Archive Page 2

10 Things

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

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 Disjointed and outdated blog posts are fun!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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Having nothing to do with the Sabres:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ta-da! Cheerfulness wins again!

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

The Only Way Out Is Through

As Sabres fans we are entering strange territory. It feels a bit like we’ve been launched into space. There is no ground beneath our feet, and personally, I have no idea which way is up.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re at rock bottom yet, and that’s both incredibly depressing and oddly exhilarating. How low can this thing go? What does “low” even mean at this point? Should we be rooting for a draft pick? Is down the only way up?

Who knows.

All I know is that this shit is depressing. As recently as a few days ago I thought we would be fighting against anger. I thought Sabres fans were going to rise up in cartoonish mobs of unreasonable crankiness, pitchforks and torches in hand. Now I know that that was just my Buffalo sports fan inexperience talking. No one is angry. We’re depressed.

We wish. If only it were this easy.

Anger is easy to mock, but depression is a slippery beast. Anger is focused. Depression is murky.

Last night Tyler Myers gave an interview where he was very obviously fighting back tears. He said, “This has been a devastating road trip,” and there was detectable and literal devastation in his voice.

I mean, what the eff, Hockey Gods? WHAT THE EFF. We’re supposed to be able to hate the Sabres when they suck. Last night I wanted to make Tyler Myers a grilled cheese sandwich and then cut off the crust in a way that creates a heart-shape. I wanted to rock him back and forth while whispering, “It’s okay, big guy. You’re going to be okay,” until he fell into fitful sleep. Then, this morning I wanted to put an encouraging note in his lunchbox, and promise him that today will be a better day. I can’t hate Tyler Myers. Hell, I can’t even make fun of him.

ARG! THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE.

Hey… look at that. I turned my depression into anger and then turned my anger into a joke and now I feel teeny-tiny bit better. At least my vaguely unhealthy coping mechanisms are still intact.

Last night before the game there was a not-insignificant part of me that was hoping the Sabres would lose. The reality is that the more the Sabres lose, the closer they are to a good draft pick and the higher the possibility that someone will finally get fired. Those are the facts. So, I just thought, “Go for it Sabres. Do your worst.” I thought I could handle it, but no matter how much my brain understands that losses are more valuable than wins at this point, my heart cannot understand. Rooting against the Sabres is fundamentally depressing. In between games, losing seems like a tolerable outcome, but watching it live is brutal and sad, no matter what. It’s not for me.

NOOOOOO! Fight, Sabres! FIGHT, GODDAMN IT! *sob*

I guess this is how it is now. These are confusing times. We’re lost in the Swamp of Sadness, and all we can do is wade through the muck.

We’ll get through it, Sabres fans. WE WILL.

Stupid sports.

The Sabres Fan Survival Guide

My friend Mike Schopp wrote a very thoughtful piece for WGR a few days ago and I highly recommend that you read it right away.

It’s difficult to talk about the Sabres right now because we’re all so surly. Even the rosiest personalities among us are fed up and exasperated. Unlike the past five years, I’ve successfully tuned out a lot of the chatter this season. When the Sabres are this bad, I lose the taste for blogs, and newspaper columns, and radio shows discussing their many shortcomings. It’s really not in my personality to get rage-y about the Sabres, so, instead of getting rage-y, I get indifferent. Every once in a while, something cuts through the fog of my indifference and I think, “Hm. That’s a smart and reasonable position,” and it makes me feel better. Mike’s post was like that.

Mike went into a lot of particulars about his job and about the current state of the Sabres, but what I liked best about his post is that it caused me to step back and ask myself, “Where exactly do I stand? What are my core Sabres beliefs?” I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I watch the Sabres for fun. It’s my responsibility to make sure that my Sabres fandom doesn’t turn into something toxic. My response to the Sabres is more a reflection of me than it is of the team.

Now obviously, this season BLOWS A MILLION CHUNKS EACH AND EVERY DAY. You’d have to be delusional to be walking around projecting optimism and sunshine about the current state of the Stupidhead Sabres. There is absolutely NO reasonable cause for hope here. BUT, there are steps we can take as fans to ensure that our fandom doesn’t veer towards a head-on collision with Crankytown.

If you are reading this blog, I think it’s safe to say that you’re a Super Fan of the Sabres (let’s not even THINK about what it means if you’re writing this blog). People who have a healthy/casual relationship with sports do not read blogs about their horrifying hockey team. No, if you’re reading this, you’ve already surrendered some portion of yourself to the Sabres. The Sabres own a little piece of your heart, and that’s just how it is. To some extent, you and I are helpless. Since we can’t totally ignore the Sabres, the best we can hope to do this season is manage the damage they inflict.

It’s my sincere belief that things are going to get worse for the Sabres before they get better. It’s sad but true. This season is lost. They’re done. I’ve been saying for weeks (on Twitter, not here. Sorry, blog readers!) that I think Regier is going to get fired the second the Sabres finish missing the playoffs. I still believe this, and I also believe that a lot of the stuff Pegula and Black have been saying about injuries being a legitimate excuse is just something they have to say because they really don’t have any good moves at the moment. GMs get fired in the summertime, not in January. Coaches get fired mid-season all the time, but Lindy Ruff exists in some weird alternative coaching universe where nothing can ever really touch him. (The sooner you accept the weird Laws of Lindy, the sooner you’ll feel better. Just surrender.) So, the prudent move for ownership is to just wait this out, sell at the deadline, and plan for next season. Ryan Miller is right. There is no trade that can save this team. They need an overhaul.  They need at least one trade deadline, one draft, and one July 1st to fix this. They might need even more than that.

So that’s where we stand.

The bad news is that as a Super Fan you’re going to have to suffer through seasons like this, and you’re going to keep watching, and you’re going to keep reading redonk blog posts, and you’re going to keep wishing YOU HAD NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THE BUFFALO SABRES. But the good news is that… well, wait… there is no good news. This blows.

Just kidding. The good news is that there ARE steps you can take to survive the season. Here are some things that work for me. This list is by no means complete, and not every suggestion is going to work for every fan.

1. Believe in the things that make you feel better.

This is not about being delusional. This is about protecting your ability to be hopeful.

The thing I liked most about Mike’s post is this:

Maybe you’re right but maybe you’re wrong. Since no one knows I’ll lean toward the side that makes me feel better.

I’ve been struggling to articulate something like this for weeks. No one knows (NO ONE) what is really going on with this team and what would solve the problem, and furthermore, fans have absolutely no control over any of it. Wouldn’t it just be nicer if we all just followed our hearts a little bit here?

For Mike, the belief that the Cup would be sweeter with Regier and Ruff at the helm has value. For me, it’s my faith in Pegula and Ted Black that makes me feel better. As a reasonable fan, you would be wise to consider what makes you feel better, and then take steps to ignore the rest.

2. Ignore the rest.

Stop reading the paper, stop listening to the radio (sorry, Mike), and for the LOVE OF GOD, stop reading this blog. (Heh.)

3. Stand by your man.

A few years ago (during one of the 10th place years), I wrote this about Jason Pominville. (BTW, that post is a good read if you want to be reminded of a.) how right I’ve always been about Jason Pominville and b.) how there’s a lot of ebb and flow with every player over the course of any long contract.) I think about that post a lot because I remember that after I wrote it I felt a LOT better about being a Sabres fan.

One of the things that makes me sad about the current environment is how often I hear people say there are NO likeable Sabres. I certainly can’t judge anyone for disliking these guys, but for what it’s worth, I’ve always had a few players that I just like, no matter what. If you have a guy that you just like, don’t give up on him now. Hold onto him tight and do it without shame.

My guys are Goose, Crunchy, and Pommerdoodle. I don’t care how hard they suck or how hard they rock. I like those guys, it makes me feel good to like those guys, and beyond that I just don’t care.

4. Listen to music while watching the games.

This one has absolutely saved me this season. A few weeks ago I found myself unreasonably irritated by the Sabres broadcast team. The details are unimportant (and completely forgettable, apparently), but for some reason that night I was all, “I would totally fight Rob Ray right now. I WOULD FIGHT HIM, AND I WOULD WIN.” In a fit of frustration, I put the television on mute and turned on some soothing tunes. Magically, I didn’t need to fight Rob Ray anymore. I calmly watched the rest of the game (the Sabres lost miserably), and I escaped relatively unscathed. Now I do this all the time. Don’t forget that even when the Sabres are horrible, music is still wonderful.

Never underestimate how much better you might feel without the Sabres broadcast team feeding you a bunch of bullhonky about how the Sabres aren’t the worst team ever.

5. If a bunch of people are screeching about something, listen to what they’re saying, and then believe the opposite.

This one is hard to explain, so bear with me for a minute.

Here is what the screeching, angry hoard is screeching these days: “NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE AND DARCY REGIER IS A MORON AND PEGULA IS JUST MORE OF THE SAME AND LINDY SHOULD BE FIRED AND I HATE ALL THE SABRES AND BLAH BLAH BLAH POOR ME I’M A SEASON TICKET HOLDER AND I’M NOT RENEWING  WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” On one hand, all of these points are totally legitimate, but on the other hand it’s just SO DUMB.

Even if the screeching is factually correct, don’t you just want to distance yourself from that? I do. I think there is almost always a completely reasonable way to counter any sports-related screeching. Here’s how I would counter the current screechers:

Um, hello? Last year, out of nowhere a billionaire no one had ever heard of bought the team and vowed to win us a dozen Stanley Cups. Then he proceeded to spend like a drunken sailor in free agency. Things DO change. Things HAVE changed. The problem here is not lack of change, it’s that the change hasn’t worked. What that probably means is that Darcy Regier is going to get his ass fired this summer. Once Darcy is fired and a new GM takes over, Lindy will FINALLY be on the clock. Yes, it is true that the current Sabres suck in nearly every way, but no, it’s not true that this will necessarily be true forever.

*Patrick Kaleta hand wash gesture*

I take pride in disagreeing with the Whiner Line dummies. If they say one thing, I say the opposite. It’s not actually so much about disagreeing, it’s more about finding the intellectual high ground. The best move is to ignore the screechers entirely, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you can’t beat them, whatever you do, DO NOT JOIN THEM.

I’m not sure that this one would bring solace to everyone, but it does for me.

5. Don’t be afraid to change your mind about Sabres-related issues.

I would never judge you for changing your mind. In fact, I’d respect you for it, because it means you’re using your brain and responding to the situation at hand, and not to some prior position which was every bit as dumb as whatever position you’re currently taking. My point is that when it comes to the Sabres, we’re all idiots, all the time. Try to mix it up a little. Variety is the spice of life!

Example: I’ve flip-flopped a million times on Lindy Ruff. My opinion changes weekly, and yet I’m quite certain I’ve never been wrong about him. Heh.

6. Watch the game in a bar.

It’s hard to pay attention to a game in a bar, and even harder to get all bent out of shape about a game you watch in a bar.

7. While you’re in that bar, drink a lot.

Alcohol helps.

8. Figure out which of your friends are Sabres-sane and which are Sabres-crazy, and choose to hang out with the Sabres-sane ones.

Everyone who is reading or writing this blog is Sabres-crazy. If you were even remotely sane about the Sabres you’d be ignoring them completely by now. If you put two Sabres-crazy people together for a game like last night things can go south in a hurry because you’re both so invested in the outcome.

I actually have quite a few friends who are Sabres-sane. These people watch the games when they happen to be in front of a television when the Sabres are playing, and while they’d certainly prefer a win to a loss they’re not going to go to a dark place no matter what. These friends are worth their weight in gold right now. If you have friends like this, you should be nice to them and buy them lots of beer.

9. Don’t judge other fans, and stop caring about the opinions of people who do.

This is going to sound contradictory in light of the fact that I just called a bunch of people “Whiner Line dummies,” and encouraged you to disagree with them on principle, but whatevs.

It really bothers me when people who sit at home (or worse, FAR WORSE, the press box) rag on the fans at the game. I work really, really hard to pay for my seats, and there is no conceivable way to care more about the Sabres than I do.  The constant message earlier this season that I was “doing it wrong” in the arena was actually very hurtful to me. I stopped giving those opinions my respect a few months ago, and it felt GREAT.

If someone puts the word “fan” into quotation marks on twitter, feel free to disregard their tweet entirely. They’re just having a douchey moment and hopefully it will pass. If the douchey moment doesn’t pass, unfollow them.

For better or for worse, we’re all in this together. There is really no reason to turn on each other. Do your best to refrain from fan-cannibalism and NO MATTER WHAT don’t let the worst of it get to you.

10. Basketball!

I know some people in Buffalo love to hate basketball, but I bet you’re not one of those people. Basketball is fun and since you don’t care about it at all (to the point where you regularly forget which teams you like), it’s a totally safe distraction from the Sabres.

I haven’t watched much basketball yet this season, but I like knowing it’s there.

11. Have your sister and her husband make you a niece.

Hi, Ruby!

This one is a little impractical because the best babies (i.e. fattest) take about nine months to prepare, but with proper timing, a new niece can do wonders to put a spring in your step.

At the risk of sounding very cheesy, now is a good time to put the Sabres in the proper perspective. Following hockey is our hobby, but I’m positive that everyone reading this has a lot of other important and beautiful things going on in their lives. Let’s dwell on those a bit.

________

Well, that’s all I’ve got! Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments. Stay strong, Sabres fans.

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!

Keep the Faith

Okay, everyone take a deep breath and let’s try to assess this situation. Things have been bad in Sabreville (REAL BAD), but we’re safe right now (the Sabres aren’t playing at the moment, THANK GOD), so let’s try to calm down and tend to our psychological injuries.

If 0 is "We're headed to the playoff with ease, and depending on who Darcy gets at the trade deadline, I have high hopes for the postseason," and 5 is "a playoff series-deciding OT goal against", I'd say I'm at about a 3.2 on this scale of pain. I've got a definite frown in my heart, but unfortunately, I know (from experience) that it CAN get a lot worse.

I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to come up with a way to analyze this team, but despite my best efforts, all I can come up with is “shit show.” There is no area in which the Sabres don’t suck (except for the Vanek/Pominville area, I suppose). Sure, they’ve suffered a lot of injuries, but there’s still an air of nose-crinkling stinkiness that constantly wafts around this team. I’ve been TRYING to pretend like I don’t smell it, but I do smell it, Sabres. I DO.

And that, is the sum total of my Sabres analysis: They stink.

Trade everyone and fire the rest. I don’t care.

The good news is that I think we can allow ourselves to sink into comfortable resignation now.  Ted Black calls it “patience,” but I call it “emotional self defense.” We shall build a wall around our Sabres-hearts, and then these yahoos cannot reach us. I think if we carefully manage our big beer consumption, make sure to watch the games with good company, and keep our expectations very, very low, we can TOTALLY outsmart these Sabres and survive this season with our sanity (more or less) intact. We’ll just take it one game at a time.

Sooner or later (I predict this summer), Terry Pegula is going to get sick of this bullhonky, and heads will roll. We can tough it out that long. In that, I still have faith.

The Ecstasy and the Agony

The Ecstasy

That Leafs game was some seriously good times. Leafs fans are annoying mothereffers, but the arena was undeniably  amazing on Friday. The Leafs fans added to our experience tremendously. At times (like, every time the Sabres scored) it was AWESOME to have so many Leafs fans there, and times I wanted to light myself on fire with rage, but the entire night was passionately experienced, which is more than I can say for most games at FNC these days.

In the past I’ve avoided Leafs games (because, as previously mentioned, Leafs fans are annoying mothereffers, but also because you can completely rip them off by selling them your tickets), but Friday was a real eye opener. Leafs games are high risk, high reward. If the Sabres had lost it would’ve been playoff-loss-level misery, but when they won it felt like no win could ever feel as good as that win. Sometimes it’s good to just lose your head during a game, and the Leafs game certainly provide plenty of opportunity for that. (Along those lines, about halfway through the game, while watching a drunk, moronic nearby Leafs fan stand up in a sea of Sabres fans [during a commercial break, no less] and do that infinitely retarded thing where he grabbed the logo on his jersey to “taunt” other fans, Robin suddenly blurted out, “I’m gonna to punch that guy.” And for a brief moment, I think she meant it. After the moment passed, we laughed REALLY hard about that one, because of all the people I know, Robin might be the least likely to punch someone at a sporting event. The fact that she was tempted to punch someone speaks volumes about Leafs fans and also about our level of emotional commitment to the game. We went all in on Friday, and our reward was sweet.)

Robin and I sit low in the shoot twice side, so the Leaf fan presence wasn’t that horrendous (visiting fans tend to gravitate more towards the other end), but I know that my friend Roman didn’t fair as well. He estimated that up in his section in the 300s, the ratio was 70/30, Leafs fans. Ew! Poor Roman! But down in our end, we were mostly okay. In fact, the closest guy to us in a Leafs jersey turned out to be a Sabres fan who had lost a bet. We discovered this when, to our complete confusion, he turned around to high five us after the Sabres’ second goal.

Me: (high fives a dude in a Leafs jersey) WTF, dude? (points to his Leafs jersey)
Him: (shakes his head sadly) It’s okay. I’m a Sabres fan. I lost a bet.
Me: Ouch. Does your skin burn in that thing?
Him: Yeah, it does.

There was a moment late in the third period when I remember thinking to myself, “No matter what happens with the final score, I need to remember how fun this game has been.” Thank you Hockey Gods, for not testing my resolve on that pledge.

I had so much fun on Friday that after the game ended I was tempted to make a pact with the devil: As long as the Sabres manage to beat the Leafs at FNC forever and for all eternity, I don’t care what else happens. But thank GOD the devil wasn’t taking my calls on Friday night because the VERY next day, I was whistling a different tune…

The Agony

I was playing a concert Saturday night, so I didn’t see much of the game. But I saw enough. I saw enough to say definitively that the Sabres are in deep doo-doo. If Ryan Miller is going to play like crap, and half the roster is going to be injured, and the other half of the roster is going to be Roy and Stafford… the Sabres are in serious trouble. Not, like, cute “we just need time to gel, but it’s okay because we beat the Leafs last night” trouble, but real, “OMG. This season will be lost,” trouble.

The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I agree with Ted Black. We need to be patient. It’s not that I think that if we’re patient this roster is suddenly going to be good, or that Lindy Ruff will suddenly figure out how to make Roy and Stafford stop sucking, or that everything will be better once Tyler Myers and Brad Boyes come back. I just think it’s going to take time to fix this team. The fix is way more complicated than we want to believe.

Personally, until Ted Black and Terry Pegula give me reason to feel otherwise, I trust them to make measured, intelligent changes. It probably wasn’t what I would’ve done (no one will ever accuse me of being intelligent and measured), but keeping Lindy and Darcy after the ownership change was the intelligent, measured thing to do. The problem is that right now, in this situation, there isn’t a measured, intelligent change available. A new coach wouldn’t suddenly heal the injured players, and a new GM couldn’t make new cap space appear out of thin air.

As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m not one of those, “Lindy should have a job for life,” people. I’ve called for his head before. Right now, I don’t think the problem is coaching, and even if I did, there is just NO WAY Lindy should be fired while his forward lines look like this.

As for Darcy: So far, this season is looking like a perfect storm of suck for Darcy. I’m not willing to argue that any of his off-season signings were disastrous on their own (okay, maybe Leino, but… I still want to believe in Leino, so dammit, that’s what I’ll do), but the cap situation is h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e. The Sabres have exactly zero space under the cap right now and they are in injury hell.  The lack of cap space puts Darcy in a severely weakened position when it comes to tinkering with the current roster. Even when the plan was “cross your fingers and pray everyone stays healthy,” Darcy was still walking a very dangerous line with his cap space, but now, with all these call ups, he’s in serious trouble. This is the very definition of cap mismanagement, and in my opinion, depending on how the season shakes out, it’s a fire-able offense. But again, we’ll see.

It’s annoying as HELL to admit it, but it’s pretty difficult to fairly assess the roster with this many injuries. The intelligent, measured thing to do is to wait and see. Ted is right.

It seems to me that a lot of Sabres fans reacted to Pegula by upping their expectations dramatically without much consideration for how these new expectations could be met. I upped my expectations too, but unlike in the past, I now have faith that Sabres ownership is going to keep trying. When things don’t work out, Pegula and Ted Black aren’t going to do nothing. No, the first two and a half months of the 2011/12 season have not gone spectacularly well, but, I fully believe that they’re going to keep trying. So, if Darcy and/or Lindy need to go, I think sooner rather than later they will go. I couldn’t say that about the previous ownership.

Instead of feeling angry about the roster, I feel oddly pacified this season. It never made sense to me that Pegula could waltz in and be all, “I am a billionaire, and I want a Cup! BEGIN WINNING CUPS, BUFFALO SABRES.” That would’ve been too easy.

I believe that when Pegula took over, he gave Darcy Regier just enough rope to hang himself. Whether or not Darcy’s summertime moves have doomed him is still up in the air. I like Darcy as a person, and I love it when the Sabres are successful, so I hope things turn around here, but if they don’t, I do trust that things will change.

For now, we wait.

(But if Darcy wants to get to work trading Roy and/or Stafford, that’d be fine by me.)

6 Things: Spoonful of Sugar Edition

If you’re like me you, last night you went to your orchestra rehearsal and carefully shielded yourself from the Sabres score so that you could race home, pour yourself a nice glass of boxed wine, and crochet granny squares while watching the game on DVR delay. You watched the first period and thought, “The Sabres are so scrappy and fun tonight! Yaaaaay! This is exactly what Sabres fans need, a nice easy win. So what if they gave up a last minute goal in the first period, it’s still 3-1. It’s all good.” Then you poured yourself a second glass of boxed wine, and as soon as the Flyers scored their second goal you thought, “The Sabres are definitely going to lose this game.” And you would’ve been right. Basically at this point Sabres fans would be stupid to expect the Sabres to hold onto a 3-o lead at home.

By the midpoint of the game I was so certain of a Sabres loss that when Drew Stafford scored the late tying goal only part of me said, “WOOOOOOOOO!” The other part was like, “Eff you, Staffy. Don’t score a late tying goal and then expect me to forgive you for everything you’ve put me through. I can’t even look at you right now.”

Yep. It’s like that these days.

After I finished the game at 11:30pm, in an effort to be less cranky, I ate half a loaf of olive bread. Unsurprisingly (in retrospect), that didn’t make me feel better at all. When I woke up this morning I had a stomach-ache AND I still had a resounding sense of “hmph”-in-my-heart in regards to the Sabres. So, I was forced into my plan of last resort. I had to look at this picture:

I maintain that it's impossible to look at this picture and remain grouchy about something as stupid as hockey. Especially if you add a little baby rhino voice in your head that's singing a song with lyrics something like, "I am a tiny rhino, Doo dee doo dee doooo. I've got hay between my rhino toes. Tra la la la laaaa"

I’m not sure why looking at cute pictures of animals makes me feel better about stupid stuff, but it does. It’s weird because in real life I’m sort of lukewarm on animals. I like them, but they’re often smelly and they leave fur on your clothes and your couch and they’re rarely as cute in reality as they are in picture form.

In the absence of rhinos, baby giraffes will do in a pinch.

Even though I’m pretty disinterested in thinking seriously about the Sabres right now, I do feel some obligation to discuss the Sabres on my Sabres blog, so I’m going to give this a try. But let’s face it, asking Sabres fans to read blog posts about the Sabres in addition to watching the Sabres the play hockey is a pretty big favor at this point.

I’ve tried this before, and it worked pretty well, so we’re going to try again. If you read something that you find upsetting or too frustrating to bear, please QUICKLY look at one of the helpful animal photos that accompany this post. (And I should admit here that all these pictures were lifted from Cute Overload. I canNOT recommend Cute Overload highly enough for all your make-me-feel-better-about-something-stupid needs.)

Let’s begin:

Don't think too hard about the Sabres' home record. Instead, look at this small, grumpy-looking rabbit.

1. The Sabres SUCK ASS at home. Of all the ways a team can be bad, consistently melting down in front of your home crowd miiiight be the worst possible way. In an ideal world the Sabres and their fans would sign up for some group therapy so that we can figure out why our relationship is so dysfunctional, but sadly, this is not an ideal world. As much as I wish I could convince everyone in FNC to communicate with the team only use “I statements” when watching a Sabres game (accusations never work, people!), I know it can’t be done. (ex: “Marc-Andre Gragnani, when you pass the puck directly to Claude Giroux during overtime, I feel deep sadness in my soul.”) Consistently losing at home has taken its toll. There is almost no trust between the team and the fans right now. The team can fix this by ripping off about six home wins in a row. Other than being nicer and hoping that niceness somehow makes the team less spazzy, the fans are pretty helpless. The only solution is big beers, and lots of ‘em.

_________

2. It feels like all we ever do now is argue about who should be suspended, and for how long. Personally I take no enjoyment from this conversation. I’m not sure what the solution is here because there is just no way we’re ever all going to agree on everything Shanahan does. There is literally no way. Here are some of my answers to the burning questions surrounding suspensions and non-suspension:

Do I think some of Shanahan’s decisions have been totally wackadoo? Absoluuuutely.
Do I think Shanahan is better than Colin Campbell? Sure.
Do I think there is a vast conspiracy against the Sabres? Uh, no.
Do I think the Bruins get special treatment? Oh for fuck’s sake. I don’t know. Maybe. Probably not. This is stupid.
Do I think it’s open season on goalies Ryan Miller? Hard to say. kinda
Do I think Lucic is a tool? YES.
Should this dog be suspended for his egregious public digging?

Much like Lucic's hit on Miller, I'm sure this dog didn't mean to do it. NO suspension.

______________

We live in a world where this super awesome seal exists. The NHL and their hateful playoff scheme cannot take that away from us.

3. The whole league was realigned. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about the realignment (although, I secretly wanted Detroit in our division), but I HATE the current playoff format being bandied about. Please Hockey Gods, DO NOT let this happen. Why do we have to mess with a perfectly good playoff format just because the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg?

I hate the argument that hatred makes for better playoff matchups. That’s stupid. Hatred makes for more hateful playoff matchups, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be more fun or interesting. And why do we want our passion for the playoffs fueled by hate, anyway? I mean, geez. I like smiling. Smiling’s my favorite. I especially like smiling during the playoffs.

Two rounds of playoffs within the division is TOO MUCH.

_________

4. And about the realignment (and I acknowledge that this is just a minor quibble), but if the NHL winds up calling the new groups “conferences” I’m going to be irked. Those are divisions, NHL.

"The lady said no (to calling them 'conferences'). I'm going to have to ask you to back off, NHL."

__________

From now on, I'm going to look at this guy instead of watching hockey fights.

5.  This is a difficult topic for me to write about right now, but I feel the need to say something about fighting in hockey.

I was sincerely rattled by the New York Times 3-part series about the life and death of Derek Boogaard. I think this series should be required reading for every hockey fan. Please, please read this story.

I’d prefer not to debate the tactical merits or drawbacks of fighting on the pages of this blog right now, but I will say this:

I’ve spent most of my time as a hockey fan feeling pretty neutral about fighting in the NHL, but this season has really been different for me. The new information about the effects of concussion combined with a broader awareness of the depression and substance abuse problems that many of hockey’s enforcers face has pushed me out of my neutral position. I used to tolerate most hockey fights, and even enjoy a bout or two per season, but now I outright hate it, every time. I took no comfort in the fight between Gaustad and Lucic. None. For me, that fight (and everything leading up to it) was upsetting, and nothing more.

Hockey fighting is a genuinely difficult issue, so here's the back of a panda to help us get through this portion of this blog post.

This issue has really begun to effect my enjoyment of hockey. Maybe this anti-fighting sentiment is something that will come and go in waves for me. Maybe I’ll learn to tolerate fighting again. Maybe more evidence will swing my opinion in a different direction. Maybe I’ll simply find a way to make peace with fighting in hockey. Maybe I’ll stop taking fighting so seriously. I don’t know. But right now, hockey fighting really, really bothers me on a core level.

________

6. This has nothing to do with hockey, but here goes:

After a lifetime of indifference towards my physical fitness (or lack thereof), this summer I began to take baby steps towards trying to get into shape. (And I DO mean baby steps. Little baby steps on little baby walks is how I started.) Then about a month ago I joined a gym and started to work with a personal trainer. I’m not sure why my mindset was different this time (I’ve joined gyms before), but for some reason this time I was able to say to myself, “Self, you’re not in shape now, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to do this even if you feel stupid at first.”

My problem with gyms in the past has always been that my pride had not allowed me to just be sweaty and out of breath. I hated the feeling of struggling within eyesight of other people. I honestly don’t know what’s changed, but this time I’ve embraced the humility involved with going to a gym. Sure, sometimes I’m kind of embarrassed when I can’t do something, but mostly I can just sort of laugh and think, “Hm. I wonder how I’ve been managing to SIT UPRIGHT all these years with this ridiculous lack of core strength.” Then, I do the plank pose for a few weeks, and I actually see improvement. It’s been pretty cool to feel myself getting stronger.

I guess I’m just saying that going to this gym has been an absolutely wonderful experience for me. If you are someone who struggles to stay fit, I encourage you to keep trying. You just never know when exercising is going to “click” and become something other than a terrible chore.

Today, one minute of plank pose without dying. Tomorrow, the world!


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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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.)

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