Archive for the 'Top-To-Bottom Review' Category

Statbits

I’m definitely not one to think too much about stats, but periodically I get a little lost on this page on NHL.com.  I meandered around there for a few minutes this morning and here are a few things that jumped out at me:

First, the Bad News. (I’m a bad news first kind of girl.  Save the best for last.)

  • The Sabres Power Play is 22nd in the league at 17.1%.  So, we’re not just imagining that the power play is kind of sucky.  I feel like every fanbase in the league complains about their team’s power play, but Sabres fans actually DO have a bit of a point.
  • The Sabres are 24th in the league in “Shots Against Per Game“.  That one scares me a bit.  Good thing Crunchy is so good!
  • The Sabres are 22nd in the league in faceoff win percentage.  Sad times at the dot.

The Good News:

  • They allow the 5th fewest goals per game.  Good work Crunchy!
  • They are currently 10th in the league in points.

SUPER Good News:

  • The Sabres have the 2nd most effective penalty kill in the league.  I knew the PK was foxy, but I honestly didn’t realize how foxy.

The News that is SO Good it Truly Blew My Mind, And That I’m Almost Scared To Call Attention To For Fear of Jinxing Them:

So, there you have it.  Some statbits.  Do with them what you will.

TWC Top-To-Bottom Review: Chris Butler

(This is the sixth post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  Larry’s Quinn’s internal review is the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Chris Butler

2008/9 Grade: Five gold stars, two warm fuzzies, and four construction paper hearts.

Best Quality: adorkability

c_butler

Areas of strength: Being awesome, unflappability, interviews, woodworking, not celebrating a personal achievement in the middle of a team failure, good manners, inspiring ChrisButlerNation

Areas of weakness: Chris Butler has unusually keen hearing.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  He can hear high pitches that normally only dogs can hear.  This makes him vulnerable to dog whistles.

General Comments:

Katebits: Butts, you’re the best.

Butts: Thank you, Katebits.  That’s very kind of you to say.

Katebits: I totally meant it, Butts.

Butts: So, I can count on your vote in November?

Katebits: November, December, January, next thursday, or whenevs.  You’ve got my vote.

Butts: Word.

*fistbump*

TWC Top-to-Bottom Review: Paul Gaustad

(This is the fifth post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  Larry’s Quinn’s internal review is the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Paul Gaustad, aka Goose

Position: Forward

Number of years remaining on contract: Three more years!  Three more years!  Three more years!

Cap hit: Who cares.

Career high point: Standing next to Katebits in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Career low point: Seeing Katebits buy frozen macaroni and cheese.  Oh wait, no…that’s my low point.

2008/09 Grade: A+  (What can I say? The Sabres were graded on a curve.)

Areas of strength: HONKing, faceoffs, tall handsomeness, working hard, scoring breakaway shorthanded goals against Carey Price while Katebits is in attendance at the game,  do-goodiness, HONKing, cleaning the junk out of the trunk of his Stratus to increase his gas milage, looking like a baby giraffe on ice skates, scrabble,  standing in front of the net, leadership, HONKing, stick-to-it-ness, punching jerks in the face, goofy goal celebrations, all-around-lunch-pail-ery.

Areas of weakness: a bit on the physically fragile side, not super point get-y, refuses to wear a visor, …too handsome?

General Comments: Just when you think you can’t stand ONE MORE MINUTE of ONE MORE GAME played by this GOD AWFUL collection of GUTLESS PUKES….there’s Goose, carefully rearranging his teammates before the puck drops, and you remember- oh yeah!  I DO like the Sabres.

Just when it seems that there is NO HOPE for these guys, Goose gives an interview absolutely vibrating with rage- and you think, oh thank goodness, at least ONE GUY in that locker room cares as much as the fans care.

Just when you think you might not feel like recycling a tin can, there’s Goose, reminding you that a tin can can power a television for one hour.  It makes no sense whatsoever, but because Goose said it, you know it must be true.

Just when you think that blue and gold make PURPLE, Goose is there to remind you that blue and gold make green.

Just when you think you’ll throw up if you see one more picture online of Derek Roy drunk and rolling around on a public sidewalk, you see a picture of Goose, planting a tree, or talking to a classroom full of kids, or attending an event designed to promote high self esteem in young girls, or helping a little old lady across the street, or getting a cat out of a tree, or teaching a leper to read.

I’ve always been a big Paul Gaustad fan, but at times this season, he served as the lone bright spot- a flickering reminder of the way things must be if the Sabres ever want to be good again.  Be more like Goose, you jackasses.

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK:

1. Keep your beak clean, Goose.  HONK!

TWC Top-to-Bottom Review: Tim Connolly

(This is the forth post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  Larry’s Quinn’s internal review is the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Tim Connolly

Position: doggy-style

Number of years with the Sabres organization: That depends.  In regular, human years, Timmy has been a Sabre for eight year, but in Tim Connolly Years (TCYs) he’s been a Sabre for 24 years.  (TCYs = 3 normal human years.  Sad, but true.)

Number of years remaining on contract: Again this depends.  In human years, two.  In TCYs, six.

Cap hit: $4.5 million slaps to Jerry Sullivan’s face.

Career high point: casting a love spell on Darcy Regier.

Career low point: Repeated hits to the head.

Areas of strength: on-ice craftiness, getting people to yell, “SHOOOOOOT” during the power play, gossip production, the uncanny ability to win people over after they have SWORN they will never fall for it again, quilting, hockey vision, managing to be allllllmost a point-per-game player…but never quite, polar bear pelt couture, and forcing bloggers to come up with a ridiculous number of ways to describe his fragility. (“He’s made out of cocktail napkins and pipe cleaners!”  “His bones are 90% sponge candy, and 10% angel hair pasta.”  “He’s held together with scotch tape and Lindy’s old mustache clippings.”).

Areas of weakness: body

2008-09 grade: B  (This is the highest grade possible for someone who only played 48 games.)

General comments: I HATE that Darcy Regier signed Timmy to a two year extension.  I LOATHE it.  If the Sabres want to stay loyal to Lindy Ruff, then they need to have room under the cap to bring in some new guys.  By extending Timmy, Regier severely limited his options (outside of a trade) for bringing in the strong, leader-y, Chris-Drury-a-like of our dreams…..and I don’t care WHAT the lunatics say, Timmy’s contract is NOT movable right now.  Not in this economy, not with his injury record, and not with the cap expected to go down.  If Timmy gets hurt, no other teams will touch him with a ten-foot pole, and if he stays healthy, we’re going to want to keep him, so, either way, Timmy (and his cap hit) is a Sabre for the next two seasons.

There is a silver lining with Timmy, though.  He’s ridiculously good at hockey when he’s not broken.  It took me two full seasons of watching Tim Connolly before I understood why everyone is so enamored of him, but I get it now.  I do.  I honestly can’t imagine what it was like to watch him on fire in the 05-06 playoffs, only to see him be hit right back into Concussionville.  That was before my time as a fan, but I feel retroactive empathy for my fellow Sabres fans who had to endure that particular disappointment.  When he’s healthy, and in a groove, Tim Connolly is as good at hockey as anyone in the game. He’s smart, aggressive (Tim Connolly is shockingly NOT soft), and he’s truly crafty with the puck.

(Side Story: Remember that game against the Coyotes when Timmy pointed at Sekera from the faceoff dot and was all, “Hey, Sekera.  Go stand over there,” and then he proceeded to win the faceoff, sending the puck directly to the place he had just instructed Sekera to stand, and then Sekera shot it in for a goal?  …that was super snazzy.)

If Tim Connolly stays healthy, $4.5 million dollars per year will be a steal, but let’s face it….

Timmy is going to get hurt next season, and he’s going to get hurt the season after that.  We’re all going to tear our hair out, and we’re going to curse Darcy Regier for re-signing him, and we’re going to accuse Timmy of all manner of laziness/drunkeness/skating-with-his-head-down/insufferable-fragility.  Timmy’s going to miss enough time that we’ll actually begin to forget about him, and people will start making the old, “Hey, is Timmy still alive?” jokes, and I’ll start suggesting that the humane thing to do would be to send Timmy out to pasture.  And then, just when we’ve almost learned how to live without him, he’ll come back.   Timmy’s going to come back, and after a slow start, he’s going to string together a few weeks of dazzling, sparkling production.  And for the millionth time, we’re all going to get down on our knees, and pray that he never gets hurt again.

We’re going to BEG the Hockey Gods to keep our Timmy safe, because if only he COULD stay healthy……

Tim Connolly is the Hockey God’s joke on us.  He’s a Ferrari with a flat tire.  He’s an un-signed check in your name for a million dollars.  He’s an Amati viola with only three strings.  He’s the super hot guy you found out had a crush on you YEARS after the fact.  He’s the leave-in conditioner that makes your hair look amazing, but smells so bad that it makes your eyes water.  He is simultaneously our biggest weakness, and strongest hope for success.  It’s frustrating, and tragic, and…..please, Hockey Gods….just keep him healthy, TOTALLY HEALTHY, for the next two seasons.

So, we hope for the best, we expect the worst, and as usual, we ask that Tim Connolly get his bones fortified with adamantium.  And that someone wrap him in bubble wrap.  Of course.  Always with the bubble wrap.

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK:

1. Call Wolverine to find out which doctors in WNY perform the adamantium bone-covering procedure.

2. Get fitted for bubblewrap suit.

3. Shut up and wipe that sneer off your face.  It’s the least you can do, Timmy.

TWC Top-To-Bottom Review: Jochen Hecht

(This is the third post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  Larry’s Quinn’s internal review is the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Jochen Hecht, aka Yo-yo

Position: Forward

Number of years with the Sabres organization: Hecht joined the Sabres from the Oilers in 2002.  I’m not sure if Darcy traded for him, or if Yo-yo just stood outside the HSBC arena screen door yowling until Lindy let him in and gave him a bowl of milk.

Number of years remaining on contract: infinity

Cap hit: $3.525 million

Career high point: In 06/07 Jochen score 19 goals and 37 assists for a career high 56 points.

Career low point: In 08/09, Jochen scored 23 own-goals and was a -87.  *not totally true

Areas of strength: well-coiffed porcupine hair, somehow scoring while standing behind the net and bouncing the puck off no less than five obstacles, talking like a duck, overall handsomeness and appealing shyness, starring contests

Area of weakness: hockey

2008/09 grade: H-   Something went horribly, horribly wrong.

General comments: Yo-yo is a “Lindy Ruff” kind of player.  Lindy loves him (or at least he did).  Last year during the rotating captaincy, Yo-Yo was one of two players who wore the “C” twice (Soupy was the other), and this season, Jochen Hecht wore an “A” all year long.  Allow me to repeat that….JOCHEN HECHT WORE A LETTER ALL SEASON LONG.  (Sidenote: During the preseason, Heather and I joked that Lindy liked to attach the captain’s letters to the jerseys with velcro so that he could rip them off the chests of errant players in disgust.  The mental image of walking up to Jochen Hecht, and ripping off his “A” and then tossing it dramatically onto the ground is almost too tantalizing to bear.)

I don’t know what happened to Hecht this year, but it wasn’t pretty.  Until this year he was known as a hard working, no nonsense, defensive forward.  Never the flashiest, grittiest, or most skilled guy on the ice, but definitely a guy you could count on if you needed to protect a one goal lead with a minute left in the third.

But then this year, he became….wrong.  This season, Jochen looked lost, frantic, insecure, and cautious.  His previously tolerated lack-of-offensive-finesse became glaring in the face of his sloppy defensive play.   His level of play ranged from “Do you think Yo-yo is playing with an injury?” to “I’m going to break his legs myself.  Please…..just get that guy off the ice.”

I think it’s interesting to note that one of Lindy’s “favorites”, a player who has always seemed to have Lindy’s faith and trust, turned into a gigantic pile of flaming poo this season.  Many people around town are quick to blame Jochen’s rapid decline on his new contract, and there could definitely be some merit to that theory, but he signed that contract in October of ’07.  He played a full, productive season with that contract in place.  He just doesn’t seem like a “phone it in” kind of player to me.  He seems like a “trouble starts, and then if it’s not properly addressed, that trouble snowballs into an unstoppable-nightmare-of-a-season,” kind of guy to me.  To my eye, his trouble didn’t stem from lack of effort.  He just looked INCREDIBLY, and inexplicably, bad at hockey.

I suspect I’m going to take some heat for this in the comments, but I’m going to say it anyway: More than anyone else on the Sabres, to me, Jochen Hecht looked like he was poorly coached this season. There are plenty of Sabres who I am willing to hang the “lazy, soft, and coddled” tag on, but Yo-yo really isn’t one of them.  To me, he looked like a guy who desperately needed some help and guidance- help that never came.  His role on the team was never really adjusted, he was never really benched, he never lost his letter, and it wasn’t until the veeeery end of the season that he even looked remotely capable of getting out of his funk.

Obviously, I don’t know really know how Hecht went from to projected-future-captain-of-the-Sabres to the-guy-whose-contract-looks-the-scariest, but he did.  And it sucks.

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK: The good news about my odd faith in Yo-yo’s work ethic is that there IS hope of a recovery.  As long as this season wasn’t some indication of a general unwillingness to play with urgency, then he might not have to suck forever.  The bad news about my odd faith in Yo-yo’s work ethic is that it means that there is something really, reeeeally wrong with his game.  Hopefully it’s just an injury, and he’ll spend the summer rehabbing in secrecy.

In order to return to form, Jochen must complete the following tasks:

1. Purchase and complete “Feeling Good“.  When I was in college, my viola professor very famously assigned “Feeling Good” to wayward students.  It was both a badge of honor, and a terrible, damning shame to be assigned “Feeling Good”.  “Feeling Good” from my viola teacher represented both a declaration that “I still believe in you.  You can turn this around,” and “You are about to get your sorry ass kicked out of school.  Pull it together, kid.”

2. Watch Hoosiers, Rudy, Mighty Ducks, Bull Durham, and Rocky over and over again all summer long.

3. Go to Germany, and stay there.  DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH ANY OTHER SABRES FOR THE DURATION OF THE SUMMER.   (I’ll deal with his teammates later, but Yo-yo MUST be quarantined.)

4. Sky dive.

5. Do 400 hours of community service, preferably working with economically disadvantaged people.

6. Learn to play the didgeridoo.   Give a recital.

7. Stop talking like a duck.  Get speech therapy if necessary.

TWC Top-to-Bottom Review: Thomas Vanek

(This is the second post in a series which will evaluate the Sabres organization, one man at a time.  On Friday, Larry Quinn announced that 5% of the internal review was complete, and that his findings led to the decision to keep both Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier on board for next year, a decision which cements Larry’s review as the Official Worst Top-To-Bottom Review EVER.  I’m conducting my own review, to show Larry how it’s done.)

Name: Thomas Vanek, aka Slag-Faced Whore, aka Slaggy Sir Fantastico

Position: forward

number of years with Sabres organization: drafted 5th overall by the Sabres in 2003, Thomas has been a Sabre for 3 years.

Career high point: signing a kazillion dollar offer sheer from the Oilers, forcing the Sabres to match in July 2007.

Career low point: being benched in the 2006 playoffs; also, meeting Derek Roy

2008-09 grade: B+   At times this season Thomas Vanek single-handedly carried the Sabres offense, but he also disappeared for long stretches and refused to drill a blowhole when he broke his jaw.

Areas of strength: craftiness, ability to protect the puck with the strength of his upper body while carrying it around the opposition’s net, bank account, origami, making a better door than a window in front of the goalie, grimacing, scoring “dirty” goals, and playing Edelweiss on the clarinet.

Areas of weakness: jaw, consistent determination, shootouts, spelling

General comments: Thomas Vanek is a mystery, wrapped in prosciutto and smothered in club sauce.  One month he’s the best hockey player you’ve ever seen (and STILL blaming himself for every loss in post-game interviews), and the next month he’s lolling around on the couch all day, hopped up on Vicodin, whimpering about his shattered jaw, and refusing to drill a blowhole.

Overall, Vanek had a very strong season in 08-09, but it’s my belief that the Buffalo Sabres will never be a truly good team until Thomas is able to step into a leadership role in the locker room.

Thomas’ game is not perfect, but it’s not chopped liver, and it’s certainly the best we’ve got.  In order to increase Thomas’ overall effectiveness we need him to be a leader, and in order to be a leader he must increase his credibility with his teammates.

There are two areas in which I believe Thomas Vanek MUST improve:

1. He must work harder, longer, and with more consistency.  I would never go so far as to call Thomas Vanek lazy, but there is a certain oafish lackadaisical quality to him.  He looks a little doughy sometimes, he doesn’t always appear to be skating full force, and for reasons beyond the scope of my comprehension, every time he falls down he looks like my grandmother trying to get out of her Lazyboy as he hoists himself back onto his feet.  I’m not saying that Thomas Vanek is actually out of shape (at all), but I am saying that sometimes he exudes a quality of laziness, and he needs to knock it off.

Vanek must learn to lead by confident example so that when he is carrying the team on his back, he’s got the credibility in the locker room to be all, “You bitches need to stop expecting me to do all the work around here.  Get off your asses and score a few goals.”  He can’t do that until he eliminates the laziness from his game.

2. He must chill the fuck out.

Honestly, it often seems like Vanek just needs to lighten up.  I know, I know, he’s Austrian. He’s not boisterous, he’s not playful, and he’s not demonstrative with his emotions off-ice.  His interviews are incredibly bland, which ordinarily I have no problem with (See: Drury, Chris), but in Thomas’ case, I think his taciturn disposition is masking a deeply rooted problem.

There is not much joy evident in his game.  I’m not asking that he turn into Ovechkin (eww) and get all goofy with his goal celebrations, but I do believe he’d be a better player if he dialed down the “grim” and dialed up the swagger.

Things are going well for him, you know?  Why all the angst?

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK:  Thomas Vanek must complete the following tasks before returning to Buffalo in the fall.  Some of these tasks may seem contradictory.  This is by design.

1. Boot camp.  I’m not talking about the boot camp class down at the JCC.  I’m talking about real, honest to God, boot camp- with an evil drill sergeant, and forced push-ups.  Truthfully, I’m not sure if Thomas Vanek is actually lazy, but he often appears lazy, so he is sentenced to boot camp, just in case.

2.Write a book of poetry.  Everyone needs an outlet for their feelings.  I think if Thomas writes some poetry he might feel less weighed down by the painful burden of being a 25-year-old multimillionaire.

3. Give away a million dollars.  I’ve written about this before. Thomas, don’t you dare come back to Buffalo until you’ve given away *putting pinky to corner of mouth* one miiiiilllion dolllllars.  I’m serious.

4. Clown School.  If clown school fails to lighten him up, Thomas will be required to undergo tickle therapy, which is exactly what it sounds like, and any rational person would avoid it at all costs.  This kid will lighten up, even if it kills him.

5. Chose a Sabre at random and beat the shit out of him.  Enough of this Mr-Nice-Guy-I’m-Just-Trying-To-Focus-On-My-Game routine.  It’s time to lay down the law.

6. Learn to play the banjo.  As the Steve Martin monolouge goes, “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.”

TWC Top to Bottom Review: Lindy Ruff

(This post is the first in a series which will examine the role and performance of each member of the Sabres organization.  I had intended to start at the bottom, and work my way up through the ranks, but in Lindy’s case, I feel there is a certain….urgency.  Bucky Gleason has been writing about shadowy “rumors” swirling around HSBC arena that Lindy is about to get canned.  I don’t believe it, and I’m reeeeally uncomfortable hoping anything Bucky writes is true, but I want to make sure I got Lindy’s review done with enough time for Larry Quinn to use it in his top to bottom organizational analysis.  I’m just trying to help.)

Name: Lindebald Ruff

Position: Head coach

Length of time in current position: 10 million years

Career high point: Stanley Cup Finals 1999

Career low point: meeting Derek Roy

2008-09 grade: C-   The Sabres missed the playoffs and were generally grody.

Areas of strength: yellow mustache upkeep, basic awesomeness, wry interviews, Tetris, uncanny ability to convince everyone he’s an infallible genius (possible warlock or jedi?), scowling, and salsa dancing.

Areas of weakness: forearms, application of “the system”, getting the Sabres into the playoffs, and adding fractions.

General comments: Lindy Ruff is a beloved citizen of Buffalo, in fact, he may well be the most beloved citizen of Buffalo.  However, after twelve years of uninterrupted adoration, Lindy’s death grip on our hearts and minds has suddenly loosened.  Buffalonians, distraught over missing the playoffs for the second straight year, are suddenly questioning everything they once held dear, and OPENLY saying things like, “Well…..maybe it’s time.”

“Well……maybe it’s time,” may not seem like a significant statement of discontent, but when compared to sweet caress of the velveteen kid gloves Lindy’s enjoyed for the bulk of his career, whispering “Well….maybe it’s time,” is akin to gathering outside his home with pitchforks and torches.  It’s practically a declaration of war.

Lindy’s team has been uninspired, disorganized, and generally fragile for two seasons now.  The reasons for this are many, most of them certainly not his fault, but one cannot help but think, “Well…..maybe it’s time.”   There is no doubt that some portion of the team is ignoring him, and I suspect that there are those who are actively rebelling (hint: Blerek Bloy).  So…..maybe it’s time.

On the other hand, you’re not going to find a more yellow-haired coach in the NHL.  The Sabres should think long and hard about everything that Lindy’s yellow hair brings to the table before they go firing people all willy nilly.

REQUIRED SUMMER HOMEWORK: There is one hope, and one hope only for Lindy Ruff if he wants to continue coaching a team that includes Vanek, Roy, and Pominville.   Lindy must undergo a complete personality overhaul. I know, I know, we like Lindy.  He seems like such a cool guy, but if we want him to stay, some things have got to change.  I’m not saying any of this is his fault, but things are what they are.  The problems with this roster run too deep to suggest that moving a few players would provide enough help.  Lindy’s got to do his part too.

Lindy’s Assignments:

1.  Lindy must dye his hair black, because as much as the fans love his yellowness, he looks like a baby chick.  Derek Roy doesn’t want to be coached by a baby chick, and frankly, I don’t blame him.

2. Lindy must be bitten by a radioactive spider and/or a vampire.  Right now, when Lindy gets angry he has very little credibility with the team.  They are unfazed by Lindy’s hollering.  The only way to fix this problem is to up the ante with the threat of blood sucking and/or a spider-like ass kicking.

3. Lindy must acquire and learn how to use a taser.

4. Lindy must finish his doctoral dissertation once and for all.  It’s an embarrassment and a scandal that the Sabres have been coached for all these years by a non-PhD.

5. Lindy must undergo hypnosis so that he forgets everything he knows about the current Sabres roster.  This is for his own good.

6. Lindy must fight an ogre and win.

____________

If Lindy is able to complete these tasks I feel he would be a changed man and therefore qualified to continue coaching the Sabres.  Otherwise, he should probably be fired so that he can be hired by the MInnesota Wild.  I’ve tried so many times to love the Wild (I’m a native Minnesotan) but due to their extreme Lemairishness, I’ve had a very difficult time wacthing them play.  If Lindy became the coach of the Wild everyone would win.  Lindy would like it in the Twin Cities and the team is nearly as loyal to their coaches as the Sabres, the Sabres would get a fresh start, and I’d still get to enjoy Lindy’s appealing yellowness from behind the bench of a team I enjoy.  Plus, the Wild would get a good coach in Lindy Ruff.

Lindy is a good man, a good coach, and an good guy to have around, but he’s just not clicking with the team that his BFF Darcy Regier signed to long term contracts.  So…..maybe it’s time.  If it’s not time, Lindy needs to get to work on his ogre slaying skills, asap.


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