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?


Katebits said...

I agree with this whole post. I think we all just pile on Timmy out of habit at this point. Not that he doesn't deserve our scorn, but Tim Connolly is Tim Connolly.

I also agree with you about Miller and Myers. Last year at this time they were both playing out of their minds, and this year Miller is very average and Myers has been bad. They're the difference makers.

I'm frustrated that Myers is in this situation. I wish he didn't have this kind of pressure, and I wish he still had Hank (yeah, I SAID IT), and I wish someone on the coaching staff could help him. I guess I have faith that Crunchy's pride will pull him out of this, but Myers frustrates me more, just because that problem is scarier. I don't understand it, and I have less faith that it will resolve itself. I'm just left crossing my fingers for Mylers.

I'm also frustrated with the general malaise of the fanbase (myself included). I want to feel energetic about the Sabres.

Heather B. said...

I wish he still had Hank (yeah, I SAID IT)


I know I focused more on Miller, but Myers DOES worry me particularly looking at how all the younger players through Buffalo the last few years have turned out. None of them, with the exception of Ryan, became what we thought they'd be or what they have the talent to be. And while much of that is SURELY personality - I think it's safe to say there's a difference between Ryan Miller and Derek Roy - I think you have to at least wonder how much of a role, if any, coaching plays. I do NOT want Tyler Myers to be another Thomas Vanek, you know? If they're not going to fire Lindy, the Sabres should at least consider hiring Teppo Numminen to be Tyler's personal life coach.

I'm also frustrated with the general malaise of the fanbase (myself included). I want to feel energetic about the Sabres.

Yeah, that's a tough one. I'm pretty glad the Sabres went away for a few days. I am getting pretty interested in what's going on here though. I wasn't listening to Schopp today but I do follow him on Twitter and earlier he tweeted, "Can this season be saved?" before changing it to, "SHOULD this season be saved?" Which is a pretty darn interesting question.

Katebits said...

I heard a little bit of Schopp and the Bulldog yesterday, and when I first heard the topic, "Can/should the Sabres season be saved," my reaction was a sort of horrified, "OF COURSE!" But then, I thought about it a little, and came around. It IS a good question, and it speaks directly to the part of me that feels mired in a malaise.

It would require prolonged, large-scale suckiness for the Sabres to do ANYTHING mid-season in terms of the coaching or GM position, so maybe, large-scale suckiness is preferable to scrambling around for a lower-seed playoff position. Of course, just typing that out pisses me off. I'd LOVE a lower seed playoff position! I love the playoffs!

mcguffers said...

I like the point that we're expecting Connolly, Roy, and Vanek to be more than what they actually are.

I'm actually hoping that the Sabres and Leafs both spiral out of control at the same time (appears to be happenening...) and they trade us Mike Komisarek. Yes. I said it. And unlike all my requests for Parise and Shea Weber, I think this one is a tad more realistic. After coming back from a season long injury, he's stuck playing behind FrankenPhaneuf for 12 minutes a game. I know he isn't the answer to all the Sabres problems, but Komi's still by far one of my favorite players to watch, and I'd rather have a guy like him who plays with his heart on his sleeve than some of these guys who look like they'd rather listen to their iPod than than listen to Lindy during the game.

I thought it was interesting on the Leafs feed last night, they mentioned Lindy Ruff's contract was over after this season and they assumed he'd be going to a team full of more disciplined players where he can really have an impact. It kind of made the Sabres sound like a bunch of whiney brats who are only playing hockey for the pizza parties after the game.

mcguffers said...

Aaaaand now Phaneuf is out for four weeks, so they'll probably be keeping Komi around for a bit. Blast those hopes and dreams!

Heather B. said...

Kate, losing the season to suckiness is definitely not an easy thought. One, I'm honestly not convinced that even sucking that clearly would result in a lot of change - though it would certainly do more than just making or just missing the playoffs. And two, it's MUCH easier to think about a crap season than to actually watch it. I mean, the thought of watching this past month for six MORE months is not a comforting one. As a fan of hockey, of course I would rather watch them JUST make the playoffs. The playoffs are fun.

mcguffers, sorry about Phaneuf. (That's the only time I'll ever apologize in regards to Phaneuf being injured.)

It kind of made the Sabres sound like a bunch of whiney brats who are only playing hockey for the pizza parties after the game.

I think we can safely assume that the Sabres are one of those loser teams that takes the players out for postgame pizza and ice-cream whether they win or not. Booo!