Saturday, July 28, 2007

O, Captain, My Captain: Why I Love Hockey Part 16

A few new people have been stumbling across my little blog so I thought I'd give a brief explanation about the series of Why I Love Hockey posts. I was dumb enough to start a Sabres blog right before the playoffs began which left me with a few weeks of actual hockey to write about before the seemingly never-ending off-season began. It turns out that between the Drury and Briere departures, the resulting meltdown of Buffalo fans and media, and the Vanek offer sheet among other things, there have been a fair amount of things to comment on. But before I knew all that was going to happen, I decided to pass the summer months by writing a series of posts about why I love hockey. Okay, I actually decided to steal the idea from Interchangeable Parts. But hey, it was a good idea. I try to make it a practice to only steal from the best.

This blog entry was inspired by my adorable husband Marky Mark. He's gone from, "You have a blog?! Since when?!" to "Hey, you should right about this" in no time flat. (Yes, that's right. Until a few days ago my own husband had no idea I was writing a Sabres blog.) He said that the captaincy is one of his favorite things about hockey and what do you know, it's one of mine too. So here we go:

Why I Love Hockey #16 - The Captaincy
Hockey is the only sport where every team has a designated leader. Oh, sure teams in other sports most likely have certain guys who head up the lockerroom and in some cases, there's no doubt who the main man is, but we don't really see them the way we see hockey captains. The letters stitched on the front of their jerseys - one C and two A's - put them out there. When things are going well, they get a lot of credit but when things aren't going well, whew boy, they have to deal with a lot of garbage. They answer to the fans and the media. They get the brunt of the criticism. They're expected to raise their games during the most important times of the season. They're expected to hold up under any pressure, to refuse to break even when the going gets tough and most importantly, to inspire their teammates to play the same way. Great hockey captains are truly the emotional heartbeat of their team.

I love how there's no one perfect captain personality. Some captains are loud, in your face vocal leaders, publicly calling out their team and guaranteeing big wins. Some captains look uncomfortable when they have to speak publicly and do it as little as possible, preferring instead to lead by example. Some captains are higly skilled players, one of the team's best. Some captains are grinders who've kept themselves in the league with determination and heart more than goals and assists.

I love how much hockey players value wearing those letters. When Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were out for games this past season, some of the younger players got to wear A's. Maxim Afinogenov is not an overly smiley, emotive guy off the ice, but when the postgame guys asked him how it felt to be wearing the A that night, he answered them with obvious pride. He knew it was an honor and and he was excited that Lindy Ruff and the coaching staff felt like he'd earned it even for that one night. Hockey is full of great captains, Stevie Y being the example that leaps to my mind first. Every player in the NHL knows the rich history of the captaincy and understands the challenges and joys of holding that position.

A lot of fans in Buffalo are up in arms right now because the Sabres lost both of their co-captains to free agency, leaving two letters open. Everyone is panicking about who's going to lead the team. It seems that a lot of people have forgotten that Chris Drury - Captain American himself - never wore a letter on his chest until he came to Buffalo. And even though he had won a Stanely Cup in Colorado and even though he already had his reputation for coming through in the clutch, Drury needed a little time to grow into the role of captain, something that he's admitted himself. I loved watching him mature and grow during his time here, I loved watching the team take on a little bit of his personality, and you know, I'll love watching the next guy - Brian Campbell, Paul Gaustad, Adam Mair or whomever - grow into the captaincy too. You never really know where the next great captain is going to come from.

Something About Me
The current top 25 most played songs on Heather B's iPod: Better Days by the Goo Goo Dolls (I listened to this a ton during the playoffs and haven't re-set my play count since then), This Woman's Work by Kate Bush, Savin' Me by Nickelback (shut up), Bobcageyon by the Tragically Hip, Must Have Done Something Right by Relient K, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Somebody to Love by Queen (we've been on a huge Queen kick at our house lately), Heaven (Acoustic) by Bryan Adams (shut up again), Wannabe by the Spice Girls (I wouldn't go see them in concert but if their reunion involves a new CD I'll totally check it out), Blackbird by the Beatles, You and Me Together from Oliver and Company (I haven't seen the movie since it was in the theater many, many years ago but I always liked this song for some reason), The Long Way Around by the Dixie Chicks, Beautiful Day by U2 (always atleast one U2 song in the top 25), Love's Gonna Carry Me Home by Pierce Pettis (if you know who he is, bravo!), Wake Up by the Fire Arcade (I've been getting into them a lot lately), Swept Away by Christopher Cross (I have no defense), Electrical Storm by U2, Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles (my favorite Beatles song), The Luckiest by Ben Folds Five (best love song ever), My Sweet Lord by George Harrison, The Lonely End of the Rink by the Tragically Hip, Oh! Darling by the Beatles (man, that's a lot of Beatles), Pachelbel Canon (in D Major) (I like to listen to instrumental stuff for certain things), Thirteen by Big Star, and Street FIghting Man by the Rolling Stones (also listened to in Sabres related fits).

Friday, July 27, 2007

I Love Derek Roy and I'm Not Ashamed to Admit It

Derek Roy and the Sabres came to an agreement, 6 years/24 million dollars. That's a lot of money right now, but I think Derek is going to be worth it, particularly by the middle of the contract. I was cruising message boards this morning, trying to see if the arbitration hearing had taken place and I was genuinely surprised at how much fans seem to be underrating Derek. One criticism that kept popping up over and over is that he had the luxury of playing with two of the most offensively gifted players in Thomas Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov. While it's true that they're gifted, I think sometimes those kind of players are tough to play with. They're quick and creative and not always easy to keep up with. During his time in Buffalo, Max has frustrated more linemates than he's flourished with. Plus that line stayed productive even when Max was out and Stafford was in so really folks, let's give Derek a little bit of credit, okay? I think his versatility - he can play on an offensive line or a defensive line - makes him more valuable then some of the younger forwards. He has the capability of being a strong two-way player when he's using his brain and he's already one of our better penalty killers. He's scrappy and doesn't shy away from hitting or being hit the way some guys of his size do. He totally gets under the opposition's skin. And for a team that is allegedly dying for leadership, he has a lot of potential in that area. He captained the Kitchener Rangers to a Memorial Cup in the OHL and is clearly an important part of the core group of guys. Don't get me wrong, Derek could definitely do with some maturing. I think he dove a lot less this past season than he did the previous season but he still goes down a little too easily sometimes (although let's also keep in mind that he is tiny and sometimes tiny people get knocked down). And he definitely needs to quit with the whining about every call/non-call he doesn't like. He lets that stuff bother him too much and he starts taking stupid penalties. But I think maturity will come. He's 24 years old and he's only been in the league for three years. He's gotten noticeably better every year and I think he still has some room to grow. If salaries keep going up or even stay where they are now, four million for Derek is going to be a good deal. As much as he frustrates me sometimes, I love watching Derek play and I'm glad he'll be around for a while.

After putzing around on the ol' internet for a few minutes, I can't believe how many people are complaining about this deal. People were moaning and groaning about the lack of foresight management had about Briere and Drury but now that the ownership is taking a chance on a young player and locking him up long-term, the same people are moaning and groaning about it. What exactly will make you guys happy? Anything? Is every deal from here on out going to be greeted with complaints like, "I can't believe they wouldn't give Briere 5 million/5 years in the off-season before the 2006-2007 season but they're going to give this yahoo this contract!" Everyone agreed last off-season that 5 million for Briere was ridiculous. Everyone agrees this off-season that 7 million for Briere was ridiculous. Derek's deal in the current market is much more reasonable and has far more upside that either of the Briere contracts did in their markets. I really feel like it's time we moved past comparing everything to two guys who are not on the team anymore. Is Buffalo always like this in the off-season or am I just noticing?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Grammatical Note

Someone brought this column from today's Buffalo News to my attention. It's full of mostly calm, reasonable points about Darcy Regier, Michael Peca's potential return to Buffalo, and next year's team. I'm not sure how to respond to this. My world is spinning off its axis! Well played, Bob. You don't want to be one of the cool kids anyway.

Note to writers, bloggers, and message board dwellers: "Resign" is not an acceptable replacement for the word "re-sign." You can't drop the hyphen in this case because it makes a totally different word. In fact, it makes a word that means pretty much the opposite of what you're trying to say. This really, really bothers me so please stop.

Tomorrow I only have to work one job (wheeeeee!) so maybe I'll get a real post up.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Why I Love Hockey - Part 15

I'm going to leave you with one last post before I dive into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm not going near the internet until I'm done because if someone spoils the end for me I'm taking them out with a vicisous - but totally legal! - shoulder to the head. I'm hoping to have it knocked out by Monday so work doesn't start getting in the way but we'll see. (Heather's official predictions: Ron dies. Neville is really important in the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. Snape dies saving Harry's life and he's pretty darn unhappy doing it.)

A really troubling thing has happened, guys. I'm beginning to warm to the idea of Michael Peca in Buffalo. I read the article that was in the paper today about Peca wanting to come back and he talked about being a third line center and doing the little things that Drury did like kill penalties and win face-offs and he emphasized that he didn't feel like he needed a letter and the article mentioned that because of his age and his season ending injury his contract can be structured with a low base salary and easily reachable bonuses that wouldn't count against the cap and there's speculation that he put the Rangers off because he felt like Buffalo was a better team with a better chance of success and that made me so happy and I started thinking about how I did really love him when he was in Buffalo and how he was one of the first hockey players I really knew and I think I'm totally losing my mind. I'm not completely gone. I still don't think this is something that MUST happen. I don't think Darcy Regier needs to do it to prove something - who knows what? - to Sabres fans. I still have some concerns about who exactly we lose in order for him to get any considerable amount of playing time. If Peca goes down and we've lost a forward, are we going to be okay with what we still have? But I don't find myself HATING the idea. Can we lose Peters? I'd be okay with that.

Why I Love Hockey #15 - The Hat Trick
If a baseball player hits a grand slam or a quarterback and wide reciever connect for a hail mary, fans stand up and cheer. Bor-ing! Hockey fans don't mess around. We throw things, baby!

I love everything about the hat trick. I love the little buzz that goes through the building when a guy scores goal number two, especially if he does it early in the game. I love when a team that has a fairly comfortable lead with time running down starts forcing passes - some really, really stupid - in a desperate attempt to see a player get that elusive third goal. I love the crowd going crazy when the third goal is finally tallied. I love fans in the 300s throwing hats down to the 200s, fans in the 200s throwing them to the 100s, and fans in the 100s throwing them over the glass. I love fans stuck behind the netting tossing hats to the fans in the corners and the fans there tossing them to the ice. I love the game coming to a complete halt so the crew can come out to clear the ice with their brooms. I love players skating casually around the ice, collecting little piles of hats with their sticks. I love the player who scored the hat trick grinning from ear to ear. It doesn't matter if it's a young kid doing it for the first time or a veteran who had never quite pulled it off before. I love his teammates patting him on the helmet or shoving him playfully. Most of all, I love that the hat trick celebration is specific to hockey and unlike anything in any other professional sport. When else are fans actually allowed - maybe even encouraged - to get involved in the field of play? We're so excited and happy for the player that we freely throw something we paid perfectly good money for onto the ice. It's a moment of a genuine connection between us and our team, a physical manifestation of our appreciation. It was one of the first things I really noted and loved about hockey.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


My husband emailed me a rumor that he found on a Sabres message board earlier today. Now I didn't read this particular board even when I was reading them, but I went to take a look at it and it seems that this poster is pretty well respected and has shown himself to be reliable in the past. If you want to read the whole rumor - it's quite a lengthy story - go here. But here's the short version: Michael Peca wants to come back to Buffalo. Larry Quinn and Lindy Ruff want him to come back. Lindy wants to make him the captain. Darcy Regier is reluctant but willing to consider it after a conversation with Peca. Also, Jay McKee desperately wants to come back to Buffalo. It's unclear if the Blues are down with the idea of dealing him, but McKee and his agent are trying to move something along, possibly involving Spacek. I was interested enough to take a look at the thread despite my ban - the things a girl does for love - and I was fascinated to find that posters were almost overwhelmingly in favor of both guys coming back. So what do I think?

I think you're all nuts.

You guys do realize that Peca didn't leave Buffalo last season, right? He's put a lot of wear and tear on his not-very-big body since he last wore a Sabres jersey. Maybe he fills some of the holes Drury leaves. He can kill penalties, he can play on a defensive line and occasionally chip in some offense. He definitely brings a toughness to the ice that most of our forwards are currently lacking. But if you think you're going to get vintage Captain Crunch - and that's what most posters seem to be dreaming of - I'm sorry, you're in for a disappointment in my opinion. Speaking of which, I really hope the part about Lindy making Peca the captain is crap. I know Peca has a history with the organization and with Ruff, but he means nothing to the players in the room now. Campbell, Kalinin, and Afinogenov played a handful of games with him combined. That's it. Why should a group that's played together for quite a few years now between Rochester and Buffalo be expected to suddenly take leadership from a guy who's just coming into town? And what's wrong with Ol' Man Numminen who is a veteran, a leader, and oh yeah, has a relationship with everyone in the room already? And this isn't even mentioning that Peca hasn't played since seriously breaking his leg in Toronto.

And Jay McKee... I think I've made it pretty clear in the three months or so that I've been writing this blog how I feel about Jay. I love him. I was devastated when he signed with St. Louis last summer. I believed until the bitter end that he would remain in Buffalo. Sentimentally speaking I would love for him to come back and retire a Sabre. I would love to look back in ten years and say, "Hey, remember that year Jay was in St. Louis? Me neither!" I really, really, really would. But even with my desperate love of all things McKee, I was able to look at his 4 yr/16 million dollar contract and say, "Holy crap, what are they smoking in St. Louis?" And most people seemed to agree with that. How has a deal that looked so ridiculous a year ago become something we should absolutely do for the good of the Sabres, the fans, and Buffalo's very existence? I know Jaroslav Spacek was a bit of a disappointment especially with all the hype he got coming into town, but was he really so bad that we should throw him over for a guy who gets paid MORE and played way, way LESS? Let me point out yet again that Jay McKee only played in 23 games last season. Twenty-three! You know there are 82 games in a season, right? Granted, he was totally snake-bitten last season. And for the sake of argument, I'll overlook broken fingers and stuff like that. Those kinds of injuries happen over the course of a hockey career, particularly when you're a defense who throws yourself in front of slapshots. But hip problems? Knee problems on top of all the knee problems he's already had? Those things are much more worrisome. Look, Jay had a fabulous 2005-2006 season. He stayed pretty healty and he worked really hard to make himself valuable in a post-lockout game that didn't exactly favor his skill set. But the two years before the lockout he played in 43 and 59 games and I don't know that, logically speaking, you can look at that great season while overlooking past concerns about his injury history especially at his price.

I understand where people are coming from. Fans are heart-broken about losing a couple of fan favorites in Drury and Briere and there's a lot of sentiment wrapped up in Peca and McKee. They both had some great moments here and they were both warriors and leaders on their teams. But these really strike me as deals that seem like a good idea now, here in the off-season but wouldn't look so good once it's time to play hockey. I don't know, I could be wrong. It happens once in a while.

In closing, I'll say this: If it's true that Jay wants to come back to Buffalo, I'm delighted. I knew he'd miss me! I'll bet he'll be pretty devastated when he discovers that I've given my heart to another defensmen but hey, it's his fault. Never should've left in the first place, Jay.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lindy Ruff, True Sabre

Why I Love Hockey #14 - Lindy Ruff
Here's the deal: I adore Lindy Ruff. It's as simple as that. I know he rubs some opposing coaches and fanbases the wrong way and I've learned to accept it. I'm not going to tell anyone, "You'd feel differently if he was on your team" because I hate when people say that to me (that goes double for you Ottawa fans who honestly think I could ever love Chris Neil). I will however admit that I will think a little less of you if you tell me you don't like Lindy Ruff.

Despite a few hiccups here and there - really, Lindy what was that power play about? - Ruff is a very good coach. He's tough. Who else would bench a rookie with 25 goals for most of the playoffs because he thought his effort was lacking? The only comforting thing about 23-year-old Thomas Vanek making 10 million dollars in the third season of his career is the knowledge that Ruff will be guiding him along and guiding him well. He'll be supportive and encouraging but he won't coddle him and he won't let him coast. While Ruff is tough on his players, he's also fair and loyal. Any player who busts his butt has a shot at getting in the line-up and sometimes he stays there even when the fans are second-guessing it. Adam Mair and Andrew Peters are partly still in Buffalo because Ruff likes them and likes how hard they work and play. I don't know what exactly it is about Ruff, but his players clearly love playing for him. To use a sports cliche, they would go through a wall for him. Even when I'm not entirely sure what he's doing or why he's doing it, I do feel confident that Ruff has thought about the moves he's making and is making them for a reason. Very few coaches manage the talent on his team as well as Ruff does. He seems to know what each guy will respond to. I'm sure he's disappointed - maybe even a little concerned - about losing Briere and Drury. But I know he'll show up for camp in September and love those boys to death, doing whatever he can to make them the best hockey players they can be.

Off the ice, Ruff is just as great. He's honest, sometimes painfully so. If the team is playing like crap, he'll freely admit that they're playing like crap. If the team is playing well, he doesn't hesitate to shower them with credit. He doesn't believe in beating around the bush. In addition to that, he's funny as hell. He's very quick, throwing things back at any reporter who thinks he's being smart or funny - usually in a somewhat affectionate way. (But he won't take crap. I kind of wish Bucky Gleason would show up at his press conferences and act like a snot. Lindy could chew him up and spit him out and do it without breaking a sweat.) He has a smart, sarcastic sense of humor, laced with just enough dryness that sometimes you're not quite sure if he's being straight or kidding around. I love it when someone who doesn't listen to Ruff all the time latches onto a sarcastic aside from one of his press conferences and gets all riled up about it while those of us who know and love Lindy are rolling our eyes and saying, "Oh, honestly. He was clearly kidding." I love that occasionally Kevin Sylvester, the moderator of the Sabres post-game show, feels like he has to say after we've cut back from the press conference, "When Lindy said X about Y? Yeah, he was kidding so don't email us!" Does Ruff sometimes go a little over the edge? Yeah, maybe. But he's a character and there are not enough characters in pro sports anymore. He has more personality in the tip of his pinky fingernail than most coaches today have combined.

But above all else, I love Ruff's longevity. He had just taken over the head coaching position in Buffalo when I started dating my husband and here he is, all these years later, still standing behind the bench. I love that when you hear the name Lindy Ruff you think Buffalo Sabres and I love that when you hear the Buffalo Sabres you think of Lindy Ruff. Players have come and gone but he's always stayed even this year when he probably could've gotten more money elsewhere. When the day comes for him to leave, I'm a little afrad that I'll discover that all this time I've been a fan of his more than I've been a fan of the team. Lindy is, when all is said and done, one of us, a real Buffalonian and a True Sabre.

I'm sure Lindy's thinking some really sarcastic things here:

Someone pointed out in the comments of my last post that I've kind of forgotten about the "Something About Me" portions of these posts. Sorry I've been neglectful. To make up for this oversight, I'll share with you all my best guilty pleasures:
-I'm totally psyched about Hanson's upcoming new album. I buy very few CDs but I will buy it and I will buy it without sampling it first.
-I Tivo Hannah Montana all week and then binge on a marathon over the weekend. I also know all the songs from High School Musical.
-I've read all the Gossip Girl books even though I hate pretty much every character in the series. And oh yes, I will sample the TV show in the fall.
-The one movie that I stop and watch in entirety when I come across it on TV is the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap. I own the darn thing and I'll still insist on flipping back and forth between it and whatever else I was watching.
-A-Rod has kind of grown on me. I hope he has a great season and then tells the Yankees to kiss his ass when they try to re-sign him.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Banning the Buffalo News and Why I Love Hockey - Part 13

For five days now I have been living a Buffalo News free life. I haven't looked at the sports section in the paper version or the online version and I haven't read the paper's Sabres blog. (I have been reading the rest of the paper, but I might have to give it up too. The TV critic keeps sneaking in references to Darcy Regier and Mary Kunz's stupid complaints about the library system bugged me. How long do you want the library to let you keep things, Mary? And have you ever heard of renewing materials? And did you know that the library will email you to let you know your items are almost due? If all of that is over your head you should a) deal with it and pay your fines or b) use a bookstore.) I also deleted all the Sabres message boards from my favorite places though I will probably wander back to them once the endless debates about who screwed up the Drury/Briere situation and who's fit to wear a letter die down. For the past five days I've read Bfloblog and Sabre Rattling and enjoyed conversation with fellow Sabres fans here and at Interchangeable Parts. That's it. And man, am I loving it. My husband tried to tell me about something Bucky Gleason said about Jay McKee in today's paper and I wouldn't listen even though, I'll admit I was a little bit intrigued. Knowing Bucky though it probably had something to do with the Sabres missing the chance to get Jay at a reduced rate before UFA started last off-season.

Why I Love Hockey #13 - Line-Up Flexibility and Debatability
Football, basketball, and baseball are all pretty easy when it comes to setting the line-up. You put the best players on the field as much as possible. In football you might have a guy you want in certain situations. In basketball you might have a group of guys who work particularly well together. In baseball you can play around with the batting order some. But that's it. Deciding on offensive lines and defensive pairings in hockey are a lot more work just because there are endless possibilities. It's not as easy as throwing out a center and two wings and letting them go. Do the players' styles mesh? Are they going to work well together or drive each other crazy? Are they going to bring out the best in each other or the worst? Who a player is lined up with can change his role on the ice. If Derek Roy is centering Maxim Afinogenov and Thomas Vanek, there's more emphasis on his offensive game. If he's playing the wing with Chris Drury and Jochen Hecht he's going to be required to play more of a shut-down defensive game. Where's he more valuable during this game against this opponent? When a line is struggling do you blow it up and re-shuffle everyone or do you let them muddle through and hope they get their mojo back? What happens when someone is injured? (Oh, cruel injuries!) Do you try to fill the gap with as little movement as possible among the forward lines and defensive pairings or do you play musical chairs and move everyone around? So, so much for a coach to think about and worry about. But when you find that magic mix that just seems to work - see Vanek-Roy-Afinogenov last season and Tallinder-Lydman the past couple of seasons - man, it is a thing of beauty. I love seeing one guy put a pass in the right spot just before his teammate is there. You're sitting at home thinking, "Who the heck was that pass to?" and then a split second later, "Oh, THAT guy! Holy crap, what a pass!" I love watching one defensemen peel off one way while the other goes the other way, each one knowing exactly what the other is going to do.

One of the most fun things about all the different ways to ice a hockey team is how much fan debate it inspires. Even during all the Drury/Briere outrage, every Sabres message board had atleast one thread devoted to what next year's lines should look like. Nothing gets second-guessed in sports more than how the lines and pairings are set up on a hockey team and everyone has their own opinions and their own reasons for why things should be done their way. It's kind of ridiculous, especially right now in the middle of July, but it's a fun way to pass the time and it's amazing to me how many different combos people manage to come up with, some of them total head scratchers, a lot of them making sense in different ways.

In keeping with the theme, here's what I think about next season. Feel free to agree or disagree. That's the fun, people!

Vanek - Connolly - Afinogenov
(I know some people are hestitant to break up the RAV line but I'm doing it for two reasons. One, I think you have to have your most gifted playmaker - Connolly - with your most gifted goal scorer - Vanek. Two, I think it became clear during the playoffs that as well as RAV played together, they often brought out the worst in each other. They all have a tendency to get a little too cute with the puck and despite their good +/- ratings, show some lack of defensive responsibility. When Roy plays with a Drury or a Hecht instead it's like you can see a light bulb flip on in his head. "Oh, right. Defense. I can do that!" And he can which is why I'd like to see him away from Vanek and Max.

Kotalik - Roy - Stafford
(Roy and Stafford showed good chemistry when Max was out last season. I love the chemistry between Kotalik and Timmy but I don't think Kotalik is consistent enough right now to play on the top line.)

Paille - Hecht - Pominville
(Hecht has been stapled pretty tightly to Briere's wing the past few years, but I've always liked his game at center and I think he's a really underrated two-way player. He's the most obvious choice to take over Drury's role as the shut down center. I'm tempted to flip Stafford and Pominville since Pominville would probably score more on a line with Roy and Kotalik, but for now I'm leaving them as is. Not sure Stafford is up for a shut down role yet.)

MacArthur - Gaustad - Mair
(MacArthur is obviously a guess since it's unclear who's going to make it out of camp. A lot of people have split Goose and Mair up over two lines which I can understand I guess - spread the toughness around. But I like the havoc they've wreaked together in the past and I'm iffy on either guy being skilled enough to move up. Maybe Goose.)

(Duh. Part of me would like to split them up so each of the offensive defensemen had a more defensive-minded partner, but these two have that magical, unexplainable chemistry. They play together in a way that they don't play with anyone else. Plus we probably need to have one really defensively strong defensive pairing.)

(Teppo brings a little defensive responsibility to the pairing. He can hold down the fort while Soupy is charging up the ice. Soupy played his best defensive hockey while paired with Teppo season before last, in my opinion.)

(Do with it what you will. I'm not as down on Kalinin as most people though he was brutal toward the end of the playoffs. During the regular season he was sound enough to play with Paetsch or Spacek.)

How many days till training camp?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Doesn't My Employer Know it's Schedule Day?!

Why I Love Hockey #12 - Schedule Day
Schedule Day is now officially one of my favorite days of the year. Is that a little bit pathetic? Perhaps. But I love the excitement it brings. Look, there's a new schedule! That means that hockey is coming again! It means everyone gets a fresh start. It's time to put all the disappointments of the past season - the bewilderingly bad power play, the lackluster playoff performances, the free agency losses - behind us and look to the future with the hope that this time - this time! - it's going to be different. Right now the season ahead is unwritten and every fan can imagine for herself how it's going to go. Thomas Vanek is going to live up to that big fat contract. The young players left behind are going to play with fire and determination. Brian Campbell is going to sign an extension and wear a letter on his chest. The team is going to prove the naysayers wrong and make the playoffs and maybe - just maybe - they'll finally go all the way. Some of that might not happen. Heck, none of it may happen. But the point is, right now it all could because it's a brand new day. Technically, it was a new day the second last season ended. But now with the map for the next season laid out before us, it's official.

I love printing out the schedule and poring over it, looking for little stories and interesting things. Oh, we play the Sharks! Bummer, it's in San Jose. Too bad, I would've loved to have gone to that game. We don't play the Rangers at home until February. Guess by then we'll know if they're playoff bound or struggling to force all those free agents together in a unit. The Flyers are in town just before Christmas. Does Danny get booed or cheered? And is it possible to boo Danny while cheering Marty? Marty! First month or so of the season looks pretty light which works out well for the team. I have faith in the kids but anything to help them get their feet under them is a good thing. And squeeeeeee! Jay McKee is coming home - if he's not on IR that is.

The husband and I are getting a mini-pack this season, probably five games again. I've been trying to talk him up to ten but we are trying to pay off our debt so he wants to do the responsible thing. (Boooo!) We're definitely doing the potentional Ice Bowl game on the first of the year. I love outdoor sporting events during Buffalo winters and it sounds like such an awesome experience. Plus I really wanted to see the Penguins this season so that works out well. And we're definitely going to the St. Louis game and I hope Jay stays healthy that long because otherwise we're stuck watching... well, St. Louis. Everything else is up in the air though. I really wanted to see Marty's return to Buffalo but now that Danny's in the mix, I don't know. I'm not sure how he's going to be welcomed and I'm not into booing returning players so it'll bum me out if that's the response he gets. We'll probably throw a Senators game in there while avoiding Toronto like the plague. The home opener is always fun. And it might be cool to see Detroit. Those Western Conference teams don't get over here often and there's no telling how much longer Lidstrom will be around. And oh, there's Dom! If he doesn't chicken out and make the backup play that is.

Is it time for training camp yet?!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Breaking News: Sabres Might be Okay!

Step away from the ledge, Buffalo! thinks the Sabres are going to be pretty okay next season. (Normally, I make fun of because I think it's funny that they're always the last website to update NHL-related stories and happenings. But right now I'm just happy to read something from someone who doesn't think the Sabres are going to be in Hamilton this time next year.)

Also! I heard a clip of Lindy Ruff on WGR this afternoon and he did say, regarding Drury and Briere, "Those are big holes to fill." But! He went on to say, "We still have Timmy Connolly who wasn't healthy all of last season. We still have Drew Stafford who's excited and eager to take on more responsibility. We have a pipeline of young talent that we think is pretty good." And there was more of that Ruff, I don't really give a rip if you agree with me or not attitude in his voice. So either the Buffalo News caught him in a particularly bad moment or they didn't tell the whole story. (Perish the thought.)

Annnnd, the local news just led the sports segment with a story about Daniel Briere buying a house in Philadelphia. Why, local news? Why? I cannot miss them if they do not go way.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Moving On (Please!)

This just in: Daniel Briere's agent says things didn't go down the way Larry Quinn said they did. What happened? Who's telling the truth? Who's not?

Who cares? Do you hear me, Buffalo? WHOOOOOOOOOO CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARES?! Those of us not directly involved in the negotiatons and talks are NEVER. GOING. TO KNOW. THE TRUTH especially since our local newspaper seems to be fine with reporting one side of the story without bothering to get even a "no comment" from the other side. No one wants to look like the bad guy, okay? Quinn and Regier have a team to run. Pat Brisson has clients to appease and, I'm sure, would like to get new clients in the future. Chris Drury and Daniel Briere want to protect their reputations. No one is going to stand up and say, "I am solely responsible for this screw up" which is fine because I doubt any one person is solely responsible so can we please stop trying to figure out who exactly is to blame? Are we going to rehash this over and over and over for the next 80 odd days until training camp starts? Because it's really starting to get on my nerves. Buffalo News make your point about management screwing up already and move on. Larry and Darcy, quit defending yourselves because clearly some of us love you and some of us hate you and nothing is going to change anyone's stance on that. Chris and Danny, I love you, I appreciate what you did while you were in Buffalo, go away and let us forget you for a while and please take your agents with you. Fans, deal with the fact that Chris and Danny are on other teams because NOTHING IS CHANGING THAT and see what you can do about enjoying the players who are still here. And please decide whether you're going to complain if management refuses to spend a lot of money on a player OR complain if management agrees to spend a lot of money on a player because you really can't do both. And Lindy, would it KILL you to sound a LITTLE excited about next year's team? Because it's not like you've been given crap all to work with. And Blogger, what the heck is your problem with titles lately?

Ryan, Adam, Soupy... Carry on. I'm fine with you and God bless you.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Bucky Gleason Sucks: A Letter to Bucky

(Blogger doesn't want to let me put in a title for some reason so just pretend the title area says BUCKY GLEASON SUCKS.)

Other blogs (Desperation Hockey and Bfloblog, just to name a couple) have already addressed this, probably better than I will. But I have to get this off my chest and hey, that's what blogs are for, right?

Bucky Gleason sucks. I mean, he really, really sucks.

It's bad enough that his columns are one-note. No matter what's happened, no matter how it came to be, it must be Darcy Regier's fault. No matter how good the team is, Regier could've made it better. No matter how much money a team threw at a player, Regier should've either thrown more or gotten him to agree to less. No matter why a player chose to leave Buffalo, Regier could have and should have stopped him. Bucky's been beating his anti-Sabres management drum loudly and repeatedly as long as I've been in Buffalo. Only he could take the lovely story of local boy Todd Marchant's day with the Stanley Cup and turn it into a lesson on how "real" organizations do things and why no Sabres player will ever, ever, ever get his day with the Cup, not in a million billion years.

But Gleason's behavior at the Sabres press conferences over the past week have solidified the fact that he's an idiot of the highest order. His "Is it possible I know something you don't?" was snotty and immature. His domination of the discussion coupled with him taking Regier to task for having the gall to interrupt him was unprofessional. Bucky, I hate to break it to you, but the press conference was not called so we could all listen to you talk. We don't care how you think Darcy Regier should run his team and we certainly don't care how you would do it if you were in charge.

And that leads to my biggest problem with Bucky Gleason. Maybe this would be somewhat acceptable behavior - somewhat - if it seemed like he had the slightest idea what he was talking about but he repeatedly shows that he's lacking in that area.

Bucky, negotiations are not just a GM making an offer. You don't just pick up the phone and say, "I've got a contract here for you, I'll send it right over." The player has to be open to negotiations, and guess what? Sometimes he's not. Sometimes, like Vanek, he knows there are other offers coming down the pike and he wants to see what they are. Sometimes he knows he's close to UFA status and he wants to see what other teams are willing to offer. Sometimes he knows he's just blossoming and doesn't want to commit to a long-term contract at a lower price. Players know what they're worth and what they're going to be worth and if they don't, their agents sure as heck do. There are many, many details that go into a negotiation and I don't know, something tells me Regier has more experience here than you.

Bucky, just because a guy tells you later that he would've signed back then for less money, doesn't make it so. I have no doubt that some players are sincere - or think they're sincere - when they say that, but it's awful easy for a guy to say, after he's signed a shiny, new contract somewhere else, that he would've taken less from his old team. Come on. Stop acting like players are sentimental and unselfish. They are, more often than not, looking out for number one.

Bucky, big names are not necessarily the best signings and I'm not sure you understand the players you're harping about. You can throw Sheldon Souray's physical stats around all you want, that's not going to make him something he's not. Despite his size, he's not a physical, gritty defenseman and you seem to be under the impression that he is. Heck, Bucky, some nights he's barely a defenseman. His shot is all over the place. He turns over the puck a lot. He doesn't carry the puck well. Maybe his willingness to shoot from the point helps the powerplay, but Souray doesn't bring much to the table that we don't already have. Bucky, if you were a GM your team would be the New York Rangers. "Oooh, I've heard of that guy. He MUST be good. Sign him up! The more expensive the better, right?"

Sekera deserves a spot on the Sabres over Teppo Numminen? Give me a break. Teppo's old, I get it. Why would you bring in a veteran player (which you seem insistent that we do since Drury and Briere evidently experienced the last two years all by themselves) who might not produce and might not mesh with the team when you have Numminen who you know will produce to a certain level and who the kids on the team respect if not flat out adore? I mean, have you listened to Brian Campbell talk about Teppo? It's adorable. And I don't know if you've been paying attention, but salaries have gone a little crazy over the past week or so. Two point six million for a little veteran presence, some continuity in the room, and a very dependable, if unspectacular, defenseman seems like a pretty a-okay deal to me.

Bucky, at some point the players have to play. Darcy Regier put an awesome team together last season, one that absolutely could've won the Stanley Cup. I don't know what happened in the postseason, but I do know one thing - Regier can't be blamed for the debacle that was Game 3 of the ECF, the worst of a string of lackluster efforts. But I suppose the players on your team would always, always play to the very best of their abilities.

Bucky, Darcy Regier has been the GM of the Sabres for ten years now. Despite the fact that he's in a small market and despite the fact that he works with a bunch of idiot GMs who are constantly shooting themselves in the feet and doing more harm to the market than good, he's put good team after good team on the ice. Larry Quinn said it today - there's only one team in the NHL that's made it to the conference finals more in that time period than the Sabres. In a market that's all over the place with players moving here and there, that's pretty impressive. Doesn't there come a point where even you have to admit Regier might have SOME idea what he's doing? The fact that you refuse to do so is the ultimate example of how little about hockey you really know.

In closing, Bucky Gleason sucks.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Why I Love Hockey - Part 11

Why I Love Hockey #11 - The Sounds of the Game
No sport has as many amazing and distinctive sounds as hockey. Baseball comes closest with the crack of the bat meeting the ball just right and a flaming fastball slamming into a mitt, but even baseball doesn't beat hockey. Hockey has sticks rapping off the ice and each other as players fight for the puck. It has bodies crashing against the boards and boards clattering for a few seconds after the impact. It has skate blades swishing through the ice. It has the bang of a puck against the boards and all the different sounds a puck can make when it bounces off the goalpost depending on where and how it hits - clang, clunk, and my personal favorite, ping! It might drive my husband crazy but when the puck makes any kind of distinctive noise off a post, I spend the next 45 seconds doing my best imitation. Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Hockey also has the blaring goal horns - some arenas more blaringly annoying than others. It has the tweeting of the referees's whistles. It has players tapping their sticks against the ice to call for a pass and the goalie slamming his stick against the ice to alert his teammates to the man coming out of the penalty box. I love Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorenz, but I would happily listen to stretches of hockey games without any announcers at all. Nothing but the beautiful, recognizable sounds of the best game in the world.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why I Love Hockey - Part 10

Why I Love Hockey #10 - Street Hockey
When I first moved to Buffalo I was fascinated by the number of kids who played hockey in the street and in their driveways. I know that sounds ridiculous to people who grew up in hockey areas but I didn't hold a hockey stick in my hands until I was 19-years-old and I was a pretty athletic, sports-obssessed kid. It's safe to say that when I was a child, kids in Alabama did not play hockey. I would sit out in the yard of the apartment we were renting at the time with a book and just watch for hours. I loved it. I loved that a whole group of kids would congregate every day and play a game and if for some reason the whole gang couldn't come, a couple of kids would just shoot around. I loved that they all had jerseys or t-shirts of their favorite players and I loved that they were all Sabres players. I loved that if they were short-handed they'd prop a couple of planks up in one of the goals. I loved the way they would, with a total lack of embarrassment or self-conciousness, call their own highlights, pretending to be playing with the pros. I loved hearing their little tiny voices doing their best Rick Jeanneret impressions - "He shoots, he scooooooooooooores, top shelf where mama hides the cookies!"

My husband has a big family - six siblings and fifteen nieces and nephews - and where one or more Bermingham is gathered, a hockey game is likely to break-out. I love watching him and his brothers playing around like they're 10 again (and moaning and groaning while limping and holding their backs a few hours later). I love watching my nephew, in the throes of a goalie phase, waddling out to net with full padding and a baseball glove. I love watching the kids laugh and celebrate with each other when they make one of the dads look like a fool with a deke or a great steal. I love watching the grown-ups pretend to be put out while patting the kid on the head as he runs by, little smiles and lots of pride on their faces

And I love playing. I go to gym with my class every day and the hockey unit is by far my favorite. Ed, the gym teacher, Kevin, the aide for the class who takes gym with us, and I all run around like we're one of the kids and I think we have as much fun - if not more - than them. We hack away at each others ankles, taunt each other good-naturedly, turn the kids against the other adults ("Okay, guys, under no circumstances does Heather score!"), and compare ourselves to our favorite Sabres and do our best impressions of Rick and Jim ("Dylan Francis robs him blind!"). You've should've seen me the day I shot from pratically beside the net and lifted the puck over the goalie's shoulder and into the top corner of the net. I ran around that gym screaming and yelling in a celebration that would've made Maxim Afinogenov proud while Kevin and Ed rolled their eyes and shook their heads and the kids giggled and high-fived me.

I think I love it because I know, in my heart, THAT'S hockey. It's not salary caps and free agents and players moving on to new teams and bigger contracts every three years. It's not fans calling sports radio and griping about what management has or hasn't done. It's not newspaper story after newspaper story about a deal that went bad and who's to blame for it going that way. It's not even really about finishing at the top of the conference and lifting the Cup at the end because let's face it, only one team gets to do that. Hockey is Max Afinogenov belly-flopping on the ice because he can't think of any other way to celebrate scoring the biggest goal of his life. It's the guys on the bench dropping their jaws and hooting and hollering at the amazing move Tim Connolly just pulled off. It's teammates passing puck after puck to Jochen Hecht because they want so badly for him to get that 20th goal. It's that little tiny smile sneaking across Ryan Miller's face after he just shut down the opponent during a shoot-out even though you know he doesn't want to look too excited. It's Derek Roy, Brian Campbell, and Paul Gaustad hanging around after practice and playing one-on-one keep away, shoving each other and giggling, just like my kids in gym class. I love that stuff. I love it so much.

The Sabres put together a little video to play before every playoff game this season. I don't have any idea if people outside of Buffalo find it touching at all, but I find myself choking up at the same point every time. It starts with the kids running around playing hockey and it culminates with the cut from the row of kids in their little helmets to the Sabres getting ready for a game. I think it gets me because the pros are the most fun to watch when they're still that little boy that ran around in the street or skated around the rink. In those moments, hockey is practically perfect.

There Ain't No Good Guy, There Ain't No Bad Guy

I've posted every day this month, twice yesterday! I'm on a roll!

Since this is a Sabres blog I suppose I'm obligated to comment on this story in today's Buffalo News. I find this... hard to believe to say the least. I can understand why people feel like management bungled negoitaions with Briere and Drury and yes, both situations probably could've been handled better regardless of the team's intentions with each guys. But Darcy Regier and Larry Quinn are, if nothing else, great businessmen. They reached an agreement with their top priority free agent and somehow overlooked making that contract formal? Sorry, I'm going to need more than an anonymous source on that one, guys. I'll believe elements of the story are true, but I'm not going to believe it's quite as straight-forward as it's being presented here.

It would help if this weren't the Buffalo News. They beat the "management is stupid!" drum so loudly and so repeatedly that I'm at the point where I disregard pretty much everything they say about Regier and Quinn. Regier has put together a stretch of quality hockey, consisting of some of the best talent in the league, and the News has never given him any credit for that. Everything he does is criticized from one angle or another - heck, the guy was criticized for being too honest to use Connolly and Afinogenov's IR status to his advantage even though what was being suggested was technically against league rules. The Buffalo News hasn't shown itself to be exactly unbiased when it comes to Sabres management so I'm not going to automatically buy what they're selling in this case. And for the record, journalistically speaking, there are a couple of things that bother me about the story. One, even I learned in a year and a half of journalism school that reporters really should get a source and then another source to back that one up before running with a story. And two, the story uses quotes from Chris Drury that are clearly about the situation in June and spins them to appear as if he's talking about last fall. That's cheap and irresponsible.

Here's the bottom line as I see it. This thing has totally spiraled. Everyone wants to find someone to blame, someone to turn into the bad guy and I'm just not sure there really is a bad guy here. Everyone was right, everyone was wrong. Everyone wanted something and didn't get it. Drury and Briere are gone, they're not coming back, let's move on and focus on the guys who are still here because one thing Darcy isn't wrong about is that there's still an excellent group of young talent in Buffalo. And honestly, part of me can't believe we're this upset about missing out on the chance to pay a guy who has averaged 23 goals and 58 points over the course of his career 7 million dollars. I understand that there are other things Drury brings to the ice and the lockerroom but that's a lot of dough.

To quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Why I Love Hockey Even Though The Sky Is Falling and Hockey as We Know It In Buffalo Is Forever Gone

I'm going to take a break from being exasperated with Buffalo and move on to the next part in my exciting semi-daily series, WHY I LOVE HOCKEY.

Why I Love Hockey #9 - Girlfriends

I never really had girlfriends growing up. I had friends who were girls, I guess, but I didn't really have that little group of friends that I hung out with on the weekends and did everything with. There were a few different reasons for this. I played on traveling softball teams starting in junior high so I wasn't around for the summer, the time when most teenagers do their socializing. I was a total tomboy so girly things didn't really appeal to me. And quite honestly, i Just didn't like girls. I found boys much easier to spend time with and form relationships with.

Two years ago, I accidentally discovered that Sue, the nurse at my school was a huge Sabres fan. After that, she would often sit at our table during breakfast or lunch and talk hockey with me and Monica, the teacher I worked with at the time, who was also a big hockey fan (though she claims to be a fan of the Sabres AND the Islanders). One morning near the end of the season, Sue decided the three of us should go to a game together and for a while we all said, "Yeah, that would be great" and did nothing. But one day Sue sat down at our table with a schedule and we all agreed on a date to see the Sabres and the Bruins. I think we were all a little nervous about actually doing this. I had been in the same classroom with Monica for a couple of years at that point and I loved working with her and knew we had a lot in common, but we'd never spent time with each other outside of the classroom. And Sue and I had really just moved past the, "Here's Jason for his meds" phase of our relationship.

Well, it's a good thing we went to that game. First of all, the Sabres were in the middle of a seven game losing skid going into the end of the season. We were there to right the ship and after that night they turned things around, went into the postseason on a strong note, and flew through the playoffs until defensemen started losing limbs and stuff. Second of all, and more importantly, we had a freakin' blast yelling at players, cheering our favorites, dancing in the aisles, talking about how the guy next to us looked just like Caesar Romero - we still talk about poor Caesar - and celebrating like 12-year-olds when we got in the jumbotron. We had so much that this past season we went to three games together - four if you count the one just Monica and I went to - and added another co-worker to the crew. Best game of the year? The Ottawa brawl game which featured me jumping up and down and screaming, "Goalie fight! Goalie fight! Oh, my God Marty protect your eyes!" I came home that night, threw open the door, and yelled, "I think I have girlfriends!"

Listen, I like fitting in with the boys. I like jumping into a hockey conversation with something halfway intelligent and having a guy look at me like I suddenly started speaking in Mandarin. But sometimes it's weary trying to convince male fans that yes, I do have a vague notion what I'm talking about. I'm surprised the idiot who had the nerve to look at the Tallinder jersey I was wearing on Sabres Day at the grocery store and say, "Ha! Borrowed the husband's jersey for the day, huh?" didn't file a complaint against me but geez, what an idiot. Part of me understands why boys jump to dumb conclusions - I think hockey is the only sport that actually has a name for air-headed girls who only watch for the cute boys - but sometimes a girl just gets tired of trying to prove herself, you know? It's nice to be able to discuss line combinations AND how handsome said lines are without getting defensive. It's nice to like a player just because he's a good-natured redhead and have someone else nod and totally understand. It's nice to be able to cry about your favorite player leaving without hearing, "Well, you know his production is easily replaceable and he was really overpaid." I don't need answers and solutions! I need sympathy and pats on the back and assurances that Jay McKee will never, ever forget me! Not that I'm thinking of any specific situation or anything.

I hate to be all anti-feminist or whatever but guys and girls are different. We look at the games differently, we see different things, we feel differently about players for different reasons. Thank God for the gang at HLoG. Thank God for the commenters over at Interchangeable Parts. I love my boys and always will, but it's been nice to get the female point-of-view while making some really awesome friends in the process.

(For anyone wondering, I am not in the photo.)

Dear Buffalo...

Dear Buffalo,


Seriously, you people are killing me. Put down the telephones and turn off the sports radio. Kill the TV. Step away from the message boards. Take a few deep breaths. Relax.

Does it stink that we lost both of our top free agents and the faces of the franchise? Yes, it does. Will the absence of Chris and Danny next year affect the team on the ice? Yes, it probably will. Will the team look different next year than it did this past year? Yes, obviously it will. It boils down to this: The Sabres didn't want Danny, Chris didn't want the Sabres. It stinks and we the fans are left with huge holes in our hearts.

But it's not the end of the world.

Repeat after me. It's not the end of the world.

The Sabres still have a lot of young, still developing talent. They had four 30 goal scorers last year and a slew of guys who scored in the 20s. Most of those guys are still here. Did playing with Daniel Briere make Jason Pominville a better hockey player? Possibly. But I think he's played with enough different people over the last year and a half to show that he's also just a pretty good little hockey player. Oh, and let's not forget that string-bean between the pipes, the guy that's on the edge of being one of the best goalies in the NHL. He's pretty good too.

It's a different core than the team had three years ago, but you know what, THAT core was different than the one three years before that. It stinks for us, but it's the way of professional sports. Guys change teams and teams get different looks. We've survived the changing of the guard before and we'll survive it this time time too.

And you know what? I like this core. They seem to like each other and they seem to enjoy being together. I have a feeling that they're going to pull together and fight like hell next season, if for no other reason than to show everyone that there was more to the team than Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Will they win the Stanley Cup? They might not. But they might. You never know. Most people agree that there was some kind of breakdown in team chemistry last season and most people seem to feel like that's why Drury and Briere left. But maybe the guys leaving will take the bad juju with them. Just because they're the veterans and the faces of the franchise doesn't mean they're in the right.

And as for the matter of what we're going to do about the "C", I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to slap it on a young guy who's never worn it before and we're going to ask him to grow into it. Just like we did with Chris Drury.

Am I being naive and optimistic? Maybe. But I'm fine with that. It'll be okay. It will. I promise.

Heather B.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Free Agency Sucks (e5)

Let me say, for the record, I'm mostly on Darcy's side here since that seems to be what all of Buffalo is talking about right now. I think we can all agree that the non-negotiating during the season needs to stop and yes, it might be nice if the team would think about extending contracts before they actually expire. But Daniel Briere and Chris Drury both got ridiculous contracts and while we maybe could've afforded to keep one of them at that price, it seems pretty apparent they wanted to both stay or both leave. (Which begs the question, why so insistent on playing here together while being perfectly fine playing elsewhere separately, fellas?) In the end, it seems like the Sabres didn't really want to go all out to keep Danny and Chris didn't really want to stay that much. And while it stinks to lose so much leadership in one day, it would also stink to have too much money wrapped into Briere and Drury when it comes time to renew guys like Vanek and Miller. There comes a point where you have to decide where you want to put the money and I can't really fault the Sabres for not going to ridiculous lengths to keep both guys in the fold. And for the record, I'm not believing for a second that Danny would've accepted 5 million in January no matter what he or anyone else says. He wanted a raise and he got it.

I am a little taken aback at just how much venom people are spitting at Darcy tonight. I know it was a disappointing day - Chris and Danny were important parts of the team and fan favorites - but geez, they're not exactly innocent here and I can't believe how many people are leaping to their defense. There are two arguments that seem to be coming up over and over that kill me:

One, the "These Guys Retire Young and Want to Set Up Their Families" argument. Please. At my currently salary, I'd have to work 299 years to make what Danny Briere made last season alone. If he can't take care of his family on the 25 million the Sabres offered him, I don't know what to tell you, he's an idiot. I'm not going to pretend I wouldn't go to the highest bidder if I were in the same situation, but if that's the case, I also probably wouldn't say, "I'd definitely take less to stay here."

Two, the "Darcy Didn't Make Them Feel Apppreciated" argument. Give me a break. It's a business - or so the athletes say when it suits them. What's he supposed to do, leave post-its in their lockers that say things like "Good job on that PK!" or "Congratulations on the hat trick!" My boss doesn't walk around patting me on the head all day - heck, I feel pretty safe in saying my boss has zero appreciation for the amount of work I do - and I still get up and go to work every morning. Eighteen thousand people stood up and applauded them after they lost game five of a series that consisted of some really crappy hockey including one of the most atrocious games I've ever had the displeasure of watching and they're not appreciated? Gimme a break. Oh, wait, I forgot. Fan appreciation clearly doesn't factor into these things.

By the way, I'm so glad we had the lockout so we could avoid big market teams sucking up all the free agents and raising the salaries to ridiculous prices. It's really working out well. I'm glad the Sabres have a smart, fiscally responsible GM in Darcy, but it doesn't really do much good when almost every other GM in the league is an idiot.

More on all this later. I'm too tired and cranky to think straight right now.