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?