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.