Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Viva la Youth!

I'm too lazy to research this and honestly, I'm not sure how I would research it even if I had the energy, but I feel like Derek Roy plays a thousand times better when a Portland kid is in the line-up.  He's had more bounce in his step in the last two games than the rest of the season combined.  (Okay, that might be slight hyperbole.  Slight.)  I don't know why that is - he's showing off, he realizes he needs to fight for his time a little, he feels a boost of energy - but it was definitely there.

I've been thinking about this a lot since the trade deadline and the numerous interviews Darcy Regier gave around that time in which he talked about the kids in Portland.  Part of the reason that 2005-2006 team was such a surprise was because of the number of young players on the roster.  There was definitely some veteran presence in place with Chris Drury, Danny Briere, and Teppo Numminen, but a huge chunk of the team was young and unknown, and maybe that's a piece of the puzzle that's really been overlooked since then. 

There's been a lot written about how there's a youth movement in the NHL, but most of it has centered around the financial advantages of relying on young players.  If you can pull together a group of players on their entry level contracts you have a cheap core you can actually keep together for a few years and you have a little flexibility to make some moves if you need to.  But I don't know, maybe there's more to it than that.  If I can cross sports for a moment, this photo is my current wallpaper and part of the reason I love it is because it's been a long time since there's been such a spontaneous display of joy in a Pirates uniform.  For years the Pirates tried to get by by bringing in past-their-prime veterans and it didn't work for anyone.  It didn't work for the Pirates because well, the players were past their prime and it didn't work for the players because they knew Pittsburgh being their best option was not a positive.  For a veteran, Pittsburgh was baseball purgatory.  But to get a kid like Andrew McCutchen in the line-up, someone who's really talented and more importantly, really, really excited about being on a Major League team - ANY Major League team - well, that's awesome.  He's re-energized what's left of the Pirates fan base and he's re-energized a lot of the players around him.  It's obvious.

I know it's kind of weird to think of Jason Pominville and Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek as veterans but they are really.  And maybe it is normal for being a professional athlete to become well, normal.  You got your big paycheck, being on the road all the time isn't as exciting anymore, it's tougher to be away from girlfriends, wives, and kids, you start to feel beat up all the time.  It starts to feel like a real job.  But to guys like Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe it's still fresh and new and totally awesome to be in the NHL.  Maybe there's some value in that.  It has, in one way or another, seemed to spur on Roy.  In the last couple of games he's looked like the player he should be every night.

I admit, this post has completely gotten away from me.  I started off with a good idea and have totally meandered since then.  But it's like someone on Twitter said last night (and I apologize to whomever it was because I took a quick look back but couldn't spot it so I can't give you credit): The Sabres didn't look particularly organized but they did look enthusiastic and that was kind of fun and also kind of effective.  I'm certainly not advocating that all of the Portland kids stick around after all the starters are healthy but one or two of them?  It might not be a bad idea.


brian s. said...

I noticed this at the beginning of the season, too, when Kennedy and Myers and Butler were just starting out. Not that they're veterans by any stretch of the imagination, but the rest of the team had a bit more energy playing with the new guys. With the way that Darcy drafts, this can hopefully continue as they just keep bringing up 1 or 2 rookies every year to inject that energy. I think it's why Phoenix and Colorado and LA have been doing so well this year too.

Vanek's Hair said...

I think you're absolutely correct that being lined with the younger guys gives Roy some energy. I think it coincides with your previous post about Ennis' free wheeling style. Of all the regulars, Roy is most resistant to Lindy's "system" (and interestingly least punished for disobeying) and so when Roy plays with the guys who don't know it so well, it's a breath of fresh air.

I think keeping some of the young guys up for the playoffs could be helpful. They are playing to prove themselves, while most of this particular Sabres roster is well compensated for a relatively long term. Leads to complacency, which I think anyone who watches the Sabres regularly could agree the team sometimes suffers from. The 2005-2006 Sabres was probably the best overall team they have had, at least that I have seen. Mainly because it was comprised of young players trying to prove they belonged (Roy, Pominville, Vanek, Tallinder) and veteran guys looking to cash huge checks in free agency (Grier, Briere, Drury, Dumont, Campbell, McKee). That makes for one very motivated team. The current Sabres lack that mix

Anonymous said...

Roy always seems to get better towards the end of the season.