If Chris Drury personified everything right about the post-lockout Sabres, who personifies everything wrong about them this season?
-- Bucky Gleason
This question was buried in the middle of one of Bucky's columns last week and I thought it was a really interesting one. Bucky made some good suggestions with Jochen Hecht and Maxim Afinogenov. (Although I do completely disagree with his nomination of Tim Connolly who had 47 points in 48 games, never shied away from contact, and was consistently one of the few Sabres to defend his teammates on the ice. Yeah, he seems like kind of prick, he has not a lick of leadership in him, he's overpaid and he probably hates talking to media. Whatever. Not everyone is leadership material and half the NHL is overpaid. Doesn't make him a bad hockey player. I'm already weary of Bucky's never-ending Tim Connolly watch. Believe it or not, Bucky, I really don't need you to point out every four game stretch where Connolly has no points. No, really. But I digress...) What I really thought was the most interesting thing though was that when I read that question, one person came to mind immediately, no thought at all.
That all went off the rails this season. The diving and whining have lessened considerably but other things popped up. I can't even count how many times I watched Derek Roy coast into the zone when he should have been backchecking. We could add up the fingers and toes of everyone who reads this blog and we still wouldn't have enough digits to count the number of passes Derek made this season that were stupid, too cute or some combination of both or how many times he tried to carry the puck through five opposing players. He rarely, if ever, accepts responsibility for his play and he never seems overly concerned about how the team is performing. I don't know if it's his size or his style of play but Derek's success relies almost entirely on how hard he's working. He can motor up and down the ice all night. He can battle for pucks even against guys much larger than him. He can play with passion and fire. But it seems like he spent an awful lot of the season not doing those things and when he doesn't, it's so obvious. His game drops off completely. He goes from a player who can energize an entire team to a guy who's barely noticeable. I don't understand it at all. I don't understand why a player who could be so much better is seemingly satisfied with just being pretty good. I don't know much about coach-killing - if anyone's ever tried to kill Lindy Ruff in the past, they've failed - and I hate to speculate on the relationship between Derek and Lindy (actually, I totally think he hates Lindy but I won't get into why right now because that's a much larger digression) but there were times when Derek looked an awful lot like a player who really wanted to get his coach fired. He's absolutely capable of playing the way Lindy tried to get them to play all season. So why refuse to do it?
I don't know but I do think most of what I said above could apply to the Sabres as a group this season. Maybe they're not built to win a Cup right now but they are capable of being better than they showed. They seemed content most nights to coast on talent even after it should have been clear that talent without work wasn't going to get them very far. With the exception of a few, they didn't give an honest effort on most nights and they chafed when someone tried to hold them accountable for poor play. They seemed to disregard what their very good coach was telling them even though when they did play his way, they were usually more successful. It's maddening.
So there you go, Buckster. Derek Roy = Buffalo Sabres. And not in a good way.