Archive for October, 2010

Yearbook Photos: A Retrospective

The Journey Begins:

I think we can all agree that there is something terribly wrong with the Sabres.

The problem is, no one is quite sure what is wrong with the Sabres.   Is it the top six?  Is it the defense?  Is it Lindy?  Are they just not that good?  Were they all concussed over the summer in some kind of unreported team bus crash?  Are they coach killing?  Is Tyler Myers high?  Were Toni Lydman and Hank Tallinder the straws that stirred the drink (no way)?  Is Craig Rivet a robot?  Are they afraid of being booed, and THAT’S why they can’t win at home?  Have Thomas Vanek’s low self-esteem issues given him an eating disorder?  Will I ever bother to learn how to spell Neidermayerierniderer or Mmoorriissoonn?

WHY are they so bad?  WHY?

We go around and round.

All I know is I need to step back from this surface-y examination of the first ten games of the new season.  I need to dig in deeper.  I need to look at the history of each member of “the core”.  I need to understand how we got here, so that at the very least, we might have some hope of saving the younger players.  I need to do what I’ve always done when the Sabres are leaving me feeling lost and confused.

I need to look at their roster photos.

As longtime readers of this blog know, I believe strongly that many secrets of a team can be revealed by careful examination of their roster photos.  The situation in Buffalo is complex, and there are no easy answers, so in order to get to the bottom of what ails the Sabres, I believe we have to acknowledge the personal journey of each individual player.

Today is the first post in what will hopefully be a series of posts.  We cannot afford to pretend that there isn’t a problem in “the system”.  Something is going terribly wrong with these players, and it is our obligation to find it, and fix it so that so future Sabres do not have to suffer.  The process is bound to be painful, but it is our duty as Sabres fans to see this through.

Today we investigate Derek Roy and Drew Stafford.

Lets begin.

Derek Roy








There is so much lost innocence and turmoil evident in Roy-Z’s early roster photos.  Heartbreaking.  He was clearly at a crossroads in 2005, and sadly, he took the path which lead to the Roy-Z we know and (kind of) love today.  To my great shock, in 2005 Derek Roy was Montador-esque in appearance.  Plain, nearly disheveled, in 2005 Roy-Z was a young man on his way to the top.  But then, in 2006, came the haircut that would rock the Buffalo hockey world.  Granted, 2006/07 was a good season for the team and for Roy-Z himself, but he was skating on borrowed time.  Let this be a lesson to the young people who read this blog: One ill-advised haircut can ruin your life.  By 2007 Derek Roy’s fate was sealed.  By the fall of ’07, Roy-Z had sunk so low that he clearly believed a carefully constructed fauxhawk could replace the leadership of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.  As we all know now, Roy-Z was wrong about his fauxhawk.  He was so dreadfully wrong.












Unable to recover from the fauxhawk, the roster photos show that Roy-Z descended deeper and deeper into skeeviness.  While Roy-Z can continue to play hockey at high levels, there is no known cure for his increasingly greasy hair.

Analysis:  Based on Roy-Z’s roster photos, we can deduce that he was not given the guidance he so desperately needed at the start of his young career.  As a result of being overlooked by authority figures, Roy-Z was susceptible to all manner of peer-pressure, the worst of which resulted in a devastating fauxhawk.  To prevent this type of calamity in the future, young Sabres should not be allowed to own or use hair products.  Also, for the good of the innocent rookies, further research must be done to determine if the greasy fauxhawk is contagious.

Drew Stafford

















It does not take a genius to see what happened to Staffy.  At some point in his childhood, he was bitten by a zombie.  By 2007 his zombie-ism was full blown, and his skin was astonishingly pale.  In 2008 in a sad effort to hide his zombie-ism Staffy attempted to smile in his roster photo, but the results were…disturbing.  By 2009, Staffy’s obvious undeadness could no longer be denied.  Thankfully, in 2010, with the help of zombie experts, Staffy’s condition is being controlled, and there is reason to believe he can one day be a useful member of society the Sabres again. *fingers crossed*

Analysis: In the future, the Sabres should consider asking all potential draftees “Are you a zombie?”  If the answer is “yes,” the Sabres should think long and hard before drafting this player.  On paper, zombies seem like they should be good at hockey, but in reality this is not always the case.


Stay tuned for future installments of this vitally important study.  We here at the Willful Caboose Research Labs promise that we will not give up until every Sabres is cured, and the team returns to respectability.

5 Things

1. I think it’s time to dial down our expectations for the Sabres this season.  I know.  Bummer.

It sounds depressing, but dialing down expectations is not all bad.

I’m obviously not giving up on the season at this point, but I think I’ll be a happier fan if I lower my expectations.   I’m going to try to be pleasantly surprised when they win.  When it comes right down to it, my fandom is all about me (ME!).  I’m sick of being grumpy.  In order to make this season more palatable I’ve made a decision: The Sabres stink.  Any win from here on out is a little gift from the Hockey Gods.   I will do my best to react accordingly.

Ooooh!  The Sabres didn’t blow chunks tonight?  How unexpected and delightful!

I gave this a lot of thought today and I have to admit, I entered this season thinking that the playoffs were an inevitability and that winning the division should be the goal.  I was sort of assuming that the problems the Sabres had in the playoffs last season were just that, playoff problems.  Uh…oopsies.

2. It’s also time to start rationally considering that maybe Lindy and/or Darcy should get the ax.  Like I’ve said 45,000 times before, I don’t necessarily think Lindy has to be fired, but I think it’s 100% appropriate for Lindy to be a topic of conversation.  If the Sabres don’t get better, and fast, this season will be beyond repair before Thanksgiving.  Think about that.

I heard Jeremy White say something interesting the other day on the radio.  In defense of Lindy, he asked, “Do you really want to lose Lindy Ruff because of Tim Connolly?”  The answer is hellz no- I don’t want to lose a game of solitaire because of Tim Connolly, much less lose Lindy Ruff.  BUT, personally, I would be willing to lose Lindy Ruff because of Thomas Vanek or (deep exasperated sigh) Derek Roy (not to mention Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers).

3. Man, speaking of Tyler Myers.  I wish Tyler Myers would come back to life.  Come back, Mylers!  I don’t think we can overstate how much the Sabres needed Tyler Myers to pick up where he left off last season.  It’s probably not fair to him (he’s still a wee baby, after all), but Tyler Myers is supposed to be our number one defenseman.  Poop.

4. Ryan Fitzpatrick and his giant yellow beard are fun.

5. It’s a pretty depressing time to be a Buffalo sports fan, but I have to say, (for lack of a better word) I was moved by the reaction to Sunday’s Bills game.  I didn’t watch much of the game because I had a 2:35 concert on Sunday.  At about 2pm, when I was arriving for work, I walked by Coda which is a small restaurant across the street from Kleinhans.  I’m not sure if the restaurant was open at the time, or if the people inside were all staff, but the doors were open and the sound of gleeful cheering was drifting out into the beautiful Sunday afternoon.  It made me happy that there were Buffalonians so completely enjoying that game in spite of the dreary season.

That’s what it’s all about.  We take the joy where it comes.

Sabres @ Flyers 10/26/10


Mood: Blank.  I’m ready to accept whatever the Sabres throw at me, and frankly, nothing could surprise me.
Favorite Sabre: Luke Adam, welcome to the NHL.  Please proceed to make Tim Connolly irrelevant.
Least Favorite Sabre: Thomas Vanek, you disgust me.
Prediction: Annnything could happen here.  Sure, the Sabres gave it to the Devils good, but the Devils were SUCH a bunch of coach-killing sad-sacks that night.  It’s hard to be all, “Yay!  The Sabres are good now!” based on that game.  On the other hand, they’re playing a road game so they shouldn’t be tempted to “put on a show” or “get too fancy” for the fans.  The Sabres tend to be good when they’re not trying to impress us.  (On that subject: Sabres, I think I speak for all of your fans when I say, “Stop saying you get ‘too fancy’ at home.  You know what’s fancy?  Winning.  You guys aren’t fancy at ALL at home.)
Animal representing my hopes for this game: Lemur

I recently went to the zoo to try to see the baby gorilla and instead of seeing gorillas (they were napping or something.  Lazy, gorillas) we were totally captivated by a lemur.  He was laying flat on his back, sunning his stomach.  He looked ridiculous.  Then, after we laughed at him for awhile, something startled him and he went from “stoner eyes” to “nervous crazy-eyes” in zero seconds flat.  In addition to being amusing, the lemur also gave me an occasion to say, “I don’t understand this guy… he like a monkey, or like a rat?”  Answer: he’s like a monkey

After the 1st (1-1)

Mood: Entertained!
Favorite Sabre: Thomas Vanek’s shin pad.
Least Favorite Sabre: Daniel Briere is the worst Sabre EVER.
Summary of events: According to Versus, the Flyers have spent the last 24 hours being yelled at by Laviolette, which is weird because they came out pretty flat.  Vanek’s shin pad scored a power play goal, which was nice.  Then Briere scored a power play goal, and after that they Flyers seemed MUCH better than the Sabres, which was LAME.  Montador is wearing a visor, which is foxy (men with functioning eyes are hotttt).   Luke Adams looks like he COULD make Tim Connolly irrelevant, which makes me want to do a little happy dance.
Animals representing this game so far: A lemur and John Cleese, chillin’.

A pretty good time.  This picture is probably too awesome to represent that period of hockey, but if my post is going to be lemurrific, I HAVE to use this photo, right?   What if the Sabres suck in the rest of the game and I never have a reason to post another good-lemur?  That period might be as good as it gets tonight.   So, if the Sabres play a reasonably solid period, score a powerplay goal, AND Luke Adam pleases, I have NO CHOICE.  John Cleese is in.

After the 2nd (45,000-1) (Okay fine, it’s really 4-1, Philly)


Favorite Sabre: Poor Crunchy.  He deserves so much better.  I don’t care what Heather B says.
Least Favorite Sabre: Yeah, right.
Summary of Events: Some Flyer scored an UNJUST goal against Crunchy when Briere was skating around behind him in the crease.  Then the Sabres proceeded to be COMPLETELY DISGUSTING for the remainder of the period.  I kind of lost track of the specifics of the suckiness (I was taking solace in chips and salsa and playing Bejeweled Blitz), but you can safely assume that your favorite Sabre deserves to be fired.
Animal representing this game so far: I tried to find a picture of a lemur projectile vomiting (no, I didn’t really), but no dice.  We have to go with this gross baby lemur.

Darn it.  Even gross baby lemurs are waaaaay cuter than the Sabres.  (BTW, how glad are we that I didn’t hold back on the John Cleese lemur?  Right?  Prescience, thy name is Lemur.)

At the End

Dire message to the Sabres: Now look.  I know you guys aren’t that good at hockey, and….whatever.  I don’t understand why you’re so terrible, but here’s my main point: I don’t really care.  I’m currently watching basketball instead of you.  BASKETBALL.

Here’s a picture of a baby photoshopped into lemur costume.

Should I Watch? (dot com)

I’ve whined MANY times on this blog about how DVRed losses are roughly 45,000 times more annoying than ordinary losses.  There’s something about carefully avoiding the score, and then setting aside time to watch the game shielded from the computer (and all of its accompanying spoilers), that makes a DVRed loss extra irksome.  I always feel embarrassed for myself after I watch a DVRed loss because the time commitment is so much longer.

(On a related note: It’s now almost impossible for me to get through a BPO work night without hearing the score from someone.  Basically, I have to shut off my phone to avoid texts and hide in a bathroom stall at BPO intermissions to avoid my coworkers.)

On Friday I had a non-BPO gig, so it was easy to avoid the score of the Ottawa game, and I made it all the way home unspoiled. After a few minutes of watching I had a veeerrrry bad feeling, not just about the game, but also about my ability to process a loss with grace.  That’s when I remembered a valuable link sent to me on my birthday by my friend Steve:

“Should I Watch?” is a website where you enter the game you’ve recorded and your “pain threshold” and then it tells you if you should watch.  Let me tell you, IT ROCKS.

For the LOVE OF GOD, do NOT watch, Katebits!  NOOOOOOOOO!

I love that they ask me to set my “pain threshold”.  Calling it a pain threshold really caused me to stop and carefully consider my situation.  On Friday I was tired and it was late.  I’d say that Ottawa is the team most likely to send me into fits of everlasting despair.  After a little bit of soul-searching, I had to admit that my pain threshold was very low.

Thanks to, I was spared the horrible sight of Daniel Alfredsson scoring a hat trick on our ice.    Instead of being tortured by the game AND disgusted with myself for staying up so late watching a total clunker, I turned off the television and went to sleep.  Instead of killing myself on Friday, I got to live to see the Sabres beat up on a comically effed up Devils team on Saturday.  Thanks, Should I Watch!

TWC approved!

If you don’t see it, it can’t hurt you (as much).

Declaration of Confusing War

Longtime readers of this blog may recall that when I started this blog I had almost no affection for Thomas Vanek.  In the fall of 2007 I was irked with Vanek for the whole, “Hey, I’m going to squeeze a zillion dollars out of the Sabres because Kevin Lowe is a lunatic and Darcy bungled negotiations with the co-captains so badly that he’ll have no choice but to give me what I want,” routine.  (And yes, I understand it was Vanek’s right as an UFA to sign that offer sheet, and yes, in the same position I probably would’ve done the same thing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t refer to him as “Slag-Faced Whore” for an entire season because of it.)

My point is that I used to be pretty merciless when it came to Thomas Vanek.  Unless he was scoring multiple goals per game, I went out of my way to abuse him on this blog.  Even when he was scoring multiple goals per game, I was still kind of a beeyotch about him.  What can I say?  I used to love to hate Thomas Vanek.  It was my thing.

But along the way, something terrible happened.  I let down my guard, and I got soft on Thomas Vanek.

At the risk of echoing my Sabres soul-sister Heather, when it comes right down to it, Thomas Vanek is just not that hateable.   Sure, he’s slaggy, and he’s not NEARLY good enough at hockey, and deep down in our hearts we all suspect that the Sabres will never be a genuine Cup contender if Thomas Vanek is expected to be “the guy,” but even in spite of all that, Thomas Vanek somehow manages to be a sympathetic figure.  He just is. Maybe he’s sympathetic because his low self-esteem is evident in every shift, maybe it’s because he’s almost always got a face full of zits, or maybe it’s because it’s we’re all living in denial, praying that he’s about to morph into his mega-awesome mode.

All I know is that I’ve been treating Vanek with kid gloves and it has got to stop.

I watched the game last night on DVR delay, and by the time I plopped down in front of the television I was pretty tired.  It was a great game for the Sabres.  All the right guys looked good.  Some of the more worrisome defensemen looked calm and capable. (Myer, Butts, and even Rivet looked good).  Pommerdoodle showed up in a suit, and his head wasn’t bleeding and he wasn’t strapped to a stretcher…which was nice.  It was a thoroughly pleasant game, and perfect for my mood because I was worn out, and I just wanted to see them win without any fuss or muss.

Because the game was so breezy, I had lots of opportunity to check each guy out.  For the most part, I was pleased with the Sabres, but in the early part of the third period when the score was 3-1 and it came time for me to ask myself, “How is Thomas Vanek looking tonight?” the answer was a resounding, “LIKE A FESTERING BOIL”.   All of the old 2007 Thomas Vanek frustrations came flooding back, and I mentally decided, I’M DONE WITH THIS LOSER.  HE’S NEVER GOING TO BE GOOD AGAIN.  HE’S TOO CRAZY.  THOMAS VANEK IS THE WORST “THE GUY” IN HOCKEY.

I’m not sure why I chose that moment to snap (the Sabres were winning easily and I was very much enjoying the game), but I did.  And it felt good.  It felt right. Bagging on Thomas Vanek is how it’s supposed to be.  Even when the Sabres are winning.

And that’s when that little jerk scored!  That’s when Thomas Vanek scored a meaningless, gorgeous goal-scorer’s goal.

He always does this.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the arena, and juuust as I’m declaring my everlasting disgust with Thomas Vanek, he scores a goal.   I feel like it’s happened dozens of times.  Possibly millions.  I don’t want to hate him, but he leaves me no choice.

It’s time I face facts:  No matter how sympathetic, likable or (frankly) kind of pitiable I find him to be, Thomas Vanek plays better when I’m cursing his name.   I don’t know why, I don’t particularly like it, but damn it, I’m willing to do my part.  It’s tragic really.  Thomas Vanek and I are locked in some sort of epic battle which I do NOT understand, but if the Hockey Gods require that I abuse him, abuse him I must.

Thomas Vanek, you better look out, because it is on.

The Panic Button Is Not A Moral Issue

Holy TOLEEEEEDO.  The Sabres have been B-A-D.  Bad.  Very, very bad.  Buh-ad.

I’ve been bitching about this on Twitter for days, but seriously you guys, we have GOT to stop telling each other that it’s “too early to press the panic button.”  FOR REALS.

It’s NOT too early to panic.  Panicking is PERFECTLY reasonable.  Have you SEEN the Sabres?  They stink!

I should also say that I weirdly enjoy panicking about the Sabres.  Being happy when the Sabres are good and upset when they’re bad is….why I’m a fan of sports.  I don’t see the point of tempering my responses.

Being a big spaz when they stink is a way to get out some nervous energy, and ultimately, as long as I’m not kicking my hypothetical dog when the Sabres lose, what the heck difference does it make when I panic?  Do the Sabres play better or worse because of my behavior?  (NO THEY DO NOT.  If there is ONE THING I know about the Sabres it’s that absolutely nothing I do can make them play better.  I think my slug hoodie might make them play worse, but that’s still up for debate.)

In my opinion, the only hard and fast rule of being a fan is that there are lots of ways to be a fan.  (Well, that and “don’t taunt the opposing goalie unless he’s already done something dumb.”)   Pressing the panic button today doesn’t mean I can’t press the, “WOOOOOOO!  I looooove these guys” button tomorrow.

So, I can admit it: I’m pressing the panic button.  The Sabres, who I love with all of my heart, totally freaking blow.

Ahhhh.  It feels good.  *Press.  press, press, press, preeesssss.  PRESSS!*

Hopefully this week they’ll turn it all around, but if they don’t, eventually we’ll STOP pressing the panic button and just turn down the expectations dial.  But that’s a post for another day.

It’s a looooong season, and we’ve only just begun.

Let’s pray it doesn’t come to this.

Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!


The Sound of Sucking

I just realized something!

If this season the Sabres are the Sound of Music, then this is the part of the story where Maria is still annoying everyone in the abby and being a total failure as a nun.

Darcy hasn’t even kicked the Sabres out of the abby yet.  The Sabres are still up in the Alps twirling around and singing about how the rinks are alive with the sound of sucking, totally oblivious to the adventures they have ahead.  This season may seem like it’s going to be about a bunch of annoying abby politics annoying System meltdowns, but we haven’t even got to the part where Maria sews the Sabres new play-clothes and teaches them how to sing.  If nothing else, we have Craig Rivet wearing lederhosen made out of floral curtains to look forward to this season.

The 2010/11 Sabres Season Motto:  When in doubt (which, as it turns out, might be every minute of every game), consult The Sound of Music.



Are You Freaking Out? Me Either!

I think it’s a little funny how we’re falling all over each other on Twitter to declare that we’re, “not pressing the panic button yet”.  I honestly don’t think there is a single person in town who actually is panicking.


The Sabres are just being the Sabres right now.  (I know, Crunchy.  The truth hurts.)

Please join me in a deep sigh of mild irritation to commemorate the annoying start to the 2010/11 season: *Inhale….aaannnd release*

Those of us who have been vigilantly watching this team for the last few years are definitely not panicking.  We’re mostly just rolling our eyes and thinking, “Oh for pete’s sake, VANEK.

(I will admit [in a totally nonchalant, non-panicking kind of way] that it would be nice if Myers stopped sucking.  That one does have my blood pressure up just a teensy-tiny bit.  Not panicking.  Just wary.)

That Game Was NOT Good

Now look.  I’ve been to a few bad games in my day.

I’ve seen them lose big, I’ve seen them lose pathetically, and I’ve seen them skate onto the ice, point directly at my chair and say, “Hold on to your hat, because we’re going to break your heart tonight, Katebits”.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game that was quite that bad in terms of entertainment value.   That game was a. boring, b. stupid, c. lame.

Good thing for big beers.

But the good news is, all of the miners are out of the earth (can you BELIEVE they got all of those guys out?!  That is miraculous.), AND I got to sit in a suite for the third period.   So, all in all, things could be worse.

…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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