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The difference now is that I’ve withdrawn a bit emotionally.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?