Debunking The Myths

29 Apr

This isn’t turning into a sports blog, but I want to leave you with a couple ideas as we wrap up the Sabres season. You will hear a lot of opinions in the next several months about what the Sabres need to do for next year. Those opinions tend to perpetuate a number of myths that need to be exposed, so we can finally move on:

1) The Sabres aren’t big enough and tough enough. This was probably true three years ago. Its not anymore, and if you still think so, then you are paying more attention to hits and penalty minutes than goals. Goals are what actually win the games, remember. Hits are just a means to an end. The Sabres led the 16 teams in the first round of this year’s playoffs in hits. And it went 0fer on the power play. Which do you think was a bigger factor? During the President’s Trophy winning year, we had no fourth line. We bulked up so much we have about two and a half fourth lines now (Gaustad, Grier, Mair, Kaleta, McCormick, Ellis, Mancari, Kennedy sometimes?, Stafford sometimes?). You can wish our Top 6 forwards were bigger, but that’s a different problem, and we’ll get to that in a second.

2) Lindy doesn’t get enough from his players. The supposed proof of this is that players that leave Buffalo have great success elsewhere. Or, the players that come in flame out. Looking at the numbers proves otherwise. Briere and Drury have been famous over priced busts in Philly and NY. Briere can’t stay healthy, and when he is (75 games this year), his 26 goals/27 assists don’t compare to his 95 points in his last year with the Sabres. Drury is worse – he had fewer points this year with the Rangers (32) than he had goals (37) his last year in Buffalo.

But what of the other names? Campbell’s production has slipped, though less than Briere and Drury. But it should be telling that despite his Olympic sized salary, he couldn’t make the Canadian team this year. Satan may be a Sabre killer this past playoff round, but he was never as productive again as he was with the Sabres, and his 9 goals in 38 games this year is hardly noteworthy. Zubrus was a half a point a game player with the Sabres and has stayed that way with the Devils. MacArthur managed 35 points with his minus 16 this year, and while he scored for Atlanta more than Torres scored for us, that’s not saying much. Paille had 19 points with the Bruins this year, and 27 and 35 points the last two years with Buffalo. Hardly tearing things up in his new digs, though in the playoff series, he stayed true to form – moments of brilliance and long stretches of silence. I could relate all the numbers, but believe me the same holds true for Kotalik, Bernier, Moore and Paetsch. And Thibault and Tellqvist aren’t in the league anymore. Afinogenov is the exception that proves the rule (though he was still a minus 17).

 I know as Sabres fans we think that The New Guy will be better than our Old Guys we’re sick of. But not necessarily. Most guys are what they are, and if anything, Lindy gets more out of them.

3. The Sabres need to prove they are serious about winning the Stanley Cup. You hear this one on the radio all the time: “If my team cared, they’d make a big trade!” The Devils traded away the future for Kovalchuk, and the Caps picked up four depth players at the trade deadline. How well did it work for them? I don’t need Darcy to make a trade to prove he cares. I just need him to make the team better. My fault of Dracy is he learns lessons too late, and learns them too well. We were too small in 2006-2007, so we got bigger (Montador, Grier, etc). Now we’re big, but can’t score. This off season he’ll fix the scoring, but ignore the fact our defensive corps (taken for granted this season) is getting blown up, and we’ll need major help on the back end. I need Darcy to think ahead, not prove anything to me.

On a side note, that President’s Trophy team looks pretty good now that the Sharks and Caps got booted in the first round when they won it, huh? Conference finals suddenly seems respectable when you are cursed with that shiny albatross.

4. The problem with this team is our Top 6 Forwards. This is the most important one, and the most constant. But it misses the point. Want me to prove it? Name our Top 6 Forwards: Roy, Connolly, Pominville, Vanek. That’s only 4. Do you count Hecht and Stafford? You shouldn’t. Hecht is a 3rd line guy, and Stafford would rather be playing Guitar Hero. My problem with my Top 6 is not that they are too small, or too finesse, or too scared of the playoffs. My problem is we only have 4 of them.

Name our lines for next year. Here is what I come up with:

Top Line:                               Vanek          (blank)              (blank)

Second Line:                      Pominville       Roy                Ennis

Third (Checking ) Line:      Grier            Gaustad            Hecht

Fourth (Fighting) Line:    Kaleta             Mair                McCormick

Waiting for someone to get hurt: Kennedy, Gerbe

Let’s do the Kotalik/Afinogenov thing: addition by subtraction. Connolly and Stafford need to be off this team, and I have two empty roster spots. I need a top center and a top right winger. Maybe if we had six Top 6 guys we’d have a shot at scoring some timely goals.

Last note: this is not a myth to be debunked, just a statement of fact. Marty Biron needs to be on this team next year. Making a Cup run will feel a whole lot more right with ole Pale Eyes onboard. Srsly.

4 Responses to “Debunking The Myths”

  1. Ryan May 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    Not a sports blog? Damn. 
    I’ll argue. There are two exceptions besides Max, both notable for differing reasons. The first: Ty Conklin. I realize he was in a different role in Buffalo than virtually anywhere else in his career, but with all the issues the Sabres have had with back-ups, here was a guy who had and since has gotten better and better with more work. 
    The other is JP Dumont, a player who has gotten better statistically every year since leaving Buffalo, after they refused his $2.9 million arbitration victory.
    I’m not suggesting Lindy isn’t a good coach but he, like this team, as been struggling for quite some time now. If Lindy gets credit for players’ best years, he also deserves blame for their worst.
    The reason I mention these two players is that they highlight issues that Lindy has repeatedly been badgered for: running goalies into the ground (Consider how many times we’ve heard the words “Ryan Miller” and “over-worked” together) and struggling on special teams (the Sabres have regressed in Power Play effectiveness, going from 25.6 in the regular season 4 years ago to 17.6 this year, with a drop each and every season).  The Power Play has been bad for a while in the post season as well. In 2006-07, the post season percentage was 11.5%, good for 13th in the NHL.
    Lindy hasn’t gotten enough from key players in the post season.

  2. Brian Castner May 4, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    Its not a sports blog because 1) we have some very good sports writers in WNYmedia family already and 2) I just write about what I find interesting – hockey is the flavor of the week.

    But to your argument. No, I forgot Ty Conklin and JP Dumont. I also forgot Jay McKee, and others probably. Conlklin pulled a Thomas, and got hot for one season – what’s he even doing now. And the JP Dumont story is sad, but more about management choosing Kotalik over him, which was dumb, but hindsight is 20/20. I don’t give Lindy credit for players good years, but I don’t blame him for bad years either. I’m just saying players are what they are, and there is no evidence that players break out and have wonderful years after leaving Buffalo. If anything, it proves that the whole is more than the sum of their parts – Vanek, Briere, Drury, Campbell, Roy, Connelly, and Pominville were better together than apart.

    Now, to the power play. The Caps went 1 for 32 in their series. I bet this off season, the PP will be the new “grit,” “heart,” or “desparation” story – i.e. what it takes to win in the playoffs. We went and got bigger and blocked more shots because suddenly everyone had to be big to compete in the playoffs. The old theory was that everyone’s PK goes up, and everyone’s PP goes down in the post season so its a wash. Lindy said as much during the Bruins series. This year its not true. So we’ll be chasing the PP for next year. Unfortunately, by 2011, it’ll be something else – puck moving defensemen, or speed, or something, and Darcy will be one fad behind, as always.

    • Ryan May 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

      Sorry, failed joke about the “sports blog”. I’ve been reading your column regularly, but as that I don’t comment (except for hockey), you wouldn’t know that. Also I’m aware of the sports writers here; actually I’ve been a big Brad Riter fan since his WGR 550 days.

      I disagree that players “are what they are”. We see players develop and get better, just like others devolve and get worse. Coaching is a factor in this, both in development and system. Dumont did break out once he left Buffalo, and to a lesser degree so did Max. Cory Sarich is another that comes to mind. To my mind, either (A) coaches can make players better, Lindy has in that past but hasn’t in a while or (B) players are moved by their own whims or motivations and coaches are strategists, and as evidenced by the fact that the Sabres were awful in PP and PK, couldn’t transition, and couldn’t break in to the zone, Lindy didn’t do a good job there either.

      I’m not calling for Lindy’s head here, but he’s been struggling, and if you’re preaching accountability as an organization, that has to mean everybody.

  3. Brian Castner May 5, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Somehow in comment sections of blogs, almost all humor is lost. So I don’t get your joke, and I come off as pissed. It happens all the time.

    Players certainly develop, but should I expect Pominville to be better next year because he’s another year older? I’m kinda done with that. Players have breakout years (Dominic Moore with the Leafs before he came to Buffalo as a rental), but over time, those spikes average out with the lows. Lindy does have something to do with it, especially on the PK and PP. All I’m really saying is that this storyline that guys get worse when they get here, and better when they leave, is just that: a storyline.

    Oh, and thanks for being a regular reader, by the way. We should get a beer sometime.

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