Archive for April, 2009

Blackhawks: Yay or Nay?

All season long I’ve repeatedly said, “I like the Blackhawks,” and yet when it comes down to watching the Blackhawks, I almost always opt out.  They just haven’t grabbed me, you know?

I don’t know why they haven’t grabbed me because theoretically I like a lot of their players.  I like Kane, and Toews, and I looooove Patrick Sharp.   I like that Buff-lyn kid because he’s from Minneapolis and because for some bizarre reason his name is spelled B-Y-F-U-G-L-I-E-N.  I like that an old man beat out Huet for the goaltender gig.  Their coach is rocking a serious mustache, which is a quality I hold in very high esteem.  The Hawks are spunky, and cute, and underdoggy, and all of the things I usually enjoy in a non-Sabres hockey team, and yet, in spite of all these fine attributes, the Blackhawks just haven’t managed to steal my heart.

So, tonight is the night.

I have a STRONG aversion to the Canucks.  If I can’t love the Blackhawks on a night when they’re the only game on, they’re playing a team I seem to instinctively dislike, and I’m ravenous for playoff hockey, it’s just never going to happen.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE 9:55: So far, no overwhelming love…except for Keith Jones.  Which is weird.  REALLY weird.  You know who I haven’t watched NEARLY enough of this playoff season?  Kelly Hrudey.  It’s my HD addiction.  It’s driven a wedge between Kelly and I.

UPDATE 10:18: PleasedontlettheCanuckswinthecup.  They make me feel a terrible combination of bored and suffocated.  I can’t breathe.  I can’t stay awake.  I can’t fall for the Blackhawks in these bleak conditions.

UPDATE 10:49:  Eff this game.  Seriously.  I TRIED to love the Blues, and I TRIED to love the Blackhawks, but the Canucks SUCK THE JOY out of EVERYTHING.  I’m giving up and going to bed.  I’ll try to fall for the Hawks again some other time.

RESULT: Sadly, nay.

Update 11:29: Now wait just a minute!  I turned off the television, ate a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats, cleaned the kitchen, and then my friend Roman texted me to turn the television back on, which I did JUST IN TIME TO SEE THE BLACKHAWKS TIE THE GAME!  I swear, the way the first two periods went I was convinced that the Blackhawks wouldn’t score again until next season.  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

11:35: Oh for pete’s sake. (4-3, Canucks)

11:41: Well, at least it was all Soupy’s fault.  For old time’s sake. (5-3, Canucks)

FINAL ANALYSIS: Well, the Blackhawks didn’t really endear themselves to me since I only saw them score one goal and then they proceeded to eff everything else up, but that game wound up being better than I expected.  I think overall, my feelings about the Blackhawks reverted to my base level of affection over the course of this game.  I still want to like them, but I’m not entirely sure that I do.  (But I like them a whole LOT more than I like the Canucks.)

Round 2

I could not be more pleased with the Eastern Conference semi-finals.  I think Boston is going to demolish Carolina (in a highly-enjoyable-for-Katebits kind-of-way), and no matter what happens with Pittsburgh/Washington, that’s going to be a crazy scene.  I’m totally in the mood to embrace the NHL’s MOST-IMPORTANT-MATCH-UP-IN-THE-HISTORY-OF-HOCKEY hype machine.   Bring it. (Also, go Sid!)

I’m less enthused about the West only because I’m sad that my two favorite WC teams are playing each other already.  I want George Parros AND Pavel Datsyuk to be happy.  How will I ever choose?

Drafty

I’ve been thinking a bit about the NFL draft.

I’m not really a football fan.  I mean, I watch it when it’s on and surrounded by beer and tasty snacks, but I don’t follow it closely, and I certainly don’t care about the NFL draft.  But I do understand the appeal.

Unlike the NHL draft, where the players are drafted as zygotes, and after the draft disappear into Canada to play in juniors (possibly never to be seen or heard from again), the guys in the NFL draft will be on the team next year. If there was a similar NHL draft, and I could be dreaming of a couple of new NHL-ready, beard growing, gritty Sabres, you better believe I’d LOVE that draft.  I’d talk about it incessantly, and I’d devote post after post to all the potential ways we could get rid of half the Sabres and replace them with new, foxy college kids.

I can’t possibly be the first person to point this out, but the Bills drafted a player who looks just like the kid from Bad Santa.  Bad Santa is one of the most heart warming movies ever made, so I think this bodes well for the Bills.

badsanta163 eric-wood2

WIN

And that concludes my in-depth analysis of the 2009 NFL draft.  See you next year!

3 Things

1. Is there anything more demoralizing than lowering yourself to cheer for the Rangers only to have them LOSE?  There is no way the Rangers are going to win game seven.  No way at all.  The good news is that even though I’m sad the Caps are poised to complete the comeback (sorry Frisbee), I’m not so far gone that I can’t enjoy a good Rangers collapse.  The Rangers seem CRAZY bonkers, and I love it.  I love that the Rangers are so sick-in-the-head that they are more inspired by SEAN AVERY than they are by Chris Drury.  *cackles evilly*

2. Much like how I’ve been cheering for the Rangers in order to cheer against the Caps, I’ve been cheering for the Ducks in order to cheer against the Sharks.  Unlike the Rangers, I’ve taken a genuine liking to the Ducks.  The Ducks have some truly disgusting characters, but they also have Drew Miller, that Ryan kid, and Hiller.  Even Getzlaf has been growing on me a bit.  I’m not sure I would cheer for them over the Wings if that’s what it came to, but I’m glad to found another team that I more-or-less enjoy.  I’m a little ashamed that that team is the Ducks, but whatever.

3. It the Sharks come back I will be CRUSHED, mostly because I want the Sharks management to be forced to admit it’s never going to happen with Marleau and Thornton.  Then, I want them to trade Thornton to the Sabres for Derek Roy.  I know, I know, Thornton is better in every way than Roy-Z, but SURELY the Sharks are desperate to get rid of Joe by now- and just think how happy Mike Grier will be to see Roy-Z!  Sucking in the playoffs is not a problem Big Joe will have to worry about too much around here, so he’ll fit in just fine.

TWC Top-To-Bottom Review: Jochen Hecht

(This is the third post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  Larry’s Quinn’s internal review is the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Jochen Hecht, aka Yo-yo

Position: Forward

Number of years with the Sabres organization: Hecht joined the Sabres from the Oilers in 2002.  I’m not sure if Darcy traded for him, or if Yo-yo just stood outside the HSBC arena screen door yowling until Lindy let him in and gave him a bowl of milk.

Number of years remaining on contract: infinity

Cap hit: $3.525 million

Career high point: In 06/07 Jochen score 19 goals and 37 assists for a career high 56 points.

Career low point: In 08/09, Jochen scored 23 own-goals and was a -87.  *not totally true

Areas of strength: well-coiffed porcupine hair, somehow scoring while standing behind the net and bouncing the puck off no less than five obstacles, talking like a duck, overall handsomeness and appealing shyness, starring contests

Area of weakness: hockey

2008/09 grade: H-   Something went horribly, horribly wrong.

General comments: Yo-yo is a “Lindy Ruff” kind of player.  Lindy loves him (or at least he did).  Last year during the rotating captaincy, Yo-Yo was one of two players who wore the “C” twice (Soupy was the other), and this season, Jochen Hecht wore an “A” all year long.  Allow me to repeat that….JOCHEN HECHT WORE A LETTER ALL SEASON LONG.  (Sidenote: During the preseason, Heather and I joked that Lindy liked to attach the captain’s letters to the jerseys with velcro so that he could rip them off the chests of errant players in disgust.  The mental image of walking up to Jochen Hecht, and ripping off his “A” and then tossing it dramatically onto the ground is almost too tantalizing to bear.)

I don’t know what happened to Hecht this year, but it wasn’t pretty.  Until this year he was known as a hard working, no nonsense, defensive forward.  Never the flashiest, grittiest, or most skilled guy on the ice, but definitely a guy you could count on if you needed to protect a one goal lead with a minute left in the third.

But then this year, he became….wrong.  This season, Jochen looked lost, frantic, insecure, and cautious.  His previously tolerated lack-of-offensive-finesse became glaring in the face of his sloppy defensive play.   His level of play ranged from “Do you think Yo-yo is playing with an injury?” to “I’m going to break his legs myself.  Please…..just get that guy off the ice.”

I think it’s interesting to note that one of Lindy’s “favorites”, a player who has always seemed to have Lindy’s faith and trust, turned into a gigantic pile of flaming poo this season.  Many people around town are quick to blame Jochen’s rapid decline on his new contract, and there could definitely be some merit to that theory, but he signed that contract in October of ’07.  He played a full, productive season with that contract in place.  He just doesn’t seem like a “phone it in” kind of player to me.  He seems like a “trouble starts, and then if it’s not properly addressed, that trouble snowballs into an unstoppable-nightmare-of-a-season,” kind of guy to me.  To my eye, his trouble didn’t stem from lack of effort.  He just looked INCREDIBLY, and inexplicably, bad at hockey.

I suspect I’m going to take some heat for this in the comments, but I’m going to say it anyway: More than anyone else on the Sabres, to me, Jochen Hecht looked like he was poorly coached this season. There are plenty of Sabres who I am willing to hang the “lazy, soft, and coddled” tag on, but Yo-yo really isn’t one of them.  To me, he looked like a guy who desperately needed some help and guidance- help that never came.  His role on the team was never really adjusted, he was never really benched, he never lost his letter, and it wasn’t until the veeeery end of the season that he even looked remotely capable of getting out of his funk.

Obviously, I don’t know really know how Hecht went from to projected-future-captain-of-the-Sabres to the-guy-whose-contract-looks-the-scariest, but he did.  And it sucks.

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK: The good news about my odd faith in Yo-yo’s work ethic is that there IS hope of a recovery.  As long as this season wasn’t some indication of a general unwillingness to play with urgency, then he might not have to suck forever.  The bad news about my odd faith in Yo-yo’s work ethic is that it means that there is something really, reeeeally wrong with his game.  Hopefully it’s just an injury, and he’ll spend the summer rehabbing in secrecy.

In order to return to form, Jochen must complete the following tasks:

1. Purchase and complete “Feeling Good“.  When I was in college, my viola professor very famously assigned “Feeling Good” to wayward students.  It was both a badge of honor, and a terrible, damning shame to be assigned “Feeling Good”.  “Feeling Good” from my viola teacher represented both a declaration that “I still believe in you.  You can turn this around,” and “You are about to get your sorry ass kicked out of school.  Pull it together, kid.”

2. Watch Hoosiers, Rudy, Mighty Ducks, Bull Durham, and Rocky over and over again all summer long.

3. Go to Germany, and stay there.  DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH ANY OTHER SABRES FOR THE DURATION OF THE SUMMER.   (I’ll deal with his teammates later, but Yo-yo MUST be quarantined.)

4. Sky dive.

5. Do 400 hours of community service, preferably working with economically disadvantaged people.

6. Learn to play the didgeridoo.   Give a recital.

7. Stop talking like a duck.  Get speech therapy if necessary.

Too Much

The other day I was talking to my mother on the phone (she lives in St. Paul) and she said, “So, what’s new?”

I had the funniest little urge to say, “Well, the Sabres came out and said they’ll never fire ANYONE, EVER, and Bucky Gleason is blaming the fans because our collars used to be bluer….and the Sharks and the Caps are being hilariously hapless.”

I thought it was incredibly odd and notable that when asked (by a non-hockey fan, no less), “What’s up?” I had the urge to talk to about hockey.  That’s just weird, right?

Two years ago I could not have cared less about hockey.

My life is ruined.

Heh.

I Ask You…

Is there anything better than the first round of the NHL playoffs?

It’s currently 1:15 in the morning. I’m tired, and I’ll be more tired in the morning, but I’m happy from watching hours of good hockey.  I’m enjoying these games a lot this year.

Soon, as the playoffs progress, the number of games will start dwindling, and then hockey will be gone. Sad.

A few thoughts:

- Last season I was very preoccupied with the former Sabres during the playoffs.  I was cheering passionately against Briere, Drury, and especially Brian Campbell.  This season I could not care less about those guys.  If anything, I’ve been feeling slightly affectionate towards them.  Time heals all wounds, yo.

- Either the Caps or the Sharks HAVE to be eliminated in the first round.  I know it’s kind of evil of me to feel this way, but the heart want what the heart wants.  And my heart wants a first round upset.

- I’ve been a little disappointed by the lack of mindblowingly awesome hockey commercials this year.  Remember the Cup Raise commercial?  I realize that’s a tough act to follow, but still.  I want my goosebump-y, yay for hockey, commercial.

Let’s watch Cup Raise again. It’s still a goodie.

Sweet.

- I feel really sad for the Blues.  I’m sorry the yucky Canucks steamrolled those guys.

- I think I’d feel bad for the Blue Jackets, except for the fact that watching the Red Wings mow teams down makes me feel safe and secure, like, all is right in the world.  I know a lot of people hate the Red Wings (Sam says cheering for them is like cheering for Microsoft), but I don’t care.  Those crazy Swedes are really, really good at hockey, and I appreciate that.  Plus, Datsyuk!  I heart that guy.

- I haven’t figured out if it’s possible with the seeding, but I think it would be great to see the Bruins and the Pens meet in the ECF.  I hope it happens.

TWC Top-to-Bottom Review: Thomas Vanek

(This is the second post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  On Friday, Larry Quinn announced that 5% of the internal review was complete, and that his findings led to the decision to keep both Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier on board for next year, a decision which cements Larry’s review as the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Thomas Vanek, aka Slag-Faced Whore, aka Slaggy Sir Fantastico

Position: forward

number of years with Sabres organization: drafted 5th overall by the Sabres in 2003, Thomas has been a Sabre for 3 years.

Career high point: signing a kazillion dollar offer sheer from the Oilers, forcing the Sabres to match in July 2007.

Career low point: being benched in the 2006 playoffs; also, meeting Derek Roy

2008-09 grade: B+   At times this season Thomas Vanek single-handedly carried the Sabres offense, but he also disappeared for long stretches and refused to drill a blowhole when he broke his jaw.

Areas of strength: craftiness, ability to protect the puck with the strength of his upper body while carrying it around the opposition’s net, bank account, origami, making a better door than a window in front of the goalie, grimacing, scoring “dirty” goals, and playing Edelweiss on the clarinet.

Areas of weakness: jaw, consistent determination, shootouts, spelling

General comments: Thomas Vanek is a mystery, wrapped in prosciutto and smothered in club sauce.  One month he’s the best hockey player you’ve ever seen (and STILL blaming himself for every loss in post-game interviews), and the next month he’s lolling around on the couch all day, hopped up on Vicodin, whimpering about his shattered jaw, and refusing to drill a blowhole.

Overall, Vanek had a very strong season in 08-09, but it’s my belief that the Buffalo Sabres will never be a truly good team until Thomas is able to step into a leadership role in the locker room.

Thomas’ game is not perfect, but it’s not chopped liver, and it’s certainly the best we’ve got.  In order to increase Thomas’ overall effectiveness we need him to be a leader, and in order to be a leader he must increase his credibility with his teammates.

There are two areas in which I believe Thomas Vanek MUST improve:

1. He must work harder, longer, and with more consistency.  I would never go so far as to call Thomas Vanek lazy, but there is a certain oafish lackadaisical quality to him.  He looks a little doughy sometimes, he doesn’t always appear to be skating full force, and for reasons beyond the scope of my comprehension, every time he falls down he looks like my grandmother trying to get out of her Lazyboy as he hoists himself back onto his feet.  I’m not saying that Thomas Vanek is actually out of shape (at all), but I am saying that sometimes he exudes a quality of laziness, and he needs to knock it off.

Vanek must learn to lead by confident example so that when he is carrying the team on his back, he’s got the credibility in the locker room to be all, “You bitches need to stop expecting me to do all the work around here.  Get off your asses and score a few goals.”  He can’t do that until he eliminates the laziness from his game.

2. He must chill the fuck out.

Honestly, it often seems like Vanek just needs to lighten up.  I know, I know, he’s Austrian. He’s not boisterous, he’s not playful, and he’s not demonstrative with his emotions off-ice.  His interviews are incredibly bland, which ordinarily I have no problem with (See: Drury, Chris), but in Thomas’ case, I think his taciturn disposition is masking a deeply rooted problem.

There is not much joy evident in his game.  I’m not asking that he turn into Ovechkin (eww) and get all goofy with his goal celebrations, but I do believe he’d be a better player if he dialed down the “grim” and dialed up the swagger.

Things are going well for him, you know?  Why all the angst?

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK:  Thomas Vanek must complete the following tasks before returning to Buffalo in the fall.  Some of these tasks may seem contradictory.  This is by design.

1. Boot camp.  I’m not talking about the boot camp class down at the JCC.  I’m talking about real, honest to God, boot camp- with an evil drill sergeant, and forced push-ups.  Truthfully, I’m not sure if Thomas Vanek is actually lazy, but he often appears lazy, so he is sentenced to boot camp, just in case.

2.Write a book of poetry.  Everyone needs an outlet for their feelings.  I think if Thomas writes some poetry he might feel less weighed down by the painful burden of being a 25-year-old multimillionaire.

3. Give away a million dollars.  I’ve written about this before. Thomas, don’t you dare come back to Buffalo until you’ve given away *putting pinky to corner of mouth* one miiiiilllion dolllllars.  I’m serious.

4. Clown School.  If clown school fails to lighten him up, Thomas will be required to undergo tickle therapy, which is exactly what it sounds like, and any rational person would avoid it at all costs.  This kid will lighten up, even if it kills him.

5. Chose a Sabre at random and beat the shit out of him.  Enough of this Mr-Nice-Guy-I’m-Just-Trying-To-Focus-On-My-Game routine.  It’s time to lay down the law.

6. Learn to play the banjo.  As the Steve Martin monolouge goes, “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.”

Harsh Realization

The Sabres don’t seem to care what I think.  It’s pretty obvious that across the board, the Sabres organization is ignoring my advice.

Which, ironically, is the reason that I should be fired.  Heh.

Sigh

Worst top to bottom review ever.


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