Katebits: Oh hi, Mike Grier.
Mike Grier: Hi, Katebits.
Katebits: Congrats on the new contract.
Mike Grier: Thanks.
Katebits: Just admit it.
Mike Grier: Admit what?
Katebits: You love us.
Mike Grier: I’ll admit no such thing.
Katebits: (poking Mike Grier in the side) You loooove us.
Mike Grier: (batting Katebits away) Stop being foolish.
Katebits: (singing) Buffalo and Mike Grier, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marria-
Mike Grier: Stop this at once!
Katebits: Okay, I’ll stop. But I know the truth.
Mike Grier: …..(death glare)
Katebits: (under breath) You love us.
Mike Grier: Not true.
(Mike Grier winks devilishly)
Katebits: I SAW THAT. You winked.
Mike Grier: (sternly) Wrong. That never happened.
Katebits: Okay, okay. You don’t love us, and you never winked. You’re the boss.
Mike Grier: Exactly.
Archive for the 'Mike Grier' Category
Katebits: Oh hi, Mike Grier.
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.
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.)
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
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.
These are the guys that defy categorization.
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.
We’ve heard a lot this season about how Lindy Ruff has been backing off from his normal routine of screaming and yelling. He claims that he is letting the Sabres lead themselves. After a bad game, he lets them work it out on their own. After thinking about this for a bit, I developed an image of Craig Rivet and Mike Grier playing good cop/bad cop in the Sabres locker room.
Mike Grier is the tough task master. He yells at the slackers, and if he gets really pissed, he roughs them up a bit. Then, in swoops Craig Rivet and with a few soothing murmers and a bandaid to make it all better, he dries Roy-Z’s tears. The next game, Roy-Z plays harder in an effort to avoid Grier’s wrath and to gain Rivet’s approval.
Meanwhile, during the time he used to spend coaching, Lindy can just eat bon-bons and waste his entire day checking out his ex-girlfriends on Facebook.
1. The Sabres are good at hockey! Whaaaa? Up is down, and black is white.
I’ve read and heard a LOT of discussion about whether fans are “buying in” to the new Sabres. Everyone is asking themselves the hard questions. Do I believe these guys are for real? Or, having been burned (hard) in the past, am I skeptical? Do I believe?
My answers: Yes, yes, who cares.
The Sabres have been weirdly good at hockey so far. I use the word weird because…..dude, I did NOT see this coming, and at the same time I’m not even slightly surprised. The changes that Darcy made this summer seemed so inconsequential in the face of what appeared to be major problems, but somehow everything feels different. They’re playing hard, they seem defensively responsible, and the scoring is balanced. (The one major difference between this year’s fast start and last year’s fast start is that last year Thomas Vanek basically singlehandedly scored all the goals in the month of October. This year, everyone is chipping in. [Seriously, TV had TEN goals in October last year. Wowza.)
I’m in no rush to declare that I believe this team is “the real deal,” but I’m oddly proud of them. (Surely my fandom is playing some role in this hot start, right? The Sabres have been reading this blog for years, and that’s why they’re suddenly good. They’re taking my advice! My advice has consistently been “stop sucking,” and they’re FINALLY taking it.) All I know for sure is that I’m really enjoying watching the Sabres play hockey. Hockey is awesome. Good hockey is, like, megaSUPERawesome.
2. Goose is a FACEOFF WIZARD!
My Goose Appreciation sometimes clouds my judgment. I actually think I’m a little harder on Paul Gaustad because of my affection for him. I’m overcompensating. Truthfully, I’m always a little surprised when he turns out to be good at hockey. I’m like, “Goose’s job is to be all handsome and blinky and to occasionally attack various Devils….YOU MEAN HE’S NUMBER ONE IN FACEOFF PERCENTAGE TOO?!” Be still my heart. (About the “blinky” thing: Something about the way Goose blinks amuses me. Whenever I watch a Paul Gaustad interview I wish someone would edit in a sound effect every time he blinks. Goose’s blinks should sound something like this.)
3. The Hurricanes totally suck!
I was looking at the standings this morning (What?- looking at the standings is fun when the Sabres are 8-1-1!) and I was shocked to see that the Hurricanes are the suckiest sucks in all of Suckville for some reason. I doubt it will last, but it’s still funny.
4. Mike Grier seems nice.
I wasn’t a fan yet during Mike Grier’s first tour of duty as a Sabre. All I really knew of him was the way he left the team, which in the retelling sounds kind of diva-ish. I always imagined Mike Grier tossing his hair on the way out of town, as if to say, “Not only do I not love you anymore, I never loved you in the first place. Buffalo.” I know, I know. His reputation is one of a hard working, grinder, leader-y type, but I think I half expected him to pout his way through the season. He’s been such a pleasant surprise. One of the funnest things so far this season has been watching his very charming and smiley goal celebrations with Tim Kennedy. Mike Grier is exactly who this team needed.
5. Tim Kennedy is badass, but not in the way I expected him to be badass.
I thought Kennedy was going to be a slick, speedy, pint-sized goal scorer, a la Danny Briere, but instead he’s a feisty, sometimes punchy, seems-right-at-home-on-the-third-line, defensive minded, pint-sized grinder. I will give Lindy Ruff full credit for this one. Putting Kennedy on a line with Grier and Hecht was a very clever move.
The more I think about this Mike Grier thing, the more I like it. It’s not that I think the difference between a good team and a bad team is Mike Grier, but I definitely respect Darcy for the message this signing sends.
Think about it.
The last time Mike Grier was a Sabre, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy were barely NHL regulars and Thomas Vanek was being benched in the playoffs. On his way out of town, Grier specifically said he thought the team was headed in the wrong direction, and he was proven right.
And this is the guy who will be plopped into the existing locker room dynamic?
Regardless of Grier’s personal motivations, I think this is a big move for the Sabres from the perspective of locker room chemistry. There will be another veteran leader in the room, and not just any leader, there will be a guy who already knows what the team is capable of, both good and bad.
Not to mention the roster implications. The forward roster looks pretty darn crowded now, particularly if you assume that Kennedy and Gerbe are ready to make to leap to the NHL. Is Staffy on the block? If not him, then who? Paille? MacArthur? I think a little nervousness will serve this team well.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think this was a savvy move. It’s a small move that could have big implications. Do I think the Sabres are going to be magically good now? No. Good heavens, no. But I do think this is a step in the right direction, and for the first time since I became a Sabres fan, I’m pretty impressed with Darcy’s craftiness.
Keep tinkering, Darcy. Don’t stop just yet.
Mike Grier is going to be a Sabre this season.
This is weird for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:
1. Mike Grier hates the Sabres and everything they stand for.
2. Actually, that’s it. That’s the main reason this is weird.
3. It’s just REALLY weird that he’d come back here after he was all, “The Sabres suck ass” (I’m paraphrasing) on the way out of town.
I think I like it.
The Sabres need a craggy old vet, Mike Grier needs a job, and Craig Rivet needs a BFF to remind him what it was like to play on a good hockey team. Earlier in the off season I was lobbying for John Madden, but Grier might be an even better option because he’s been here before and he’s presumably already aware of the Derek Roy Factor with the Sabres. Hopefully the breaking in period will be brief, and Grier will show up ready to kick some Sabre butt. I assume Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek are already scared of him, so we’re way ahead of the game there.
I’m a little worried for Mike Grier though. I mean, if he thought the Sabres sucked ass in 2006, just WAIT until he gets a look at them now.
Good (and weird) work, Darcy.