Archive for the 'Hmm' Category

About That Game 7…

That was lame.

I hate it when people (especially beat writers- ahem) say “there’s no excuse,” for this or that. In reality there is almost always an excuse, it’s just that some excuses are a lot better than others. In the Sabres’ case, I actually think their excuses for game 7 are pretty solid:

- The Sabres are reeeeeally not as good as the Flyers.

- After game 6, I accidentally drank a beer brewed outside of Philly. That’s a powerful jinx. (Sorry, guys.)

- The return of a probably-still-concussed Jochen Hecht was billed as great news. Think about that.

- Daniel Briere is a cheap-shotting, whining, disgusting-faced, DIVORCED, sniveling baby, AND I HATE HIM, but it would have been a LOT easier to win that series if he were playing for the Sabres instead of the Flyers.

- The Flyers refused to play Leighton, and thus refused to give us a three-goal handicap in the first period. Bastards.

- Half the roster was injured, and the other half was playing injured. Jordan Leopold has, like, 10,000 injuries/flus, and he was STILL deemed a better choice than Steve Montador.  (And Steve Montador was considered a top 4 defenseman by the Sabres at the trade deadline.) My point is that, due to a variety of reasons, the roster was profoundly effed up last night.

- Apparently the Sabres need both Pominville AND Connolly in order to win. Who knew?

- Is it even possible to come back in game 7 after that game 6? I say no.

But, after all the excuses are gathered and accounted for, the last game of the season left me with a few burning questions.

1. What are the Sabres going to do in the offseason? I loved this season. LOVED IT. But, if I’m being honest, I never really bought into this team as a legit Cup contender.  They were a “Well, if the cards fall just right, they might have a shot!” team. Which is certainly not nothing. (Again, I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this team and this season.) This crew overachieved, and as fun as it was, it would be silly to assume they can do it again. Or… maybe it isn’t. Honestly, I have no idea, and that’s kind of my point. I have NO IDEA what is up with these guys anymore. I mostly mean that in a good way.

The only thing I know for sure is that if they’re going to let Timmy walk (and sweet merciful heaven, I hope they do), they HAVE to get someone as good or better. If we come back in October and Darcy is all, “Paul Byron is the new Tim Connolly,” I’m going to be irked. Paul Byron is not the new Tim Connolly, he’s the new hopefully-someday-he’ll-be-as-good-as Tim Connolly.  There’s a difference.

I’m REALLY curious to see how Darcy proceeds when the expectations are increased. If winning the Cup is the goal, then the plan for getting there must assume that the team is better next season than they were this season.  You can’t assume that the young guys are going to all pan out. The teams that win the Cup go out into free agency, and they pick up proven performers. DO IT, DARCY.

2. Why has no one mentioned that Jochen Hecht almost certainly played last night with a concussion?  As much as I like to pretend that I don’t care about the players as people, I’ve gotten increasingly grossed out by concussions this season. Frankly, I was a little disturbed that Hecht came back last night. Concussions are no joke. If the Sabres are trying to suggest that Jochen being cleared to play just happened to miraculously coincide with their monumental need for non-AHL forwards they’re assuming that a). we’re REALLY stupid, and b). we don’t care about Jochen Hecht’s brain. (Both assumptions might be totally true, actually.)

All I’m saying is that the NHL is going to have to learn how to deal with concussions like grown-ups eventually. The sooner the better, if you ask me. In retrospect, I have to assume Jochen Hecht (and his family) would agree the risk was not worth the reward.

3. What’s up with Butts? I do NOT understand Chris Butler. One second he’s benched for four months, and the next second he’s playing for 30 minutes a game, and the next second on the ice for 45,000 goals against during the playoffs. Some players really confuse me, and he’s one of them.

4. Why did Lindy pull Crunchy when he did? And why did the Sabres seem so defeated from the very beginning of the game? As I covered earlier in this post, there are lots of totally reasonable excuses for this loss, but the fact that the team never, not for one second looked mentally prepared was a real disappointment. I mean, there’s losing, and then there’s complete submission. Unfortch, the Sabres pretty much laid down and exposed their bare, vulnerable bellies to the Flyers, which is the international sign for, “Please don’t hurt us.” It’s not the end of the world, but after the run they had, the lopsided loss was pretty unexpected. I mean, at least smash someone’s face into the boards, guys.

As for Lindy pulling Crunchy when he did- I thought that was totally bizarre. There are three types of goalie changes. There’s the, “OMG, you’re the worst goalie in the world”, (this one did not apply to Crunchy last night), there’s the, “I’m going to try to wake you guys up by taking away your star goalie,” and there’s the, “Fuck it. We’re losing this game, let’s just get the poor guy out of there.” Lindy’s decision to pull Miller when he did felt like the, “Fuck it, we’re losing anyway,” variety. Which is weird, because, well… it was pretty obviously the last game of the season.

I dunno. Maybe Miller was just relieved to get the eff out of there.

5. How awesome was Rob Niedermayer?  Look, I know he was mostly poo during the regular season, but the way Nieds elevated his game in the playoffs was impressive. It made me realize that it IS possible to have players who magically find another gear in the postseason, and it made me want MORE of those kinds of players. I hope the baby Sabres were paying attention to Old Man Niedermayer this year.

I’m Not Scared!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the exchange that Lindy told us about in his postgame press conference on Tuesday.  Apparently, in the minutes after Tampa scored their third period goal to pull within one, Lindy sensed that the bench was tentative and jittery.  Lindy barked, “Are you scared?”   And one of the Sabres yelled back, “I’m not scared!”

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend that you watch Lindy’s postgame interview from the Tampa game.  This is Lindy Ruff at his best.  You can hear Lindy tell this little story starting at around the 2:00 mark.

I absolutely love this story, and I love how Lindy tells it.  For a brief second (it’s just a glimmer, really), Lindy looks like a proud father, and then, after he says, “I’m not scared,” he snaps back into coach-mode.  You can see the joy and pride in Lindy’s demeanor.  It’s so lovely.

Not to mention the quote.  “I’m not scared!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this story.  I’ve been trying to imagine which Sabres bellowed, “I’m not scared,” on the bench.  Anyone who was in the arena knows that the Sabres were scared.  Everyone was scared.  That Lightning goal wasn’t a catastrophe, but it made my stomach get all nervous.  I was scared.

But the Sabres took care of it.

“I’m not scared!”

I think that saying, “I’m not scared,” displays both vulnerability and bravery.  (Is there a difference between vulnerability and bravery, really?)  It’s both childlike and warrior-like.  I love it.  It feels so right for this particular Sabres team.

I’m going to try to work, “I’m not scared,” into my fandom.  For a second last night, when I realized that the Red Wings would not eliminate the Hurricanes on our behalf, an absurd fear briefly made an appearance in my throat.  “Oh, God.  What if they don’t make it?  What if they lose on Friday?  What if the Hurricanes win out?”  And then I stopped, and I imagined Goose, or Gerbe, or Pominville sitting on the bench in the middle of an important game, yelling, “I’m not scared,” and it made me smile.

Before the Tampa game, I was describing the Sabres games as “torturous”. That Hurricanes game almost killed me, and yet, at the same time, I’m starting to enter the arena thinking, “There is no way they can lose tonight. No way.”

It’s time to pick a side.

I don’t want to be anxious about these Sabres. Fear is completely unwarranted.  Look at Lindy up there, beaming with pride. He loves this. So should we. I just want to enjoy every minute of the games. And I’m not just talking about the games before they clinch the playoff, I talking about the playoffs too.

There is nothing to fear here.  There is only fun.

I’m not scared!

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.

State of the Onion, Part II

I find myself with an unfamiliar Sabres-related spring in my step this afternoon.  I’m, like, happy about them or something today.  Maybe “happy” is taking things too far.  It’s not happiness I feel, it’s a lack of these-guys-make-me-want-to-barf-ism.   Over the last few months, I’ve come to accept the Sabres for what they are (a mess), and along with this acceptance has come an unexpected sense of peace.

It’s been a bit easier to feel peaceful about them of late.  They really haven’t been all that bad.  8-3-1 in their last twelve games.  Sure, two of the three Islanders games were horror shows, but still, their recent record is their recent record.  They’re doing alright.  Yesterday afternoon I was shocked to realize that the Sabres are six point back, with three games in hand over the Thrashers.  That’s doable, you guys.  It’s not likely, but it is doable.

The thing that’s been most interesting about this stretch of non-suckiness is that they’ve done it with significant injuries to the corp of forwards.  It makes no sense that the team’s record improved as their top points guys started dropping like flies, but there you go.  I find myself watching these games with a kind of bemused detachment.  Like, “Huh.  Look at little Gerbe go.”  It’s nice.

I believe the main reason for this pleasing sense of not-quite-optimism is Terry Pegula.  I don’t tend to put much stock in the ramblings of Bucky Gleason, but the one thing we’ve been consistently told is that Pegula will eventually buy the team.  After that it’s anybody’s guess what Pegula will do, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine that he’ll be as checked-out as Golisano.  Even if Pegula keeps both Darcy and Lindy, at the very least, Larry Quinn will be out of the picture.  That’s not nothing.

As far as players go, next season Rivet, Niedermayer, Connolly, and Grier will almost certainly be gone.  The Sabres will have a new captain- one who presumably will not be in the pressbox for weeks at a time.  Connolly, the guy who drives us all batty with rage, will be driving some other fanbase batty with rage next season. (Imagine a Sabresworld without Connolly!  Just imagine!  I bet the air will smell sweeter, and the arena will be bathed in the warm glow of heavenly love, and little bluebirds will flutter down to perch on our fingers as we sing songs about how much we love the Sabres during the games.  Paradise!)  Obviously, Nieds has been a complete disaster, and thankfully, next year he’ll be gone.  And Grier, well, we wish him the best.  Thanks for your service, good man.  Now please, retire, and stop taking Luke Adams’ minutes.   The elimination of these four players from the roster is NOT insignificant, and by shedding these contracts the Sabres will be waaay ahead of recent years in the “addition by subtraction” category.  WAY ahead.

I’m also hopeful that the Sabres will find a taker for Drew Stafford at the trade deadline.  There are some people who advocate keeping Staffy, and to those people I say, “You’re wronger than anyone has ever been wrong.”  Read this post by Hockey Rhetoric and then come back here and say we should keep Staffy.  It’s time to turn the page on Staffy, just like we turned the page on MacArthur.  (Do you guy miss Clarke MacArthur?  I sure don’t.)

And these are all changes that we can reasonably expect even if Darcy stays.

If Darcy is canned, we’re looking at a whole new Sabres landscape.  I’ve always been curious to find out if the fierce loyalty that Darcy has shown Lindy is a two-way street.  Will Lindy even want to stay if Darcy goes?  I won’t even bother speculating on what kind of on-ice changes a new GM and a new coach might bring, because at that point we’re basically talking about a different franchise.  We’d be in no-man’s land.  Delicious, exciting, thrilling no-man’s land.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I really believe that things ARE going to be different next season.  I don’t see any way around it.  Even if Darcy stays, Tim Connolly and Larry Quinn are leaving. For the first time in my short fandom, the sense that “nothing will ever change” is gone.  I’m watching the Sabres differently now.  I’m watching with a more appraising eye.  In a weird way I’m grateful for the string of injuries because it’s given us the opportunity to get a good look at the young guys in the system.  I’m looking at the franchise as a whole, and I’m trying to figure out what we’ve really got here.  Watching the Sabres like this is refreshing and it’s fun, and most importantly, it’s different.  In that respect, the change is already beginning for me.

Barring some miracle, this season will not amount to much, but I’ve really enjoyed watching the Sabres lately.  I’m less preoccupied with wins and losses, and more fascinated by the individual efforts of particular players.  (You know who I’ve found downright riveting lately?  Sekera.)

The entrance of Pegula has allowed me to give up on the season without giving up on the Sabres, and that is a change I never saw coming.

State of the Onion, For Realsies.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging with the same zeal (comical rage-aliciousness?  passionate flabbergasttedy?) as I have in the past.  This blogging lull is for a variety of reasons, ranging from ordinary blog fatigue to dude-the-Sabres-blow-itus, but I am hoping it’s just a lull, not a permanent situation.  In the last month I’ve given some real thought to closing up shop on the blog, but I’m not there yet.  I don’t want to quit, and I especially don’t want to quit while the Sabres are being so…meh.

If I quit now, then Tim Connolly wins.  He will have beaten me.  That’s not going to happen.  Not on my watch.

So, we slog forward.  (See, right here is a perfectly decent excuse to keep blogging.  If I didn’t have a blog about the Buffalo Sabres, I would have considerably fewer excuses to use the word “slog” in public.  Not using the word “slog” is no way to live.)

I’m curious to find out how I’ll remember a season like this after a lifetime of fandom. (And please, if you happen to be there at my deathbed in 70 years [I plan on living until I’m 105], please do NOT ask me to spend any of my last moments on earth attempting to recall the 2010/11 Sabres. That’s no way to die.)  I suspect I’ll forget all about this season.  To be honest, I’m barely keeping track of them from one game to the next right now.  I had to think reeeeally hard this morning trying to remember the Sabres opponent at the game I attended with Heather three weeks ago (Ducks).  It’s not that I haven’t been paying attention (I still watch whenever I can, and I still want them to win), but that funny thrilling desperation for wins is very muted this year.  That tired expression, “Don’t get too high, and don’t get too low,” is….laughable this season.  The rally cry of the Sabres fan is more like, “Try not to fall asleep during the 2nd period.  Maybe lay off the boxed wine, you filthy lush.”

And that’s really all I have to say about the current state of the Sabres.  Well, that and, “Ryan Miller, I want to be happy for you and your starlet fiance, but seriously, your lack of crankiness is worrisome.  I realize it’s difficult to stay cranky when you’re sleeping with a super-mega hottie, but Crunchy, you must try.   Without your crankiness, I’m afraid you’re considerably less charming.  Your super powers in net seem to depend on you being an unhappy person.  That sucks for you, but you’ll have plenty of time to be happy after you retire.  I’m pretty sure I speak for all Sabres fans when I say- it’s time to ditch the woman you love.  Sorry!”

_________

But this Pegula thing is genuinely interesting.

I have high hopes for Pegasaurus if only because he might fire some people, and then, at the very least we’ll have a new set of problems to complain about.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point: Last year on trade deadline day, I ran into Kevin [of Bfloblog fame] at the arena.  He was making fun of me for being all gung-ho about our new Sabre, Raffi Torres.  It wasn’t that Kevin was anti-Torres, it was more that he had learned over time not to get too worked up over Darcy’s deadline acquisitions.  He found my enthusiasm amusing.  Now, Kevin was ultimately proved 100% right.  The correct response to acquiring Torres is NOT, “yay.”  Sweet baby Jebus, no. The correct response is, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!  WHY GOD, WHY?!” with lots of fist shaking towards the sky.  But still.  I want to live in a world where giddy enthusiasm over a trade deadline acquisition is expected, not weird and misplaced.   Even if we wind up loathing the next GM with the passion of a trillion white-hot suns, we’re still going to enjoy a brief period of not knowing what to expect.  We’ll have tons to talk about, and tons to analyze, for better or for worse, and hopefully we’ll get at least one really interesting trade deadline day out of the deal.  (Sell, New Guy!  SELL!)

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, just like everyone else in town, I’m pro-Funky-Cold-Pegula.  Very.

_________

Hey!  I just had a really good idea!  Maybe we can cheer Darcy Reiger up [presuming he gets fired] by giving him Ryan Miller’s fiance.  We can send Darcy off with a smile on his face, and we can piss Ryan Miller off, something fierce.  Two birds, one stone, you know?

Cleveland

Recently my friend Dinesh made a joke about how I’m a silly little innocent who doesn’t understand true sports pain because I grew up rooting for the Twins.

He’s right.

My only other true, with-all-my-heart sports rooting interest before I came to Buffalo was the Minnesota Twins.  As a small child, I cheered like all kids do, without really worrying too much about wins and losses.  I loved the Twins either way.  Then, in 1987 when I became old enough to crave wins (I was twelve), the Twins won the World Series, and then they did it again in 1991.  During my formative years, I saw the Twins lose plenty, but I never saw them lose a playoff series, and I saw them win the World Series twice.  So, my friend Dinesh is right.  I was spoiled as a child, and I don’t intrinsically understand how it feels experience a lifetime of sports fandom without ever seeing a championship.

Dinesh is from Cleveland, so he DOES understand true sports pain.  As he says about cheering for Cleveland sports and the expectation that eventually his team will lose, “It’s always something.”

For one reason or another, I’ve become temporarily transfixed by the drama occurring around LeBron James today.  I know almost nothing about basketball, so my interest in this is coming for a position of complete ignorance.   Last night I became intrigued when the tone of the LeBron discussion in my Twitter feed became dramatic and scathing.   As the game wound down, Bruce Arthur wrote, “This isn’t just a capitulation by LeBron. It’s not just a surrender. This is a betrayal.” Whoa.  That’s some hardcore losing.

So, I’ve spent the morning reading about LeBron James and the history of Cleveland sports, and my final conclusion is, “Holy crap, poor Cleveland fans….they’re like Buffalonians.”

I don’t feel comfortable closely identifying with the history of losing in Buffalo.  That history is not my true experience and to over-identify with it seems a little disengenuous, but I have gotten increasingly aware of “it” in recent years (heh) and I deeply empathize.  My empathy is in part selfish, because it’s for my future self.  After all, if things stay the course, eventually I will have a genuine history with Buffalo’s losing ways.

I’m curious about how born-and-bred Buffalonians feel about Clevelanders.  I feel a combination of deep deep sympathy, and also a little bit of petty, “Ha ha!  You guys never win either.  LOSERS.”  I’ll admit, the idea of the Cavaliers delivering a championship to Cleveland made me jealous, and sort of cranky.  But now that it’s looking so grim for the Cavs, and LeBron is about to become a free agent on top of everything else….boy.  Poor, poor Cleveland.  They don’t deserve that.

So, Buffalo.  How does Cleveland make you feel?  Sad?  Petty?  Happy?  Would it make you happy to see them win, or would it make you feel lonelier here in Buffalo?

Are Cleveland fans our brothers in pain, or are they the competition?

Go Bengals

One of the things that has changed in my life this year is that I’m teaching at Buff State.  Once a week I trot over to the Buff State campus, I search for parking like every other poor soul in town, and I teach some viola lessons.  It’s a pretty low-key position, but doing this job has put me back into regular contact with college students, and it’s been a really rewarding experience.

I’m 34-years-old, and I graduated from college in 1997, which, if my math is correct, was ten million years ago.  Being back on a college campus after almost a decade and a half away is interesting, particularly around the end of the semester.

I’m not so old that I don’t remember how insanely stressful college finals can be.  In fact, stepping on to campus, I have to say, the stress is palpable.  It’s in the air.  Being in that collegiate atmosphere, even as a visitor, and even 13-years-later, creates in me an interesting combination of nostalgia and retroactive panic.

At the risk of sounding like I think I’m some sort of wise old sage (WARNING: I assure you, I am NOT a wise old sage), I guess I feel compelled to say this today: If you are a student like I was, and you feel like you might explode from the stress, and being in school makes you feel like you might have a nervous breakdown…..just try not to worry, and just try to survive it.  It won’t always be like this.

When I wander around Buff State, the memory of that “end of the year stress” is so strong that I literally feel it in my body, but honestly, I don’t remember ANY of the events from college that caused that stress.  After a few years away from school, the memories of specific tests and recitals and exams just kind of faded, and they definitely lost their death grip on my psyche.

Being around college kids reminds me that whatever I’m freaking out about today probably isn’t going to mean diddly-poo in a few years.  In a few years we’ll all have entirely new diddly-poo to fret about; which, if you think about it, is oddly comforting.


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

Observations 2
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