I can't even tell you how happy I was when I cued up WGR's website and heard Doug Allen singing O, Canada. Pretty sure I let out a long sigh of contentment. During the latter half of the 2006-2007 season I was working part-time in the evenings and I would often go sit in my car during my break and tune in the Sabres radio broadcast. Sometimes I really paid attention and sometimes I leaned my seat back a bit, closed my eyes, and just let the sound of Rick Jeanneret's voice wash over me. Very few things are warm and comforting as that, I have to say.
While I sit here and try to separate what's actually exciting from what Rick is merely making appear to be exciting, I'm going to share some thoughts on what I want to see this season:
-- I want to see at least one or two of the kids stick with the big team. Last year some of the regulars played like guys who have gotten a little too comfortable with themselves and their place on the team. I wouldn't mind some fresh blood with something to prove in the line-up. Now we have a million d-men and a million and two forwards so I'm not exactly sure how to squeeze kids into the line-up but hey, that's what the hockey people are for.
-- That said, I want Tyler Myers to spend another year in juniors. I wrote a whole post about this during training camp that you should read if you didn't, but here's the short version: My primary concern is whether he's physically ready to battle night in and out with NHL veterans but really the whole tenor of the Myers conversation has bugged me from the beginning. I hate the "He has nothing left to prove in juniors" argument. Being really good in juniors doesn't mean he's automatically going to be good in the NHL. That's a huge jump to make. I hate the "What's it gonna hurt?" argument. For every kid who's jumped to the NHL and succeeded there are numerous kids who struggled and whose struggles set them back. While yes, numerous teenagers have been successful in the NHL the last few years, almost all of them were forwards. It's easier to hide a young forward's weaknesses and if he makes a mistake, there might be someone there to cover. If a young defenseman makes a mistake, it's probably leading to a scoring chance. At best, I think he's a serviceable NHL defenseman this season and we have a million of those right now. He's 19, he's a friggin' bean pole, defense is a tough position, and he's probably not going to be the difference between this particular Sabres team winning a Cup or not winning a Cup. I understand that with the cap system and earlier free agency you want to get kids in the line-up as soon as possible, but I also think if the Sabres are serious about Myers being a guy they can build around for years to come, it might be worth taking their time with him. At least let the kid fill out some.
(For those of you thinking this is about protecting Hank's spot, it isn't. Well, okay, it kind of is. But it's really more about Mike Weber. If any defenseman sticks in Buffalo, I think it should be him especially if you want to make the defensive corp more physical. There's no way Myers is more NHL-ready than Weber. And yes, I confidently say this having seen not one second of preseason hockey. Because that's what bloggers do.)
(Also, if anyone can explain the NHL or WHL rule, I'd love to hear it. I don't really understand why a kid who can play in the NHL can't play in the AHL.)
-- If Tyler Myers does play in Buffalo this year, I want to be wrong about him. I hope he's a stud from day one.
-- I want to see the Sabres play in another city. While my trip to D.C. ended up changing quite a bit from the initial plan, I had a blast. I really enjoyed seeing a different building and a different crowd and a little bit of a different city. And with no intended offesne to Kate, who was going to be my travel partner when the trip was first hatched, or Mark, who is usually my travel partner, I actually really enjoyed traveling by myself. I've found over the years that I travel at a much more leisurely pace than just about everyone in the world and I liked being able to indulge that. I was leaning toward Boston as my first choice but the Boston dates kind of suck for my schedule. Plus I started actually looking at things to do and see in Boston and dude, it's kinda awesome. I might have to push Boston to the summer when I have more time and make it a baseball trip instead. Whoops. We seem to have slipped into stream of conciousness. My bad.
-- I want to see Paul Gaustad, Mike Grier, and Jochen Hecht on a line together. Next to Hank having a great season, the thing I want to see most is Jochen pulling himself together. Even after the long off-season, I'm stunned when I think about the way Jochen played last year. In 2007-2008 he was one of the few guys who went out and played hard every night. He had arguably the best season of his career. And he did all that after signing his extension so this is not as simple as "Guy gets his money and relaxes." I have no idea what happened. I really like the idea of putting him on a line with Goose and Grier and letting him take a few baby steps back and focus on what was his one time strength: solid two-way hockey, emphasis on the defensive side. Outside of a few playoff games I haven't seen Grier play since he left Buffalo so I guess I don't really know how this line would work in reality. But in theory I am quite attached to it.
-- I want to see an honest-to-goodness effort every single night from puck drop to the final buzzer. Please. I am on my knees begging and pleading.
-- I want real hockey to start immediately.