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.