Friday, May 25, 2007

I'm a 'Tri Hugger

I don't know if every sports fan has that one guy that they kind of inexplicably like and root for even when she can't really explain why or if it's just me, but that's totally how I feel about Dmitri Kalinin. I don't know what it is, but I like the guy and the more people attack him, the more that kicks in. Over the past couple of years - this last year in particular - I've developed a strangely maternal protectiveness toward him. I just want to find him and hug him some days.

Here's the thing: I get why some people would like to move him. He's probably never going to be the top 2 guy he was supposed to be when he came to Buffalo. He clearly lacks self-confidence and no matter how much he seems to build up, one mistake is often enough to undo everything. The boy totally unravels. One mistake turns into a bad game which turns into two bad games which turns into a week or more of struggle. It's extremely frustrating for me, and I like 'Tri. I can't imagine how frustrating it is to people who don't like him to begin with.

I don't really understand how and why Kalinin has become the team scapegoat though. The second he made a bad play in the Ottawa series, message boards blew up with threads about trading him, about cutting him, about doing bodily harm to him (exaggeration on the part of overly passionate fans I'm hoping), and I don't get it. Yes, it was a terrible turnover. Yes, it led directly to a goal. But guess what? It wasn't the first time in the playoffs that a terrible turnover or penalty led to a goal for the opposition. 'Tri was one of our best players down the stretch. He was one of the only players not named Ryan Miller who showed up every night of the first two rounds. His diving lifting of the stick move against Ryan Smyth (I think) was one of the best defensive plays from anyone in blue and gold in the postseason. I suppose it's a cumulative thing - fans have watched him come undone one too many times now - but overall he had a much stronger postseason than many of his teammates. Derek Roy, a guy I usually love watching, was absolutely brutal. Jason Pominville mostly looked flat and disinterested. Can we give those two a little of the venom being spit at Kalinin. Please? It would make me feel so much better.

I suspect this is one instance where the female part of "female sports fan" really starts to poke through because I just feel for the guy. I like him. He doesn't do many interviews, but when he does he always comes across as very shy and unsure of himself. He clearly doesn't have the confidence in his English that the other Europeans on the team have. He looks desperate to get the interview with over as soon as possible. Like I said before, I just want to hug him and tell him how adorable he is. Is that so wrong, people? Is it?

This is why I can't do those player profiles many blogs do in the off-season. My entry on 'Tri would look something like this.


Struggles with confidence
Unravels easily

Quietly consistent
Improved offensive instincts
Adorably shy
Self-concious English speaker
Seems huggable

Hey, maybe I should be writing these things. Atleast they'd be different.


Becky said...

Next up - Jaro Spacek?

Seems to me that his numbers weren't that bad, while his +/- was pretty good. Plus, he shows up for optional skates, something more of the Sabres should look into, IMO.

Convenient scapegoat?

Heather B. said...


Talks really, really fast in a really thick, near undecipherable accent
Looks like Dan Akroyd
Solid enough play

Seriously, I think the problem with Spacek was the high expectations. He was presented as kind of a replacement for Jay McKee (not in "he's going to do all the things Jay did" way so much as a "forget Jay, we got this guy!" way). When he was signed he was also the highest paid player on the team and he's still pretty high on the list. For a guy who was supposed to bring a lot more offense to the team, I think a lot of people were disappointed. He had one point over the last 19 games of the season and a big fat zero in the playoffs, something that's tough to pull off in a system where the defense leads directly into the offense.

So I can understand people being let down. I don't think he was TERRIBLE. I just don't think he was as advertised either. Which is probably part of the problem with Tri as well. He's never turned into the top two defensemen people thought he was going to be and people can't let go of that and lower the expectations a bit.

I'm way too sensitive to be mean to be a coach or GM :-)

Meg said...

I just want to hug him and tell him how adorable he is. Is that so wrong, people? Is it?

It's so not wrong. And my Pros list would actually be rather more ridiculous than yours as it would have to include "Reminds Meg of her cat (although not as adorable)" and really, that's just an absurd thing to include on a list. The above should make you feel better about the "seems huggable."

This post made me happy.

Also, I'm relatively indifferent to Spacek, but I love his interviews.

Heather B. said...

This post made me happy.

Yay, happy!

Also, I'm relatively indifferent to Spacek, but I love his interviews.

His interviews are the most awesome of all interviews. My husband and I just collapse in hysterical laughter. I don't understand a single thing he's saying but somehow it's entertaining anyway.

Becky said...

Maybe Spacek & Kalinin just bring out the worst in each other, or fail to bring out the best.