Friday, January 16, 2009

Odds and Ends

It's Friday afternoon, just before 5. I know everyone is just about done with their blog reading for the weekend but this is the first real chance I've had to sit down and write more than a few sentences since Mark left town. Puppies? Are a lot of work. I almost skinned mine and used her as a blanket last night. Anyway, here are some thoughts I've been bouncing around the ol' noggin. I'm sure this will be classic Heather B: long, rambly and completely unorganized.

- One thing I can say about the last handful of games is this: The best teams in the Western Conference are better than the best teams in the Eastern Conference. I'm not sure it's even close. I'm not going to commit to the idea that the Stanley Cup champion will come out of the West - one of my favorite things about the NHL is that once the playoffs start anything is possible - but I do think the Sabres are extremely fortunate to be playing in the East. They'd be toast in the West.

- I do not miss Brian Campbell personally and I would still never, ever pay him what Chicago is paying him. But I have to admit the Sabres do really miss having a puck moving defensemen who can get involved on the offensive end of the ice. I do want my defensemen to be able to play defense - at the end of the night, I think that's really their most important duty - but a little offensive contribution would be nice. Only one Buffalo d-man has more than 20 points (Jaroslav Spacek) and even he only has one goal. No d-man has more than one goal. I'll cut Toni and Hank a little slack since that's not really their priority but the d-men who play on the power play really need to be contributing more. I don't think it's a coincidence that the offense was jumpstarted against Dallas when d-men started putting the puck on the net.

- I've been thinking a lot lately about Ales Kotalik. I've been pretty hard on him in the past. At some point last season I believe I referred to him as my least favorite Sabre. This season I've come around on him a little. A team can't be full of superstars (too expensive) and it can't be full of scrubs (not competitive enough). It needs those middle of the pack players like Kotalik. He's never going to be a huge producer but he's on pace to score his usual 20ish goals again this season. There's value in that.

I've also been thinking a lot about his performance in the shootout. I knew he was good but I was shocked to read in the Buffalo News that he's been one of the best shootout participants since the league started using it to break ties. If you'd asked me last season if a shootout specialist was necessary I probably would've said no but I don't know, I might be changing my tune on that one. If the Sabres had been more successful in the shootout last season, they would've made the playoffs. If the Rangers weren't so good in the shootout this season, things would be very different for them. Those extra points add up. I suppose you could argue that a team that's hanging around because of shootout success won't fare well in the postseason since you can't play for the shootout then (and you'd better never be able to, NHL) but again, once the playoffs start anything can happen. Might be worth keeping Kotalik around just for shootout purposes. I guess it all comes down to what his price tag is. Right now I'd keep him over Afinogenov, Connolly and Spacek easily though.

- Thanks to everyone who emailed me to make sure I saw the Henrik Tallinder feature during the intermission of the Chicago game. I did indeed see it. I enjoyed it since it was Hank but I have to say, overall I've been pretty disappointed with the Sabres Show. I'm glad that outside of Goose they've avoided the players we see all the time - Ryan Miller, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville - and focused on some of the European players we don't hear from as much - but the interviews are all very similar to each other and low on new information. The Hank interview was a combo of the Kotalik interview (it's hard moving to a new country but I like it okay now) and the Lydman interview (kids are great, I really like mine). I'll probably have a more in-depth post later on what exactly I'd change about the Sabres Show if I were in charge.

That's it for now. Off to watch Battlestar Galactica.


Porky said...

I think I agree with you on Kotalik. Like you, I'm not his biggest fan, but all other things being equal, I keep him over Max, Connolly & others just because his success in the shootout has been so valuable to the team.

Vanek's Hair said...

Kotalik is a victim of expectations. People see his size and hope for a prime time power forward. People see his hard shot and hope for forty goals. But what is he? A third or second line winger. When you look at him that way, you can become very satisfied with his production. A second or third line winger getting 20 -25 goals per year is great production at that position.

Heather B. said...

VH, I think you're probably on to something there. Lowered expectations have certainly helped my opinion of him. It also took me a bit to get over the idea that the Sabres seemed to choose him over Dumont and I really liked JP a lot. I think of all the post-lockout former Sabres, his loss has been completely underrated. But I digress...

Meg said...

Well Marlowe would make a pretty warm blanket, wouldn't she? :D

The Sabres Show interviews really have been lame. Couldn't they be a little less generic? Is that so much to ask?

ElmaGolf said...

VH pretty much dictated what runs through my mind every time I hear the Kotalik complaints.

If Kotalik did what everyone thought he should, he'd be be making $7MM a year and playing for the Rangers.

20 goals every year and a consistent shootout specialist is not far out of line with his salary ($3MM doesn't buy what it used to).

Heather - two mentions of shootout stats in a week without spitting venom. Does this mean you've moved past the "denial / anger" phases and into "acceptance" regarding my favorite post lock-out rule change?

Vanek's Hair said...

Elma - Not so fast on the Rangers. They have, historically, shown to be more than willing to give give 20 goal scorers $7 million per year.

Heather B. said...

Does this mean you've moved past the "denial / anger" phases and into "acceptance" regarding my favorite post lock-out rule change?

Hmmmm... Acceptance, maybe. Shootouts clearly aren't going anywhere and like I said, they've certainly been important to some teams' playoff position. But do I like 'em? Heck, no :P

ElmaGolf said...

RE: keeping Ales over Jaro, Timmy & Max...

I'd keep just about anyone over Max now - especially if you're just marooning him on the 4th line. Ellis is doing a better job of earning $3.5MM (and he didn't get half his goals simply because he couldn't jump out of the way of a puck fast enough).

Not sure why people are so down on Spacek (maybe it has to do with his Zhitnik-like Slap shot accuracy). But, he's your leading point scorer on D (and 5th overall on the team). I don't think he's an absolute nightmare defensively and logs the big minutes against the top lines. But more importantly, he's a pretty valuable part of the Power Play. I did some analysis over the summer on last year's Power Play efficiency with or without Campbell (because all the haters assumed he did everything), and discovered that the overall efficiency without Campbell actually improved, except when Spacek was out for an extended stretch (right after Campbell was traded). Similar to Kotalik, I think he's a victim of expectations (again - $3.5MM doesn't buy what it used to). I'm really quite surprised I haven't heard anything about the fact that he's up for UFA this Summer. Given Lindy's feelings about "never having too much D" (as evidenced right now), I would have thought I would have heard more (heck, there were even "what about Kalinin" articles this time last year). Maybe they've committed completely to the idea of Butler and Weber next year, but I'd rather keep Jaro and have Teppo as an Assistant Coach.

As for Timmy, I wouldn't keep him at $3.5MM, but at any number <$2MM, I wouldn't hesitate (assuming he's able to play in roughly 30 of the next 40 games). Sure it's frustrating to see him on IR, but the only reason that's the case is because we all know what he brings when he can play. His pt/game is right there with Roy/Van/Pommer and the difference in Power Play with / without Connolly is pretty significant (the 0-7 in Chicago notwithstanding). Quite a bit depends on how the next 40 games go, but I wouldn't walk away from Timmy's future potential just because I'm mad at him for what he missed on the last contract.

Jonathan said...


I don't mind the shootout, but something must be done about them. Either scrap the points system and just go with straight wins-losses, or make regulation wins worth 3 points. Or something. As it stands, the NHL regular season is a joke. some games are worth 3 points, and others are worth two. Teams are rewarded for playing boring hockey for 20 minutes in the third, because then both teams get the guaranteed point.

It also makes wins less valuable, since 92 points is now equal to what a .500 record used to be.

Also, stop counting shootout wins as wins in goalie stats. No other stat category is affected by the shootout--it doesn't count towards GAA, save percentage, goals scored, or even game winning goals. The only individual stat it affects is goalie wins column (and OTL). Way to mess up the record books.

Heather B. said...

Elma, I'm actually writing about Timmy right now so you'll have to hold off on my thoughts there :P

I don't know why I'm a little down on Jaro exactly because I love him personally and would certainly miss seeing him around if he's not re-signed. Despite the high assists total it doesn't feel like he's really contributing that much offensively this year and he's not good enough defensively (though not terrible) to make up for that. He is leading the defensive corp but he only has one goal. One! I don't know. I'll have to think about that one a little further. I am surprised that we haven't heard more discussion about whether he's going to stick around however and you're right, you can never have too much defense. This time last week the discussion was all about how we have too many d-men and who was going to sit. A week later, two of them are out.

That said, I think Butler and Weber both need to be up next season so I don't know.

Jonathan, I've written about the shootout a lot previously but in a nutshell, it bothers me that games are worth unequal amounts too. Either go back to the tie system or cram the extra point. If you win the shootout you get two points, if you lose you get zero. Losers shouldn't get credit in the standings.

ElmaGolf said...

He is leading the defensive corp but he only has one goal. One!

Well, up until last night, that was as good as any other D-Man we have, so I can't hold that against him.

And even though it doesn't "feel" ike he's doing much offensively, the points are there (like I said, 5th overall for the entire team). His 22 points puts him only 8 points and $4.5 Million behind Soupy (just goes to show how far a Spin-O-Rama can carry someone in terms of "feeling" like they're contributing offensively).

I think losing him would be one of the "underestimated" losses.

But if you want to talk about not feeling like a contributor, I saw Danny Paille last night and said to my wife, "Wow, I forgot he was even on the team." Where on earth did Paille go?

Looking forward to the Timmy article.

ElmaGolf said...

Jonathan - we've certainly had the Shootout debate many times here in the past. Condensing my argument:

- Don't overanalyze it too much and just enjoy the excitement (don't tell me you'd have preferred Thurday ending in a 4-4 tie).

- The "bonus points" received for shootouts ultimately will even out in the long run.

- Realize that reports of the shootout's impact on final standings are greatly overblown (contrary to belief that the Sabres "missed out" last year because of shootouts, we actually had more shootout wins than the teams that we were chasing for those final playoff spots).

Heather B. said...

While I hear what you're saying about Spacek - overall I don't think his time in Buffalo has been as bad as some seem to think - comparing his goal total to the rest of the defensive corp is a bit of a cheat. Spacek should not have the same goal total as Tallinder and Lydman period. Just because the other offensive d-men are struggling too doesn't make it okay. But you're comparison between him and Campbell is a fine one.

But yeah, Paille. What the heck happened there? I know the 20 goals last season was a bit of a surprise but he's backslid hard this season.