and parcel of being a professional athlete. It does not matter that said athlete is, in this year alone, making what I'll make in 55.79 years. It does not matter that this player is not actually playing for your team and it certainly does not matter whether or not this player was not that long ago involved in a questionable play involving one of your star players.

In fact, Buffalo, star players really shouldn't be booed at all. I know, I know... You're scratching your head right now and thinking, "Well, golly, Heather B, I sometimes criticize my own star players, what do I care if other fans do it? I mean, did you see Thomas Vanek play the first few months of the season?" I know, and yes, I did see him play. I think it's very amusing that you're constantly re-calculating how much he's being paid for every point scored. It turns out however that some people don't like that. And can you blame them? God, show a little respect. Thomas Vanek has feelings too. I'm sure he's cut to the bone every time you call him the "Seven Million Dollar Man" with that biting and sarcastic tone in your voice.

3c. The above rule applies to photographs and written descriptions of said star player as well. Stepping on said player's face? Outrageous! Making fun of his physical appearance? Immature! And also reprehensible! And don't even thinking about busting out a black marker for doodling purposes. That's a one-way ticket to fan hell. You'll spend the rest of your life in a small empty room with Sean Avery and Chris Simon.

Seriously, though, the above rules aside... What the hell are you people doing still cheering for the Sabres anyway? I mean, you left Buffalo! I know the economy here is struggling and the job market is tough, but good lord, man up already. If you want to work in book publishing or entertainment so badly, pool your resources and start up a publishing company or a movie studio right here. It can't be that hard. Not making enough to support your family? Hey, kids are resilient creatures, they can survive on pork and beans. Or even better, make the little brats work for their keep. It builds character. It's about sacrifices, people. If you can't make it work here, get out and don't come back.

Listen, I know that Buffalo is a city that gets under you skin and worms its way into your heart. I know that no matter where you are, chances are you're dreaming about crisp autumn evenings and soft, fluttery snow. I know you'd much rather be knocking back beers in the parking lot at Ralph Wilson on a blustery Sunday morning than watching the Bills in your living room across the country and I know you'd prefer to be walking out of HSBC Arena, surrounded by thousands of honking cars than watching the Sabres in a bar with a small crowd of fellow transplants. I know you're staring at your Christmas tree and thinking the season just isn't complete without sponge candy and fresh snow. I know you wish your kids were growing up in the same neighborhood you did and I know that you're sad that things didn't work out that way. I know that Buffalo is exactly the kind of hard-working, humble, friendly city that grabs your heart and, despite years and miles, never really lets go. I know you'll always tell people you're from Buffalo and you'll always say it proudly. And I know you'll be back here in a heartbeat if you ever get the chance.

Which is why you're an asshole for leaving. God! New plan: When you turn in your New York license plate, you also hand over all your Sabres and Bills memorabilia, Benedict Arnold.

(Don't bother commenting on this post. If you're not a Sabres fan, you shouldn't even be reading this. If you insist on commenting - even if it's thoughtful and reasonable - I'm just going to gather up all my Buffalo homies - those of us who still live here, that is - and say, "Hey, look at the little ENTER TEAM HERE fan. He shouldn't even be here. Am I right or am I right?")

Heather B, breaking all the rules.

(Programming note: I'll try to be back to my usual insightful and mature self later. My deepest apologies to anyone who can't make any sense of this post. Just please come back tomorrow.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kane is Able

Hey, who told the little Kane brat he could score?

Okay, seriously, Mark and I decided before the game that the perfect night would be Patrick Kane scoring and the Sabres winning so merry Christmas to us! I was a little unsure of the Sabres going out of their way to make a big deal about Kane's homecoming - he's not one of their players after all - but I did get a little choked up during the introduction of his dad and granddad (what's up with the mom's not being allowed on the ice though?) and I enjoyed seeing the various photos of little Patrick throughout the broadcast. Ultimately, I decided it was nice of the organization to recognize how special Kane's homecoming was to the community because it is a pretty big deal. Not only is a Buffalo kid in the NHL, he's doing very well for himself and helping to revive an Original Six franchise. He deserved the chance to take a bow in front of the people who helped get him there.

How uncomfortable did that intermission interview with Mr. and Mrs. Kane look though? Was it really necessary to cram them in between Kevin and Roby? We couldn't move Kevin and Roby apart a little more? I was laughing like a loon at the close-up of Mrs. Kane and Roby because she was within inches of his face. Poor Mrs. Kane.

Also, who has Rob Ray been fighting with? That's quite the cut he's been sporting across his nose the last couple of nights.

And finally, could someone make sure Jochen Hecht takes the little shiny sticker off the bill of his cap before the next game? Because that sticker bothered me all the way through his pregame interview.

Okay, on to the game!

Overall a good game. There was (still) some sloppiness but it's so good to see the Sabres gut out another tight game. Up until now they haven't really been doing much of that - they either win big or lose big - and I think it goes without saying that every good team has to be able to buckle down and fight. They looked like they wanted to win more than Chicago tonight and any sloppiness was tempered by plain hard work. Thomas Vanek fought for his goal. Drew Stafford battled and hustled to keep the puck in the offensive zone during the shift that led to his goal. The whole Roy line looked really great tonight actually.

Ryan Miller stood on his head when it mattered and is a huge reason why the Sabres came away with a win. But Ryan, I am begging you. Stay in the crease! You are not, as Roby described Rick DiPietro tonight, a "river boat gambler." You're a nice little goalie who does not want to stress out his fans too terribly much. Right?

This is going back to last night, but I really missed Jim Lorentz during the too many men on the ice penalties. It's stupid but I loved him pausing the film, counting the players, and circling them on the telestrator. I really feel like Jim should have weaned us all off of him, maybe 40 games this season and ten less every season after that? Is it too late to make this happen?

The dumbest conversation Mark and I had tonight:

Drew Stafford scores.
MARK: Yes! That's three games in a row!
HEATHER (thinking)
MARK: I'm counting the disallowed goal, by the way. That was crap.
HEATHER: You're counting it forever?
MARK: Yeah.
HEATHER: So years from now, when we're all celebrating Drew Stafford's 500th goal -
MARK: 501
HEATHER: Okaaaay. Hey, if you die unexpectedly, do you mind if I marry Paul Posluszny?
MARK: Nah, Poz is cool.
HEATHER: If he's married by then, Joe Thornton's my back-up.
MARK: It's good you have plans.

I loved Jason Pominville passing off the empty netter to Jochen last night saying simply, "Jochen would've given it to me in the same situation," and then hustling to get his own empty netter tonight. Pommers hasn't been scoring many goals lately, but he's playing some good hockey and doing all the little things right. I've said this before, but the kid is really, really growing on me this season. Unlike some of the other younger guys I think he's managed to avoid putting too much pressure on himself. He stays within in himself and focuses on playing his game.

In closing, I refuse to believe there wasn't a single Tragically Hip song on Brian Campbell's playlist. I refuse. I'm so disappointed! Also, Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts? Really, HSBC?

Paging Tim Connolly

Yeah, so I slept through all of the game against the Capitals last night. Hank, I was really excited to see you again, I promise, but what can I say? It was a long and difficult week at work. I was wiped out.

The only thing I remember past the first period is this exchange:

HEATHER (mumbling into the back of the couch and a pile of blankets): Xpewdllw bwemllwl aweiadly.
MARK: What'd you say?
HEATHER (picking up head and yelling): I said, "Wear a !#!@&!# visor already!" (head falls back down)... ZZZZzzzzzz...

I think I've mentioned before that it drives me crazy when players repeatedly take pucks off their face but refuse to wear a visor, but Timmy drives me especially mad. He's unfortunately at a point where, due to his concussion history, every knock to the head, no matter where it comes from, is potentially dangerous. The Sabres have been very good to him. They brought him over from the Islanders and were patient with his development. After the 2005-2006 season they signed him to a multi-year deal for what was at the time very good money even though he was out with post-concussion symptoms and even though no one was clear on when he'd be on the ice again. I think the Sabres organization has shown a lot of faith in Tim's talent and his long-term health. I also think Tim, more than any other player, owes it to the Sabres to do whatever it takes to protect himself on the ice. That means tightening his chinstrap, putting in a mouth guard, and wearing a !#!@&!# visor.

I'd like to be watching you do this for a long time, Timmy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mike Comrie Had No Points and Was a -3 Tonight

Not a ton to say about tonight's game. While the Sabres went into a lull after jumping out to a lead, the overall effort was much better than most of the California trip. Still, I'm at the point now where I have to see that a few games in a row before getting too excited and things were still a little sloppy. Some hit and run observations before I go to bed:

- One of the funniest things I've ever heard at the arena took place after Toni Lydman scored his goal.

P.A. Announcer: Scoring Buffalo's SECOND goal of the night, his FIRST of the season, NUMBER... ... ... (silence)

CROWD: Fiiiiiive!


- On the way home we listened to a few minutes of the post-game show on WGR and caught a classic Toni Lydman interview. "Yeah, I just closed my eyes and shot the puck. I really just wanted to keep my goal scoring streak alive, one per season and now I've taken care of that." And he, of course, said it in that laid-back, deadpan way he has of talking. I love it when he and Henrik Tallinder score because they always seem just a touch tickled with themselves.

- Tonight was one of those nights where extending Brian Campbell makes me a little nervous. He couldn't stay on his feet, he couldn't hold onto the puck, and I think he hit the net once. He wasn't glaringly bad, but he sure wasn't five million plus a year good.

- With rumors that Tallinder and Dmitri Kalinin will be back in the line-up this weekend, there's a lot of discussion going on about who should sit. I vote Nathan Paetsch and Andrej Sekera. While Paetsch has been better lately, I haven't been impressed with him overall. I think Sekera is doing pretty well playing with Toni against the top lines but he's not ready to replace Hank or Dmitri. Nolan Pratt has totally earned his spot. He'll throw his body around, he's very good at clearing pucks from the crease and most importantly, he takes care of his goaltender. I think he and Tri could make a very good pairing.

- I thought the Islanders were crazy for making such a huge commitment to Rick DiPietro but he's maturing into a very good goalie. I don't know how good he'll be 10 years from now when he's still under contract, but for now he's very solid. Speaking of Rick DiPietro...

- It drives me batty that any time we play a team with a good puck-handling goalie, Ryan Miller decides, "Hey, I can do that too!" Ryan... No, you can't. DiPietro is an excellent puck-handling goalie. You are not. You're just not! Ignore that trapezoid behind the net because it does not apply to you. You have your own personal trapezoid. You're more than welcome to play the puck anywhere in it.

- Kudos to the girls with the "Jochen Is Smokin'" and "Mair-y Me, Adam" signs. First of all, they're both pretty cute. Second of all, it's nice to see some love being spread to some non-Pominville/Roy/Miller guys. Seriously, Jochen is - puckbunny alert! - totally smokin' for sure and Mairsy reminds me of my high school crush.

- And hey, I think this could be the year Jochen finally gets twenty goals. I didn't realize he was at ten already!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

After I posted this morning, I decided I wasn't going to think about the Sabres the rest of the day. They're bugging me and I don't like it. Instead I thought about the Bills. They're kind of a charming little team, aren't they? Isn't it nice to have a team that makes up for a lack of talent by working really, really hard every week? I like that. It's fun.

This has been posted on various Buffalo websites before, but I'm throwing it up here because whenever I need to lighten the mood, I cue this baby up:

Marshawn came through my line late one night at the grocery store and he was exactly like he is on TV - funny, friendly, and just a tad loopy. He is truly, to quote Robert Royal, "a fresh of breath air."

I've also been ogling this tackle by Paul Posluszny (the replay from behind him is the best angle, I think):

That is, fierce, y'all. I think that deserves a "Rrrrawwwr!" for sure.

Danny Paille

This is really just an add-on to the previous post, but I've edited it 18 times already and I figure people will stop reading it at some point.

Lindy Ruff said he sat Danny Paille last night because he didn't want to mess with the line-up that won on Saturday night. Right. Because it totally doesn't make sense to take an already winning line-up, subtract the useless hockey player who only had 1:50 of ice-time, and add a player who busts his hump every night. Okey dokey!

Lindy, I love you, but no, I don't think so.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tired Legs? Tired Legs?!

You guys barely played any hockey on your west coast road trip! When exactly did your legs get tired? And how do tired legs create stupid turnovers and shots that barely stay in the building?


If I have to sit through a game like this on Wednesday night you might see Dippin' Dots raining down from section 323.


If any fans from opposing teams wander by, I'm currently fielding offers for Ales Kotalik and Maxim Afinogenov. They're not without skill, they're both signed to reasonable contracts, and I need them both out of my sight ASAP. Let me know what you've got. We'll work it out with Lindy and Darcy later.

I've decided I'm kind of pissed at Lindy for scratching Danny Paille. This team's work ethic is terrible and at the very least, Paille always, always plays hard. Everyone plays like garbage in L.A. and Lindy responds by benching one of the hardest workers on the team? Am I missing something?

Mark hit on a great idea. We need to find a way to put the heart and fight of the Bills into the talented bodies of the Sabres. Then Buffalo would have one great team.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I Can't Think of a Good Title

The Sabres are seriously driving me crazy right now. Listen, I'm glad they finally woke up and beat San Jose and I'm glad it was a fairly convincing win. It was nice to see Max and Derek and Al and Vanek on the score sheet. It was nice to see Ryan playing a very solid game (I'm agreeing with Gambler and giving you a moral shutout, Ryan since San Jose's goal was totally ridiculous). But this back and forth thing is giving me a headache. The team works pretty hard for six games and they win them all. They slack off against St. Louis and lose. They put in a better effort against Carolina and they win. Now... I'm seeing a pattern here. You're probably seeing a pattern here. The Sabres? Not so much. They decide the second period of the Anaheim game is optional and that's enough for the Ducks. And then they decide the entire L.A. game is optional and they get embarrassed. And finally they decide hey, maybe we should, you know, try and what happens? They win! Guys, do you need some mood stabilizers? Because this up and down, back and forth isn't healthy for any of us.

I think the Sabres have established that they have enough talent to compete with many - if not all - of the teams in the league on most nights. But they have to be playing hard, forechecking, fighting for the puck, and they're still not doing that on a consistent basis. I thought maybe they'd finally broken through during the six game winning streak but the L.A. game was so bad - and I didn't even watch half of it. Maybe it was just a blip. We'll see, I guess.

- The games under Brian Campbell's captaincy have been from one extreme to the other. An 8-1 victory, a 4-1 loss, an 8-2 loss, and a 7-1 victory. We're either all in or barely there which is very reminiscent (to me and Meg who actually pointed it out to me) of Brian's play. That's... a little disturbing.

- Just give Goose a letter already. Seriously, Lindy. I could understand some reluctance when Goose wasn't getting much ice-time but it seems like he's always out there now. And speaking of Goose...

- ... Tell me again why Andrew Peters is on the team? I'm assuming he was in last night in case the game was physical but even with that he barely touched the ice. Goose did all the fighting and defending that Andrew is allegedly there for and he can actually play hockey. Seriously, this is beyond funny now. The only thing I noticed Andrew doing last night was holding the door open so his teammates could get on and off the ice. We're sitting Danny Paille for that?

- I don't like Harry Neale. He says one thing a night that totally cracks me up but is otherwise totally useless. At this point in the season he should really be able to differentiate between Vanek, Pominville, and Gaustad. They don't look alike, they don't play alike. Harry, let me help you out. If you're looking at a large man throwing his body at other large men, it's probably not Jason Pominville. If you're watching a fairly small man carry the puck up the ice and through two defenders, it's probably not Paul Gaustad. And Harry is even worse on the radio. It doesn't translate at all. I miss Jim Lorentz breaking down plays and showing me how goals developed. I miss Jim chiding the team when they play badly and I miss him occasionally taking a moment to genuinely "oooooh!" over a great play. Jim, what do you want to come back? Because whatever it is, I'll give it to you.

- I'm glad Jaroslav Spacek wasn't seriously hurt and yes, someone probably should have stepped in and helped him out, but Joe Thornton's flip-out was hilarious. Man! I was totally giggling. That was an inappropriate response, wasn't it? Sorry, Jaro! Also funny? The second intermission interview with Tim Connolly that took place right after he stepped off the ice. He was totally gasping by the time he got to the end of each sentence. Hee!

- I can't believe that we got an interview with Mother Goose (also funny!) but we didn't get an interview with the Millers during the Anaheim game. That seems like a no-brainer to me. According to IPB, the Millers were interviewed on the Anaheim broadcast and asked who they'd cheer for in a Drew vs. Ryan shoot-out. Mr. Miller waffled and said he'd be happy and sad with either outcome but Mrs. Miller unhesitatingly said she'd cheer for a goal. No wonder Ryan has struggled with his mental fragility over the years. He grew up with a woman who loves goals!

- I've heard an awful lot of fans saying they don't know if there's room for Dmitri Kalinin once he's healthy. Now I know I like Tri and I have a weird affection for him, but am I really the only person who would much rather see him playing than Nathan Paetsch? Really?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Santa's Little Helpers

I have to say, I'm feeling much better about the Sabres after doing this to them. Really most of these guys have been okay (or injured - come back, Hank) but they were the ones who I found to be the funniest. This is so stupid, but what can I say, I'm totally cracking up here. Watch and enjoy!

ETA: I take it back. This one's pretty funny too.

(Would it shock you to learn that it's 3:08 a.m. right now?)

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Little Good News

A few days ago I shared a little about why I blog and what I love about it. I think it's fair to say that overall I have pretty humble aspirations. I want a place to vent and remember and a few people to interact with. But even the humblest of bloggers has dreams, and I'm proud to say that one of my deepest dreams has now come true. That's right, I am November's Featured Fangirl over at SportSquee. (Yes, I know November is over. Take it up with, Margee.) SportSquee is quite simply one of my favorite websites on the internet and if you're not a regular visitor, you're really missing out. For the males in the audience, it's okay... I assure you that my personal sports squees are totally based on things like talent and character. Dimples and playoff beards mean nothing to me. Nothing. So go check me out, y'all!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dear Buffalo Sabres...

Dear Buffalo Sabres Not Named Ryan Miller,

This is Ryan Miller. Maybe you recognize him?

He's your goalie. He's pretty important. It's his job to keep the puck - that little black piece of rubber - out of your net. The closer the guys on the other team get to the net, the harder that is for him to do. Now, this may be hard to follow since some nights you wear blue and other nights you wear white, but see if you can stay with me here. There shouldn't be a guy wearing a color that doesn't match Ryan right in front of him. Here, take a look at this. Maybe you're visual learners:

Do you see how Ryan is so busy dealing with the guy in front of him that he's not really looking at the puck? That's bad, okay? If the puck goes in your net more than it goes in the other net, you lose. That's why it's really important that your goalie be able to focus on the puck. You know who should be taking care of the guy in white (or a dark color - remember, the opposite of what you and Ryan are wearing)? You! I know! Here's what the picture above should have looked like:

I'm using a picture from a Montreal game because that's what I had handy. Please understand that this applies to every game against every opponent.

Heather B.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On Blogs and Blogging

In response to the response to the Hockey Night in Canada piece on hockey bloggers, Pookie and Schnookie of Interchangeable Parts created this questionnaire. It's already inspired a lot of really interesting discussion over there about hockey blogs and all the various things we look for in them and love about them. I've decided to tackle it myself because truly, there is nothing more stimulating than bloggers blogging about blogging.

There a few reasons I started blogging.

One, I really enjoyed reading blogs and that naturally led to thoughts about writing one of my own. The bad ones made me think, "I could totally do that better." The good ones made me think, "I don't know if I could to that as well, but it sure looks like fun."

Two, it turned out I had a lot to say. When I first joined Hockey's Ladies of Greatness I really didn't think I'd write that much. Outside of posting on a few message boards here and there, I'd never put my thoughts about hockey down anywhere. Instead I wrote all the time. I had something to say about every topic that was presented. If you look at the HLoG archives around the time I joined, you'll find a plethora of posts and comments from me, most very long and detailed. I'm sure there were members who were thinking, "Her again?" and to this day I'm convinced the first "Should we impose a word limit?" email was sent around in response to me. Once I realized I had so much to say, it seemed natural to start a blog of my own.

And three, I've always loved to write. I have journals going back to the third grade. Every important moment of my life, everything that's happened in the world around me during those years, it's all documented somewhere. Last season part of me really felt like the Sabres might win the Stanley Cup and I wanted to be able to look back years from now and remember exactly where I was and what I was feeling when it happened. I wanted to remember all the little details about games and players that start to drift from your memory as time goes by and events get further away.

I don't think any of that has really changed. I still enjoy the blogging community, I still find myself with plenty to say, and I still want to remember everything when the Sabres win it all. (Shut up.)

Eek, I don't know. I think I'm in kind of good middle ground - I've been watching hockey long enough that I have a pretty decent understanding of what's going on on the ice, but it's new enough to me that I still see the wonder and the magic of the game. I haven't been beaten down by years of watching Buffalo teams lose and I don't take having local pro sports teams for granted. Certainly, not every long-time fan is like that but I do think that for a lot of people, a little bit of cynicism starts to creep in as the years go by. That hasn't happened for me yet.

Something different. I tend to avoid blogs written in an informative, newspaper-y style because, well if I wanted that I'd read the newspaper. I want strong opinions - doesn't matter to me if I agree or disagree. I want to be entertained and amused. A little fun never hurt anybody. I want interaction with other fans. I want facts and stats broken down and presented in different ways. My favorite hockey blogs all provide one or more of those things.

In addition to the above, I want good writing and decent grammar and spelling. I know most people are writing their blogs for fun but if any part of you is writing to be read, take the time to read over your work, run spell check, and fix any glaring mistakes. Seriously, it's not that hard.

Generally speaking, I'd love to see bloggers who want access be given some way to receive it. Journalists can squawk all they want about having degrees and experience but good journalism comes down to one thing: Can you write? Sitting in four years of classes doesn't make you a better writer. Writing makes you a better writer and you can do that anywhere. I can name numerous bloggers whose work is as interesting, insightful, and entertaining as any professionals'.

Do I personally want press access? I don't know. I don't think so. I'd love to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff. I want to see how Lindy interacts with the players off the ice, I want to see how the players interact with each other, I want to know what Darcy Regier does in a typical day. I'd like to follow the team on a road trip just to see what they do when they're not playing. I'd love to stand back and observe all the stupid little details that I find interesting - what kind of music is playing in the dressing room (if any), who has photos and knick-knacks up in his stall, who carries a book or magazine with him, who does the talking, who does the screaming, who sits back and takes everything in. The life of a professional athlete is so different from the mine and I'm fascinated by that.

But I don't know if I really want to interact with the players on a regular basis. I like having a bit of a wall between me and them. If someone's a massive jerkwad to the people around him, I don't want to know. If one player is sleeping with another player's wife or girlfriend, I don't want to hear whispers about it. I need to like the players I'm cheering for a little bit and I'd hate to wake up one day and realize I don't like my team anymore.

I also don't want to turn in my fan card. I love pulling on my jersey before a game. I love sitting with the rowdies in the 300s. I want to be able to cheer for goals or amazing plays and I want to be able to boo certain opponents and bad calls. That stuff is what hockey is to me and I love it too much to give it up.

It's my writing so I feel accountable in the sense that I want everything here to be of a certain quality and clear and easy to read. I don't pretend to be bringing anyone the inside dope - I don't quote players or coaches unless I'm taking the quote from somewhere else and when I do that, I always mention the source - so I don't think anyone out there should be concerned about me making stuff up. Pretty much everything here is presented as my opinion and in some ways I think I'm more reliable than the mainstream media because I'm upfront about my biases. Mark and I have a running joke that Maxim Afinogenov must've beat up Bucky Gleason's kid and stolen his lunch money because for a while Bucky's criticism of Max was ridiculous. Way beyond what he deserved and moving awfully close to personally insulting. Journalists are human beings and regardless of what they say about being impartial observers, you can't tell me that there aren't coaches and players that they like and coaches and players they don't like and you can't tell me that doesn't sometimes affect the way they judge those people's performances and report on them, even if it's very subtle. Anyone who's read my blog for some period of time knows how I feel about different players. If I'm particularly hard on Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik you can take it with a grain of salt because I don't hide the fact that I find their inconsistency to be a little infuriating. If I let Derek Roy or Dmitri Kalinin slide on poor play you can take that with a grain of salt too because I've mentioned numerous times that I love both guys and I've admitted that I overlook mistakes from them that I would never overlook if other players were making them.

Honestly, I'm not very concerned at all. If bloggers were throwing out quotes from players with no source I'd be suspicious, but I think most hockey bloggers are pretty responsible about that kind of thing. Most of the blogs I read regularly are opinion based so that gives the author a lot of leeway. As long as the opinions are reasonably presented and argued, I'm okay with it. And you know what, sometimes opinions have no basis in reality at all. I can't think of a single reason why I want to punch Mike Comrie in the face but I do. Having irrational loves and hates is part of being a fan and as long as a blogger is upfront about writing as a fan, I have no problem with that at all.

I think it gives fans in non-traditional markets a way to connect with other fans. I think it gives fans who are unhappy with their local coverage - for whatever reason - another way to find information. I think, if they're willing, it gives the league a way to tap into the opinions of large groups of fans on various issues (we think the jersey re-designs are ugly, we don't like the shoot-out, female fans don't necessarily want pink apparel, we hate the way you keep changing things just to change things, we think your suspensions are lame and toothless and we're concerned about the physical well-being of our players etc.). Considering how much we hear about "what the fans want" that should be of value to the powers that be.

If you made it through all that, congratulaions! Here's a photo I doctored up a while ago and never got around to posting. Please accept it along with my eternal gratitude for muddling through. (I totally stole the idea of using a funny picture to make the dryness go down easier from The Willful Caboose.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Odds and Ends

What the title says...

- It bothers me that more of the Sabres don't have special reasons for wearing the number they do. Honestly, "It's the number the equipment guy gave me"? What's that about? If this were Timbits I could understand making due with what you're given but to me one of the best things about being a professional would be having some choice in what number I wear. So many things and people you could pay tribute to, little inside things you could do. I'm always let down when I hear there's no meaning behind somebody's number. I also feel very strongly that every interview should include the question, "Why do you wear number X?" All this time I've assumed Ryan Miller wears 30 because of Marty Brodeur but for all I know it could've been his great-uncle's number. Bucky, make yourself useful and write a column listing every Sabre, his jersey number, and his reason for wearing it.

(For the record, in all my years of travel fast-pitch softball I wore 18 in honor of Andy Van Slyke, my childhood hero and still one of my favorite people in the world.)

- As I mentioned earlier, Mark and I went to the game on Saturday. When they started playing Thank God I'm a Country Boy on the P.A. I said to Mark, "Ooh, maybe this is a Nolan Pratt selection!" He said, "No, they play this song all the time." "They do?" "Yeah, and we have this conversation every time. The only thing that changes is the player's name." After I thought about it I realized he might be right. I guess I just really, really want someone to like John Denver.

- I haven't watched a ton of football this season - I worked at the grocery store most Sundays and I lost a touch of my fervor when Paul Posluszny got hurt - but holy crap, I don't think I can take another second of Patriots talk. I don't know how you people who watch football all the time handle this. Granted, the game on right now actually involves the Patriots but seriously, can someone take care of this? As Mark said a few minutes ago, "I don't think I ever cheered this hard for Willis even when he was in Buffalo." Sidenote: It bothers me that "Poz" is spelled with a "z" when there's no "z" in the first part of Posluszny. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I was also really disappointed when I realized it was "Poz" and not "Paws" which is how I'd always heard it in my head. Now I have no real reason to throw up my hands and yell, "Rrrrawr!" after a big tackle. Not that that will stop me, of course.

- Two games for Scott Hartnell is ridiculous, especially considering his, "I don't care if I get suspended, I'd hit him the same way again" comments. How difficult is it to understand that sometimes finishing your check isn't a good idea? I love that Colin Campbell's reasoning was more or less, "Well, he did hit him in the head, but really he could've hit him so much harder!" I said before that the league isn't going to start taking hits like this serious until someone is crippled or dead, but I don't know, I'm beginning to think not even that will do the trick. And how sad is that in the couple of days it took me to get back to this story, another Flyer laid another dangerous hit on somebody's head? Glad to see the powers that be have moved up to three games. That'll learn 'em for sure! Danny Briere, I hope you're watching your back because it's just a matter of time before some team decides they've had enough. (And watch, that guy will get a double digit suspension.)

- I'm mad at Heroes right now. You hurt me, Heroes! You hurt me bad!

- Thanks to the beauty of the interwebs, I'm currently listening to Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album. Folks, your life is not complete if you've never rocked out to What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sweet Caroline

I had a post in mind about the relationship between Sabres fans and Canes fans - never fear, Canes fans, there was going to be some criticism directed at both sides - but it was pretty negative in tone so I'm going to save it for another day. Because really, who wants to be negative after an 8-1 victory?

This game was supposed to be a girls' night out with some of my buddies but every single one of them bailed on me. Can you believe it? Kathy couldn't find a babysitter/had a broom ball conflict, Monica was feeling under the weather, and Sue took a spill last weekend and fractured her knee cap and a couple of vertebrae. (Okay, that last one is a pretty good excuse.) One of the girls was kind enough to give us her ticket however and Mark and I spread out across four seats and enjoyed the game. Some observations:

- I'm sorry Sue missed out because she's a big fan of Maxim Afinogenov and I think this was hands down Max's best game this season. He was wreaking havoc on an obviously tired Canes squad while being far more responsible with the puck than he has been. He was either getting it on net, finding teammates, or carrying it to open ice. I don't remember a single bad turnover. Nice to see Lindy reward his effort with the highest amount of ice-time for any forward, pretty impressive since it felt like we were short-handed for the entire second period. For all my griping about Max, it has been tough watching him struggle so I was pretty happy to see him playing so well. Maybe he's turning a corner?

- I thought the Afinogenov-Gaustad-Kotalik line seemed like a weird mish-mash of playing styles and I was pretty critical of it before the game but it worked. The whole line really had a good game. Al also had one of his better games of the season.

- Derek Roy continues to look much better. He was really buzzing and it was nice to see him bury that breakaway. What a beautiful pass by Tim Connolly. That said, Timmy needs to shoot more often because good things often happen when he does. He has such a nice little shot. It's not overwhelmingly powerful but he places it so well.

- Thomas Vanek was not overwhelming. I don't remember him looking terrible outside of the two bad penalties he took but he wasn't the Vanek who was dominating play in the couple of games before the St. Louis game. On one hand it's nice that we can win games without him chipping in a lot - for all the crying about Drury and Briere leaving, the Sabres still have the potential for very balanced scoring as seen tonight - it would be nice to see him playing a little more consistently. Just lighten up and shoot the puck, Thomas. It'll happen.

- Before the season I thought Brian Campbell had a good shot at wearing a letter, but he seemed like an unusual choice for December, since he's been a little bit of a mess in the last couple of games, his performance against Washington being particularly bad. But I thought Toni Lydman was an odd choice for November and that worked out pretty darn well with Toni playing like a friggin' beast all month. I wonder if Lindy is using the letters as a little bit of a "Show me what you got, kid" encouragement tool. Brian did lead the team in ice-time tonight and even more surprisingly to me, he led the team in short-handed time (according the summary). I didn't notice any glaring mistakes so maybe the letter will look good on him.

- Jochen Hecht gets an A to make him a letter-wearer every month so far with Jaroslav Spacek getting the other A. I got no beef with either of those choices - Jochen has continued to play very solid hockey and I find myself being very pleased for Jaro. He now has more goals this season than he did all of last season. Good for you, Jaro. Let's see how many crazy interviews we can cram in this month, shall we?

- Nolan Pratt was in a foul mood tonight and I love it. I love the way this guy takes care of his teammates, especially Ryan Miller. When Dmitri Kalin and Henrik Tallinder are both back in the line-up I really hope it's Paetsch sitting and not Pratt. I think we need that little bit of edge, especially on the blue line.

Hockey Night in Canada did a really interesting feature on hockey blogs this evening. One of the things it discussed was how some teams like Washington are using bloggers as alternative media sources. Buffalo wasn't mentioned as one of the teams considering opening the press box to bloggers but someone in the organization really needs to take a look at it, I think. Buffalo isn't in the same situation as Washington - they get pretty much no coverage from local papers and TV - but Buffalo is a one newspaper town and as I've said before, I find much of the Buffalo News coverage to be negative and one-sided. The Sabres wouldn't be able to control what bloggers say but it might be to their advantage to help get some new and different voices out there.

Anyway, I thought the piece was well-done and pretty positive. If you missed it, scoot on over to Mirtle's and check it out. He has a video posted.

Friday, November 30, 2007

NaBloPoMo Is No Mo'

Well, here we are at a place I thought we'd never arrive: December! NaBloPoMo has finally come to an end and I did pretty darn well, I think. Including this post, I'll have written 29 entries in 30 days. Some of those were crammed into one day, some of them were total throw-aways, and yes, I'm totally cheating and starting this post right before midnight on the 30th while planning to not actually finish it until I feel like getting around to it on the 1st... but hey, they're now out there for all posterity for better or for worse.

November wasn't easy for the Sabres who were 6-6-1 for the month. But even in some of those losses, they played really good hockey and they seem to be righting the ship and figuring some things out. Overall the team looks and sounds more confident than they did a few weeks ago. So even though their record still isn't great and even though I had a bit of an emotional breakdown about halfway through the month, I think there's a lot to be hopeful about. Ryan Miller has looked really sharp, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek are coming around, the defense has been surprisingly solid (for the most part), and the team is inching slowly toward being completely healthy. November was also helped along greatly by the Senators current losing streak. Hey, you find your pleasure where you can.

So thanks to those of you who have been reading along with me. I'm not planning on falling off the radar or anything, but yeah, you probably shouldn't expect 29 posts in a month ever again.

Feel the Buff-a-love

In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts!

Have you ever had an idea in your head that seemed really good but when you wrote it down you somehow managed to not say anything you were really trying to say? Yeah, that's this post. I'm tired of staring at the screen though so here it is anyway...

A couple of the comments on yesterday's post about Jay McKee (one of us! one of us! one of us!) made me start thinking about Buffalo and its relationship with athletes who used to play here. As I've mentioned before, I wasn't raised in Buffalo or in a city with any pro sports and this is one thing about the city that has always kind of fascinated me. After a lot of thought, I think Buffalo really only asks two things of its athletes.

The first thing is one that I'm not going to focus on too much: We want them to work hard. We're a blue-collar city and we bust our butts to make a living. When we sit down in front of the TV or fork over hard-earned money to attend games, we don't want to see any coasting. We'll complain about a lack of effort like we'll complain about nothing else.

The second thing is the biggie though. When it comes down to it, we really, really want our athletes to fall in love with us. Listen, I'll admit it, Buffalo has a little bit of an inferiority complex. We're not flashy and we're not glamorous. If people outside of Buffalo hear anything about us it generally involves the words "snow" and "cold." When I told people in Birmingham that I was moving to Buffalo they thought I was crazy and Birmingham is no great shakes, people. Those of us in Buffalo love our city desperately - faults and all - and we want everyone else to love it too. I think we know it's not always easy because the best of Buffalo isn't obvious. We know that you really have to spend some time here, get to know people, do some digging to find the stuff that makes the city great. But we know it's there and that's why when visiting athletes who spend 36 hours in the area around HSBC Arena make comments about how boring Buffalo is, it gets our backs up. They don't know what they're talking about.

I don't really know how to nail down what it is that makes us feel like an athlete has really fallen in love with Buffalo - it's not always the words they say when talking about us and it's not always playing their entire careers here - but we know it when we see it. Rob Ray fell in love with Buffalo. So did Matthew Barnaby and Lindy Ruff. Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas fell in love with Buffalo. Even though they're currently playing elsewhere, Marty Biron and Jay McKee fell in love with Buffalo too.

It might sound dumb but for a lot of us, I think it really is that simple. It's why a semi-talented guy like Rob Ray is so beloved even now while a future Hall-of-Famer like Dominik Hasek is, for the most part, really disliked. The Dominator was amazing during his time in Buffalo, but he never really got us. It's why a lot of fans put up with J.P. Losman as long as they did. He spoken very sincerely about loving Buffalo and he's repeatedly backed up those words with actions. It's why we practically ran Willis McGahee out of town and it's why we've been so quick to embrace Marshawn Lynch. He's embraced us with open arms and a full heart and gone out of his way to make Buffalo home.

We're shameless really and sometimes it can be annoying. The period between the end of the NHL season and the beginning of free agency was rife with emotions and the whole city seemed to take on the attitude that if Drury and Briere went somewhere else it was because there was something wrong with us. Our whole self-worth was wrapped up in whether or not two hockey players stayed or left. But I think it's very charming too. In the end we're not very demanding people. For all our tough talk about championships, we've made it this long without one. What we do want is very simple and very human. We want to know our athletes left it all on the playing field and we want them to love us as much as we love them.

Is that really asking too much?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One of Us

In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts! Here's a quick one before I run off to the game...

I have some odds and ends I want to deal with, but I'm short on time. I do want to quickly respond to this quote from Greg Wyshynski at FanHouse however: Jay McKee makes his return to Buffalo with the Blues. Remember, kids: Jay McKee leaves Buffalo for a big free-agent contract = veteran getting his due. Briere and Drury leave Buffalo for big free-agent contracts = traitorous bastards.

I don't know that that's entirely fair. When Jay McKee first signed with St. Louis there were a lot of people in Buffalo who were pretty furious because he was chasing the money and signing with a non-contender, turning his back on the team that drafted and raised him. I heard more than a few comments along the lines of, "I hope you enjoy that money, Jay, since you just played in the last playoff game of your career." But you know, time goes by and sometimes fans cool off on guys. Jay was here for a long time and was an important part of some of the best teams of the past ten years. Many of us grew up with him and eventually people started to remember that. What separates him from Briere and Drury in my mind is that he was very embedded in Buffalo when he left - a decade is an eternity for a player to be in one city these days - and he's remained that way since. He married a Buffalo girl and they still live here in the off-season. Fans still see him around town and he's still the same funny, lovely guy he always was. I think some fans also softened toward him as it became clear that the Sabres weren't overly interested in keeping him around, not at a high price atleast. Fairly or not, fans seem to separate former players into one of two categories: He Was Never Really One of Us OR He'll Always Be One of Us. For a lot of Buffalo, Jay McKee will always be one of us. Time will tell what happens with Drury and Briere.

All I know is this. I loved Jay then, and despite some rocky feelings when he first split, I love him now. I insisted we buy tickets for tonight's game just to see him again. I've said fans should be free to greet former players however they choose, but I will throw ice cubes at anyone in my vicinity who boos when Jay has the puck. That's a promise.

Jay McKee, 1996

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rant Ahead

In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts! If I may be serious for a moment...

As soon as I saw this video this morning, I knew I was going to be reading the words "I was just finishing my check." (The best slow-mo replay is at the very end of the clip.) Sure enough, Scott Hartnell had this to say about the incident:

Lupul chipped the puck to that D-man and he went down low to block the puck. I thought it was going to get by him. I let up a bit and finished my check. I think he put himself in a vulnerable position. I definitely didn't intend to injure him.

He was in a vulnerable position, eh? I have a suggestion then, Scott: Don't hit the guy! Are you kidding me with that? Alberts was on his knees! Was that a dumb thing to do? Yeah, maybe. But he was in that position before you arrived on the scene. Where exactly was he going to go that required you hitting him instead of pulling up or peeling off or God forbid, playing the PUCK? I'm so tired of hearing players blame other players for their stupidity and I'm so tired of them acting like it's just a part of hockey.

The slow motion replay of this hit turns my stomach. There's so much that could have gone wrong here, so many crucial body parts in play - his skull, his brain, his neck, his upper spine. For a guy to recognize that the opponent is vulnerable and to choose to hit him anyway, especially in a situation where it absolutely wasn't necessary? I don't even know what to say to that other then maybe, "Geez, show a little respect, you freakin' idiot."

Hockey is a tough game, I get that. I don't want to take the physicality out of the game. One of my favorite things about the sport is how it can move so quickly between brute force and amazing grace, how it can be both powerful and delicate. Sometimes things are going to go wrong and people are going to get hurt. Brian Campbell's hit on RJ Umberger and Peter Schaeffer's hit on Tim Connolly (sorry, can't find a video) both come to mind. Players were moving toward each other, going after pucks and they collided in dangerous ways. It happens. But this is totally different. If Tim Connolly's career is ended by an aggressive hockey hit in the middle of a tough play, well so be it. That's a risk of playing hockey, especially with his history of concussions. But if his - or anyone's - career is ended by an asshole incapable of appreciating that he holds the physical well-being of the other players on the ice in his hands, that'll be a damn shame.

I fear the day is coming for someone and coming soon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why I Love Hockey # 33 - The Goalie Edition

In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts! Four more days, four more days...

Why I Love Hockey #33 - Ryan Miller
I'm ready to admit something I don't think I've ever discussed here before. There was a time when I didn't really care for Ryan Miller. Don't get me wrong, I was never one of those people who thought he should be backing-up Marty Biron and I didn't cry angry tears that we traded Marty when we did. But I liked Marty so much. I don't think I really have to explain that since everyone likes Marty but he was funny, and charming, and just came across as very, very warm. Ryan... didn't, not to me atleast. He always came across as a little more standoffish, much more serious, and most concerning, somewhat fragile. I know I've mentioned it before but after he lost in front of his family and friends in Detroit, he completely broke down crying in a post-game interview. On one hand, awwww, poor guy, that's kind of cute and sweet. But on the other hand, geez, do you really want your goalie crying after tough regular season losses? The NHL season is a long one and even great goalies lose too often for that to be healthy. Marty wasn't as talented as Ryan but his easy-going temperament worked in his favor. If he gave up a goal, no matter how soft, he was over in the second the puck dropped again. Ryan was a brooder. Every goal bothered him, every mistake, no matter how small, hung over him.

Once Marty left town and Ryan was on his own, I started to get a better feel for him and some of the negatives started to look more like positives. The standoffish-ness was focus, the seriousness was competitiveness, and the fragility was a touch of humanity. I started to feel like he'd be just as interesting to talk to as Marty, albeit in a totally different way.

Kate at The Willful Caboose talked about Ryan a couple of days ago and she commented on how he seems to be cultivating the proper goalie temperament and that's so true. He's been very open about using a sports psychologist and his post-game interviews often have the sound and feel of someone who's thinking out-loud. A couple of nights ago when Ryan talked about the no-call on Saku Koivu's blatant goalie interference he was partly complaining, getting it off his chest, but he also seemed to be thinking over the events of the game that led up to that, trying to figure out exactly what happened and if it made sense. (Ryan, it made no sense.) When most players are asked, "What were you thinking there?" you usually get something very generic. "I was thinking we needed a goal" or "I was thinking I just needed to keep going to the net." When Ryan is asked, "What were you thinking?" he always has a sincere, in-depth answer - what angle he was looking at, how the puck had been moving on the ice that night, what the shooter's tendencies are - and he's always willing to share them with whomever's around.

One of the best things about being a fan is getting to watch a player grow up and develop. That's partly what makes Thomas Vanek so exciting to watch right now. You can just feel that he's in the midst of becoming something. I think this is part of my growing affection for Ryan Miller. That overly emotional kid who used to beat himself up on a nightly basis is slowly blooming into a very good goalie and an important guy in the dressing room, not to mention a valuable part of the Buffalo community and one of the faces - if not the face of the Sabres franchise. Remembering his struggles back then makes watching his successes now that much more special. The fact that we can really see his process and how hard he's worked to get to where he is now makes him that much easier to cheer for. When that serious facade cracks long enough for a little smile to break through it's a beautiful thing. I hope Buffalo gets to watch him for many years to come.

My favorite picture of Ryan.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rank the Sabres!

In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts! Seriously, is it December yet?

Tonight Heather ranks the Sabres. Please note: These rankings are not based on performance or talent. This is strictly my personal preference.

1. Henrik Tallinder - Honestly, do you people actually read my blog? If you need more details, read this post.

2. Tim Connolly - I know he's fragile, I know he's one hit away from being done for good... but I just love watching him play. He's the one guy on the team whose talent just amazes me. His movements are always so fluid and his vision is incredible. I admit, I'm often trying to rush him to do something with the puck because he holds it and holds it and holds it... but a lot of times when he finally does something with it, it's perfect.

3. Derek Roy - Again, anyone who's read Top Shelf for more than a couple of weeks has probably stumbled across what I like about Derek. He can be completely infuriating, but at his best he's a feisty, hustling, talented little spark plug. If he grows up a little, he'll be more firmly planted here. As it is now, he fluctuates on my list although he never falls very far.

4. Jochen Hecht - Jochen Hecht is the offensive equivalent of a Tallinder or a Toni Lydman. He's not flashy, he doesn't stand out, he's not going to score a lot of goals. But he quietly does a lot of important little things. I said this a few days ago, but every team needs atleast one Jochen Hecht. You don't usually notice him when he's there, but you'd totally miss him if he were gone.

5. Brian Campbell - I admit, this is largely based on personality. I don't think Soupy is the defensive disaster some fans seem to feel he is - though offense is clearly his strength - but I really just like him. I like that he smiles all the time. I like that the players around him are almost always smiling too. And I really like that he always seems like he's having so much fun on the ice.

6. Toni Lydman - Can you tell I have a weakness for the soft-spoken, occasionally overlooked, defensive-types? Because I totally do. After kind of a rough start, Toni has been a rock. I also love his slow-talking, self-effacing interivews.

7. Ryan Miller - I'm working on a post about Ryan so I won't say too much here other than that I think he's an interesting cat. He's grown on me a lot over the last year or so, and I enjoy listening to him talk because he's so open and honest. And he is, of course, maturing into a pretty good goalie.

8. Teppo Numminen - I miss Teppo and I'm convinced the kids do too. Steady and soothing on the ice, funny and good-natured off it. Any old guy cool enough to go see Justin Timberlake with his much younger teammates is a-okay with me.

9. Dmitri Kalinin - I feel a very big sister-like affection and protectiveness for Dmitri. I guess I understand why other fans find him frustrating - he can unravel like nobody else. But I also think he's often the scapegoat. When he plays well it's overlooked, the second he makes a mistake everyone wants to put him on the first boat back to Russia.

10. Adam Mair - I do enjoy the way Adam usually plays hard on the ice. What he doesn't have in skill he tries to make up for with hard work. But again, I like Mairsy mostly for his personality. I loved him having the P.A. announcer thank the fans in Mair's Office for their support at the end of last season. I loved him saying he'd be back in Buffalo this season, no matter how much he got paid and no matter what his agent said. And I love him for actually following up and coming back. He also looks remarkably like the boy I had a massive crush on throughout high school.

11. Paul Gaustad - I like him for reasons similar to Adam Mair. Hard worker, willing to do what it takes. Definitely going to be one of the leaders of this young team, I think. Also a pretty handsome guy although the buzz cut was definitely a mistake.

12. Jason Pominville - I almost put Pommers in the ten spot because he's definitely grown on me this season. He's a consistently hard-worker, he's been important to the team from the second he was promoted, and he seems like a really nice kid. I'm trying to move past the whole puckbunny favorite thing, Pommers, I swear.

13. Thomas Vanek - Thomas is also growing on me. I think he's sincere about wanting to be an important part of the team for the next seven years and I think he'll ultimately be comfortable being the go-to guy. He's not going to be Alexei Yashin. Eventually I expect him to move up on this list, but for now, he's kind of hanging out in the middle. On a personal level, I was very neutral on him - didn't love him, didn't hate him - until the last few weeks.

14. Drew Stafford - I like Drew and I do think he's going to be a good player and an important part of the team, especially in the future. But I don't love him, not yet atleast.

15. Maxim Afinogenov - On the ice, Max has the ability to frustrate me like no one else. Why I can overlook Derek Roy's negatives and embrace his positives while not doing it for Max is something I can't explain. In my mind, Derek isn't as inconsistent as Max, I guess. I don't know. But yes, Max drives me bonkers. He has so much talent, but he just can't seem to get a handle on how to best use it and unlike some of the younger guys, he's been around long enough that he should be farther on down that road. He'll be great for a stretch of games and then fall apart and he's always been that way. Argh! Off the ice, Max is a total enigma so he doesn't pick up many points there.

16. Jaroslav Spacek - I'm pretty neutral on Jaro. I don't love him, don't leap to his defense. But I don't hate him, and even last season he didn't bother me as much as he clearly did some people. I will say this: Best interview ever. Between his accent, the timbre of his voice, and the speed at which he speaks, he is amazing to listen to. In that regard, I totally adore him.

17. Daniel Paille - I've really liked him in the past few games, but I don't have much of an opinion of him overall. I need to see more.

18. Ales Kotalik - Oh, Al. I want to like you, but I'm just over the whole thing. I'm over people talking about your potential. I'm over people talking about how great your shot is when you use it. I'm over hearing about how you can use your body when you feel like it. I'm over seeing you play lights out for a few games and then disappearing for the next stretch. I really need you to be more consistent, okay?

19. Nolan Pratt - Pratt's been on the team for about twenty minutes but I'm boosting him up from the bottom some for no other reason than the fact that he cross-checked a guy off of Ryan. Thank goodness someone is willing to do it. (Guys! Ryan is important! Protect him, please!)

20. Clarke MacArthur - I like this kid and his big smile and his little tiny curly head.

21. Michael Ryan - I admit, part of me feels like Michael Ryan shouldn't be on the team and that if he hasn't stuck at the NHL level by now, he probably isn't going to. But he's a fast little guy and he definitely plays hard. If he had a touch more skill he might be the leading goal-scorer because he creates a lot of good opportunities for himself and his linemates. I also love his accent.

22. Nathan Paetsch - Eh. Not much of an opinion here. Did I mention that I miss Teppo?

23. Jocelyn Thibault - I like what I've seen of T-Bone's personality but that's really not much. He has plenty of room to move up but I'm going to have to see more. Shutting out opponents helps though so let's keep that up, buddy!

24. Andrew Peters - Seriously, why is he still here? He seems like a perfectly decent guy, I guess, but he contributes nothing hockey-wise. Nothing.