Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We Must Accept Finite Disappointment...

but never lose infinite hope. (Bear with me, this one's kind of all over the place mostly because I wrote it at two different times in two different moods.)

Okay, seriously, that was the worst thing I've ever experienced at a live sporting event. I still have no idea what happened. Someone please fix our powerplay. If you can't, please train the players to immediately take a penalty so we don't have to play with an extra man.

My mood was not helped by the really, really annoying guy behind me. I'm pretty tolerant of other people. I know some people are just there to hang with their friends, I know some people aren't necessarily very knowledgeable about hockey. I know some people just like to scream and yell and complain. I'm fine with all of those people. The guy behind me was your classic know-it-all. The guy who says everything in that tone of voice that implies he's absolutely right even though halfway through the game he said, "Hey, is Connolly playing tonight? I don't see him."

Most of what came out of his mouth was wrong, but the kicker was the conversation he and his seat mate had right after the "This Day in Sabres History" video that said, "On this date in Sabres history, Grant Fuhr became the first goalie in NHL history to win ten games with two teams in one season after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs."

Seat mate: Cool, who'd we get him from?

Know-it-all: Edmonton. Edmonton Oilers.

At that point I wanted to turn around and scream, "ARE YOU GUYS STUPID?! THEY JUST SAID WE GOT HIM FROM THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS! THEY JUST SAID IT! JUST NOW! SHUT UP AND LET ME WALLOW IN MY MISERY!"

Before the game they showed an old Sabres-Senators game. Mark pegged it as a 95-96 game and when they flashed the date later it turned out he was absolutely right - April 1996. It was really cool. In retrospect it was far more entertaining than the game we actually paid to see. I didn't watch a ton of Old NHL hockey so it was very, very amusing. Mike Peca got hit with an elbow in the schnozz, no penalty on the play. Jason Dawe sent a perfect pass up the ice to a streaking Pat LaFontaine and the Sens d-man grabbed him in a bear hug from behind, lost his stick, ignored the stick and then hugged him again. No penalty on the play. Holy moses! No wonder skill players were so frustrated. He may as well have tackled Patty. Rob Ray had a kick-ass fight right off a face-off, sticks and gloves literally thrown to the side. Andrew Peters has been the enforcer for most of my fandom so I'm always thoroughly entertained by old Rayzor fights. He and the other guy must've gotten thirty punches in on each other. Their arms were just pumping like crazy and they were both bleeding when it was done and Rob headed for the tunnel, an ear to ear grin on his face. He also has this weird twitchy thing I've never noticed before where he nods his head over and over. I don't know if he's trying to adjust his helmet or what but it looks like a tic and it was kind of adorable. It was Daniel Alfredsson's rookie year so it was kind of neat seeing him as a young'un. But the highlight was 18-year-old Jay McKee playing in his very first NHL game. There was a close-up shot of him in the penalty box and oh my gosh, he was so young. And so, so cute. On the way home I even said, "At least I got to see Baby Jay."


Going back to Peters for a second, there's now a PSA for domestic abuse that's run during the games starring Andrew Peters. "I'm Andrew Peters and even though I'm an enforcer, when I go home I leave the violence on the ice." Mark, not in a very good mood, muttered, "It's not like you'd do any damage any way. You'd still be circling her when the cops got there." Now, I know domestic abuse is nothing to joke about, but I'll admit it, in the moment it totally cracked me up. Again, MUCH more entertaining than the actual game.

But here's my positive spin:

- The Sabres are going to miss the playoffs. It sucks but I stand by my argument that this might, in the long-run, be good for both the players and the ownership. I personally am going to enjoy the rest of the season a little more knowing that it's pretty much over. This whole on the bubble thing is for the birds.

- Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber look very, very good for as young (21 and 20 repsectively) and inexperienced as they are. They don't look nearly as tentative or overwhelmed as guys in their place usually do.I really loved Mike Weber in particular. I'm not going to say that Sekera is going to jump right out next season and match Brian Campbell's production but I do think he has the potential to be more well-rounded than Campbell and obviously he's going to be much cheaper for the next few years.

- Derek Roy played very hard all night and scored two more goals, putting him at 31 for the season so far. Not bad for a kid who some people :::coughbuckycough::: said had probably already peaked especially since he struggled for a lot of the first half.

It's not much to hold on to on a night where even Jochen Hecht was making passes to guys who weren't there but after a visit to Sabres Edge (I know I promised some of you I wouldn't go there last night - I'm weak) I will say this:

I'd still rather have Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy for the next six to seven years than Chris Drury and Daniel Briere for the next six to seven years.

I still think it was a good call to let Brian Campbell go, especially with Andrej Sekera in the system. If a guy can't negotiate a contract and play hockey at the same time, I'm not sold on him having the mental strength to handle a six million dollar plus contract.

I still think a lot of this season's failures can be chalked up to underperforming players rather than poor management decisions. Those poor decisions certainly exist but slightly better goaltending here, an overtime or shootout win there and suddenly the Sabres are fighting for the 5 or 6 spot.

I still think Henrik Tallinder is probably one of the most underrated defensive d-men in the NHL and I still think people who are still complaining about Jay McKee are nuts. If the deal includes a time machine, sign me up. Otherwise I'd have to say that was a pretty good call.

I still think it's promising that the Sabres signed Jochen Hecht during the season, negotiated with Campbell until they had to do something with him, and have made a lot of noise about signing Ryan Miller as soon as he'll let them.

I still think no one - no one - has the right to complain about Ty Conklin unless they were doing it right after he was not re-signed. Seriously, people, did you see his season happening? If you're nodding your head, I don't believe you.

I still think the Sabres are young and inexperienced with losing a lot and that this might just be a good thing for them. Not a fun season to watch but a season that might have been necessary for them as part of the learning process that every player has.

I still think I'd rather be out of the playoffs with players who still have room to grow and improve and salary space to add some missng pieces than be a 5 or 6 seed that still doesn't really have much of a chance at a Cup but is now up against it financially and committed long-term to older players.

I still don't understand why some fans are insistent that the Sabres are now doomed to finish out of the playoffs for the next five years. Minus Drury and Briere the Sabres still have one of the best offenses in the league. They have some pieces to work with on defense. They have some room to maybe bring in a couple of players if they feel the need to add on. They have a good young goaltender who struggled this season but who I think will be okay. They have a handful of very talented players who had "bad" seasons but will finish with pretty good numbers (Vanek and Roy in particular). They have a few players who I think exceeded expectations for them for this season (Pominville, Hecht, Paille). They have a couple of guys who maybe weren't quite ready for the full load this year but who showed really good leadership potential (Pominville, Roy, Hecht). They've kept some skill while slowly adding a little size and toughness (Bernier, Kaleta, Gaustad, Mair, Paille).

I'd still gladly buy season tickets for next year if my name comes up on the list and honestly I'm kind of annoyed that all the bandwagon fans will probably jump off in the year when I've missed three months of work and have no money. Thanks for nothing.

So while Heather B's hopes and dreams for this season may have died a cruel and agonizing death last night somewhere between nine and ten p.m. Eastern time, her hopes and dreams for next year and years to follow still stand. It's like Andy Dufresne once said, boys and girls: Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

28 comments:

twoeightnine said...

"

Well said. The only thing I can add is that I hate that we will miss the playoffs because that's just going to be more fuel for Bucky's shitcannon. And that I didn't move back to NY until almost the end of the playoffs last year. It's probably for the best and they'll realize that they can't just get by on skill and reputation without hustling and playing compete games. Two first rounders should land us a good big D-man.

Meg said...

I love this post, Heather. For all that I'm done hoping for this year, I'm really pretty optimistic about the future.

I think we have players like Pominville and Roy who really started to come into their own as the season progressed and have the potential to get better still by putting in a whole season at the level they've played at in the second half. I mean, Roy is currently 10 over his previous career high in goals and only 1 away from his career high in assists. That's not too shabby. :)

I expected Sekera and Weber to be good eventually, but I certainly didn't expect them to be as solid as they are this early. I think Sekera has the potential to develop into a really top notch defenseman.

And for as much grief as the front office gets, I think they've shown significant signs of learning from their mistakes. They need to do some restocking of the farm team and get their prospects in a healthier environment than Rochester has been this year, but I really feel that the Sabres have good things in their future.

coolman856 said...

I think that Sekera, Weber, and Kaleta have been the stars of the team because they are the only ones who have real heart on this team. I think that missing the playoffs, baring some sort of miracle, will absolutely be good for this team. It is always good to knock the chip off their shoulders that they have had for the last couple of years.

Meg said...

I think that Sekera, Weber, and Kaleta have been the stars of the team because they are the only ones who have real heart on this team.

I think that's untrue and unfair to many players on the team. I don't know how someone could have watched this team the last several years and not think guys like Pominville, Hecht, Gaustad, Mair, etc/ "have real heart." I know people are excited about the young rookies but things like that are totally over the top.

Heather B. said...

I'll agree with both of you. I think Kaleta has absolutely been a spark plug and there were nights when the team seemed to wilt a little until he was back on the ice. But I also think Jochen and Pommers have been the heart of the team this year which I'll be writing more about later. They both made goofs last night but everyone does. And talking about last night specifically, I think Roy was one of the few players who looked like he desperately wanted to win.

D.O. said...

Great post Heather. It's scary how much we agree about this team and how bright the future is. It's amazing how short sighted some fans and media are regarding the finances of the team. It is really important that Buffalo save some money for their young superstars like Jason Pominville and hopefully Steve Bernier. It will be interesting to see how they handle the Miller situation as well because he has been less than spectacular this season.

Jennifer said...

I agree that this team has a lot of great, young talent that has stepped up and helped to fill the gaps left by the many, many injuries this season, but this team also has a lot of young veterans that are growing and maturing and they will be on fire next season. They got thrown into leadership roles that they weren't quite ready for, but I can see where they have worked to fill these roles and I see them having a GREAT 08/09 season.

AND the 07/08 season ain't over yet!

War Penguin said...

Delurking to pipe up about Conklin ... honestly, if Fleury doesn't get that high ankle sprain, Conks doesn't have that unexpectedly good season with the Penguins. But even if the Sabres had re-signed him, I doubt he would have played very much, and he would have not had the opportunity to surprise everybody. (And, really, I mean everybody. No one in the Pens fanbase that I know of was going around high-fiving their friends and saying "YES! We signed Ty Conklin!")

I say this with all sincerity, even as a non-Sabres fan: hopefully, your team will not disappoint you next season.

ElmaGolf said...

Hi Heather - Shawshank Redemption is always good for dark days.

Don't be afraid of the Edge - I defied all them Schaudenfraud-lovers and actually ended up outing another "rational fan" (Matt in the Cuse).

"Vogl - It's NOT Working!!!!" ;-D

Heather B. said...

War Penguin, that's part of what bothers me about the whole Conklin thing. When exactly was he supposed to play all these amazing games in Buffalo? It would've been nice to have a more reliable back-up and maybe then we're not scrambling at the end of the season... but I think if Thibault/Conklin was the only difference we still would've been fighting to get in/stay in the postseason and in that case you HAVE to go with your starter. These are the games Ryan Miller has to win, not his back-up. Which is not to say he doesn't need more help just that he's the one that should be in between the pipes.

Thanks for your good wishes! I hope your boys have a great postseason for you.

Elma, there comes a point where I get kind of irrational (and feel totally ridiculous for getting to that point over a hockey team) so there are days when I find it's better for me to let the ranters rant and the jumpers jump and ignore the whole show. I'll be back over on the Edge eventually :-D

Meg said...

I'll agree with both of you. I think Kaleta has absolutely been a spark plug and there were nights when the team seemed to wilt a little until he was back on the ice.

I definitely agree with that. I don't want to sound like I'm anything other than delighted by the contribution Kaleta, Sekera, and Weber have made. Kaleta would be an even bigger contributor if the Sabres could do something with all those power plays he gets them. It's just the idea that the three of them alone comprise an exclusive group of players who have heart that I take issue with. :D

As a side note, having played in Rochester they, unlike the rest of the young Sabres, have lots of experience with losing.

Ogre39666 said...

Thank You for this post!! After last game I've felt like the world was ending. But your words have awoken me once again. We do have a bright future here and hopefully we can get the 'a$$hole' defenseman in this years draft that I think will complete this team. And by 'a$$hole' defenseman I mean the type of dman that the opposition hates to play against because they're afraid he'll hurt them (i.e. Phaneuf or Witt) .

Patty (in Dallas) said...

"It's not like you'd do any damage any way. You'd still be circling her when the cops got there."

This cracked me up, too!

Great post, Heather. I might have to come re-read it if the Stars don't pick it up pretty soon.

S.A.M. said...

well written, as usual, heather. There is always room for hope, especially with such a young and promising team.

we could go all year with the "what if-s?" but I'd rather look ahead and say, hey we've got some serious talent here that is just coming into their own and if they can harness it we could go places.

Pominville, Hecht, Gaustad, Mair, Roy, Vanek, they are all stepping up and they should be. it's a learning curve, but if the Sabres can keep the core of this team together (and Miller goes that extra step from pretty good to great) then the Sabres will have something special for years to come.

Everybody talks about the Red Wings and the big money moves they made (which were pretty few when you get down to it) when they won the Cup in 97,98 and 02, but what they don't seem to remember is when Detroit was struggling so mightily int he early 90s, with a young team. They took some draft picks- Maltby, Lapointe, McCarty, Lidstrom, Fedorov, Kozlov, and a few shrewd moves- Kris Draper for $1- seriously- Wooed Chelios away from Chicago, grabbed Shanahan for beans (dont even remember who was part of that trade but it wasn't much because he and Keenan weren't getting along in StL), Larry Murphy and Slava Fetisov were in there somewhere, nabbed Vernon as a free agent while Osgood came into his own.. sprinkle in a dash of Steve Yzerman and BAM- You have a Cup Winning Team.

Call me an optimist, but I could see that happening in Buffalo in a few years. Lindy could do that.

A solid backup wouldn't hurt though, to give Miller a litte respite from time to time. yes, he CAN and he wants to be a goalie who plays 70+ games a year but he's not quite there and it would make everybody feel a little better to have someone more solid than Thidbault (poor guy just isnt as good as he once was) to take the reins every once in a while.

and yes, I thought Roy played pretty hard last night. now if they could all play with the same level of intensity AT THE SAME TIME they'd be set. That has been a huge problem this year, and it just seems to continue.

And Miller should have been better last night and he wasn't. I stayed far far away from the paper today, didn't want to read it, but I heard part of it last night and again this morning Miller calling out his team but not offering any of the blame on himself. Yes, they should have been better in front of him but he SHOULD HAVE MADE SOME OF THOSE STOPS.

Argh. I'm done.

M.J. said...


I still think I'd rather be out of the playoffs with players who still have room to grow and improve and salary space to add some missng pieces than be a 5 or 6 seed that still doesn't really have much of a chance at a Cup but is now up against it financially and committed long-term to older players.


I cannot concur more, Heather!

Vanek's Hair said...

I like the post. I agree with a lot of it.

I actually think the Sabres are going to benefit from this season. Many of the core (Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Stafford) walked into the NHL and went to the Eastern Conference Finals. They have not had to struggle the way others had. So a rough season can actually help them. If a kid aces his tests without any work, he thinks he can always get away with that. A good a$$ whooping can be a good thing. I know from experience.

I really like Weber and Sekera. A lot. I understand that the sample is painfully small, but they still look good. For example, McKee and Campbell, both of whom saw ice time at young age, were far behind where Weber and Sekera appear to be at similar stages of their careers. I remember McKee looking like a deer in head lights way back in 1996 (Good Lord has it been that long?). Brian Campbell was a dumpster fire when he came up early in his career.

I also think the entire team stands to benefit from an offseason that is not filled with a constant drumbeat of questions about...OK, I vowed not to talk about them.

A veteran presence would be nice. THough I think the front office was pretty sure Numminen was going to provide that before his heart trouble. But I think people overstate the easy in which such a player can be found. Often fans and front offices alike think tossing a sweater on an old guy who was on a Stanley CUp team in 1986 automatically brings leadership to a team. Plus, the homegrown guys seem to be growing nicely into leadership roles. How would they respond to some dude my age walking into the room and telling them what to do.

Finally, I do not know why my sister refuses to utilize a "Hair Handle" But she has always been infatuated with Max.

Mark B said...

Nice post. I agree that we have a bright future with the kids, but I do think we still need some grit and experience to mix in there. And I worry if that will be added. Darcy has been averse to adding free agents (or players really don't want to sign here)and he's only made trades when he's had to. Maybe GM's are leery of trading with him since the steals of Barnes, Briere, Drury, etc., but I just wonder how the additions will come now.

That being said, I'd be shocked if we missed the playoffs again next year. Not playing hockey past April should shock them into giving 60 minute efforts and maybe we won't need to add much.

ElmaGolf said...

"Elma, there comes a point where I get kind of irrational (and feel totally ridiculous for getting to that point over a hockey team) so there are days when I find it's better for me to let the ranters rant and the jumpers jump and ignore the whole show. I'll be back over on the Edge eventually :-D"

Actually, I think some type of "earth shift" is happening over there. The ranters had their catharsis after the Ottawa game, and we stood up to it all.

Today, in the Miller Post - Tom tried to spin it being even more reason management killed the team. He even tried turning back the clock with the "year ago #1 Franchise article".

But you know what happened? People actually starting talking about what the team may need to do "GOING FORWARD"!!

Can you believe it ... "GOING FORWARD"

I have to say it again - "GOING FORWARD"!!!!!!!

I'd love it if some of the posters here visited the Edge, just to show Bucky, Vogl and Sully that there are actually some fans here willing to MOVE ON!

Anyways - "Andrew Peters, still circling" - Now that's hilarious!!!!!

ElmaGolf said...

Vanek's Hair -
"But I think people overstate the easy in which such a player can be found. Often fans and front offices alike think tossing a sweater on an old guy who was on a Stanley CUp team in 1986 automatically brings leadership to a team."

Thank you for putting it so clearly - I love fans that know how easy it is to "get the job done."

I'm still waiting for someone to define "spending what it takes to win a Cup." I'm not on the mailing list for the "Stanley Cup Store" Catalog. If you find it, I'll send a copy to Tom G. ;)

Vanek's Hair said...

Elma -

I want to gouge my eyes out every time I hear someone tell me, "This front office won't spend to win the Cup" or words to that affect. If spending more is all that is necessary to win a Stanley Cup, then the Rangers circa 1999 - 2004 would have won 5 straight Cups, perhaps challenged occassionally by the Flyers and Leafs.

Or that this was a "Stanley Cup team" that the front office dismantled. Really, the Stanley Cup team that won zero Cups?

But if you find that "Stanley Cup Store Catalog" let me know, I also would like a copy.

Kate said...

Or that this was a "Stanley Cup team" that the front office dismantled. Really, the Stanley Cup team that won zero Cups?

....and made zero Stanley Cup Finals appearances?

ElmaGolf said...

"I want to gouge my eyes out every time I hear someone tell me, "This front office won't spend to win the Cup" or words to that affect. If spending more is all that is necessary to win a Stanley Cup, then the Rangers circa 1999 - 2004 would have won 5 straight Cups, perhaps challenged occassionally by the Flyers and Leafs."

Gouge my eyes out, slap somebody across the face, scream at the top of my lungs "YOU OVERSIMPLIFYING WHACK-A-DOO".... I know EXACTLY the sensation you feel.

The Rangers / Flyers / Leafs response is something I have a "shortcut key" for when I'm on the Sabres Edge Blog - but the same comment comes up over & over & over.

It's usually somewhere in the same paragraph as the suggestion to "get that $6MM defenseman" at the trade deadline - with no earthly idea what to give up for him. Someone actually suggested trading Spacek (last year) for Pronger.

It's always so nice over here to see rational commentary from people.

Vanek's Hair said...

It's usually somewhere in the same paragraph as the suggestion to "get that $6MM defenseman" at the trade deadline - with no earthly idea what to give up for him. Someone actually suggested trading Spacek (last year) for Pronger.


Probably right after they came up with the idea of packaging Kalinin, Kotalik and Afinogenov for Ovechkin or something like that.

Meg said...

Or that this was a "Stanley Cup team" that the front office dismantled. Really, the Stanley Cup team that won zero Cups?

....and made zero Stanley Cup Finals appearances?


Oh, you sillies with your logic. Obviously if we had Briere and Drury this year the team would win the cup and, even better, they would play a full 60 minutes every game. Just like they did last year. Remember?

Heather B. said...

Oh, those halcyon days of Chris and Danny when the team played a full forty minutes instead of a full thirty. What I wouldn't give to watch the Sabres stumbling aimlessly through the playoffs again! It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

So Vanek's Hair, I guess what you're telling me is that "Vanek's Hair" is not your given name? 'Tis a pity. (I don't know why your handle tickles me so but it does. Apologies if I'm annoying you.)

You guys are the best. Every last one of youse!

ElmaGolf said...

"Probably right after they came up with the idea of packaging Kalinin, Kotalik and Afinogenov for Ovechkin or something like that."

I always thought it was a "meaningless cliche", but I literally "spit food out of my mouth laughing" at that one.

I'm going to be sure I enter this Blog without food from now on. Or drink - I don't want to test the "liquid shooting from my nose" cliche.

Vanek's Hair said...

Heather -

You're not annoying me at all. I worked long and hard coming up with that handle, and by long and hard I mean I disregarded the people who call me "Roenick" and went with the ones who call me "Vanek" when trying to make fun of my flowing, blonde (sometimes color enhanced) hair.

TheTick said...

^Is my given name. The 'Helping People' Tick.