Archive for the 'Adam Mair' Category

The Bandwagoner’s Guide to the Sabres, Part Three: The Forwards

The concept of “the bandwagon fan” is very controversial, but I have a fondness in my heart for the new fan.  After all, it was at this time of year that I myself hopped on the Sabres bandwagon.  Every fan has to start somewhere, and often fandom is inspired by the playoffs.  The current Sabres may not feel like a bandwagon-y situation to a longtime fan, but I’m writing this series for the “Katebitses of 2007″; the guy or gal who is suddenly drawn to the Sabres, but doesn’t know where to begin.

Begin here, Bandwagoner!

_________

We’ve already covered the goalie and the defense, so, today we wade into far murkier waters.  Today, we grit our teeth, roll up our sleeves, and get to work trying to decipher the mystery that is the Sabres corp of forwards.

Part Three: The Forwards

The primary role of the forward is to score goals.  Oh sure, Lindy is going to go on and on about defensive responsibility and blah blah blah, but the fact of the matter is, to varying degrees, these guys are paid to score.  When they don’t score, we are cranky with them.  When they do score, we love them.

-“Lines”

Forwards play in lines of three.  Every line has a center, and two wingers (left and right).  I invite you pay not one speck of attention to who is playing what position.  I’ve never bothered to figure this out, and I don’t think it’s hurt my enjoyment of the game in the slightest.  If faceoffs are what floats your boat (*raises hand*), you should pay special attention to the centers, but other than that, it’s all the same to you.

Some teams have fixed lines, and others don’t.  The coach of the Sabres, Lindy Ruff, tinkers with the lines quite a bit, so you never really know who you’re going to see together on the ice.  Just when you think you’ve figured out the method to his madness you’re all, “…..whaaa?  Is Ellis playing with Vanek and Roy?”  Line watching can be confusing.  When you first start watching hockey, it’s best not to get too bogged down with the construction of the lines, but I CAN highly recommend focusing on the bench to watch them hop over the boards for the line changes.  Board hopping can be foxy, and so can Lalime when he opens and closes the little bench door for the tinier Sabres.

There are several different kinds of lines:

Scoring Lines: The top two lines are the scoring lines, and they are expected to score.  Duh.

Checking line: The checking line is usually the third line, and these guys are often sent out there to neutralize the other team’s top offensive threats.  These guys are certainly welcome to score, and we love it when they do, but really, their job is to slam into the other team and make life difficult for them.

Energy Line: The energy line is usually the 4th line, or as I like to call them, “The Scrubs”.  The Scrubs are not expected to score, and they’re not even really expected to be any good at hockey, but they ARE expected to play really, really hard.  They are expected to play every shift like it might be their last in the NHL (in many cases, it really might be).  They are expected to hit really hard, to not take penalties, not bitch about being a healthy scratch, and, if called upon, to fight in order to protect the “Top Six”.   Personally, I think these guys are kind of a hoot (at a recent game I turned to Robin and said, “Mair and Ellis are stunningly good at keeping control of the puck in the offensive zone for DAYS at a time without ever actually taking a shot on net,” but lots of people get super pissy about them and like to wail continually on Twitter for their dismissal.

Now, onto the actual Sabres players.

Long ago, back when I was a bandwagoner just like you,  my innocent eyes set upon Chris Drury, and my fate was sealed.  It was love at first sight.  My Chris Drury appreciation played a HUGE role in my eventual hardcore hockey fandom.  One look at that thick, dark beard, one interview, and one last-second goal against the Rangers, and I was hooked.  At the time, Chris Drury was the captain of the team, he was the obvious leader in the locker room, and he was constantly scoring clutchy goals.  He was an obvious and perfectly acceptable first favorite player.  Any Sabres fan would have approved.  Chris Drury was an extremely safe choice. (Unfortunately, Chris Drury proved to be a revolting Ranger who is not worth one third of the money he is getting paid.  But that’s a story for another day….)

Sadly for you, Dear Bandwagoner, these are not the simple times of 06/07.  The forward situation is confusing, but I’m here to help.

-The “Top” Six

The Sabres pride themselves on “balanced” scoring (meaning their scoring is fairly evenly distributed throughout the lineup).  Balanced scoring can be a real advantage.  If the other team has no idea which Sabre is the most likely to score, the Sabres can be very difficult to defend against.  But “balanced scoring” might just be a polite way of saying “lacking a true offensive threat”.  I just looked it up, and the Sabres were 10th in the league in scoring this season (I KNOW.  IT BLEW MY MIND TOO), so, they really did score plenty of goals  Because of this “balance” it can be a little difficult to identify our top six.  Players float in and out of the top six based on their performance and Lindy’s whims.

Some teams have Thornton, Heatley and Marleau.  We’ve got these guys.

(But we love them.)  (Mostly.)

Thomas Vanek. Had bad year. I want to love him because he costs $7mil per year and he's all we can afford now. Capable of putting the entire team on his back.

Derek Roy. Ew. Can be awesome, often chooses not to be.

Jason Pominville. Often good. Girls love him, boys can be grumpy about him (just jealous). Cute as a bugs ear.

Tim Connolly. Very good at hockey. Creative player. Most likely has cooties.

Jochen Hecht. He was good, then he sucked, now he's good again. Shy likeability is his trademark. Might be injured for start of the playoffs (girly fingers).

Drew Stafford. Brain-eating zombie? Probably. Concussed. Definitely. Poor guy. "Morrre Braaains" Very rarely plays on top six now that I think about it.

Of this crew, your best bets are Connolly and Vanek.  Vanek has been heating up, and when he gets hot he really is a sight to behold. (He can make that $7 million price tag look like a bargain.)  So, Vanek could be a perfect player to set your bandwagon-y sights upon.  As for Tim Connolly, now this was before my time, but his entire legend was built on one playoff series back in 2006.  Apparently he was amazing until he got his brains scrambled, so I’m figuring he might have high playoff potential now that he’s allegedly healthy.

- Checkers, Grinders, and other assorted misfits

Tim Kennedy. Rookie. Does not look like this anymore. Now he looks like a toothless, greasy hoodlum.

Paul Gaustad. Beloved HONKer. Hard hitter. Funny looking skater. Everyone in Buffalo wants to marry him.

Mike Grier. Is a grown-up. Hard worker. Has probably played a bigger role in returning the team to respectability than he's getting credit for.

Nathan Gerbe. Is currently on the team, but probably won't be come playoff time. That flavor-saver is gross, Gerbs.

Matt Ellis. Got his roster photo taken from waaaaay across the room. Total scrub, but an appealing scrub.

Adam Mair. Less appealing as far as scrubs go, but I don't understand all the squawking for him to be fired. He'll punch you right in the face.

Of these guys, Goose is the clear choice.  Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, everyone will just nod and say “me too,” when you announce that you intend to marry Paul Gaustad.  Mike Grier is another perfectly acceptable favorite, but the problem with him is that he’s only signed through the season and he may very well leave town all, “Screw you guys, I’m going home,” in a few months.  It’s difficult to tell if Mike Grier loves us back. He’s risky that way.

-The Wildcards.

These are the guys that defy categorization.

Tyler Ennis. Might be the next big thing. Might not. *fingers crossed*

Raffi Torres. Darcy gets us one of these guys every year at the trade deadline. Torres is this year's model.

Patrick Kaleta. Pest. Hard hitter. If he were on any other team, we'd hate him passionately. But he's a Sabre, a native Buffalonian, and he's QUITE good at his job, so we pretty much love him. Plus, he seems sweet in a dopey puppy kind of way. Don't try to fight him. You'll just wind up penalized.

Of these three guys, Kaleta is the clear choice.  If you try to talk up Ennis when you’re really just a bandwagon fan, you’re going to sound like a major tool.  If you try to talk up Torres you’re going to get blank stares.  But Patrick Kaleta is the perfect choice for a new fan.  He’s VERY visible on the ice, and almost everyone in town loves him.

__________

Good golly.  That was a lot about the forwards. I hope that clears things up!

Tune in tomorrow (or maybe the next day) to discuss the coaches and management.

4 Scattered Things

I have started and stopped about ten different post today, but I have absolutely no focus or clarity of thought. It occurs to me (and this qualifies as a MAJOR “duh”) that my lack of focus might have a little to do with the fact that I’ve been breathing paint fumes for two weeks, and I’m living in the midst of total chaos.

Mess 2

This is the mess I can see from where I’m sitting right now.


mess 1

This is the mess I can see if I stand up and turn my head to the right.

So, this is my excuse for my piss poor blogging of late.  Everything is crazy in my house, and I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT.

1. I read Bucky’s column today and I had two thoughts:

First, Bucky Gleason made me laugh with this line, “By the sounds of things, Ruff was ready to deliver breakfast in bed to his players and thank them for beating the Islanders.”  Heh.

Second, while I liked the column (seriously!  Some of that information was interesting and hilarious!), I disagree with Bucky’s conclusion which seems to be, “FINAL ANALYSIS: Lindy is the best coach Buffalo could ever hope to have”.  I do NOT understand why everything is so black and white when it comes to the Lindy discussion.  In my opinion, a coach’s job performance grade is going to change over the course of a season- possibly multiple times.  Why is everyone around here so eager to be all, “LINDY IS GREAT! CASE CLOSED!” or “LINDY SHOULD BE FIRED! CASE CLOSED!”  What the hell?  If the Sabres play consistently well all season, then Lindy should keep his job.  If they suck, or they fall back into the same old habits they’ve had for the past two and a half years, well, then he should be fired.  We don’t have to decide his fate for life right this minute, in fact, IT’S COMPLETELY DUMB TO TRY.  Right now, I’m perfectly happy with Lindy, but I absolutely will start squawking for his removal if the team takes a nosedive.  If we are thinking critically about Lindy, our opinions will change over time.  Right?

I think an article about how Lindy is taking conscious steps to morph his coaching style is both interesting and relevant, but it’s waaaaay too early to declare that he’s a “better coach” now.  Lindy deserves a lot of credit for the fast start, but let’s just hold our horses, especially in light of the games played over the weekend.

2. The games played over the weekend were worrisome.

3. Adam Mair is on waivers!  Holy Toledo!  Do the Sabres still have a glut of players at forward (I’m seriously asking- I have no idea), or is Darcy laying the groundwork for another move?  It’s a drag for Mair that he lost his job while he was injured, but I don’t mind this move at all.  This is the kind of move we were begging for last season.  Combined with the Paille trade, it’s a shot across the bow of the locker room, “If you don’t play well enough to make the line-up, you’re out of here.”  I like it.  Now, the Sabres just need to trade one of the top six and then I think even Derek Roy might be convinced to start playing hard every night.

4. Finally, just so you don’t think I’ve been sitting around sniffing paint and stewing in my own filth, here are a few pictures of the house progress I’ve made.

kitchen before 2

Before


kitchen after 2

After


Kitchen before 3

Before


kitchen after 3

After


Sunflower

Don’t even get me started on the Sunflowers….


Sunflower Smear

.….they were a major pain in my ass.  But they’re gone now.

kitchen after 1

Let’s Blow This Baby Up

I’m kind of a drama queen when it comes to the Sabres (although oddly, I’m not a drama queen in any other area of my life), so I felt a little bit of vindication when I made my morning blog rounds today.  It seems I’m not the only person who thought that that was THE WORST HOCKEY GAME IN THE HISTORY OF TIME AND SPACE.  I mean, I’ve seen the Sabres suck plenty of times before, but that game last night was an abomination.  I’m not sure that either team successfully completed a pass all night.  I will forever remember that game as ten guys standing in the middle of the rink kicking the puck around randomly with their skates.  For all I know, they didn’t even USE hockey sticks last night.

But the details about last night are neither here nor there.  The main point is that the Sabres are not a good hockey team.  I’ll admit, I’ve lost ALL patience for waiting around for this particular group of guys to pull it together.  It’s not going to happen.  Drastic steps must be taken.

I’m not ordinarily the type of blogger to play the role of GM.  I don’t feel very confident with my hockey analysis, but this situation has inspired me to go out on a limb and write a serious post about what I would do if I were the GM of the Sabres.  In my opinion, this team needs a major shake-up.

Here are the moves I would make:

Tim Connolly should be retired and sent to a farm to live out his remaining years grazing peacefully.  It’s the most humane solution at this point.

Drew Stafford should be traded for Evgeni Malkin.

Derek Roy‘s talent should be surgically extracted and implanted into Paul Gaustad.  This is a dangerous scheme because there’s a risk that Goose could be infected with some of Roy-Z’s personality as well as his talent (that, of course, would be disastrous/tragic), but I’m sure we can all agree that a Goose/Roy-Z hybrid would be a useful player to have around.  I think it’s worth the risk.  After the talent transferring procedure, the now talentless Derek Roy can become Goose’s personal assistant.  Everyone wins….except Goose, who now has a talentless Derek Roy following him around all the time.

Ryan Miller needs his glass eye removed and replaced with a real eye.  He’s done pretty well with one glass eye, considering, but it’s clear that he needs two good eyes to compete in the NHL.  He might as well get his wonky eyebrow re-cocked while he’s at it.

Jason Pominville needs to be taken off the point on the power play.

Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman need to be sent out into the deep forest and each be given a match, a single bottle of water, and a penknife.  They have 48 hours to hunt and kill the other.  Whoever comes out alive gets to keep his job.

Thomas Vanek should be paid $7.1 million dollars per year for the next six years.

Clarke MacArthur should be traded to the Blackhawks for Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.

Max Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik should be melted down and then recast as Christmas tree ornaments which the Sabres wives and girlfriends can then sell in the concourse to benefit charity.

Andrew Peters should be waived and Adam Mair should start actively practicing punching people and being punched in return.

Patrick Kaleta should be sent to Portland, and Danny Paille should start actively practicing being really, really annoying.

Nathan Paetsch should be traded for Nicklas Lidstrom.

Craig Rivet should be returned to the San Jose Sharks.  This is a mercy trade made of behalf of Rivet who is probably looking at his old team with extreme longing right about now.  This poor dude was living a perfectly happy life in California a few months ago, and now, through no fault of his own, he’s the CAPTAIN of this train wreck.  Poor dude.  I want to set him free.

Mark Mancari, Nathan Gerbe, and Tim Kennedy should all be given trial jobs with the Sabres, but they should be FORBIDDEN from socializing with any of their elder teammates.  Everyday after practice they should be chauffeured to their grim apartments at the Extended Stay America off the 290, and supervised for the remainer of the day.  If any of them even glances wistfully at Chippewa St, they should be automatically fired/executed.

Teppo Numminen should be compelled to retire so that he may begin some sort of job which involves him standing behind the bench with James Patrick looking foxy in a well tailored suit.

Jaroslav Spacek should call a press conference and then bite the head off the pigeon so that we never have to hear about that dumb thing again.  (This isn’t so much of a personnel move as it is a personal request from me to Jaro.)

——-

So that’s what I would do if I were GM.

Adam Mair’s Charm School For Bloggers

Katebits: Adam, I recently realized that I am TOTALLY confused about the Buffalo Sabrgosphere.  There are, like, a hundred million Sabres blogs out there!  I don’t even think I know about all the Sabres blogs anymore.  My blogroll is a mess.

Adam: Maintaining a tidy blogroll is important for any blogger who hopes to make a good impression.

Katebits: I do want to make a good impression!

Adam: And that’s why you’ve come to Adam Mair’s Charm School For Bloggers?

Katebits:  Yes. I’m looking for tips on blogging etiquette.

Adam:  I would be happy to assist you with that, Ms. Katebits.  First of all, I commend you for making this effort to become a well mannered blogger.

Katebits:  Thanks.  I try to be classy.  I mean, I’m not very good at being classy….but I try.

Adam: (gets out a leather bound notebook and fancy feather pen)  Alright, in what area of blogging do you feel you need the most guidance?

(Adam begins jotting down notes as Katebits speaks)

Katebits: Well, like I said, there are so many Sabres blogs now that I’ve gotten WAY behind in my efforts to keep track of them, much less read them all.  I spent a few minutes updating my blogroll today, and I realized there are 29 active Sabres blogs right now.  TWENTY NINE! And those are just the ones I KNOW about!  I need help keeping track of all the Sabres blogs so that I can enjoy them and link to them when appropriate.

Adam: (looking up notebook with a disapproving gaze) Katebits, if you want to be viewed as a lady of impeccable taste and high breeding you can’t have that many links in your blogroll.  It makes you look…oh heavens…how can I put this tactfully?…..well, to be perfectly frank it makes you look….easy.  A blogroll of this size is unseemly!  If you want to maintain a reputation as a woman of high moral fiber, some of those blogs have to go.

Katebits: Really?  But they’re all Sabres blogs!  I love Sabres blogs!  I could never choose!  No, I’m afraid my policy must remain: If you’re writing a Sabres blog and you’ve been regularly updating for a few weeks, send me an email and I’ll put you on the blogroll.

Adam: I say, this type of permissive policy simply will not do!  What about gossipy blogs about the player’s lives?  I suppose your blogroll is FULL of gossip blogs!

Katebits: Well, first of all, that’s not really our style.  Bloggers like to leave the unsightly gossip for the (sniffing in exaggerated disgust) message boards. Plus, not to be rude or anything, but no one really cares that much about your real lives, Adam.

Adam: What?!  I find that insulting!

Katebits: (cooly) Hm.  Well then, I apologize.

Adam: I’m not sure I can accept that apology.

Katebits: Why ever not?

Adam: I think that perhaps only a JOKE would say such a thing.

Katebits: Are you calling me a joke?

Adam: Perhaps I am!  Yes, I believe I am!  I think you, Katebits, are a joke.

Katebits: (getting angry) Oh, YEAH?  Well, what are you going to do about it?

Adam: I shall make you pay!  (rubbing a smelly hockey glove in Katebits’ face) YOU’RE A JOKE!

(Katebits and Adam start brawling until they are broken up by Sabretooth and members of the local media who happen to be filming the entire encounter.)

The End

(Moral of the story: Don’t go to Adam Mair for etiquette lessons, and if you want to be on the blogroll, send me an email.)

Captain February

It’s Yo-Yo again! I totally called this one, guys. It would seem that Lindy is zeroing in on his permanent captain, and I’ve got no beef with his selection. Jochen Hecht is a sexy, passionate warrior. That’s all you need to know. I also like Mair with the A. Nice one, Mairsy.

I am, however, pouting on Goose’s behalf today.

At first glance, giving Soupy an “A” was really upsetting, even without Goose in the equation, but then Pookie pointed out that the Sabres are probably just trying to make Soupy look nice and tantalizing for the trade block. I’m taking a lot of comfort in this theory. It makes perfect sense that the Sabres would want to inflate Soupy’s perceived value, and so, I have decided to endorse this plan, even though it leaves Goose without his letter.

As a favor to the Sabres, I have taken the time to write up a profile that Darcy can send out to prospective traders.

Campbell With Bow

Brian Campbell is an explosive “Offensive defenseman” with a fun loving personality and a killer smile. This two-time All-Star is sure to be a fan favorite and a winner in the hearts children and adults alike. Only his “Souper”-sized personality can overshadow his bone crunching hits. Just ask RJ Umberger! Brian is a leader both on the ice and in the lockerroom. Three times in the last year he has been awarded a letter by coach Lindy Ruff in the Sabres’ rotating captaincy system. If your team is looking for a top defensemen to add a spark to your offense, and a spring to your defense, look no further than Brian “Soupy” Campbell!

No fatties.

Yo-Yo, Staffy, and Mairsy

(This post is a part of a series entitled “Kate’s Favorite Sabre Competition” in which I am choosing my 2007/08 favorite Sabre by process of elimination. Each and every Sabre is a hero, but in the end, there can be only one favorite.)

********

I think I can hear the screams of outrage at IPB from here. Let’s just get this over with, shall we?

Jochen Hecht #55

To say that Jochen Hecht has bewitched me is a massive understatement. I recently watched a game in which he tarted it up with a green mouth guard, scored two goals, and smiled shyly countless times…. and my heart was set ablaze. I got to seriously thinking about Yo-Yo and what he brings to the table, and to my great astonishment, I made an incredible discovery: The guy’s sexy. The guy’s passionate. The guy’s a warrior.

He’s a sexy, passionate warrior.

Once I realized that Jochen is a genuine S,PW everything changed in this competition. Suddenly I was juggling everybody around and trying to make room for Jochen at the top. The very top. There is nothing I love more than a S,PW (R.I.P, Chris Drury), so I began making arrangements for Jochen to ascend to the throne of Kate’s Favorite Sabre. I reinstated his eligibility in the competition, I began working on the break-up speech for the guy who thinks he’s about to be named KFS, and I started saving my pennies for a “Hecht” jersey. I was ready to go.

And then it all came to a crashing halt.

Something was needling at the back of my mind. I knew I had overlooked something important, I just couldn’t figure out what. For several days I racked my brain, and finally, like a bolt of terrifying lightning, it hit me:

July 1st, 2008.

I can’t go through it again. Free agency broke my heart once already, and now I must guard against its cold, greedy grasp. Jochen, until you sign an extension, you are ineligible to be my favorite Sabre. I’m sorry, but this is how it must be.

Drew Stafford #21

Conventional wisdom says that Drew Stafford is the Next Big Thing in Buffalo, and I believe that this is true. I recently watched a Sabres 12 to Remember (vs. Toronto) in which Staffy seriously tore things up on a line with Roy and Vanek. I’m really looking forward to a full season of Drew, and I think he has excellent Favorite Sabre potential. He’s the complete package. He seems to have “future captain” written all over his delightfully scowly face, and I’m certain he will grasp the opportunity to become a genuine superstar. He is awesome, and compelling, and fun, and tall, and fast, and…….cocky.

There is something about this kid that is so, so cocky. Maybe calling Staffy “cocky” is unfair. Staffy has a complicated and nefarious mythology over at IPB, and I have no doubt that this has colored my opinion of him, but still, the dude’s COCKY. Now, I like a blustery, cock-sure fella as much as the next violist, but there is something about Drew Stafford’s particular brand of confidence that needs to be quelled. There is something about that unibrow that must be stopped. There is something about that smirk that simply will not do.

Drew, you are about to enter into a year in which everything should fall into place. You’ve got it all now. It’s for your own good that I am withholding my Favorite Sabre status. I’m concerned that the perks of stardom are going to go to your head. I want you to know that even if you score all the goals, sleep with all the women, and dominate all the games, there’s still one highly coveted title that you must fight to earn: Kate’s Favorite Sabre. I don’t hand this shit out to just any totally awesome hockey player. No, this shit is for reals.

Update: Okay, Staffy. The general consensus in the comments is that you are not cocky. Fine. Word of advice, in a few weeks when they take your roster photo, smile pretty. I’m withdrawing my accusation of cockiness, but I’ve still got a watchful eye on you. One move towards cockiness and it’s back “Mean Katebits”.

Adam Mair #22

Adam Mair, it’s not you. It’s me.

I ADORE you. I love how after the season ended you unflinchingly told reporters that you wanted to stay in Buffalo, and that you intended to stay in Buffalo, and then you went ahead and actually stayed. I love how you basically shrugged your shoulders at the loss of the co-captains, and by doing so, reassured me that someone else will step in and fill the role of leader. I love how you are always punching opposing players with an affable grin on your face. I love how you are part of the fight against animal cruelty. I love you for your scrappyness, your tenacity, and your passion.

I am a new hockey fan. I don’t know much about your wonderful sport. It’s not fair to you, but I’m scared that if I choose you as my Favorite Sabre, I will spend my year saying (by way of explanation), “I don’t know why I chose him. I just really like the guy.” I am certain that you have as much to offer on the ice as you do off, but I’m not a saavy enough fan to articulate your playing attributes…..at least not yet. For my first year as a fan, I want a favorite player that demands no explanation that I can’t offer. Until I’m a smart enough hockey viewer to do you justice with my impassioned vows of devotion, I cannot in good conscious name you my Favorite Sabre.

Like I said, it’s not you. It’s me.

———————————————–

Okay! We’re down to the final four! In order to prolong the last suspense, the last four guys will be in two groups of two. Call your bookies and place your bets today! It will all be over soon.


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

Observations 2
I can be reached at: willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com

For All Your Facebook “Needs”

Categories

puck goggles
In accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Law, The Willful Caboose uses logos and registered trademarks of the National Hockey League to convey my criticism and inform the public of the Sabres' suckitude/badassitude (whatever the case may be). Photos on The Willful Caboose are used without permission, but do not interfere with said owner's profit. If you own a specific image on this site and want it removed, please e-mail me (willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com) and I will be more than happy willing to oblige. (Special thanks to The Pensblog for their help with this disclaimer.)

Pages


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers