Archive for February, 2012

Deadline Day, 2012.

Well, the dust has settled on Trade deadline Day 2012, and it’s left us all stunned, giddy, freaked out, and not a little bit sad (*mournful honk*).

My plan going into today was this: I intended to throw Darcy under the bus and never look back if he failed to trade either Derek Roy or Drew Stafford off the team. Then, I intended to rock the bus back and forth over him until he was just a Darcy-shaped pile of dust (I assume Darcy explodes into dust like the vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when killed).

In typical Darcy fashion he failed to meet my minimum expectations while simultaneously pulling an attractive rabbit out of his hat that I had never even thought to demand. He’s a wily one, our Darcy Regier. I’d call him a master of misdirection, but this wasn’t even that. I’m not distracted from Derek Roy. No, I don’t even care about old Roy-Z anymore (for now). I’m like, “Shut up about Roy-Z, Darcy. I’m trying to watch Cody Hodgson highlights on Youtube over here.”

Let’s try to iron this all out, shall we? Here are the dudes involved:

Acquired: This is Cody Hodgson. He's a Sabre now. He's now our 3rd highest scorer. Most importantly, he's a CENTER which is making everyone weak in the knees.

Acquired: This is Alexander Sulzer, somehow already Photoshopped into a Sabres uniform. He's a Sabre now, also a handsome ginger. He's the ginger-iest Sabre since Brian Campbell!

Traded: Zack Kassian is now a Vancouver Canuck. This is sad for a number of reasons, not the least of which he's one of those professional athletes that looks more like a plumber than a professional athlete, and I like those guys.

Traded: Marc-Andre Gragnani and his incredibly hard-to-spell name are now Vancouver Canucks.

This is the big, bonkers deal has everyone’s heads spinning (including a LOT of heads in Vancouver). Personally, I’m not sure what to say about this other than… whoa. Darcy traded his gigantic maybe-he’ll-turn-into-Lucic No. 1 prospect, and in return he got a young NHL-ready center. This move was risky for both teams, and I suspect we’re going to spend a lot of time over the next few years comparing the fortunes of Hodgson and Kassian. Only time (possibly lots of time) will reveal the true winner of this one, but right now the consensus seems to be the Sabres got the best player in the deal.*high five, Darcy*

The overlooked wildcard here is Gragnani, who has struggled in Buffalo but has a lot of potential. I have no idea what’s up with Sulzer (is he even going to play for the Sabres? Or is he a straight-to-the-Amerks kind of guy?), but he’s handsome enough, so whatever. I’ll take him. (If you need a place to stay when you get here, you can stay in my guest room, Sulzie. As usual, the house rules for Sabres are: 1. No skanks 2. No loud music without headphones unless it involves the viola.)

On the surface, this trade gets a thumbs up. If nothing else, this move is fun just because it happened. With this trade, Darcy has busted out of his “I value my prospects too highly” rut in a big, big way. This is the kind of exciting, dramatic, high-risk move that Darcy-from-two-seasons-ago just wouldn’t have made. This kind of thing is fun, and it’s a treat to have the Sabres involved.

Okay, moving on, with an incredibly deep sigh, and true pain in my heart…

Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. Paul Gaustad *sob* is now a Nashville Predator.

This one is tough.

I think there are times in everyone’s fandom when logic goes out the window and you revert to a more childlike, innocent mentality. This is one of those times for me. I’m an unabashed Paul Gaustad fan, and while the return in the trade was certainly favorable, I’m just plain old sad about losing Goose.

Goose was my first favorite Sabre.  When I became a hockey fan 5 years ago, part of the appeal of the sport was cheering for these mysterious characters on the ice, and for me, at the heart of that appeal was Paul Gaustad. I just like the guy, and I always have. I think it’s important to have players like this- favorites- players you care about more than you care about the others. Having favorite players makes watching a team more special, more heartbreaking, and more moving.

I don’t write about it much anymore, but before I became a fan of the Sabres, I didn’t like living in Buffalo. I felt weird and out of place here. I’ve never been able to describe it eloquently, but when I became a Sabres fan, I became a Buffalonian, and my entire life took a turn for the happier. Whenever I think of Goose’s time in Buffalo, I’m going to remember what it was like to fall in love with the Buffalo Sabres, and in turn what it was like to fall in love with this city and finally make Buffalo my home. In that way, Goose cemented himself as an all-time favorite for me.

I’ll always appreciate how he conducted himself as a Sabre and a Buffalonian and I wish Paul nothing but the best in Nashville. We will miss him dearly.

HONK!

Deadline Schmeadline

I’ll be relieved when the trade deadline is over. Part of me loves this period of “Anything can happen! Drew Stafford and the corpse of Jochen Hecht for Rick Nash!” but another part of me hates how we all react to moves that haven’t even happened. The other day Nick Cotsonika tweeted that the Sabres are trying to re-sign Paul Gaustad, and the next thing anyone realized the entire sports conversation had veered into “PAUL GAUSTAD?! WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?” In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with a conversation about Goose, but this one was had almost exclusively in angry, frustrated tones, and the entire premise was based on one tweet which is in opposition to all the other information we’ve heard about this topic.

The whole thing left me feeling icky. Not to mention conflicted about Goose (who I love).

But all of that is really neither here nor there.

The real reason I’m looking forward to the trade deadline being over is that I want to root for the Sabres again. I’ve been a bit conflicted about them because I want Darcy to sell at the deadline, and the best way for Darcy to be convinced to sell is if they lose a lot. So, they need to lose, at least through the deadline.

After the deadline is a different story.

Like everyone else in the world, I have no idea what’s up with this team. Are they terrible? Are they mediocre? Has there been any hint of future greatness in this revolting season? Nobody knows.

The one thing I’ve really decided about the 2011/12 Buffalo Sabres is that they’re not a lottery pick team. I don’t think they’ve got what it takes to hang onto a top five pick. There are still too many games in the season, and the Sabres are finally healthy. Injuries don’t excuse all of the losing this season, but they certainly excuse some of the losing. The Sabres are NOT as bad as their record, and to expect them to keep overachieving in the “suckiness” category is a good way to land myself in the loony bin. The second the trade deadline is past, I’m right back on the irrationally-pray-for-a-miracle-run-to-the-playoffs train.

The Sabres are going to end the season somewhere between 8th-11th place in the East. I’ve made my peace with this, and I’m comfortable admitting that I hope they end in 8th.

As far as the trade deadline goes, I’ve still got my fingers crossed that Darcy has a few addition-by-subtraction maneuvers up his sleeve. If Tuesday arrives and nothing of significance has changed, I’ll grab a pitchfork and lead the charge, but I’m going to do my very best to save my outrage until then. I’m going to try to dwell on the fun part of the trade deadline- the gleeful, goofy, ridiculous, and delightful hope that Darcy can somehow turn Drew Stafford into Dustin Brown, and then the Sabres storm to the finish line.

A heroic run to eighth place sounds good to me.

Tick Tock

Somewhere in the back of my head a stopwatch started counting down last night.

For someone as hardcore about the Sabres as I am, I think I’m a fairly patient fan. I try not to get too salty about the Sabres, and often times that requires a little bit of self-delusion. I think sports fandom without at least a little bit of self-delusion is totally weird. Irrational hope is a big part of the attraction, here. It’s the reason we care about sports at all. So, as a mostly-sane Sabres fan, I have bumbled along this season, doling out the irrational hope during the “up” stretches and trying to avoid getting dramatically emo during the “down” stretches.

If I have enjoyed a favorite willful delusion this year it has been in the area of Terry Pegula and Ted Black. I want to believe in those guys, I want to believe that they have a plan and that eventually that plan will work. I want to believe, and so I do.

I still don’t think Pegula and Black have made any obvious and horrible mistakes, but they have been undeniably cautious. In many franchises (dare I say most?) Lindy and/or Darcy would’ve been fired this season. I don’t necessarily disrespect the decision to keep both coach and GM employed through this lost season, but my willingness to blindly follow Pegula and Black now feels a bit tested. It feels like the warm fuzzies that I enjoyed just one year ago on “Pegula Day” has an expiration date.

The clock has started.

The way I see it, Darcy has ten days to save his job, and then depending on how he performs, Pegula and Black have a few months to respond accordingly. Darcy has made a lot of mistakes in the past year, but with this trade deadline he now has the opportunity to fix a few of them. He needs to trade an expiring UFA contract or two (that’s the easy part), and he also needs to get one of these forwards (Stafford, Roy, Leino) off the books for next season. If Darcy can’t (or won’t) do that, then I think the pressure is on Pegula to fire him.

In hindsight it’s very strange to me that Pegula stated a timeline so specifically for winning the Cup when he took over the Sabres. Three years is such a short amount of time, and winning the Cup is so incredibly difficult. Why put a timeline on winning the Cup?

I think Pegula made a mistake when he assumed that Sabres fans want a Cup quickly. I can only speak for myself, but as long as it happens before I die, I’m not super concerned about the timeline for the Sabres winning it all. What I really care about is the sense that the franchise is in good hands. I want to see that poor performance has consequences. I want to believe that our young players have every opportunity to improve in the Sabres system. I want to feel like the team is on the right track. Granted this has been a monumentally disastrous season, but right now, I’m not so sure about any of those things.

Frankly, if someone came out today and said, “We’re rebuilding and we don’t know how long it’s going to take,” I’d be happier with that than I ever was with the arbitrarily chosen 3 year window to win.

Make no mistake, the Sabres had some unbelievably bad luck this season. And please don’t get me wrong, I’ll love this franchise for the rest of my life. But there’s faith and then there’s willful self-delusion. I’m capable of either, but faith is so much more satisfying. A franchise built on faith is a franchise that I can watch forever.

I want to believe, I really do, but Pegula’s grace period is now officially winding down. I suspect that the next few months will determine a lot about how we view this ownership team for a long time to come.

 

10 Things

If you’re like me, for the last few weeks you’ve been all, “Hey, I should write something on my Sabres blog,” but then you put it off for a few days, and even though all sorts of Sabre-y stuff happened you KEPT not writing about it, until it became a “thing.” Not writing on your blog was just LOOMING over each day, but you STILL did not write on your blog. Eventually all your blog post fragments stacked up into a giant pile of “THINGS THAT WOULD’VE MADE TIMELY BLOG POSTS TWO WEEK AGO,” and you got overwhelmed and felt sort of like taking a nap instead of blogging. So, you were just like, “Eff it. It’s nap o’clock. Zzzz.”

In an effort to get back on the blogging horse, here’s a post that I’ve pieced together from stuff I’ve written over the course of two weeks. Disjointed and outdated blog posts are fun! Right? …RIGHT?!

1. I’m still pretty firmly in the, “Don’t get your hopes up because everything about this season REEKS of 10th place,” camp, but still, it was SUCH a delight to watch the Sabres cream the Bruins on Tuesday and then come from behind against the Stars. A DELIGHT. All I really want for the rest of the season is to enjoy watching them play. There is a very real part of me that enjoys “meaningless” games. I’ve already made my peace with this season, so anything exciting from here on out will be greeted as an added bonus.

A couple of weeks ago I had a passionate conversation with some friends at a game about all the implications of finishing 10th place rather than finishing last place. I think everyone with a brain can agree that in the grand scheme of things if you’re going to miss the playoffs there is a real benefit to being truly bad- like, last place bad – but I think we can also agree that as it’s unfolding, a 10th place season is at least 8xs more fun than a 15th place season.

When the Sabres are winning we are happy. That’s just how it is and that’s how it should be. Even if the end result is 10th place.

2. All that said, I am starting to dare to dream about an epic run to make the playoffs. Hope has definitely begun to creep in. We have reached the part of any almost-lost season where every single win and especially every single loss creates a ridiculous amount of emotional response.

After a win, I go to Sports Club Stats, and check on their chances to makes the playoffs.

We finally got a piece of the pie. Unfortunately that pie was Ville Leino, but whatever. The Sabres won, the graph is moving upwards. We rejoice!

I go to Sports Club Stats after every loss as well, but the reaction is sliiiiiightly more dramatic.

Every time the Sabres lose it’s pretty much the saddest song in the world. And it will remain this way until the season ends or the Sabres are eliminated from playoff contention. Whichever comes first.

3. After the Bruins game, Ian Ott (Sabres PR Extraordinaire) tweeted this:

Say what?

We can now update this stat to 16-8-1 with six of their top seven defensemen playing. Is it possible that is WAS the injuries?! That stat doesn’t excuse the suckiness of players like Stafford or Roy, but still, it’s an eye opener. The team that looked irredeemable three weeks ago suddenly looks truly capable. They got healthy and Ryan Miller got good again. Turns out they’re not chopped liver after all.

I suspect that the truth of this team lies somewhere in between “chopped liver” and “contender.” I’m honestly not sure where. What I AM sure of is that if they keep playing well, Darcy will use injuries as an excuse not to make any significant changes at the deadline. Be prepared, Sabres fans.

And while we’re at it, we might as well keep an open mind. Maaaaaybe they’re actually good.

4. Derek Roy has to be injured, right? I know we like to bag on him and act like he’s worthless in every way, but until he got injured last season he was a very reliable points getter for many consecutive years. It’s hard to believe that he won’t have a bounce-back season next year. He’s definitely not totally worthless. I strongly suspect that Roy-Z will remain a Sabre throughout this year and next. Trading Roy now would require trading low, and the mere thought probably gives Darcy hives and facial tics.

5. You know who might actually be totally useless? Drew Stafford.

6. If I’m fed up with Drew Stafford, I’m still remarkably patient with Ville Leino. I think Ville Leino is an interesting character. Yeah, his contract is horrible, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s somehow important. (Like good-important. Not necessarily “his contract will sink them”-important.) The Sabres have had some undeniable chemistry issues this season, and there’s something about Ville Leino that seems like maybe he hasn’t fit in with the locker room. On one hand, you obviously don’t want an overpaid new guy to throw off locker room chemistry, but on the OTHER hand, I kind of like the idea of Ville Leino smirking all over the “core.”

When the injuries started piling up and the team started to free fall in the standings, once again, we were faced with the hard truth about the “core” (Miller, Pominville, Vanek, Gaustad, Stafford, and Roy). There is something missing, something lacking, about this core. There just is. It doesn’t mean they’re bad players, or bad guys, or bad Sabres… but they are a less-than-ideal core. I don’t see how it’s even debatable at this point.

It’s kind of interesting to me that the media and fans still refer to the same six guys as “the core.” Who knows where Ryan Miller is going to be after next season, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff will be right here in Buffalo. If we, as observers of the team, have a hard time accepting Ville Leino as a “core” team member, imagine how it felt in the locker room.

I can’t quite explain it, but to me, Ville Leino seems like he’s at the center of some type of team mentality shift. Regardless of whether or not Darcy makes trade deadline moves, the “core” of this team has in fact already changed. It’s not just Miller, Vanek, Pominville, Roy, Stafford, and Gaustad anymore. Ville Leino is at the core now too. (I know. Scary. But really, is he any scarier than Drew Stafford? I say no.) Ville Leino and how he fits in is very interesting to me.

For some insane reason, I remain hopeful about #23.

7. OBVIOUSLY, the most pressing issue that I haven’t yet addressed is the fact that a Buffalo Sabre (Jordan Leopold, you wily SCAMP!) literally took out Lindy Ruff.  I’ve make a lot of jokes around here about coach killing, but… whoa.

(The fact that I’m only writing about this now is a real indication of how effed up my blogging rhythm is these day. Three years ago, I would’ve written about TEN THOUSAND post about just this topic.)

8. In light of his significant injuries, I thought it was a little odd that Lindy did the postgame press conference after the Bruins game. It seemed like the media really enjoyed talking to him, and Lindy was certainly entertaining that night, but there was something about it that made me say, “… huh.”

Part of me thought, come ON Lindy, just let James Patrick be the head coach for one night.

I have no idea what part of Lindy’s personality compelled him to be there (Super hard worker? Control freak? Tough guy? Paranoia? His true love of hockey? Martyr? A “team first” mentality?) but if you ask me, the sane thing to do when you break three ribs is to sit on the couch in comfy outfit, enjoy the Vicodin, and trust that everything at work is going to be there for you when you get back. Obviously there are a bunch of factors involved with his situation that I couldn’t begin to comprehend, but the whole injury has put Lindy in a different light than I’m used to seeing him. Because of the injury, Lindy has looked vulnerable this week.

It’s interesting and different to see Lindy this way, but I hope he feels better soon. I wish him a fast recovery.

In one way, Lindy has looked vulnerable, but in another way…

9. Jordan Leopold took the concept of “coach killing” to preposterous new levels, and yet, he STILL FAILED TO FINISH THE JOB. Lindy, the most unkillable coach in the history of the NHL, has now survived an actual physical attack. Lindy did not survive unscathed, but I think there is reason to believe his rib injury will only add to his power. Frankly, I don’t see how Lindy can ever be stopped now, and I worry that this brush with death has infused Lindy with supernatural immortality. He’s like a vampire now. Surely there IS a way to kill him, but it’s probably incredibly complicated and involves some type of Lord of the Rings-style journey to collect an all-powerful orb/ring/horcrux.

Not only do I believe Lindy Ruff will NEVER be fired from his job, he’s also probably also about to stop aging. And showing up in mirrors.

10. Having nothing to do with the Sabres:

My viola-playing BPO BFF (Janz) is the type of guy to exaggerate things for the sake of a good story. (I love this quality in a person, so trust me, I’m not criticizing.) Anyway, many years ago we were playing some Tchaikovsky, and somehow Janz and I got to talking about how Tchaikovsky was pretty crazy (he was kind of a piece of work) and Janz said, “You know, he used to eat his scores.” When I was all, “WHAAAAT?!” Janz said, “Yeah, I can’t remember where I heard this, but if Tchaikovsky didn’t like the piece, he would eat it.

This was a level of crazy that I had not previously attributed to Tchaikovsky.

I was skeptical, but I was willing to believe the story, mostly because it led to all kinds of jokes. Now whenever we’re playing Tchaikovsky and we’re not totally in love with the piece, or maybe the rehearsal feels a little slow, or we’re just feeling kind of cranky one of us will inevitably say, “I kind of wish Tchaikovsky had eaten this score.” Yesterday at work Janz pretended to take a tiny bite out of the corner of our Piano Concerto No. 1 part. This is good solid fun.

Janz and I have friendly-squabbled for years about whether or not Tchaikovsky actually ate his scores. I accused him of spinning a tall tale, and he insisted that, “No, I swear. It’s true. I heard it somewhere. I think from an old music history professor. Tchaikovsky ate his scores!” A few months ago I spent a good hour scouring the internet looking for even one reference to “eating the score,” to no avail. Later on, Janz did his own research and found the same. Sadly, although this joke that has stood the test of time, I don’t think it’s true that Tchaikovsky ate his scores.

BUT, from now on, because of this blog entry, there WILL be a reference to Tchaikovsky eating his scores on the internet. My dream is that years from now one of you will casually mention to a friend that while you can’t remember where you heard it, you remember hearing that Tchaikovsky used to eat scores that he didn’t like. And then years after THAT, the person that you told that story to will do an internet search and find this blog.

Basically, I’m trying to start a rumor that Tchaikovsky used to eat his scores. Pass it on.

In Which My Inescapable Need to Over-Analyze My “Relationship” With the Buffalo Sabres Finally Comes In Handy: A True Story of Optimistic Mental Contortions, by Katebits.

EDIT: I wrote this post before the Rangers game which ended just moments ago. The Sabres lost the game in the shootout but they won in our hearts (IT WAS A TIE).

Maybe the Sabres aren’t bad? Maybe they’re… awesome? I have no idea, but I will say this: I’m not sad about that “loss” at all. Maybe my cheerfulness in the face of the shootout loss proves that the conclusion I reach at the end of this post is true. I dunno. It’s all very confusing and fun.

_______________

The Sabres are bad. Possibly extremely bad. They might not be as bad as they seem (like it or not, injuries ARE kind of a reasonable excuse), but they’re still waaaaay worse than we ever thought they could possibly be.

I’ve spent the last few days wringing my hands worrying about whether I’m reacting to the Sabres in the “right” way. (I know. I’m the most annoying person in the world.) I like to think of myself as a cheery fan, so it worries me when I veer into genuinely gloomy Sabres territory. The big question is: Should I (CAN I?!) actually root against the Sabres?

(Now look. I know that technically the Sabres still have a mathematical chance at making the playoffs, but I’m not a, “I still believe!!!!” kind of fan. If you are that type of fan, all the power to ya. Me? I’m more of a “Accept it at face value and then make the best of it,” kind of girl. Right now the face value of the Buffalo Sabres looks to be about $1.50.)

The facts say that the Sabres have much better odds of snagging a lottery draft pick than they have of making the playoffs. History says that it’s going to take failure on an undeniable level for there to be a management/coaching change. Flaming out in spectacular fashion really might be the Sabres’ best available option. At the very least, a real flame out is decisive. A season-long flame out says in a loud, clear, impossible-to-ignore voice, “Stop dicking around, Sabres management. Changes MUST be made.”

The trouble is, watching the Sabres flame out is not very fun. Or…is it?

The Habs game last night was fascinating to me. I really enjoyed that game, and yet, at the very end, if the Habs had tied it up, I think I would’ve been fine with it. (It’s hard to say for sure how one might feel in the face of hypothetical suckiness.) I was definitely rooting for the Sabres. I was genuinely happy when the Sabres scored, and I laughed with glee watching the Habs skate around like a bunch of clowns in reaction to the Sabres inexplicable dominance. (Seriously, Habs. You guys made the Sabres look like geniuses last night and that is, well, frankly hilarious.) BUT, the voice in the back of my head saying, “It wouldn’t be so bad if the Habs won this game…” That voice never really went away.

It occurred to me last night after the game that this might actually be a win-win situation for the optimistic fan. If the Sabres win, yay! The Sabres won. Rejoice! If the Sabres lose… yay! (YEAH, I SAID IT!) The Sabres are still on their way to a tasty draft pick, and maybe some of these crummy players and/or crummy GMs and coaches might finally get booted out of here.

Conclusion: WE LITERALLY CAN’T LOSE, YOU GUYS. IT’S ALL GOOD!

Ta-da! Cheerfulness wins again!

(Please now picture me in the triumphant pose of a gymnast who has just stuck the landing in an Olympic competition. Thank you.)


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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