Archive for February, 2011

Trade Deadline Day: COMPLETE

You wily bastard.

 

Happy Trade Deadline Day!

Today might be my favorite day of the hockey year.  July 1st is fun in theory, but trade deadline day is a whole lot dishier in terms of drama.  Plus, this year we have a new owner who is like, “Here’s a lot of money for you to spend, Darcy.  Go crazy. Do you think you might need more money? Because I have more. You know what’s probably easiest? Here’s my credit card. Just go nuts. And buy yourself something pretty while you’re at it.”

Over the last week or so I’ve been trying to brace myself for a typically restrained trade deadline day, because honestly, “restrained” really seems like it’s part of Darcy’s genetic code, but perhaps I’ve misjudged him. He’s already traded for a new guy!

Welcome to Buffalo, New Guy!

He looks nice!  His name is Brad Boyes.

Brad Boyes is a little confusing because these are his lifetime NHL stats:

What the eff, Boysie?

It’s a bit difficult to figure out what we’re dealing with here, but I don’t think there is any cause for alarm because as of right this minute, Boyes is the second highest scoring Sabre on the team.  (I know. Freaky. Why don’t we have anyone who can score?)  The big news is that he’s got another year at $4 million left on his contract.  So, if Boyes scores +30 goals next season we’ll call Darcy a genius.  If he scores 14 goals… not-so-much on the whole, “Darcy’s a genius” thing.

Since the real risk of Brad Boyes is his bloated salary, and we’re spending Uncle Pegula’s money here, I like this deal.  It’s fun to get a new player, and I think we can all agree that the Sabres need some fresh blood, even if that blood is a little on the streaky-for-entire-seasons-at-a-time side.  I’m just going to do the optimistic thing and cheerfully assume that Boyes will benefit from a change of scenery and a contract year.

So….HOORAYZIES!

Hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg and somehow we’ll end up with all the good players in the league by the end of the day.  Fingers crossed, Sabres fans!

Sing-sing voice: *awwwk-wwward*

 

NOT COOL, GUYS.

I had the intention of doing a big long post today about Darcy Regier.  I might still write that post, but I’ve been temporarily halted by a completely disturbing discovery.

Here at The Willful Caboose Headquarters, I do the research for my brainier posts in one of two ways.  I either google things in the form of a question, (Example: “Is Darcy Reiger as dumb and/or as smart as he looks?”), and if that doesn’t work, I usually just make shit up.   My post today was going to be super brainy, believe you me.  Like, mega suuuuper brainy.

I had some questions about Darcy’s trade history and what it might tell us about how he’ll proceed on Monday.  So, first I googled, “Everyone is constantly bringing up the fact that Darcy traded for Briere and Drury as evidence of Darcy’s mad trading skillz, but they always gloss over the fact that the Sabres missed the playoffs for the first two years that both of those guys were on the team.  Of course, that doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of those trades, but it DOES raise the question- Is Darcy capable of turning the Sabres around quickly?”

That google search turned up diddly-poo.  At first I thought it might be time to shift into the “just make shit up” portion of my research, but I decided to go the extra mile in an effort to make my suuuper-mega-brainy post extra legit.  I decided to google Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.  Truthfully, I wasn’t totally positive about that whole, “The Sabres missed the playoffs for the first two years that both Drury and Briere were on the team,” claim.  I thought it wouldn’t hurt to double check.

So, first I googled, Daniel Briere.  I learned that he was a deadline acquisition in 2003.  So, that means he WAS on the team when the Sabres missed the playoffs in both 2003, and 2004.  So far the facts were backing up my claim.

Then, I google Chris Drury.  And this is where I made a TOTALLY HORRIFYING DISCOVERY.

Seriously, you guys?  SERIOUSLY?!  WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG WITH US?

Yes, that’s right.  When you google, “Chris Drury,” the drop down menu provides “Chris Drury back to Buffalo,” AS AN AUTO-FILL.   What this means is that so many people have actually googled, “Chris Drury back to Buffalo,” that now Google just FILLS IT IN AS A HELPFUL TIME SAVER.

This discovery has completely derailed my research because now I’m just sitting here on the couch feeling vaguely embarrassed. I don’t want to write about the history of the Sabres anymore today. I don’t even want to think about the history of the Sabres anymore today.

Buffalo, we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.  Constantly looking backwards is… I just… I MEAN, COME ON.  This is Chris Drury we’re talking about.

I want to move forward, and I suspect you do too.  So, let’s take baby steps.  We can do it together.  First step: We’re going to stop googling Chris Drury.  All of us.  We can do this, you guys.   Cold turkey.

We’re never ever ever ever ever ever going to google Chris Drury for fun again.  Ever.

If, for some reason I wind up needing to google Chris Drury for a TOTALLY LEGIT bloggy-type reason, I BETTER not find “Chris Drury back to Buffalo,” in the drop down menu again.  DO YOU HEAR ME, BUFFALO?

Here is an example of an acceptable drop down Google menu:

100% awesome, and not at all embarrassing (at least not for us).

6 Things

1. Well, the Pegula era began exactly the same way as the Golisano era ended- WITH ICE COLD WATER IN THE BATHROOMS.  (And no, I will NOT stop talking about this.  EVER.  If you guys think I’m going to go easy on Pegula just because it was his first day on the job and because everyone loves him [for good reason], YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER THINK COMING.)

2. The pre-game ceremony was super fun last night.  I don’t know much about the French Connection because I’m about ten years too young, because I’m from Minnesota, and because as far as I’m concerned hockey started in 2007, but it was neat, even for me, to see the French Connection skate out together.  Also, it’s my understanding that Rene Robert has been all, “I hate you guys,” about the Sabres for a while, so I’m glad to see that he’s likes our new billionaire.

I really love the idea of an unforgettable and famous forward line, and I’m sorry I missed those guys.

But FYI, when I get really rich and buy the Sabres in 30 years, please do NOT send out old man versions of Vanek, Staffy, and Roy to surprise me at center ice.  That would be SUCH a downer on my special day.  Heh.

3. I can’t lie, for the first period and a half of the game I was worried that the Sabres were all, “Oh man.  The water is still too cold in the ladies restrooms?  Eff this new guy.”  But they got all snazzy at the end of the second period, and the game turned into a rollicking good time.  Thanks, Sabres!

4. Craig Rivet.  Oh, handsome and manly Craig Rivet….

I haven’t written about Rivet much this season, possibly because of my natural inclination to look away from awkward things, but also because I’ve really liked always Craig Rivet, and it’s been difficult to watch his career fade away like this.

Craig Rivet has always been a good Sabre and an extremely likable guy.  Obviously this season has been a rough one for him, but I admire his professionalism and the grace he’s shown in a difficult situation.  I think it’s important to remember that when Rivet joined the Sabres there was a sense that the locker room was incredibly immature.  Rivet was brought onto the team, and immediately made captain, to fill the leadership void.  He did this job capably, and I think the Sabres are a better team for having had him among their ranks.

It’s a sad part of sports to watch a man age before your eyes, but I’m proud to have called myself a Rivet fan.  I hope he finds another home in the NHL, and I wish him nothing but the best.

5. I hope Vanek is the next captain of the Sabres.  When I first started watching the Sabres, Drury and Briere had just fled for richer pastures, and Lindy was in the middle of his famous rotating captaincy system.  At the time, I didn’t understand why fans were so cranky about the rotating C, but after a few years of watching hockey, I’ve kind of changed my tune.  The C is important.  The guy wearing the C sets the tone for the team.  Rivet was a good captain, but he just didn’t have the goods on the ice.  Vanek has been a strong player and a responsible teammate for several years now.  Give the kid the C, please.

I’ve heard lots of people argue that giving Vanek the C could backfire.  I actually think this is true.  Giving Vanek the C might be a disaster.  HOWEVER, if the Sabres (as they’re currently constructed) can’t rely on Vanek for leadership they’re already completely screwed.  Who knows, maybe Darcy is about to pull the next Chris Drury out of thin air at the trade deadline, but I seriously doubt it.  For better or for worse, Vanek is our guy.  If he’s NOT our guy, then the team has MUCH bigger problems than the captaincy.

To me, sitting in the stands, Vanek looks like he’s ready.  I say it’s worth the risk.

6. It’s interesting how certain topics rear up on the intertubes, and then suddenly everyone is talking about some relatively random issue.  A few days ago, Chris Jones wrote this post, and ever since then I’ve been seeing a lot of twitter chatter about the issue of cheering from the press box.  (Here’s another interesting blog post on the subject from Jay Busbee.)   Then today, Mike Schopp wrote this post, which is not about press box decorum, but it does address the issue of fandom as it pertains to people in the media.

As far as the press box goes, it’s very clear that cheering up there is extremely B-A-D M-A-N-N-E-R-S.  I’m not a reporter, nor do I aspire to be a reporter, so I can’t claim to understand the rules, but if I ever (improbably) found myself sitting in the Sabres press box, I would of course abide by these rules.  (I am a Minnesotan, and we are nothing if not polite.) But I do have to say, I’ve never really understood the reasoning behind the “no cheering” rule.  I just don’t get it.  I understand that cheering makes you look like an unprofessional rube, but I don’t see how cheering makes you a less effective writer.  Cheering would offend the other reporters and it would make me look stupid, but I’m not sure I buy that it would make my writing worse.  Of course, I’m not a professional… as evidenced by this blog.

I suspect it has something to do with objectivity, which brings me to Mike Schopp’s post.

I really like what Mike wrote.  Mike’s job (as I see it) is to share his opinion and to help shape the conversation among fans, so that certainly makes his perspective different than a print journalist’s, but it’s still refreshing to see someone admit that his job is easier and more fun when the Sabres are winning.  And for as many times as I’ve heard Mike Harrington say it, I simply can’t fathom how a person can cover a team and not root for them to win.  I understand that objectivity is a HUGE element of traditional journalism, but on a human level, and particularly when the subject is sports, I think it’s really odd.

So, I get it.  Cheering from the press box is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN, and everyone who does it is an embarrassing fool, but I fundamentally do not understand how it makes you a less effective sports writer.

Ownership

I’m honestly stunned by the depth of emotion that I felt listening to Terry Pegula talk today. I’m such a new fan, and I’ve been doing this for such a relatively small percentage of my life. I can’t imagine what it felt like for some of you to listen to Terry Pegula this morning- you who have cheered for this team for as long as you can remember. It’s almost like a dream. He feels too good to be true.

_______

In some ways, it feels like Sabres fans have won the lottery. How did this happen to us? To this franchise? Where did this billionaire come from, and why did he choose Buffalo? It’s like a little fairy tale. Yesterday we were just a lowly servant girl, and today, here we are, in the ballroom, in a beautiful dress, with a prince on our arm. How did this happen?

On the other hand, it was shockingly easy to relate to Terry Pegula today. He’s not a prince that came out of nowhere. He’s one of us. He’s one of us who got very rich, and who now has the chance to live a dream we’ve all had. What could be more fun, and more joyful than buying the Buffalo Sabres? How incredible was it to witness such an accomplished man, overwhelmed with emotion by a dream fulfilled? And then, AND THEN, how thrilling to think, “That’s exactly how I’d feel if I bought the Sabres. I feel you, Terry Pegula. I really do.”

It felt like WE were buying the Sabres today.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the word “ownership”. For the past few years under Golisano’s reign, it’s felt a little like the team owned us. In some sense, all sports fans are held captive by their love for their team. We have no control over the people running the teams that we love, and those people have every right to run things however they see fit. I believe strongly that Tom Golisano was, for the most part, a good owner. He kept the franchise healthy and robust. But we heard so much, too much, about the viability of the franchise, and insuring the future of the NHL in the region. We absolutely needed Golisano (and we thank him for the stability that he provided), but at the end of the day, he owned the Sabres, and we were just the customers. Winning was always secondary to the bottom line, and that was never a secret.

Today it felt like in some symbolic but significant way, ownership was transferred back to the fans. After all, Terry Pegula is one of us. He’s a Sabres fan. He stood before us and made us believe that for the first time in the history of the franchise, money is no object, and the only goal is a Stanley Cup.

Terry Pegula wants more from the players, and more from the coaching staff, and more from the scouts, and more from free agency, and more from trade deadline day. Tom Golisano always wanted more from us.

If Terry Pegula is to be believed, the success of this franchise will no longer be measured by the collective buying power of the fanbase. We, the fans of the Sabres, are more than enough for Terry Pegula’s purposes. From now on, success will only be measured in wins and losses, and hopefully someday, in Stanley Cups.

Today was a victory for Sabres fans. This new owner wants the same thing that we want, and he wants it just as badly. Hell, he might want it more. Terry Pegula said, “If I want to make some money, I’ll go drill a gas well.” This isn’t about money. This is no longer about money. This is now about the very same things that made all of us into Sabres fans. This is about pride, and love, and passion, and community, but most of all, this is about ownership of something beautiful.

What I realized today is that you don’t have to be a billionaire to own the best of the Sabres. But you do have to be a fan.

Welcome to Buffalo, Terry Pegula. We’re so happy that you are here. Let’s get to work.

Happy Pegula Day!

It’s a happy day, Sabres fans!  Today, at long last, our new owner/leader/chief/BFF ascends to the throne.  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

All of the balloons we released in mid-July last year said, “Get here soon, billionaire-we’ve-not-yet-heard-of!  Get here soon!”  Our balloon-release/organized-wish-making WORKED, Sabres fans!  He got our messages, and now he’s HERE!

We’ve had a lot of fun with the approaching press conference on Twitter the last few days.  Only a crazy person would believe all of the hype about Pegula, but I’ve definitely enjoyed the sense of celebration among Buffalonians.  Who knows what the future actually holds, but this is one of those rare opportunities when dreaming big is totally warranted. I think Paul said it best last night when he said,

Don’t try and put Pegula in perspective now. Plenty of time for that in a few years. Just have fun with it now.

I’ll be celebrating Pegula Day in Canada, looking at reasonably priced furniture at IKEA, as the Hockey Gods intended for the people to celebrate Pegula Day.  But you can rest assured, I’ll catch up as fast as I can this afternoon.

A new era begins today.  WOOOOOOO!

Happy Pegula Day!

6 Things

1. I can’t believe that just yesterday I was all, “Oh, we should just enjoy hockey at face value.  Everything is wonderful.  Tra la la.  Totally calm about losing.  Peace be with you blah blah.”

I think what I actually meant to say is that the Sabres are TERRIBLE at hockey and that WE SHOULD DEFINITELY BE FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT.

When the highlight of the game is an EXTREMELY ill-advised, come-way-WAY-out-of-the-net-in-a-race-to-the-puck, move by your star goaltender, you know you just saw a game with a massive bullhonky factor.  (But that play was pretty fun. I got the feeling that Crunchy was sort of like, “Oh, fuck this,” right before he decided to go for it.  He was also VERY amusing at the end of the game in his desire to vacate the net for an extra attacker.  He did a lot of exasperated arm waving trying to get Lindy to give him the okay to skate to the bench.  His desperation to get off the ice was comical, because there were still two and a half minutes left in the game at the time. I suspect he just wanted to get off the ice because he was massively annoyed.  Can’t say I blame him.)

2. Tyler Myers.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT GUY?  There was one shift tonight where he somehow managed to turn the puck over, like, a hundred times in a row. He’d get the puck, turn it immediately over, get the puck back, pass it directly to a Blue, get the puck back, trip over nothing, get the puck back… on and on …FOR, LIKE, HALF AN HOUR.

Look, I know he’s young, and young defensemen are supposed to be all erratic and nerve-racking, but honestly, he scared the ever-loving crap out of me tonight.

Someone needs to help him.  I’m not sure who that someone is.  Maybe a priest or a shaman.

3. Vanek and Staffy were poopy tonight, and they were poopy in the Leafs game.  They’re both fired.

4. The water in the women’s bathroom near my section (120) must be flown in from some sort of arctic spring, because it is the COLDEST WATER IN THE EFFING WORLD.

Please, Mr. Pegula.  Can we PLEASE have some non-allllmost freezing water?  I’m not asking for much here.  Tepid will do.

5. I have no idea why I’ve never thought to do this before, but tonight I snuck some chocolate-chip cookies from the Co-op into the arena in my purse.  It was an EXTREMELY good idea.  I can’t tell you how much a delicious cookie hits the spot during a game like that.  I don’t like most of the arena food, and I intend to sneak delicious snacks into the arena for the rest of my life.

Next Wednesday the snack will be Salt and Pepper Pistachios. If the game is terrible again, instead of sitting in your seat, stewing about how hard the Sabres blow, you should come by my section and enjoy some delicious nuts.

6. Before the game got all massively lame (i.e.- before it started) I had a very vivid moment when I imagined what it might be like to sit in the owner’s box on the day I bought the Sabres.  I imagined looking down at the sold out arena, and the team I love standing at attention for the national anthems, and thinking, “This is all mine.”  I really can’t imagine how fun that must be.

I also can’t imagine what it would feel like to watch that game thinking, “This….this…is all mine.”

Heh.  Welcome to Buffalo, Terry Pegula!

Leave It At That

I’m experiencing an intense desire to just enjoy the Sabres for what they are, and then call it a day.

Last night I went to the game with Jessica, and we had a grand old time.  The Sabres lost, then we had a beer at the Harbor Club, and that was really the end of it for me.  I didn’t think the Sabres looked bad, and even if they did, I’ve banked enough good will for them that I don’t think I would’ve cared that much.  They are what they are, and by that, I mean, I love them….because they’re ours and they’re interesting.

Sometimes I think all this obsessing we do over sports- with the blogs, and the articles, and the radio shows, and the tweeting, kind of detracts from the experience.  By this I mean, there’s always someone demanding that you justify your position with stats or facts, when in reality most of what we get out of sports is emotion-based.  Most of my opinions about the Sabres are based on how they make me feel.

What’s wrong with occasionally just rooting for the Sabres to win and then saying, “Oh well.  Get ‘em next time!” when they lose?  Do we really need to analyze Miller from every angle because he’s having a bad season by his standards?  Can’t we just say, “I believe in you, Crunchy,” and root a little harder?

Is that too cheesy or something?

_________

Here, watch this:

This is a video of Spaniards making human towers just for the joyful sake of making human towers.  As far as activities go, making crazy human towers (and topping them off with small children) is pretty bonkers, but watching it fills me with happiness for reasons I can’t quite explain.

Casteller from Mike Randolph on Vimeo.

Sometimes you just have to treat the Sabres like an improbable tower of human bodies.  You don’t really know why you love it so much, but you do.

And just leave it at that.

It’s Time To Get On Board

I have no idea what is going on with this team.  I have no idea where this burst of awesomeness came from, and I have no idea where it’s leading.  It might not be leading anywhere.  There’s still a loooong way to go.

All I know for sure is that this is getting genuinely enjoyable.  If you can’t let go of your preconceived notions about this team, you’re not having as much fun as you should be having.  The Sabres are defying our expectations in a really appealing way.

It’s time to get on board.  It’s time to like these guys.

Just go with it.  And enjoy.

(I just had to make a Jhnoas Enroth tag!  It was fun!)

6 Things

1. Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovable little chickadees! Whether you are in a couple, or as single as single can be, take a minute today to close your eyes and send a few extra love vibes out into the world. After that, celebrate Valentine’s Day however you see fit. Personally, I prefer the “eat some candy-hearts and then otherwise go about my business,” method of celebration.

2. Maybe it’s because of Valentine’s Day (and my belly full of soul-nourishing candy hearts), but I’m just not too worried about the Islanders game. I mean, seriously.  It was one game.  The Sabres kept pace with the Hurricanes, the offense looked robust, Drew Stafford is completely blowing our minds, and it’s warm enough outside that some of this snow is finally going to melt.  Chin up, soldiers!

The bad news: Miller was terrrrrrible (Bad, Ryan!  Bad!), and the defense looked quite poopy.

3. Apparently, things got all cranky and bitch-slappy during the postgame, but whatevs.  People get cranky sometimes, especially cranky goalies when they are in cranky moods. I don’t think I care what goes on between Ryan Miller and the local media. Sometimes Miller’s going to be a brat because he’s a crazy-assed goalie, and being a brat kind of comes with the territory.  *shrug*

Here’s a dramatic interpretation of events that would rouse my genuine interest:

Vogl: Did you feel okay?
Crunchy: (screeching) WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING?!
Sullivan: He’s not implying anything!
Crunchy: Why don’t you let him speak for himself?!
Vogl: …feces?
Sullivan: You’ve given up 4 goals or more 14 times this season, LOSER.
*Crunchy karate-chops Jerry Sullivan*

Call me if (when?) Miller karate-chops Jerry Sullivan, but until then, I’m unmoved.

(For the record- I have absolutely no problem with how Vogl handled himself in the audio I heard, so it’s probably not very nice of me to reference his famous “feces” twitter-analysis.  But I couldn’t resist.)

4. Would it be nice if Ryan Miller returned to Vezina form? Absoluuutely. Is it reasonable to demand that he do so?  Sadly, no.  Frowny faces all around.  :(

Corey Griswold made a pretty good case yesterday on Twitter that the Miller we’re seeing this season is the real Miller, and that last season was an anomaly. (I believe Corey used the Malcolm Gladwell-approved word, “outlier” to describe Crunchy’s last season.) Corey used a bunch of stats to make this point, so, you can rest assured that numbers and mathematics were consulted when I came to the following conclusion:  Every needs to calm the eff down about Crunchy.

I’m not in the mood to get all pissy about Ryan Miller. He’ll be fine. He’s just doing his thing and unfortunately that thing does not include winning the Vezina every year. That’s a bummer for us.

The Sabres lost yesterday because of Ryan Miller. It’s true. Deal with it.

Be glad it doesn’t happen very often.

If you really have your undies in a bunch about Ryan Miller, you can begin crossing your fingers that he gets traded before the deadline. (Lemme know how that works out for you.)

5. That said, a competent backup goalie would be REALLY HANDY right now.  I have no idea what’s got Miller all out of sorts, but it sure would be nice if there was another NHL-ready goalie on the team. Riding Miller into the ground has always seemed like a bad plan, but it seems like a particularly bad plan this season.

Not only is it a bad plan on an intuitive level (I mean honestly, look at Ryan Miller. He looks like he belongs on a Depression-era soup line), but we’ve seen AMPLE evidence that Miller is not up to the task.  It didn’t work when Lindy played Miller for the entire second half of 07/08, it didn’t work when Lindy played Miller for the entire second half of 08/09, and Miller was not particularly sharp in the playoffs last season (an Olympic year).  In my opinion we’ve waded WELL into “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” territory.

The Sabres need another competent, NHL-caliber goalie on the roster, and they also need a coach who is willing to play him.  They will need this for every year that Ryan Miller is on the team.  (Mr. Pegula, if you’re reading this [and I assume you are], you might want to add that to the list of “needs”.)

6. The thing we really should be talking about today isn’t, “Ryan Miller vs The Local Media, Hair Pulling Galore!”  We should be talking about the wondrous, shocking, titillating, confusing, glorious, and jaw-dropping recent play of Drew Stafford.

Yesterday during the game, Kevin Snow tweeted that Staffy had six goals, on his last six shots.  THAT’S RIGHT, YOU FURRY BEEYOTCHES.  Six shots. Six goals.

Personally, I have absolutely no idea how to analyze Staffy these days.  He’s a mystery, wrapped in a hat trick, and smothered with club sauce.  Staffy is currently the most beloved wonky-browed player on the Sabres, which is title I NEVER thought could be wrestled from Ryan Miller’s bony grasp. This is a stunner, Sabres fans.

Behold, our new Wonky-Browed King:

Nice highlights, Staffy.


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