Archive for the 'Drew Stafford' Category

Down the Line

I promised myself that I wouldn’t start analyzing the Sabres until they’d played ten games, but I can’t hold myself back because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. I just want to line the Sabres up, and walk down the line, ruffle their hair one-by-one, and tell them each why I love them so. You know what?  That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I doubt the actual Sabres are willing to stand in a line for me, so you’ll just have imagine the hair tussling.


The Sabres, presented in the order in which I think of them, which is probably a pretty good indication of the order of their awesomeness:

Thomas Vanek– Thomas Vanek, I’ve written many, many, many times about how incredible it is to watch you when you’re “on”. You’re just spectacular. But this season feels a little different. You seem so joyful out there. Joy is the one thing that has always been missing from your game. I’ll admit, your visible frustration on the ice has always made me a tad hesitant to really believe in you as “The Guy.” I’ve been joking for YEARS that you need therapy, and I’m starting to believe that maybe this summer you finally got some. (And just FYI, if I were running a professional sports team, sports psychology would be a requirement for every single player on my payroll, so, my insistence that you get therapy is really nothing personal. I only bring up the therapy with you because of all the Sabres, historically you’ve seemed to be the most crazypants. I guess that part is a little personal.) At any rate, as I wrote last night on Twitter, when you’re cool, everything’s cool. So, keep up the good work, and do whatever your therapist says. That guy/lady is a genius.

Jason Pominville– Jason, you’re a Sabre who I’ve always loved unconditionally, so it’s super fun to see you being all captain-ly and top-line-y. I don’t know how you do it, but you are the only hockey player I’ve ever seen who somehow manages to look adorable no matter what you’re doing. That’s a compliment (of course).

Ville Leino- Last night was extremely good for our relationship, Ville. After your pretty pass to Pommers for the goal, I wasn’t just happy for me, I realized I was genuinely happy for you. That doesn’t happen with every goal (for example, I don’t think Derek Roy has ever scored a goal that made think, “Oh, I’m so happy for Roy-Z!” His goals are just the garden-variety, “Hooray! The Sabres just scored and this makes me, Katebits, feel joy in my heart). Ville, I want you to be an awesome Sabre, and I feel extreme confidence that you WILL be an awesome Sabre, so just hang tight, buddy. You’ve got this. (Also, you and McCormick were strangely good together last night. That was weird, thrilling, and totally unexpected.)

Ryan Miller– *fist bump and chin nod of eternal respect*

Drew Stafford– How you doin’?

Tyler Myers– *gets on a step-stool in order to ruffle Tyler’s hair* Hey there big guy! You seem to be either totally awesome or totally terrifying. Last night you were totally awesome and it was really good to see. Just try to be awesome most nights. But don’t worry. The team is better this year. Not everything will go straight to hell if you have a few bad games in a row.

Christian Ehrhoff– I love how you shoot, and I also like how your lips always look like you’re wearing a tinted lip gloss.

Luke Adam– Lu-kie! Lu-kie! Lu-kie! Welcome to Buffalo, kiddo! You’re doing great. Just keep working hard, and when in doubt in the gym or out on the town, do what Goose does. Speaking of Goose…

Paul Gaustad– HONK! Goose, I’d like to encourage you to casually undress in the background of all your teammates’ interviews.

Andrej Sekera– You’re probably my favorite skater on the team. Good job.

Brad Boyes– Um, this is a little awkward. Usually Darcy’s trade deadline acquisitions are gone by now, but… you seem to still be here. Hm…. Oooh, I know! You have a very pleasant-looking face. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise, Brad Boyes.

Derek Roy– I’m not exactly sure what’s wrong with you but you haven’t looked like yourself yet this season. Maybe you miss Vanek? I’m not too worried because apparently the Sabres don’t really need you to be awesome in order to win games. I have faith that you’ll pull it together soon. And if you don’t, well… *shrug* We apparently don’t really need you to win games! (That might sound a little harsh. Roy-Z, I think what I’m trying to tell you is: don’t get frustrated. When you suddenly get awesome again, it’s just going to make the Sabres LITERALLY UNSTOPPABLE, but for the time being, your atypical-averageness isn’t really doing any harm.

Cody McCormick– You were surprisingly good with Leino last night! Nice job. Everyone in Buffalo likes to root for you already, but if you can be the catalyst for getting Leino on track, I think we might erect a statue in your honor.

Tyler Ennis– Look, Tyler. I can’t lie. I’m a little worried about you. I’m not like, freaked about you, but I’m concerned. You need to tone down the “dipsy-doodling followed by a blueline turnover.” Just tone it down. Also, could you please clarify something? Is this actually you? That looks a LOT like Ehrhoff’s head on your body to me, but after an in-depth twitter investigation, the consensus seems to be that is IS you. I’m still not convinced. Your thoughts?

Jhonas Enroth– YOU ARE AN ELVISH HERO! Most of the time I forget all about you, but every time I remember you I get an incredible burst of confidence. Seriously. You might change everything this season. That’s how important and awesome you are. You might change everything.

Nathan Gerbe- Rock on, lil Honey Badger. Rock on.

Patrick Kaleta– Hey, Patty. You haven’t provoked my ire at all this season. Good job. Every once in a while, I think you’re Vanek on the ice. That amuses me.

Robyn Regehr– I can’t say I have any strong thoughts or feelings about you, but actually, that’s probably a good thing. You seem cool. Thanks for helping Mylers be less spazzy. I’m not going to ruffle your hair because, a.) you’re pretty much bald, and b.) you seem too dignified for such things. I’ll just shake your hand respectfully, instead.


Ah, that felt great! It’s fun to love the Sabres! I’m a little concerned about the future of this blog (nothing kills The Willful Caboose faster than a complete lack of over-the-top outrage), but we’ll make do.  I’m sure I’ll find something to complain about eventually, but for now, I love these little buggers.

Lots More Brains

Hold onto your brains, Sabres fans, because we’ve got four more years of Drew Stafford roaming the dark streets of Buffalo ahead of us. We must be vigilant, or he will (of course) eat our brains.  (Don’t hate Staffy for trying to eat your brains. It’s just his way. He’s only doing what comes naturally.)

TWC has obtained the transcript of Stafford’s negotiations with Darcy Regier:

Darcy Regier: We need to negotiate your contract, Staffy.

Staffy: Moooooore braaaains

Darcy Regier: Yes, yes, I know. You like brains.

Staffy: Moooooore braaaaains.

Darcy:  Try to focus, Drew. How much money do you want to play hockey?

Staffy: Mooooore braaaains.

Darcy: Drew… do you like being a Sabre?

Staffy: BRAINS!

Darcy: *sigh*


Darcy: Seriously, dude. Stop talking about brains for ONE SECOND.


Darcy: Thank you. Now. Here’s my offer.

(Darcy slides a piece of paper across the desk to Staffy. Staffy picks it up, reads it, then sneers.)


Darcy: Now hold on just a second Staffy. That’s a good offer.


Darcy: Well… how many brains do you think you deserve?

Staffy: Four million braaaaains per year for four yeeeeearrs. 16 million braaaaaaaaains total.

Darcy: Fine. Whatever. Just promise me that after you sign this contract you’re not going to start talking about how you wish you were a rockstar instead of a hockey player again.

Staffy: (cocks head) Red Seal Peach?

Darcy: No. No more band. Just hockey.

Staffy: (nods)

Darcy: Okay. We’ve got a deal.  Now get out of here you furry bastard.


I honestly don’t know what to make of this new Drew Stafford contract.

If the Sabres get 3o goals a year out of him for the next four years, this contract will be a steal. (And just think! Four more years of the “morrrrrre braaaaains” joke!) On the other hand, Staffy has always been really inconsistent and injury prone and blah blah blah  … you know what? Let’s not think too much about the other hand.

Hopefully this all works out, and from now on we get focused, awesome, hattricky Drew Stafford and moody, frequently-injured, I-just-want-to-rock Drew Stafford is in hibernation until his retirement from hockey.


Having nothing to do with anything: For some reason when you google “Drew Stafford furries” this picture of Ryan Miller comes up in the image results.


I have no recollection of Crunchy having that haircut. Yikes.

6 Things

1. Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovable little chickadees! Whether you are in a couple, or as single as single can be, take a minute today to close your eyes and send a few extra love vibes out into the world. After that, celebrate Valentine’s Day however you see fit. Personally, I prefer the “eat some candy-hearts and then otherwise go about my business,” method of celebration.

2. Maybe it’s because of Valentine’s Day (and my belly full of soul-nourishing candy hearts), but I’m just not too worried about the Islanders game. I mean, seriously.  It was one game.  The Sabres kept pace with the Hurricanes, the offense looked robust, Drew Stafford is completely blowing our minds, and it’s warm enough outside that some of this snow is finally going to melt.  Chin up, soldiers!

The bad news: Miller was terrrrrrible (Bad, Ryan!  Bad!), and the defense looked quite poopy.

3. Apparently, things got all cranky and bitch-slappy during the postgame, but whatevs.  People get cranky sometimes, especially cranky goalies when they are in cranky moods. I don’t think I care what goes on between Ryan Miller and the local media. Sometimes Miller’s going to be a brat because he’s a crazy-assed goalie, and being a brat kind of comes with the territory.  *shrug*

Here’s a dramatic interpretation of events that would rouse my genuine interest:

Vogl: Did you feel okay?
Crunchy: (screeching) WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING?!
Sullivan: He’s not implying anything!
Crunchy: Why don’t you let him speak for himself?!
Vogl: …feces?
Sullivan: You’ve given up 4 goals or more 14 times this season, LOSER.
*Crunchy karate-chops Jerry Sullivan*

Call me if (when?) Miller karate-chops Jerry Sullivan, but until then, I’m unmoved.

(For the record- I have absolutely no problem with how Vogl handled himself in the audio I heard, so it’s probably not very nice of me to reference his famous “feces” twitter-analysis.  But I couldn’t resist.)

4. Would it be nice if Ryan Miller returned to Vezina form? Absoluuutely. Is it reasonable to demand that he do so?  Sadly, no.  Frowny faces all around.  :(

Corey Griswold made a pretty good case yesterday on Twitter that the Miller we’re seeing this season is the real Miller, and that last season was an anomaly. (I believe Corey used the Malcolm Gladwell-approved word, “outlier” to describe Crunchy’s last season.) Corey used a bunch of stats to make this point, so, you can rest assured that numbers and mathematics were consulted when I came to the following conclusion:  Every needs to calm the eff down about Crunchy.

I’m not in the mood to get all pissy about Ryan Miller. He’ll be fine. He’s just doing his thing and unfortunately that thing does not include winning the Vezina every year. That’s a bummer for us.

The Sabres lost yesterday because of Ryan Miller. It’s true. Deal with it.

Be glad it doesn’t happen very often.

If you really have your undies in a bunch about Ryan Miller, you can begin crossing your fingers that he gets traded before the deadline. (Lemme know how that works out for you.)

5. That said, a competent backup goalie would be REALLY HANDY right now.  I have no idea what’s got Miller all out of sorts, but it sure would be nice if there was another NHL-ready goalie on the team. Riding Miller into the ground has always seemed like a bad plan, but it seems like a particularly bad plan this season.

Not only is it a bad plan on an intuitive level (I mean honestly, look at Ryan Miller. He looks like he belongs on a Depression-era soup line), but we’ve seen AMPLE evidence that Miller is not up to the task.  It didn’t work when Lindy played Miller for the entire second half of 07/08, it didn’t work when Lindy played Miller for the entire second half of 08/09, and Miller was not particularly sharp in the playoffs last season (an Olympic year).  In my opinion we’ve waded WELL into “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” territory.

The Sabres need another competent, NHL-caliber goalie on the roster, and they also need a coach who is willing to play him.  They will need this for every year that Ryan Miller is on the team.  (Mr. Pegula, if you’re reading this [and I assume you are], you might want to add that to the list of “needs”.)

6. The thing we really should be talking about today isn’t, “Ryan Miller vs The Local Media, Hair Pulling Galore!”  We should be talking about the wondrous, shocking, titillating, confusing, glorious, and jaw-dropping recent play of Drew Stafford.

Yesterday during the game, Kevin Snow tweeted that Staffy had six goals, on his last six shots.  THAT’S RIGHT, YOU FURRY BEEYOTCHES.  Six shots. Six goals.

Personally, I have absolutely no idea how to analyze Staffy these days.  He’s a mystery, wrapped in a hat trick, and smothered with club sauce.  Staffy is currently the most beloved wonky-browed player on the Sabres, which is title I NEVER thought could be wrestled from Ryan Miller’s bony grasp. This is a stunner, Sabres fans.

Behold, our new Wonky-Browed King:

Nice highlights, Staffy.


(ed. note- About halfway through writing this Game Diary I realize that a lot of the stuff I wrote at the beginning of the diary was all wrong-headed.  So, I went back and made some notes.)

-Holy crap do I wish Vincent Lecavalier was a Sabre.

-Holy crap do I wish Jochen Hecht was not a Sabre.

-Remember that time Lecavalier and Hecht fought?  That was awesome.  If they fought again right now I might be rooting for Vinny. 

– I love it when a guy scores a goal and then immediately points to the guy who gave him the pass.  Vanek does that all the time.  Because he’s awesome.  Vanek has good manners, even in the heat of the moment.

(ed. note- At some point in here the score got to be 3-1, Lightning.  I really wasn’t paying super close attention to be honest.)

– The Lightning are an incredibly exciting and awesome team.  They’re just plan better than the Sabres. (ed. note- *cue hilarious foreshadowing music*) The Lightning are a good example of how quickly things can change when the right man takes over a franchise.  Have hope, Sabres fans!  Things can change.  Two years ago the Barry Melrose was coaching the Lightning and Stamkos was a bust, and now look at them!  They rock. (ed. note- They do not rock.)

– You know, even though the Sabres are currently losing 3-1, I still like this game.  Is anyone else just totally calm about the Sabres?  It’s Pegula.  I believe again, because now I’ve got some patience.   (ed. note- I REALLY BELIEVE AGAIN!  THANK YOU HOCKEY GODS!)

-Is there a guy in a Sabres Steve Bernier jersey sitting right behind Brian Engblom?  That is WEIRD.  If you’re the guy who ran out and bought that jersey the day after Bernier’s impressive debut against Nashville two years ago, aren’t you also the guy who has a closet full of jerseys?  And if you own other, non-Bernier jerseys, shouldn’t you be wearing one of those to the game?  Is it possible that this guy only owns one Sabres jersey, and that jersey is a…Bernier? (ed. note- The guy in the Bernier jersey is OBVIOUSLY LUCKY, and if Pegula is smart he’ll pay the Bernier-guy to travel around with the team, and wear his Bernier jersey in the first row behind the benches at every game. MAKE IT HAPPEN, PEGASAURUS!)

(ed. note: NOT weird!  HE’S A LUCKY CHARM AND I LOVE HIM!)

-Jason Pominville needs to score some goals.  Or at least be remotely visible on the ice. (ed. noteThis actually still stands.)

– Huh.  The Sabres just tied it!  I did not see that coming.  It’s definitely easier to score when the opposing goalie is flat on his back.  The Sabres should send old Staffy out to trip up the goalie more often.  This game is now hilarious because the home fans are MEGA cranky and booing all over the place.  Can’t say I exactly blame them, although Staffy was just falling.  He didn’t mean nothin’ by it. (ed. note- The crowd should’ve saved their booing and just stood up and gone home.  The ax…it was hovering.  To say the least.  WOO!)

– WHY did Lindy put Niedermayer out on the 3-on-3?  WHAT POSSIBLE JUSTIFICATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE FOR NIEDERMAYER ON A 3-ON-3?!  WHY LINDY, WHY? (ed. note- WHY?!)

– Wow!  Tim Connolly just scored.  I repeat.  Tim Connolly just score the go ahead goal. That goal was nice work by Stafford, Ennis and Connolly. 4-3, Sabres.

– I am definitely losing my, “TRADE STAFFY NOW!” resolve.  Now I’m kind of like, “WE’RE WINNING THE CUP, AND STAFFY IS GOING TO BE THE MVP!”

– Okay, the Sabres just scored AGAIN.  This is the best game EVER!  (Except for possibly this game, which was also against the Lightning.) 5-3, Sabres.

– Why haven’t they pulled Roloson? (ed. note- I should be the coach of the Lightning.)

– HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Tampa Bay Lightning, WHY did you leave Vanek all alone right in front of the net?  Are you guys retarded? (ed. note- Yes!  THEY ARE!)  6-3, Sabres.

– Okay, Staffy.  You can stay.  It’s decided.  Tell us how much money you want, and we’ll have Pegula’s lawyers write up the contract.  IT’S A “MOOOORE BRAAAAAAINS” HAT TRICK! 7-3, Sabres.

– Aw, Vinny scored.  I love that guy.  I wish he was a Sabre.  Have I mentioned that recently? 7-4, Sabres.

Well.  I think I speak for all Sabres fans when I say, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” (ed. note- EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!)

-If you’re not jazzed after that one, we can’t be friends.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! THE SABRES ARE NEVER LOSING AGAIN! (ed. note- It’s been far, far too long since I’ve said, “The Sabres are never losing again.”  Welcome back, Sabres.)

Blah Blah Blah Sabres Blah Blah

I recently read a good post on Black Dog Hates Skunks about the Oilers and how they may or may not handle the trade deadline.  The basic premise of the post is this: If you want to build a better team, keep the good players you have, and get more good players when you can.  This makes sense to me, because it’s logical and sane.  (Incidentally, I really recommend adding Black Dog Hates Skunk to your RSS feed.  Most of his posts are divided into two parts.  The first part is usually a story about himself or his family.  The stories are oddly heartwarming despite the fact that they’re 95% about drinking beer, making babies, or being generally unruly.  The second part is usually about the Oilers, and if you’re like me, and you don’t care about the Oilers, it’s easy to skip.)

I’ll admit, there is a part of me that wants to believe in the “blow it up” philosophy.   Blowing it up sounds satisfying, but what if it doesn’t work?  If you blow it up and you STILL stink, then what?

For the good of the bottom-line, I think it’s important for the Sabres to stay at least semi-competitive.  I don’t think the Sabres would be wise to take the Penguins/Blackhawk route, because, well, sucking that hard would….suck.  No fun.

Anyhooch, Black Dog’s post got me thinking seriously about the Sabres and who I think is realistic trade bait, and who I think the Sabres should keep.  I do think the Sabres should be sellers, but they should sell with the idea of getting better next year.  No need to blow anything up, m’kay Darcy?

We’ve got a few categories of players:

Players that I would consider addition by subtraction:


The only players on this list that any team would even CONSIDER taking off our hands would be Connolly and maaaaybe Grier.   Trouble is, even when healthy, Connolly has been terrible this season, and his stock may have totally plummeted.  If Connolly is still trade-able it’s because GMs are morons….which, you know….they kind of are.  So, *fingers crossed*.  But let’s err on the side of not-getting-our-hopes-up, and assume that all of these players will finish the season as Sabres.  Bummer.  The good news about these guys is that with the exception of Hecht, all of their contracts are expiring this summer.



Yeah, I know.  None one of these guys are having particularly great years, but I have faith that they’ll all be worth it in the end.  Even if Myers and Miller never return to 2009/10 form, they’re still very handy players to have around.  I initially thought maybe Darcy should dangle Sekera, but I think he’s developing into a nice little player.   Why should we assume a draft pick is going to be any better at hockey than Sekera?  All of these guys fall firmly into the category of “keep your good players,” if you ask me.  

Babies we should definitely keep:


Ennis and Weber have performed admirably this season, and I was impressed with both Adam and Byron during their call-ups.  I’m looking forward to seeing all of these guys play more. These guys fall into the category of “keep your best prospects”.

Veeeerry Interesting players:

I’ll discuss them one by one.

Montador– I think the Sabres should definitely try to keep Montador.  He’s a solid defenseman, he’s surprisingly points get-y, he gives good interviews, and he somehow manages to be hot even when he’s NOT wearing his teeth.  Plus, the Sabres have been bleeding defensemen every summer for as long as I’ve been a fan, and frankly, I don’t think it’s working out too well.  Montador is pretty good.  He’s thrived in Lindy’s system.  Let’s keep him.  If Darcy is not already trying to negotiate with Montador, he’s stupid.   HOWEVER, if the Sabres already know that Monty wants to move on next year, I have to think he’d have some trade value.  In that case (although I would definitely shed a tear), Monty should be traded.

Gerbe– As recently as three weeks ago we all would’ve happily put Gerbe on a bus to Anywhere-But-Here.  Don’t deny it.  You know it’s true.  But little Gerbs is doing us a real solid by stepping up his game recently.  He’s proving that in the right conditions, he can be a productive NHL player.  I saw enough of him in the first half of the season to be veeeerrry skeptical of his abilities, so, I say let’s try to get something, anything, for this guy while the getting is good.

Butler– Someone took Paehcsehtchesch from us last year, so I think someone will take Butler.  Once upon a time I truly loved Butts, but he’s definitely on Lindy’s “unsalvageable” list, so if he can be traded, he should be traded.

Stafford– If he can stay healthy for the next month, I think Staffy is definitely our most valuable trade asset.  He’s big, he’s shown definite signs of being offensively gifted, and he’s got at least one more year of RFA status after his contract expires this summer.  Plus, he’s having a career year.

Staffy has NEVER played with consistency, in the past he’s PROVEN that he can be lazy and distracted (I mean, he’s said OUTLOUD in INTERVIEWS that he might prefer to be a rockstar.  I love you, but for FUCKS SAKE, Staffy!), plus he’s easily injured.  How would giving Stafford a contract now be any different from when Darcy gave Connolly his contract two years ago?  In reality, it would be worse, because at least Connolly had shown signs of near brilliance in previous years.  All Staffy has shown us with consistency is inconsistency.  Signing Staffy now would be the textbook definition of “buying high”.   (And, again, I direct you towards this post at Hockey Rhetoric which compares Stafford to Kotalik in a MOST unsettling way.)

When we rail against Darcy for overvaluing his draftees, we’re talking about guys like Drew Stafford.  I, for one, feel quite comfortable taking the risk that Staffy will go and be awesome for someone else, because honestly, I don’t think he’s going to be awesome for someone else.  I think he’ll be a 15-20 goal scorer for the rest of his career.  He’s useful, but he’s not special.   If the Sabres want to change, they have to ACTUALLY change some of the players (and not just defensemen).  They have to let players go. I think, for better and for worse, Staffy is emblematic of the post-2007 Sabres.  Stafford is part of the “core” that has proven beyond a DOUBT that they can’t get it done. Let’s move him while he’s hot, get something in return, and never look back.


If there’s a player I didn’t mention it’s because I think he’s providing value to the Sabres in one way or another.  (I wasn’t entirely sure how to categorize Pominville until I remembered how terrible the penalty kill was when he was injured at the beginning of the season.  Remember that?  That was not cool.  We may be paying Pominville too much, but he’s definitely providing value.  I never ever ever ever want to watch the PK without him again.)

And on a sidenote, I have no idea what’s come over me in the last few days and compelled me to write such serious posts.  It’s very unlike me.  Hopefully I’ll return to whimsy and bullhonky in the very near future.  Thank you for your patience.

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.

Contract Years Are No Joke

There are obviously a lot of things to love about going to an NHL game (the crowd, the big beers, the fast pace of the game), but the thing I love most is how a dominant performance by a single player can jump out at you.  Every once in a while a player manages to command way more than his fair share of attention.   When Vanek is at his best, I can’t take my eyes off him at the arena.  Lord knows it doesn’t happen every night, but some days when Vanek hops over the boards, the game immediately looks different and the Sabres look more dangerous.  Tyler Myers can do it too.  For me, this kind of sheer dominance is difficult to feel on television.  I mean sure, if Vanek has a 4 point night when I’m watching at home, I’m obviously aware that he’s “on,” but there’s nothing like sitting in my seat at the arena and watching a guy just own a game.  When a player is on like that it’s palpable in the arena.

I mention this because Drew Stafford did it tonight.  Drew Stafford was a revelation.  “Drew Stafford” and “revelation” are three words that never ever expected to see together (unless it was in regards to some type of furry-related shenanigans).  He looked big and dominant, and infinity capable.  He seemed to be saying, “moooore braaains,” all night.

I know it’s just the preseason, and I know that the Flyers were BEYOND sucky, and I know that being-awesome-for-just-a-little-while is kind of Staffy’s “thing,” but honestly, I had NO IDEA that Drew Stafford was even capable of playing like he did tonight.  I will never forget the look on Heather B’s face when Staffy scored that eighth (8th!) goal.  She literally had both hands on her head, eyes wide with disbelief.  Heather’s expression was almost as good as the goal.

I’m certainly not going to expect Drew Stafford to be good this year, but boy, would it sure be nice.


Tomorrow I’ll write more about the game and being back at the arena, but before I called it a day I just had to say, “HOLY CRAPSKI YOU GUYS, DREW STAFFORD WAS REALLY GOOD TONIGHT!”  If it weren’t so cold outside I’d probably be shouting it from the rooftops.

The Bandwagoner’s Guide to the Sabres, Part Three: The Forwards

The concept of “the bandwagon fan” is very controversial, but I have a fondness in my heart for the new fan.  After all, it was at this time of year that I myself hopped on the Sabres bandwagon.  Every fan has to start somewhere, and often fandom is inspired by the playoffs.  The current Sabres may not feel like a bandwagon-y situation to a longtime fan, but I’m writing this series for the “Katebitses of 2007″; the guy or gal who is suddenly drawn to the Sabres, but doesn’t know where to begin.

Begin here, Bandwagoner!


We’ve already covered the goalie and the defense, so, today we wade into far murkier waters.  Today, we grit our teeth, roll up our sleeves, and get to work trying to decipher the mystery that is the Sabres corp of forwards.

Part Three: The Forwards

The primary role of the forward is to score goals.  Oh sure, Lindy is going to go on and on about defensive responsibility and blah blah blah, but the fact of the matter is, to varying degrees, these guys are paid to score.  When they don’t score, we are cranky with them.  When they do score, we love them.


Forwards play in lines of three.  Every line has a center, and two wingers (left and right).  I invite you pay not one speck of attention to who is playing what position.  I’ve never bothered to figure this out, and I don’t think it’s hurt my enjoyment of the game in the slightest.  If faceoffs are what floats your boat (*raises hand*), you should pay special attention to the centers, but other than that, it’s all the same to you.

Some teams have fixed lines, and others don’t.  The coach of the Sabres, Lindy Ruff, tinkers with the lines quite a bit, so you never really know who you’re going to see together on the ice.  Just when you think you’ve figured out the method to his madness you’re all, “…..whaaa?  Is Ellis playing with Vanek and Roy?”  Line watching can be confusing.  When you first start watching hockey, it’s best not to get too bogged down with the construction of the lines, but I CAN highly recommend focusing on the bench to watch them hop over the boards for the line changes.  Board hopping can be foxy, and so can Lalime when he opens and closes the little bench door for the tinier Sabres.

There are several different kinds of lines:

Scoring Lines: The top two lines are the scoring lines, and they are expected to score.  Duh.

Checking line: The checking line is usually the third line, and these guys are often sent out there to neutralize the other team’s top offensive threats.  These guys are certainly welcome to score, and we love it when they do, but really, their job is to slam into the other team and make life difficult for them.

Energy Line: The energy line is usually the 4th line, or as I like to call them, “The Scrubs”.  The Scrubs are not expected to score, and they’re not even really expected to be any good at hockey, but they ARE expected to play really, really hard.  They are expected to play every shift like it might be their last in the NHL (in many cases, it really might be).  They are expected to hit really hard, to not take penalties, not bitch about being a healthy scratch, and, if called upon, to fight in order to protect the “Top Six”.   Personally, I think these guys are kind of a hoot (at a recent game I turned to Robin and said, “Mair and Ellis are stunningly good at keeping control of the puck in the offensive zone for DAYS at a time without ever actually taking a shot on net,” but lots of people get super pissy about them and like to wail continually on Twitter for their dismissal.

Now, onto the actual Sabres players.

Long ago, back when I was a bandwagoner just like you,  my innocent eyes set upon Chris Drury, and my fate was sealed.  It was love at first sight.  My Chris Drury appreciation played a HUGE role in my eventual hardcore hockey fandom.  One look at that thick, dark beard, one interview, and one last-second goal against the Rangers, and I was hooked.  At the time, Chris Drury was the captain of the team, he was the obvious leader in the locker room, and he was constantly scoring clutchy goals.  He was an obvious and perfectly acceptable first favorite player.  Any Sabres fan would have approved.  Chris Drury was an extremely safe choice. (Unfortunately, Chris Drury proved to be a revolting Ranger who is not worth one third of the money he is getting paid.  But that’s a story for another day….)

Sadly for you, Dear Bandwagoner, these are not the simple times of 06/07.  The forward situation is confusing, but I’m here to help.

-The “Top” Six

The Sabres pride themselves on “balanced” scoring (meaning their scoring is fairly evenly distributed throughout the lineup).  Balanced scoring can be a real advantage.  If the other team has no idea which Sabre is the most likely to score, the Sabres can be very difficult to defend against.  But “balanced scoring” might just be a polite way of saying “lacking a true offensive threat”.  I just looked it up, and the Sabres were 10th in the league in scoring this season (I KNOW.  IT BLEW MY MIND TOO), so, they really did score plenty of goals  Because of this “balance” it can be a little difficult to identify our top six.  Players float in and out of the top six based on their performance and Lindy’s whims.

Some teams have Thornton, Heatley and Marleau.  We’ve got these guys.

(But we love them.)  (Mostly.)

Thomas Vanek. Had bad year. I want to love him because he costs $7mil per year and he's all we can afford now. Capable of putting the entire team on his back.

Derek Roy. Ew. Can be awesome, often chooses not to be.

Jason Pominville. Often good. Girls love him, boys can be grumpy about him (just jealous). Cute as a bugs ear.

Tim Connolly. Very good at hockey. Creative player. Most likely has cooties.

Jochen Hecht. He was good, then he sucked, now he's good again. Shy likeability is his trademark. Might be injured for start of the playoffs (girly fingers).

Drew Stafford. Brain-eating zombie? Probably. Concussed. Definitely. Poor guy. "Morrre Braaains" Very rarely plays on top six now that I think about it.

Of this crew, your best bets are Connolly and Vanek.  Vanek has been heating up, and when he gets hot he really is a sight to behold. (He can make that $7 million price tag look like a bargain.)  So, Vanek could be a perfect player to set your bandwagon-y sights upon.  As for Tim Connolly, now this was before my time, but his entire legend was built on one playoff series back in 2006.  Apparently he was amazing until he got his brains scrambled, so I’m figuring he might have high playoff potential now that he’s allegedly healthy.

– Checkers, Grinders, and other assorted misfits

Tim Kennedy. Rookie. Does not look like this anymore. Now he looks like a toothless, greasy hoodlum.

Paul Gaustad. Beloved HONKer. Hard hitter. Funny looking skater. Everyone in Buffalo wants to marry him.

Mike Grier. Is a grown-up. Hard worker. Has probably played a bigger role in returning the team to respectability than he's getting credit for.

Nathan Gerbe. Is currently on the team, but probably won't be come playoff time. That flavor-saver is gross, Gerbs.

Matt Ellis. Got his roster photo taken from waaaaay across the room. Total scrub, but an appealing scrub.

Adam Mair. Less appealing as far as scrubs go, but I don't understand all the squawking for him to be fired. He'll punch you right in the face.

Of these guys, Goose is the clear choice.  Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, everyone will just nod and say “me too,” when you announce that you intend to marry Paul Gaustad.  Mike Grier is another perfectly acceptable favorite, but the problem with him is that he’s only signed through the season and he may very well leave town all, “Screw you guys, I’m going home,” in a few months.  It’s difficult to tell if Mike Grier loves us back. He’s risky that way.

-The Wildcards.

These are the guys that defy categorization.

Tyler Ennis. Might be the next big thing. Might not. *fingers crossed*

Raffi Torres. Darcy gets us one of these guys every year at the trade deadline. Torres is this year's model.

Patrick Kaleta. Pest. Hard hitter. If he were on any other team, we'd hate him passionately. But he's a Sabre, a native Buffalonian, and he's QUITE good at his job, so we pretty much love him. Plus, he seems sweet in a dopey puppy kind of way. Don't try to fight him. You'll just wind up penalized.

Of these three guys, Kaleta is the clear choice.  If you try to talk up Ennis when you’re really just a bandwagon fan, you’re going to sound like a major tool.  If you try to talk up Torres you’re going to get blank stares.  But Patrick Kaleta is the perfect choice for a new fan.  He’s VERY visible on the ice, and almost everyone in town loves him.


Good golly.  That was a lot about the forwards. I hope that clears things up!

Tune in tomorrow (or maybe the next day) to discuss the coaches and management.

Sudden Death Chipotle Challenge, and Other Disgusting Atrocities: A Story in Two Parts

Part One: Last night, Crotchety Original Sam and I tromped out into the icy mess that is St. Paul for our annual Minnesota Wild game at the Xcel Center.  In past years this trip has ended in despair and tears.  (Just kidding, Sam and I ALWAYS have fun, even when the home team sucks rhino ass.)  Guess what?  THE WILD WON!  I’m pretty sure that they were so impressed with my new North Stars t-shirt that they played extra hard.  The Wild are QUITE zippy and fun.

Anyhooch, there we were, wearing sassy retro NHL t-shirts and watching the Wild win, when suddenly during the second intermission, came the “Sudden Death Chipotle Challenge.”  The jokes immediately started flying about the name of this competition and the fate you would suffer if you ate a Chipotle burrito.  (Worst name of intermission game EVER.)  The game involved contestants rapidly identifying pictures of celebrities up on the jumbotron.  The winner would win free burritos for a lucky row in the arena.   I was immediately preoccupied with imagining the meeting at Chipotle headquarters that created this game (“I know, let’s call it “The Sudden Death Chipotle Challenge!”  “Do you really think it’s a good idea to associate our burritos with sudden death, boss?”  “Oh SURE!  Sudden death refers to the GAME, not the food!  I like the name!  It’s folksy!”) to pay much attention to the contestants, and Sam was busy recounting a South Park episode which graphically detailed the terrible fate that would happen to your digestive system if you ate a Chipotle burrito.

But that’s right!  You guess it!  At the end of the contest, section 202, row 9, OUR ROW, was the lucky recipient of the Sudden Death Burritos!   Of all the hundreds of rows in the arena, we had won!  Now, I hate sudden death as much as the next gal, but I LOVE free burritos, so needless to say, I was PSYCHED.  A few minutes later, a pleasant Minnesotan came by and handed out our burrito coupons.  It was joyful.  We were triumphant.

But that’s where the fun ended.

The Sudden Death Chipotle Challenge is a SHAM, people.  First of all, it’s NOT a free burrito, it’s a “buy one get one free”.  It’s HALF of a free burrito.  Second of all, THE COUPON EXPIRES AT THE END OF 12/09.   So, after all of that rigmarole, all I got was a “buy on get one free” coupon that I have to use in the next fifteen minutes before it expires.  I think this is WRONG.

I think this is SO wrong, that I intend to give this coupon to my most hated enemy so that he/she will first have to BUY a burrito only so that he/she will suffer from the SUDDEN DEATH caused by the free one.

(Truthfully, the whole thing was hilarious.  Loudly complaining about our prize brought our row together for lots of laughs.  I suggested that we all throw our Sudden Death Chipotle Challenge Buy-One-Get-One-Free credit card gift certificates onto the ice in protest, but sadly we decided that it would be difficult to hit the ice with a coupon from the upper bowl.)

Moral of the story: Eff you, Chipotle.  Eff you right in the ear.

Part Two: At the end of the Wild game, we scurried back to Sam’s house to watch the Sabres game on DVR delay.  I changed out of my North Stars t-shirt and into a Sabres sweatshirt (I really did this), and we settled in.  Sam got to see my oh-so-delightful-I’m-sure transformation from a happy-go-lucky Wild fan to a nearly-abusive-to-the-players Sabres fan.

A few thoughts on the game:

I think it’s okay to be legitimately concerned about the following things:

1. The overall  lack of energy.  At no point did the Sabres seem pissed at Ruutu.  At no point did anyone seem to care that Roy took an elbow to the head.  At no point did coming from behind seem to create any legitimate momentum.  The Sabres might be better this year, but they’re still lacking in the “fiery passion” department.

2. Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford.  Remember when we all used to wring our hands and saying things like, “Oh, if only Tim Connolly could stay healthy THE SABRES WOULD BE UNSTOPPABLE.”  Did anyone ever stop to consider that someday Timmeh would be able to stay healthy and that he would simply….suck? I don’t even know what to say about Staffy.

3. I know that they got a power play goal, but the power play still looks like a half-eaten Sudden Death Chipotle burrito.  Which is to say, very bad.

4. I’m pretty sure that Lindy put Vanek first in the shootout to reward him for playing a good game, but it was ill-advised.   I know, hindsight is 20/20, but Lindy OBVIOUSLY flew too close to the sun on that one.  Sadly, all the confidence-building good of the game was probably erased when Thomas failed (for the 50 millionth time) to score in the shootout.  Very unfortunate.

The following things are legitimately good:

1. At the start of the game, I said to Sam, “The following players MUST have a good game: Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville” and then they both scored!  I will try this trick again today.

2. Steve Montador is getting hotter by the day.  Is it just me, or does he always seem to be charging around creating offensive chances and being generally foxy?  Private to Monty: My car mats ALWAYS need shaking.  IfyouknowwhatImean.

3. We should be happy they got a point. That was a bad game, but they’re still leading the division.  I have no experience with the ebb and flow of a successful season.  As a result, I think my spazziness after the bad games is probably a tish excessive, and for that I apologize.  Being a Negative Nellie is not my real-life style, so, let’s be thankful for this point.  Let’s love this point like it’s the best point in the world.  Last year the Sabres missed the playoffs by two points. Maybe this point that we inexplicably squeezed out the Ottawa game was one of those points that we will really need later on.

Moral of the story: There is another Sabres game in a few hours.  I’m going to forgive them for yesterday, but if they look like disinterested poo again, I’m sending my Sudden Death Chipotle Buy-One-Get-One-Free credit card coupon to the Sabres locker room.  That’ll teach ’em.

From the Hotiary of Hot Hotfford

Dear Hotiary,

Things at work have been very unhotunate recently.  We’ve now lost 3 hots in a hot.  It’s totally unhot to continually lose hotckey games, and all this losing is giving me very low hot esteem.  To make matters even hotrse, I’ve suffered a “bone bruise” which is HOTVIOUSLY a totally fake hotjury.  “Bone bruise” is very funny to say (if you’re twelve, which I am), but it doesn’t hotsist, so who KNOWS when I’ll rehot to the ice.

Today at practice Paul Hotstad was all, “HONK HONK HONK,” so I had to be all, “Look dude.  My bone IS bruised, and I don’t hot what you hot.  Just HOT OFF, hothole.”  I hotally hot being hotjured.

Okay, hotta go.

Hot to you hoter, Hotiary.


Hot Hotfford

…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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