Archive for the 'Lindy Ruff' Category

Tick Tock

Somewhere in the back of my head a stopwatch started counting down last night.

For someone as hardcore about the Sabres as I am, I think I’m a fairly patient fan. I try not to get too salty about the Sabres, and often times that requires a little bit of self-delusion. I think sports fandom without at least a little bit of self-delusion is totally weird. Irrational hope is a big part of the attraction, here. It’s the reason we care about sports at all. So, as a mostly-sane Sabres fan, I have bumbled along this season, doling out the irrational hope during the “up” stretches and trying to avoid getting dramatically emo during the “down” stretches.

If I have enjoyed a favorite willful delusion this year it has been in the area of Terry Pegula and Ted Black. I want to believe in those guys, I want to believe that they have a plan and that eventually that plan will work. I want to believe, and so I do.

I still don’t think Pegula and Black have made any obvious and horrible mistakes, but they have been undeniably cautious. In many franchises (dare I say most?) Lindy and/or Darcy would’ve been fired this season. I don’t necessarily disrespect the decision to keep both coach and GM employed through this lost season, but my willingness to blindly follow Pegula and Black now feels a bit tested. It feels like the warm fuzzies that I enjoyed just one year ago on “Pegula Day” has an expiration date.

The clock has started.

The way I see it, Darcy has ten days to save his job, and then depending on how he performs, Pegula and Black have a few months to respond accordingly. Darcy has made a lot of mistakes in the past year, but with this trade deadline he now has the opportunity to fix a few of them. He needs to trade an expiring UFA contract or two (that’s the easy part), and he also needs to get one of these forwards (Stafford, Roy, Leino) off the books for next season. If Darcy can’t (or won’t) do that, then I think the pressure is on Pegula to fire him.

In hindsight it’s very strange to me that Pegula stated a timeline so specifically for winning the Cup when he took over the Sabres. Three years is such a short amount of time, and winning the Cup is so incredibly difficult. Why put a timeline on winning the Cup?

I think Pegula made a mistake when he assumed that Sabres fans want a Cup quickly. I can only speak for myself, but as long as it happens before I die, I’m not super concerned about the timeline for the Sabres winning it all. What I really care about is the sense that the franchise is in good hands. I want to see that poor performance has consequences. I want to believe that our young players have every opportunity to improve in the Sabres system. I want to feel like the team is on the right track. Granted this has been a monumentally disastrous season, but right now, I’m not so sure about any of those things.

Frankly, if someone came out today and said, “We’re rebuilding and we don’t know how long it’s going to take,” I’d be happier with that than I ever was with the arbitrarily chosen 3 year window to win.

Make no mistake, the Sabres had some unbelievably bad luck this season. And please don’t get me wrong, I’ll love this franchise for the rest of my life. But there’s faith and then there’s willful self-delusion. I’m capable of either, but faith is so much more satisfying. A franchise built on faith is a franchise that I can watch forever.

I want to believe, I really do, but Pegula’s grace period is now officially winding down. I suspect that the next few months will determine a lot about how we view this ownership team for a long time to come.


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.

The Goalie Controversy Situation

I’ll admit, up until last night I had a constant headache from the non-stop, dramatic eye rolling I was doing every time I heard the words, “goalie controversy.” While I still don’t think we’re anywhere near “controversy” territory, I’m forced to concede we have definitely ventured past the, “nothing to see here,” phase.

Lindy gave Enroth one of Miller’s starts. That is genuinely interesting.

Aside from my minor concerns that Miller will give Enroth the shiv at his first opportunity (watch your back lil’ Enroth), I doubt this will wind up being a big deal. But… at this point you never know. If I had to bet money on what will happen next, I’d bet that Miller kicks ass on Tuesday, and then everything goes back to normal (meaning, Lindy goes back to his prearranged goalie schedule, Miller plays pretty well in general, Enroth plugs along winning at every [far apart] opportunity, and the Sabres fanbase and media continue to squawk argue debate about which goalie is better for the franchise.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “problem” of two good goalies. Obviously, having two good goalies is not an actual problem, but it sure does make the conversation surrounding Ryan Miller a lot more intense. Unless Miller is perfect, there will be calls for Enroth from the fanbase. When Miller is really, really, really far from perfect (as he has been his last few starts), those calls become a roar; a roar audible from the players’ bench in the arena, actually.

In my opinion, in this environment, it’s really difficult to have a reasonable conversation about the goalie situation, which is frustrating, because this situation is absolutely chock-full of interesting angles:

Will Enroth’s strong presence push Miller to be better, or will it further throw him off his game? How is Miller going to respond being benched? Would one bad game from Enroth throw water on the whole conversation? Will Enroth ever actually PLAY a bad game? At what point does Enroth start stealing starts with regularity? How is the the goalie situation effecting the locker room at this point? Is Miller injured? Can Lindy use Enroth to essentially let Miller work through whatever is ailing him (mentally or physically) and then restore the normal goalie rotation? Does an NHL roster HAVE to have a clear #1 and #2 goalie? Is there some way for Lindy to just play the hot hand for an entire season? How much is this “goalie controversy” fan/media generated, and how much of it is actually real? Do you think Enroth and Miller are friends? How much would the new players effect locker room chemistry and could this be effecting Miller’s performance? What on earth is up with this? Is it possible that the players’ previously indisputable support of Miller could be eroded if Enroth’s strong play continues? How much is everyone thinking about Tim Thomas and Tukka Rask these days? And probably the most interesting topic in my opinion- Can Lindy coach himself through this goalie situation?

In my opinion, Ryan Miller’s personality comes in at about #45 on the list of “relevant talking points.” Basically I think you can boil that entire topic down to this: When the goalie plays poorly, the fans get mad at him. When he’s not apologetic enough, that gives people “justification” for their anger. That’s it. That’s the entire thing. It’s not more complicated than that, and it’s not particularly unique to Ryan Miller or to Buffalo. Sure, there are certain elements of Miller’s personality that don’t mesh well with Buffalo’s personality, but basically, people are mad at him because he’s not playing well. It’s not rocket science, and we probably don’t need to bust out the Freudian analysis.

I do understand that a player’s personality effects how the fans feel about him, and that in turn effects the conversation surrounding whatever is happening on the ice. I understand why so many people are preoccupied with Miller’s postgame demeanor, I just think that if we continue to dwell on this aspect of the situation we’ll be missing the forest through the trees.

Things are actually getting interesting around here. There is so much to talk about that DOESN’T involve dissecting a player’s personality and then speculating wildly on what tell ourselves we know about him.

I’m an ardent Ryan Miller fan (what can I say? I love his unique brand of crankiness), but I can’t deny that I’ve grown increasingly intrigued by Enroth’s strong play. I’m a little surprised by my willingness to consider that Enroth might be the Sabres’ best option. If Enroth is the better goalie for the team right now, then… maybe he should play until he’s not? I dunno. Regardless of where you fall in the Miller vs. Enroth debate, I think most reasonable people can agree that if Ryan Miller is at the very top of his game, the Sabres will be in good shape. With that in mind, does Lindy gear his goalie decisions towards getting Miller back on track? Or does he just go with the best chance of winning on any given night? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m certainly eager to see what Lindy does next.

I wouldn’t call any of this a “controversy”, but Lindy definitely has a situation on his hands. Consider me officially intrigued.

I’m Not Scared!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the exchange that Lindy told us about in his postgame press conference on Tuesday.  Apparently, in the minutes after Tampa scored their third period goal to pull within one, Lindy sensed that the bench was tentative and jittery.  Lindy barked, “Are you scared?”   And one of the Sabres yelled back, “I’m not scared!”

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend that you watch Lindy’s postgame interview from the Tampa game.  This is Lindy Ruff at his best.  You can hear Lindy tell this little story starting at around the 2:00 mark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I absolutely love this story, and I love how Lindy tells it.  For a brief second (it’s just a glimmer, really), Lindy looks like a proud father, and then, after he says, “I’m not scared,” he snaps back into coach-mode.  You can see the joy and pride in Lindy’s demeanor.  It’s so lovely.

Not to mention the quote.  “I’m not scared!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this story.  I’ve been trying to imagine which Sabres bellowed, “I’m not scared,” on the bench.  Anyone who was in the arena knows that the Sabres were scared.  Everyone was scared.  That Lightning goal wasn’t a catastrophe, but it made my stomach get all nervous.  I was scared.

But the Sabres took care of it.

“I’m not scared!”

I think that saying, “I’m not scared,” displays both vulnerability and bravery.  (Is there a difference between vulnerability and bravery, really?)  It’s both childlike and warrior-like.  I love it.  It feels so right for this particular Sabres team.

I’m going to try to work, “I’m not scared,” into my fandom.  For a second last night, when I realized that the Red Wings would not eliminate the Hurricanes on our behalf, an absurd fear briefly made an appearance in my throat.  “Oh, God.  What if they don’t make it?  What if they lose on Friday?  What if the Hurricanes win out?”  And then I stopped, and I imagined Goose, or Gerbe, or Pominville sitting on the bench in the middle of an important game, yelling, “I’m not scared,” and it made me smile.

Before the Tampa game, I was describing the Sabres games as “torturous”. That Hurricanes game almost killed me, and yet, at the same time, I’m starting to enter the arena thinking, “There is no way they can lose tonight. No way.”

It’s time to pick a side.

I don’t want to be anxious about these Sabres. Fear is completely unwarranted.  Look at Lindy up there, beaming with pride. He loves this. So should we. I just want to enjoy every minute of the games. And I’m not just talking about the games before they clinch the playoff, I talking about the playoffs too.

There is nothing to fear here.  There is only fun.

I’m not scared!

7 Things: Special HAHAHAHAHA Kovalchuk Edition

1. That game was awesome. It was sloppy and fun and both teams looked like they were really trying even though both teams looked liked they’re not that good at hockey. Great fun. I know it’s easy to say after a win, but I SWEAR (on the head of Lindy Ruff) that I would’ve been raving about that game even if the Sabres had lost.

2. But they DIDN’T lose! They won! Which means the Sabres are now streaking and that they will never lose again (as long as they always play the Devils and that Kovalchuk is always inexplicably mesmerized by Enroth’s steely gaze and he always totally whiffs on the puck in the shootout). Somewhere, Darcy Regier just smiled wryly and mumbled, “I love it when a super-mega-patient plan comes together.”

3. Can we PLEASE stop talking about how great Lindy is now? Congratulations on 1,000 games, Lindy Ruff!

Okay, okay. 1,000 games with one team is a major accomplishment, and seriously, congrats Lindy. For all the smack I’ve talked about him on this blog, you have to be deaf, blind, AND mean-spirited not to see that Lindy is a pretty cool dude.

However, I’m sure I’m not the only Sabres fan who has found this day a little *sing-song voice* awwwkwaaaard. For the first time in his tenure, Lindy’s effectiveness is being called into question, and then today we all had to stop the, “WHY have the Sabres had the same coach for 13 years?!” conversation and celebrate Lindy’s (very real) achievement. It was just kind of bad timing. I made a joke on Twitter today that if Lindy was really such a great coach he would have found a way to coach his 1,000th game LAST season, when the team spent the whole year at the top of the standings, instead of this season, when Sabres fans are so desperate for wins we’re jumping for joy just because Kovalchuk can’t keep his eye on the puck in the shootout. Instead, we spent the whole day hearing and reading “1000 games” and thinking, “Yeeeeeah, I’m not so sure those 1,000 games were the most healthy thing for the organization, but…okay….Yay Lindy!”

I’m not saying that Lindy doesn’t deserve to be honored, and I’m not saying he’s not the Truest True Sabre that ever was, I’m just saying this would have been a LOT more fun if the Sabres weren’t so stinky.

4. But the Sabres aren’t stinky anymore. Now they rock! WOOOOOO! TWO WINS IN A ROW!!!!

5. The following people seem like nice guys, but I’m not sure they should ever get to play hockey as Sabres again: Patrick Lalime and Craig Rivet

6. I’m not sure if it’s the Sabres fault, or MSG’s fault, but it is absolutely atrocious that we have to watch the Devils feed during intermissions. WHAT ARE WE, ANIMALS?

7. This has nothing to do with that game, but I’ve been on a weeks-long hunt for the perfect apple, and I believe I’ve found it. The perfect apple is……an EMPIRE APPLE! Empire apples have all of the qualities of a good apple. Not too huge, nice and sweet, and most importantly, very crunchy. (By “crunchy” I mean texturally crunchy, not reminiscent of Ryan Miller.)

I’ve had this problem for years where I can’t ever remember which apples I like, and so this year I very methodically purchased lots of different apples and then kept NOTES (like an apple-nerd) on which ones I liked. So, I feel confident that Empire apples actually ARE the best apples in the world. 1st Runner up: Fujis. I also loved the texture and crunch of the Honey Crisp, but sadly, it didn’t have enough flavor. (So close, Honey Crisp. Keep trying! Maybe next year.)

I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of hideously gross red apples that I didn’t even bother trying because when I poked them with my thumb at Wegmans they were obviously too soft, but the worst apple I tried was a Granny Smith. Those green grannies are waaaay too sour. I’m not really into “sour” as a flavor, but maybe that’s just me.

Congratulations, Empire. You win.

Point/Counterpoint: Sabrez-Style

Point: The current state of the Sabres has left me unable to blog.  I am suffering from the worst kind of blogging-block these days.  I try and try and TRY to write (I swear to you, I’M TRYING), but every post seems overworked, uninteresting, and lacking a clear perspective.

I’m in some new stage of my Sabres fandom.  This terrible start to the season (and all the resultant disillusionment) is something I haven’t ever really experienced.  A few days ago at work my friend Roman (a longtime hockey fan, and someone whose good attitude about sports I really admire) asked me if I would be in danger of losing interest in the Sabres if their suckiness continued.  (I’m pretty sure Roman did not actually use the word “suckiness”.  That sounds more like me than it sounds like Roman.  But you get the drift.)  My answer was a resounding “NO.”  I’m in no danger of losing interest.  In fact, if anything, I’m getting increasingly fascinated.  Oh, it’s a morbid fascination alright, but I can’t turn away.

The difference now is that I’ve withdrawn a bit emotionally.  The overwrought hysteria that has been the trademark of this blog for three years is just not there right now.  Who am I if I’m not a wailing lunatic?!  How can I write about the Sabres if I lack the emotional passion to insist the world is about to end every time they lose twice in a row?  Where will the entertaining blog rants come from, if, in the end all I feel after watching them cough up a two goal lead is, “The Sabres are really not good at this, are they?”  And if I can’t get worked up about the losses, what if I’m turning into one of those dead-on-the-inside fans that can’t enjoy WINS?!  PLEASE JUST KILL ME NOW IF THAT’S WHERE THIS IS ALL INEVITABLY LEADING.

You can probably see why trying to blog about the Sabres has left me feeling a little confused.

Counterpoint: Dude.  I need to get over myself.

I should just force myself to write about the Sabres.  Maybe I could come up with a cheesy little device like “point/counterpoint” which would acknowledge that I’m not entirely sure what to think about any of this because for some annoying reason I’m seeing both sides of the coin right now.  That way, if everything I write turns out to be totally stupid in hindsight, I can always be all, “Well, whatever.  What do I know,” all breezy-like.  Insisting that I didn’t know what I was talking about while simultaneously putting forth strongly held opinions worked to keep me out of dicey “accountability” trouble for YEARS on this blog.

Who cares if what I write is wrong.  It’s all about cleverly hedging my bets.


Point: I think Lindy was right to bench Rivet. Rivet has probably been the Sabres’ worst defenseman all season, and Lindy has repeatedly claimed that he’ll play his best players and sit the rest.  Benching the captain sends a message that Lindy intends to hold individuals responsible.

But the real reason I’m glad Lindy benched Rivet is that I’ve always hated the notion that Lindy would never bench a captain.  Apparently way back when Lindy himself was a captain he got benched, and it pissed him off something fierce.  Of all the possible excuses not to make a roster move, the fact that Lindy got his feelings hurt twenty years ago, seems like one of the worst.  I wasn’t a fan back in 1989 when Lindy was benched, so I have no idea what the circumstance surrounding that benching were, but it’s entirely possible that even though it was a TOTALLY crummy experience for Lindy Ruff, it was a still a good move for the team.  I have sympathy for how difficult it must have been for Lindy to put his personal feeling aside and bench Rivet, but I really respect that he did it.

Counterpoint: Benching Rivet seems to have had zero positive effect on the team.  They lost miserably both nights that Rivet sat in the press box.  (Full disclosure: I was working on Saturday and because of the 8pm start in Dallas, the BPO intermission lined up perfectly with the 1st intermission of the game.  Because of this, I literally did not see a second of that game.  I’m not a glutton for punishment, so I haven’t watched a single highlight or postgame interview.  My basis for calling the loss “miserable” is the score, and the score alone.  Getting shutout 4-0 by Andrew Raycroft looks pretty miserable to me, but maybe there was something positive about that game that the score alone cannot convey.)

The fact that Lindy benched Rivet and then the team responded by being even MORE disheveled and stupid-penalty-taking might be damning evidence that absolutely nothing Lindy says or does is getting through to these guys.  In my opinion, being all bold and bench-y always makes a coach look a little desperate, but sometimes it works, and in those cases the ends justify the means.  But when it doesn’t work, benching the captain shines a big ol’ spotlight on the crazytown that is thriving inside your locker room.


Point: I ran out of Halloween candy last night, so there are no leftovers sitting around the house.

Counterpoint: I ran out of Halloween candy last night, so there are no leftovers sitting around the house.


Point: Not to pile on Lindy too much here, but I thought his public musings about Jason Pominville’s failed post-concussion memory tests were a little irresponsible.  (In case you didn’t see Lindy’s comments, he basically wondered out loud if Pominville’s inability to match his baseline memory scores might not be a symptom of his concussion, but rather a sign that he aced the living hell out of the test as a rookie.)

This issue is complicated because no one seems to understand concussions, but I have to think that the last thing these players need is an NHL coach implying “HE PERFECTLY FINE” when actual doctors are saying he’s not fully recovered.  Not to mention the fact that every young player now knows that if you want an easier time getting back into the lineup after a concussion, you should play dumb when they ask you to draw a bunch of shapes on a piece of paper as a rookie.

I can understand the frustration of not having Pominville back in the line-up (particularly when Pommers himself says he feels totally fine), but I still think Lindy should have said something along the lines of, “We want Pominville back in the line-up as soon as possible, but we don’t want to endanger his longterm health.  It’s important that we don’t send him back in there too soon.”  If Pominville is still failing these tests a month after he first claims to be symptom free, then sure, it might be time to question the testing methods, but for now I think Lindy Ruff and Jason Pominville should just keep their mouths shut and trust the doctors.

Counterpoint: The testing method does seem a little archaic.  Why don’t they test the players more often?  How come Jason Pominville hasn’t taken this test since he was a rookie?  Isn’t it possible that he’s a little mentally slower for a variety of totally normal, non-concussion related reasons?  Doesn’t he have a baby at home? Maybe he doesn’t get enough sleep and that’s why he’s dumber now than he was six years ago.  Wouldn’t it be easier to accurately measure Pommers pre and post-concussion if they had done additional baseline testing during training camp this season?

If treating players for concussions is starting to rely more on testing and less on how the player actually reports that he is feeling (and because of stories like Marc Savard’s, I think we have to consider that it really might be best to be distrustful of what a player is saying about his health), shouldn’t the testing be a little more rigorous than one baseline test as a rookie?

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.

Dear Lindy Ruff,

Being the coach of an NHL team is a full time job.  So is owning a diner.  I know how passionate you are about grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate malts, and lord knows I know you love the Sabres, but sooner or latter you’re going to have to make a choice.   Hockey, or affordable comfort food.   I think you’re spreading yourself too thin.

With love and thanks for the french fries,


Today Is More Awesome Than Lame

Things that are lame:

1. Ryan Kesler and Zach Parise are no longer on our team.

2. Olympic hockey is gone for four years.

3. My ankle is sprained.

4. I wrote an entire huge long post about how the Sabres need a backup goalie (complete with STATS!  I looked up NUMBERS, you guys) only to scrap the whole thing because I realized that I wasn’t even buying my argument.  (Statbits are inherently fishy if you ask me.)   I still think that Crunchy needs some good rest before the playoffs, but I couldn’t prove it with numbers, so now I’m just all lost and confused about the whole thing.

5. DARN!  I forgot to put the chili in the crockpot!  I KNEW there was something I was supposed to be doing this morning.

Things that are awesome:

1. The S-A-B-R-E-S are back!

2. Paul Gaustad and Thomas Vanek are on our team.  (I know!  I’m just as surprised to see Vanek on the “awesome” list as you are!)

3. Lindy Ruff is on our team again.  Sometimes in Buffalo it feels like you have to choose to be a “Lindy Ruff never deserves criticism EVER” person or a swirly-eyed, frothing at the mouth “LINDYRUFFSHOULDBEFIRED” person, but I reject this notion.  I love Lindy AND I criticism him.  It’s called “middle ground”, and it’s awesome.

My main point about Lindy today is that it didn’t feel particularly good to see him on the other side of the ice.  I’m looking forward to getting him back.  Ryan Miller and Lindy Ruff belong together, not apart.

4. I’m really really looking forward to Lindy’s comments about the Olympics, and Miller’s play in particular.  I’m sure he’ll have some good stuff.

5. Lindy claimed that he came away from the Olympic camps this summer all calm and reinvigorated, with a new, fresh approach to coaching.  If the camps made him feel all inspired, imagine what winning a gold medal did for him.  Not to steal Darcy’s trademark line, but getting an invigorated and refreshed Lindy Ruff back in the locker room might be the same as making a big trade.   (Heh.)

6. TRADE DEADLINE DAY IS TOMORROW!   There are those who take a “This is how it is, this is how it’s always been, this is how it always will be” approach to the trade deadline, and I certainly can’t argue with that logic.  But, if you can’t daydream about trading Clarke MacArthur for Rick Nash in the 24 hours before the trade deadline, when CAN you dream about such things?  The trade deadline is fun, I say!  (That said, this IS how it is, this IS how it’s always been, and this IS how it will always be.  Darcy’s got his method and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it.  I just try not to get too cranky when the thing I knew was going to happen, happens.)

7. The fellas over at The Goose’s Roost have organized a gigantic Sabres blogger Cover-It-Live-athon, and we here at TWC will be participating.  I’m lifting the Willful Caboose ban on that big old clicking, scrolling chatty-box thing, and we’re going to talk Rick Nash for Clarke MacArthur ALL DAY LONG.  So, tune in here (or to any other Sabres blog) to get in on the chatter.

8. The Olympics really left me feeling like the Sabres should go for it this season.  Is Ryan Miller having the season of a lifetime?   If he did that for Team USA, can he do it for the Sabres?

9. Seriously though.  How awesome is it that Ryan Miller is a Buffalo Sabre?

10. The chili probably doesn’t need the entire day to cook.

Crunchy Tanks in the Shootout; Alternately Titled: It’s For the Greater Good

Scene: Sabres bench, right before shootout

MacArthur: This is awesome.  No matter how badly we play, we can’t lose.

The Kaleta!: I know!  It’s like, we totally suck for two periods, Millsie keeps us in it, and then somehow the game winds up tied at the end!   We rock….even when we suck!


Staffy: We hotways hot it up by the hot of the hot.  It’s a hot game, boys! Let’s go hot the shoothot.

Roy-Z: Wait….what?

Staffy: Just forhot it.  You’re a hotiot, Roy-Z.

Roy-Z: I totally am!  WOOOOO!

Mylers: So, if I get called for the shootout I’m going to do the thing where I skate up to the net, and then stop and then use my long arm to go all the way around the goalie.

Lindy: You’re not shooting, Myers.

Everyone in Buffalo: BOOOOO!

Goose, Grier, and Hecht: (chanting quietly) Please don’t make me shoot in the shootout, please don’t make me shoot in the shootout, please don’t make me shoot in the shootout…..

Tim Connolly: (visibly thinking really hard) It’s impossible for us to lose, which is weird because we were TOTALLY trying to lose tonight.

Lydman: Remember last year when it was impossible for us to win? That was lame.  I like it better when it’s impossible for us to lose. (Lydman and Staffy fist bump)

Chris Butler: So, if it’s impossible for us to lose now, can I shoot in the shootout?  Pleeeease, Lindy?  Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!


Ryan Miller: I’ll show YOU impossible to lose you little effers.

(Ryan Miller proceeds to let 54 Islanders score in the shootout.)

The End

Islander win 3-2 (SO) and the Sabres learn a valuable lesson: It’s not impossible to lose.  Not if Ryan Miller has anything to say about it.

…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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