Thursday, September 17, 2009

Things I Want From This Season

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.


PKB said...

Great post Heather. For the record, I agree Myers should spend another year in juniors. I have my doubts that any 19-year-old is physically developed enough to play defense in the NHL. But, you never know, the training these athletes undergo now-a-days is simply ridiculous.

My understanding of these amateur Canadian hockey leagues is this: Teams draft these kids at a super young age and after being drafted are essentially committed to playing for these teams for a designated number of years. Amateurs have the choice to declare themselves "eligible" for a league’s draft and then sign contracts that can only be broken if they excel to the point where their professional club deems them NHL ready. The AHL is considered a professional league but that doesn’t matter because other than a guaranteed roster spot on an NHL club, the player must fulfill his contract with his amateur team. They sign these contracts because few leagues in the world can offer the coaching and competition that the Canadian leagues like the OHL and WHL offer. Just about every premier North American player in the NHL today spent time in a Canadian amateur league.

Honestly though, don’t quote me on this stuff. Most of my knowledge on the subject is from my friends that either played in the OHL or are familiar with the system.

Heather B. said...

PKB, thanks for the explanation. From the POV of an NHL fan, it seems dumb that a kid who can play in the NHL can't play in the AHL but from the POV of a juniors fan (or coach, GM, owner etc.) I suppose it makes sense to protect the junior contract a little.

Zach said...

PKB, pretty much right. A junior player has to play four years of juniors before he can be signed by a minor pro team, the AHL.

Here is a link for junior player eligibility

S.A.M. said...

Heather- I agree about Myers. He needs to mature a little more. But that being said, he looked alright last night. He played loads of minutes- 21something and actually moves really well for such a big dude. Like Lindy said in the postgame, he needs to work on his decision making, and again, that is just inexperience, but he wasn't bad.

I still want him to go back to junior and grow a little more and work on the mental aspects of the game. No 19-year old (esp. a defenceman) is to the point where he has nothing to offer. (I just don't buy it.. take another angle, peeps!)

Hecht was pretty awful last night- just as lackadasical as last year.. I don't know what is up with him, but I really hope he sorts himself out, and soon.

And may I recommend Ottawa for a trip to see the Sabres abroad? Their arena is really neat (in the middle of nowhere!) and their game presentation is fantastic. Even though our teams kind of hate each other, all the fans that I met were polite and friendly, and it was a wonderful time. Plus, Ottawa is a really cool city, and super fun in the winter. :)

joe said...

Cool post! Rather see Myers play, he has nothing else to prove in juniors and going there and dominating won't change anything for him. Go to NYC for a game, MSG is very cool or you can goto Nassau and sit with the dozens, and dozens of Islander fans. Remember Jay McKee started playing directly for the Sabres when he was 20, look how he turned out. New blood!!!

Mark B said...

I go back and forth on Myers. But in the end, I would be fine with him being sent back to juniors so Weber can get his shot. Next year Hank and Tony will be gone and there's his chance to begin his career here after another year of filling out and gaining even more confidence.

I like the idea of Jochen with Goose and Grier. Or if Kennedy makes the team, perhaps he should be the checking line center? He keeps getting plugged as a very good two-way player, so maybe Goose should be shifted to the fourth-line with Mair out. Then you could have a checking line that can still hit a little with Grier on it and an even more physical one with Goose and Kaleta. Should be interesting!

But I definitely want to see either Gerbe or Kennedy or both on the team. Someone needs to push these guys and bring some excitement!

mcguffers said...

I'm with you on the Weber/Myers thing. I like Weber, and I'd rather see him prove himself then take a chance on potentially ruining a teenager in the NHL.

My favorite 2007-2008 line was Goose, Pommers, and Yo-yo. Unfortunately it didn't seem to repeat it's magic last season. I'm still pulling for that lispy German!

Heather B. said...

Zach, thanks for the link. That did help a little bit.

Sam, Ottawa is on my list but kind of a back-up choice right now. I went there for the draft so while I haven't been in the game environment (which I'm sure is much different) I have seen the arena and the area. If I can make it someone where I've never been before, that'd be my first choice.

Joe, MSG and Nassau are both being noodled. I'd forgotten Jay was so young when he started. That was just before I really started watching regularly. Good point although I would say that at 19 he was a serviceable NHL d-man which again, we have enough of right now that the Sabres can take a little time with Myers. I don't agree that he can't get ANYTHING out of another year in juniors. Certainly the competition wouldn't be as strong but he can still work on the mental side of the game, positioning, decision making, that kind of thing. And again, he can fill out some which is my biggest concern about him being in the NHL right now. I'm going to guess that Jay had a lot fewer expectations on him when he came up than Myers will.

peter-usrt said...

Montreal....or one last chance to see the Igloo in Pittsburgh. Can't go wrong either way. Just sayin':)

Heather B. said...

Peter, Montreal's in the top 3 and Pittsburgh's just about a given, I think. I have family there I can crash with so that's an easy one. I would like to see the Igloo one last time.

joe said...

No way! McKee had a ton of expecations, he was a a part of the Mogiliny trade to Vancouver.

Heather B. said...

Joe, all right. I can't really argue that as Jay's arrival was before my time as a hockey fan. Guess I'll just have to go with your opinion :P