Wednesday, December 31, 2008

State of Affairs

So... here's where we're at, dear readers. I love hockey. I love writing about hockey. I love the Buffalo Sabres in theory. But in reality, I really, really dislike the Sabres. I do. I find them very un-fun to watch. I'm cheering for them because they're wearing Buffalo jerseys and I'm cheering for them because it's not enjoyable watching a team lose over and over but I'm not cheering for them because I'm invested in this particular group of players. I feel bad for me that they stink but I don't feel bad for them at all.

Last year I did feel bad for them so I'm not really sure how to explain the change in attitude since there wasn't much change in personnel and the changes we did make are ones that I'm absolutely fine with. I think maybe last year I was willing to cut them some slack. They were young and they were in new roles and there were a lot of changes that were very sudden. It was frustrating to watch but it made sense too. They didn't play well but they seemed genuinely dazed and confused and when they all stood in front of microphones at the end of the season and talked about how sad they were to not be playing in the playoffs and how they were going to really take it to heart, I believed them and I was willing to look ahead to this season.

Boy, was I a sucker. It turns out that the Sabres are just a bunch of whiny, entitled, lazy brats. Thomas Vanek can be excused from the discussion because he evidently meant it when he said he would be better this year. More often than not, he's played hard and it shows in his stat line. I don't even want to imagine what this season would have been like thus far without him since he's the beginning and the end of the highlight reel. Everyone else though? Can start walking out of Buffalo and not come back for all I care. Quit bitching about the media, put down your excessive beers, say goodbye to all the puck bunnies and start moving.

It's such a waste because I do still think this team has a lot of talent. Not enough to win a Stanley Cup which yes, should be the goal but certainly enough that they should be competing hard in the very average Eastern Conference. But no matter how many times they get knocked upside the head by harder working teams, the Sabres are bound and determined that they can win on skill and skill alone. They think they can float through 45 minutes and win in the last 15. Newsflash, fellas. It doesn't work. It didn't work well for the last half/postseason of 2006-2007, it didn't work in 2007-2008, it hasn't worked in the latter half of 2008 and I can tell you already (because I know you're not picking up on the pattern), it won't work in 2009. This is the NHL. All of the players are good. A lot of them are better than you. You have to work. You have to want to win.

That's the most frustrating thing about this, I think. I want the Sabres to win. You want them to win. A whooole lot of people want them to win. I don't think the Sabres really care if they win or not. As long as they can cash their paychecks and hit the bars at the end of the night, they don't care. We care more about them being successful on the ice than they do and that's screwed up because, as I'm sure you've all realized, we don't have any control over the situation. Only the players do. And the players suck ass. Even the players that used to work hard all the time have been sucked into a blackhole of lazy suckiness.

I'm tired of them. I'm tired of hearing, "We're embarrassed and things have to change." I'm tired of hearing, "We need to play better at home." I'm tired of hearing, "We have to hold each other accountable." I'm tired of hearing, "We've hit rock bottom and now we'll start fresh." I'm tired of hearing, "If you don't play hard, you're not playing." Hey, guys? I'll believe it when I see it.

This team has no maturity, no pride and no heart. What to do about it?


Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. During the intermissions yesterday I was watching clips from out 2006 and 2007 playoffs runs trying to figure out exactly what happened to the Sabres in the last 30 months. It's frustrating, but as a lifelong Sabre fan, I will still watch each game religiously; I'm just going to have to look elsewhere for entertainment. As a fan of the Coyotes as well, I'm spending a lot of time watching the Western Conference for just that reason. I'm hoping things turn around.

Jennifer said...

I totally agree, but as an optomist, I will still watch and still hope. Plus I own too much Sabres crap to give up on them now.

Heather B. said...

lalala, I had the 2006 playoff team on my mind a lot while writing this post. I was really talking about them when I mentioned not feeling bad for this team. When the 2006 team lost in the playoffs, I was heart-broken for me, of course, but also for them. There was no doubt they left everything on the ice and did everything they could to keep playing and I wanted to cry for them when they couldn't pull it out. Watching them on the ice after the final horn made me sad. Thinking about the injured d-men especially Jay McKee sitting in a hospital room made me sad. These guys, they don't make me sad, not for them at least. They've earned their failure.

I do think the current team's particular brand of failure is especially hard to take because of the 2005-2006 team being so fresh in our memories. That was a really special team and a really special year.

Lalala and Jennifer, I'll be there watching too. What can I say? I'm a masochist.

Chaz said...

I completely agree. Oh, and if you ever need a dog sitter, let me know. Marlowe is ADORABLE! But I'm sure you know that. =P

Jonathan said...

The Sabres aren't unmotivated, they're just not that good. Who do they really have that's supremely talented? Pominville maybe? Vanek is a very good goal scorer, but as we can see he can't carry the team by himself.

Miller's good, but he's not great and he'll probably never be great. Nobody's fault, but #30 is who he is.

Aside from that, who do the Sabres really have that has really displayed enough talent to take the Sabres beyond just an average team? I'm looking through the roster and I'm not seeing anybody like

Heatley/Spezza/Alfie for Ottawa
or Kovalev/Carey Price for the Habs
or Marc Savard/absurdly good defense for the Bruins
or Richards/Carter/Briere for the Flyers (when Briere is healthy)

Or Lundqvist or Brodeur who can steal games, or the obvious Semin/Ovie or Crosby/Malkin.

In other words, nothing that jumps out at you and makes you think this team should be tough to beat on a nightly basis. They're just average. They aren't horrible like the Islanders, and they don't have a messed up goalie situation like Tampa Bay does. They are average. They'

I know this line is played out to death, but they lost Briere and Drury. And this line is *really* played out, but they haven't really replaced them at all. Nobody outside of the Red Wings can lose their top two players and expect to remain elite.

(I'm not saying they totally blew it that offseason, because 2006 Briere is never coming back and Drury was good, but overrated.)

They aren't a failure by any means. They are an average team with maybe a 50/50 chance of going to the playoffs. Maybe 25/75 at this point. They may easily end up as a failure at season's end, but I think it's jumping the gun a bit to already brand them as one.

I don't know if this team feels entitled or whatever, but I don't think they are .500 because they are a lazy team. They are just a not-that-good team. That's not to say they are playing their heads off every game, but I think this is more of a talent issue than a heart issue. Lazy can win in the regular season if you are good enough. See Devils 2006 thru the Brodeur injury--winning all year while lazily relying on their goalie, then crashing out in the playoffs when they face a good team. We're seeing now that the Devils were perfectly capable of scoring 3 goals per game all along, but leaning on their goalie didn't stop them from getting conference seeds in the 2-4 range because they had talent. Granted, all of their talent is concentrated in one position, but still...I think if the Sabres had that kind of talent at any position they'd be lazily coasting to a 4 seed also.

And they'd look like hard workers because they'd be winning. But they are a game above .500, so they look lazy.

Meh. Just 2 cents. Go Dolphins this weekend. =)

Heather B. said...

Jonathan, I might agree that they're an average team without any elite players but I still think they're underachieving massively. Their scoring has dropped off the face of the earth this season with very little change in personnel from last season when they were one of the highest scoring teams. Campbell accounts for some of that, especially from the defensive corp, but all of it? Roy, Pominville, Hecht, Tallinder, Afinogenov, Spacek, Stafford and Miller are all underachieving or did for much of the first portion of the season. Again, them playing well might not make the Sabres a Cup contender but it would make them better. I do think they can be better and I do think they should be competing every night in the Eastern Conference which is very low on elite teams, IMO. Maybe they're average but they're not playing average hockey. They're playing poor hockey.

(I realize "I want them to be more average" is kind of a silly argument but seriously, be more average.)

Gambler said...

I know this line is played out to death, but they lost Briere and Drury. And this line is *really* played out, but they haven't really replaced them at all.

I don't buy this as an excuse, simply because the underachieving started while Drury and Briere were still here. I'm consistently surprised by how many people forget what an awful, lazy showing we had against Ottawa in the 2007 ECF, and really for most of that whole post season, if we're being honest. IMO that's when it all started, and it obviously wasn't because we lacked talent.

I agree with Heather. We may not be superstars, but we sure can play better than this. Pominville already proved last year that he doesn't need Briere to be good, so what's his deal?

This post is depressing me because it's true. I realized the other day that I'm still waiting for that moment when I fall in love with this particular Sabres team, and I'm not sure it's coming. It's no fun rooting for a team that doesn't want to win. Boo.

Heather B. said...

I'm consistently surprised by how many people forget what an awful, lazy showing we had against Ottawa in the 2007 ECF, and really for most of that whole post season, if we're being honest.

Gambler, I totally agree. In fact, I'd extend it to the last half of that regular season too. That team half-assed its way through a lot of games, managing to win with poor efforts because they were so talented. I won't go as far as saying the team doesn't miss Drury at all - they obviously need someone to kick their butts - but I do think the effort problem was coming to fruition even then.

Pominville already proved last year that he doesn't need Briere to be good, so what's his deal?

Gambler, WHAT is with your boy?! I have to say, Jochen is one of the biggest puzzlements to me so far this season. In the past, he always worked hard at the very least. This year he's just... kinda blah. I don't get it at all. It really makes me wonder if there are some chemistry problems off the ice or something. It's weird.

Mark B said...

I'm with Heather and Gambler - the Sabres have more talent than this. Just watch the games they've lost. It hasn't been because they've been out-talented by the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kovalev, etc. - it's that they look like they couldn't have a rat's ass about giving the proper effort.

This isn't saying we're in the elite class talent wise. I think we're somewhere in the middle. But with extreme effort, an average team can string together wins and overachieve.

M.J. said...

PREACH IT SISTER. I agree with everything about this post.


Erin said...

As I read this post I agreed with almost all of it but one name kept going through my head, "Pominville, Pominville, Pominville." I just some how can't say that he's lazy or doesn't have the heart or doesn't try. I don't know what's wrong, but I tend not to blame him, his effort, or his talent level.
Even at the begining of the year when we had the winning streak, something just seemed.........wrong, off. And I don't know what that is.

Heather, super cute dog! Congrats.

Jonathan said...

The thing is, Briere and Drury were asleep during most of that lackluster playoff run. They were GOOD during the regular season as a whole. So in essense, their play started going bad when they lost Good Briere and Good Drury (it also doesn't help Briere that playoff hockey is more physical).

People also forget that the Sabres lost two overtime games in that Ottawa series. The Sabres really didn't play well, but the series was a little closer than the 4-1 results would indicate.

My point is this: the Sabres needed Drury and Briere to be great. When they were, they finished #1 in the league. When they weren't, they struggled against the Islanders and b-a-r-e-l-y squeaked by the Rangers. Then they lost to the Sens, who were so good they got destroyed by the Ducks.

This team is playing "mediocre" right now and they probably have "decent" in there somewhere. If that makes any sense. :P I think that might be what you're all saying anyways. I'ma shuddup now.

But come on, it's hard to stay motivated when you have to wear the Buffa-slug almost every game.

Heather B. said...

Jonathan, all I'm saying is that even when Drury and Briere played well, the team was getting by with a lot of half efforts and I think they're still trying to do that now, not picking up on the fact that they're simply not good enough anymore. But you're right too. This particular group of players definitely need a Drury-like "I'm not your friend, I'm your CAPTAIN" captain/leader and they don't have that.

I do take the opposite approach to that Ottawa series however. I think the 2 OT games made it seem closer than it was. 4-1 is actually how the series deserved to be because that Sabres were TERRIBLE. That series includes what it still probably the worst game I've ever seen.

This team is playing "mediocre" right now and they probably have "decent" in there somewhere. If that makes any sense. :P I think that might be what you're all saying anyways.

Pretty much :)

But come on, it's hard to stay motivated when you have to wear the Buffa-slug almost every game.

On that we agree whole-heartedly. I'm convinced that's what actually started them on their tail-spin in 06-07. One of them finally got a look at themselves in the mirror and said, "Dude, have you SEEN this jerseys?! We look stupid!" (I'm kidding. Mostly.)