Monday, November 8, 2010

Moving Day!

Read the post below and then check out my new digs at  That's where all new material will go from now on.  Come on, WHAT are you WAITING for?

Is That... Hope?

I'm not sure that a lot of questions about the Sabres were really answered Saturday night with their win against the Leafs, but I can now firmly answer something about myself:  I do not have it in me to cheer for a bad season.  It was probably silly how clearly excited the Sabres were about that win, but honestly, I was every bit as excited.  Part of it was Jochen Hecht finally scoring his first goal and doing it in dramatic fashion, part of it was Jhonas Enroth looking better than he did in his previous start, part of it was itty bitty Tyler Ennis' very pretty move in the shootout, and part of it was beating the Leafs which is always a joy.  But there's no doubt about it, I was really and truly excited.

I immediately started wondering if this was it, the game that was finally going to get everything turned around.  I thought, "Lindy is right!  Every team has bad streaks!  Our is just at the beginning of the season!  This team is not THAT bad!  It's all going to be okay!"

In other words, I'm a sucker.

I have settled a little bit from my "Should they or shouldn't they get better?" post however.  I don't know if Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier are going to be here next season or not, but regardless of who's in charge, there will be a fairly large roster turnover.  Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford will not be back.  Craig Rivet won't be back.  I'd say Mike Grier is probably on the bubble of not being back.  I'm guessing Rob Niedermayer and Patrick Lalime won't be back.  Some of those guys might not make a huge difference but that does automatically mean at least some changes in the top six.  It also creates a fair amount of money and space, both something that the Sabres often lack.

Which is not to say that I want to toss off this season for next one.  I mean, jeez, how many seasons now have we said, "Well, NEXT year we'll have space/money/opportunity."  But it does make me wonder if management wasn't thinking that we'd make the playoffs this year and that they'd then really make some changes next year.  I'm not saying that was the right way to approach things especially with Connolly.  I'm just speculating.  But I am sure they did not expect things to be this bad right now.  It also makes me feel like we probably don't need to completely bottom out this season in order to see some improvement down the road.

I don't know.  I do know that when it comes to either wallowing in the despair of a long, losing season or grasping at any sign of hope, I'm a grasper.  So for now, right this second, I'm hoping.  I'm not hoping that we'll win the Stanley Cup - I'm a dreamer, I'm not insane - but hoping that the entire season isn't going to be like October?  That seems fairly reasonable.  I hate the idea of either just missing or just making the playoffs again, but I hate the idea of being way, way out of it early even more.  Sorry, people who want a number one pick.  I like to win hockey games.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Coming Up on Top Shelf

This doesn't have anything to do with the Sabres, but it does have to do with this blog and some upcoming changes so if you're at all interested, keep reading.

A few weeks back, I was asked if I would like to join up with Bloguin.  Bloguin is a network of blogs, mostly but not all sport- related.  I won't go into all the boring details, but I will say that I was pretty familiar with them and some of the blogs on their network.  (I'm a particularly devoted reader of Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?)  It seemed like a good gig for me - a new banner, a more personalized blog, a solid network of people, and a chance at some revenue - so after talking it over with some people whom I trust, I decided to go for it.  Not a lot will change as far as you're concerned, but I did want to give you a heads-up about a few things.

-- The URL will be changing, probably as of Monday.  As far as I know, if you continue to come here, you will be re-directed to the new site, at least for a time.  If you have me on your blogroll or if you keep up with me through a reader, you might want to update that because once the new site goes live, new material will not be posted here.  I will put a note up here when I'm completely moved over there.

-- There will be ads.  The standard format used across Bloguin seems to be one ad at the very top of the page and a couple in the sidebar, one "above the fold."  I know that ads can be super annoying, but I don't think you'll really notice these.  I promise they're not the kind of ads that expand when you accidentally scroll over them (again and again) and they won't follow you around the screen until you acknowledge them.  They also won't play music or video.  They'll just sit there quietly, minding their own business.

Advertising is something I've thought about off and on over the years, and I've seriously talked to people about it a few times.  I've never taken the plunge though because it's just me here, and I felt a little out of my element trying to make decisions and negotiate prices.  At Bloguin, other people take care of arranging and placing the advertising, and I won't lie, the chance to make a little money doing this is one of the biggest reasons I jumped in.  I love writing Top Shelf, but it does take a lot of time out of my schedule.  A few extra nickels to rub together would be swell particularly now that I'm in school full-time and only working part-time.

-- At the top of the blog you'll see a Bloguin log-in box.  If you open a Bloguin account you're all set up to comment across the Bloguin network, however, you do NOT have to have a Bloguin account to comment here.  You can ignore that box completely and go on commenting as always if you so choose.  You will have to submit an email address when you comment, but it will NOT be published with your comment and the only person anywhere IN THE WHOLE WORLD who has access to the email addresses used at Top Shelf is me.  And I promise, I won't spam you.

-- For really long posts, I might start using a READ MORE cut.  I've been told that it looks cleaner to have a lot of short posts on the front page as far as advertisers are concerned, and let's be real, if you click on READ MORE, that's another page view which is how my cut of ad revenue is determined.  (So if you're ever really bored at work or in class, come load my blog over and over.)  I am personally not a fan of breaking up a post like that so I promise I'll only use cuts for longer posts and if I use one, there will be at least a couple of paragraphs behind the cut.  I hate when I click on READ MORE and there's only three more sentences.

I'm pretty excited about giving this a whirl, and really like I said, things are not going to change that much from your point-of-view.  I'm still the only one writing here, I have full control over what I write so the style isn't going to change at all.  If anything, things are going to be much prettier.  I think you'll like it.  I hope so.

Back to the Sabres in a day or so.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Sabres?

I just want to say that I have NO idea what is with the spacing issues lately. I know it looks terrible, but I really don't know how to fix it, and I'm going to be changing blogging platforms soon so I'm honestly not that concerned about figuring it out. Also, it's 2:11 in the morning. For now, just know that I realize it looks really ugly. I'm sorry. It won't be an issue much longer.

I’ve been pondering the Sabres and their current dilemma and here’s where I keep getting stuck: this is not an issue of talent, not entirely at least.  Don’t get me wrong, this team is not talented enough to win the Stanley Cup at least not without Ryan Miller playing completely out of his mind. But there is no way the Sabres are the least talented team in the NHL. I said before the season started that they should be a playoff team, and I'd still say that now. They should be a playoff team.  I could sit here and list all the things that the Sabres need to fix on the ice - the power play is awful (again), their defense is sloppy, they're not working hard enough - but I'm not sure any of that matters. The problem is clearly much, much deeper than what's on the ice.

I love the little girl on the glass, literally waving goodbye to all her Sabres-related hopes and dreams.

Which means I don't what the problem is. And that is VERY annoying Is it the attitude of certain players? Is it a total lack of leadership in the dressing room? Are the players rebelling against The System? Are they sick of listening to Lindy Ruff? Is Lindy Ruff sick of talking to them? Is upper management's emphasis on the bottom line trickling down and annoying the players? 

Maybe more accurately, I know what the problem is - these are not new problems really - but I don't know what the best fix is. I don't know because I'm not privy to that side of the team and that makes things really frustrating. I want to be able to say that putting Player X with Player Y or trying Player Z on the power play point will fix everything, and it's just not as simple as that.

I don't listen to WGR a whole lot, but I do follow Schopp on Twitter and a few days ago he tweeted, "Can the Sabres season be saved?" A few minutes later he changed it to, "SHOULD the Sabres season be saved?" In retrospect, I kind of wish I'd turned on the radio and listened to what he had to say because I think that's a really interesting question. Lindy said in his presser after the Boston game that he thinks he and the team will get through this bad period together. He said at his Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction tonight that the Sabres will make the playoffs. But do we want that? Do we want another season of the Sabres making the playoffs and going out as soon as they run up against a team with more desire? (i.e. all of them) Or worse, another season where they finish just outside the playoffs but close enough that the team isn't unhappy with itself? Do we want any more reason for management to think, "Maybe these guys will be okay," when they so clearly aren't? Or to say "Obviously Lindy isn't the problem" when love him or not, he probably is at least part of the problem?

Should the Sabres season be saved? I don't really have a good answer for that question either. As a fan, of course I would prefer that the Sabres make the playoffs. The playoffs are fun and yes, the irrational fan in me says and, more importantly, believes that anything can happen once the playoffs start. But maybe it is best to burn it down and start from scratch. Maybe the only thing that will get management's attention is a complete and total, inarguable failure of a season. If we could just magically jump from right now to the end of the season, I'd be fine with no playoffs, last place, and a lottery pick in the draft. But do I really want to watch and blog about six more months like this last one? No freaking way. I've also seen firsthand, in other parts of my sports fandom, how it's sometimes not that easy to rebuild a team that's been completely blown up, particularly when there are question marks about how serious management is about making changes and how effective the people in charge of making those changes will be. Maybe it's better to put up with another season of squeaking in and going out.

I don't know. I don't know anything. What do you know? What do you think? What do you want?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are We SURE Baseball is Over?

Whoa.  So remember how I said yesterday that Tim Connolly shouldn't really be that high on the list of Players to be Executed?  Yeah.  Timmy might want to not leave the house for a few weeks.  

A scheduling conflict spared me from most of the first period, but based on the opinions of my husband and the raging on Twitter, I could tell it was a bad one.  And even with that preparation, I was shocked when I watched the first period highlights.  The Sabres looked like they had literally never played hockey before the puck dropped tonight.  I've run power plays in P.E. with a bunch of emotionally disturbed second graders that were more effective than anything the Sabres put together tonight.  I found myself wishing there was a Pittsburgh Pirates game on tonight and that is just not a good place to be.  Just gross, gross, gross.

I don't even know what to say about what should happen to who.  I'm going to have to process this.  Probably everyone should be fired including Sabretooth and the person who picks the music played at HSBC.  

I mean... gross.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Expectations and Frustrations

I've been thinking a lot about Tim Connolly.  It seems like I'm reading more and more frantic "I WANT THAT GUY OFF MY TEAM RIGHT NOW!" comments this season, and while I do kind of get it, I kind of don't get it too.  I know the buzz phrases right now are things like PASSION and FIRE and Connolly certainly comes up short in those areas.  He always has.  I would not be the least bit hesitant to throw him in the pile of players who haven't lived up to their talent although some of that, in fairness, has been due to the ridiculous string of injuries during what probably should have been the prime of his career.  But as far as the team we're watching right now, in the last 12 games, I don't know, it seems to me Connolly is fairly low down on the list of problems.  He's on pace for 27(.3) goals which isn't terrible.  I don't want him to re-sign in Buffalo but I don't want him dropped into a fiery pit tomorrow either.  While this team is really low in intangibles like leadership and desire, it's also low on production.  I'm not sure Connolly should be quite so high on the list of players to be executed at dawn.

In fact, as frustrating as Connolly, Vanek, and Roy can be, they're more or less being Connolly, Vanek, and Roy right now.  As much as we want to talk about all the missing intangibles - and again, I think that is a completely valid discussion - I also think this team is probably fine if Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers are just playing better even a little better than have so far.  (For the record, I'm defining "fine" as "in a playoff spot rather than the basement" not as "Stanley Cup contender!")  I don't think it's any secret that the current team is constructed in a way that relies extremely heavily on those two guys.

We could probably argue about whether that's fair or not.  I think it's more fair to Ryan who I'm definitely frustrated with right now.  Honestly, I'm probably more frustrated with him than anyone else.  He should certainly be entitled to an off night here and there and his teammates should be able to pick him up on those nights.  But a Vezina-winning, franchise goalie should also be held to pretty high standards and he has not met those standards at all.  Yes, he's been hung out to dry at times.  He hasn't saved this team yet this season though and he's played a lot of average games with a couple of bad ones thrown in.  Our once awesome penalty kill - currently 27th which makes me want to weep - really misses Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman (and this is where I say, "I told you so") but it also misses the Ryan Miller of last season.  If I'm panicking about anything at this point, it's Ryan.  Despite everything I know about how Ryan has gotten better every season and how goalies often mature into their 30s, I secretly worry that last season was Ryan's career year, the one that'll make us look back and think, "Damn, if only we'd had a slightly better team that season."

The expectations are a little more unfair to Tyler Myers.  This time last season, I think even Sabres management was considering him a very pleasant surprise.  Coming into this season he was suddenly the cornerstone of the defensive corp and a future all-time great Sabre which seemed a little excessive.  Ryan's been around long enough that he should be able to carry a lot of weight on his shoulders.  He was brought along much more slowly by the Sabres, and I think that worked to his advantage.  Myers is, at the end of the day, still just a 20-year-old kid in his second year in the NHL.  That's tough.  I definitely wonder if some of his struggles, especially on the mental side, are being caused by the weight of expectation.

(And not having Hank around.  I feel you there, kid.)

How about you?  Who are you the most frustrated by or annoyed with right now?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Captain, Captain, Who's Got the Captain?

Some of you out there may have heard of National Novel Writing Month, known in short-hand as NaNoWriMo.  The goal is to write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.  I, however, do not write novels.  I write this here blog.  Which is why I'll be participating in NaBloWriMo instead.  Every day for the entire month, I'll write something here.  That's right!  For the next thirty days, my thoughts on the Buffalo Sabres will be at your fingertips seven days a week.  Sometimes the posts may be long and in-depth, sometimes they might be a few short sentences.  But they will be here.

Now that I've gotten the emotional aspect of the scratching of Craig Rivet out of the way, I figured I'd give you my opinion about who should wear the "C" from here on out: Craig Rivet.

I've gone up and down the line-up, I've carefully studied The Goose's Roost's Power Rankings, and I just don't see that there are any good alternatives right now.  I think Derek Roy has it in him, but I need to see him  act like a grown-up for a while longer.  (For what it's worth, if you'd asked me in 2006 who the eventual captain would be, I would have said Roy.)  Mike Grier isn't playing as well on the ice.  Jochen Hecht seems to be well-liked but also seems very subdued and mild-mannered.  I don't want Thomas Vanek anywhere near a letter for a myriad of reasons, the biggest being that I think focusing on his own game is enough for his poor little psyche.  And all the babies are too far away to carry that weight right now.  Maybe some day but not yet.

My only reluctance in keeping the captaincy with Rivet is that I don't think his play is really going to improve.  He's not a 30-year-old Henrik Tallinder who was scratched because he needed to play harder and focus more.  I don't have any complaints about Rivet's work ethic or desire.  I don't think that's his problem.  I think his problem is that he went and got old, and once a professional athlete starts to get old, I'm not sure you can correct that.  I don't see him suddenly becoming one of the six best d-men on the team (though I wouldn't be opposed to Myers sitting for a night or two and getting his head straight).  So if the goal is to find a captain who's both mature, fit to lead, and really good at hockey, well, I'm not sure that guy is on the roster right now.  Kind of a sad state of affairs