Vanek’s Time On Ice Is Not The Problem

It’s been a tough start for Buffalo, despite starting the season by winning the first two games.  Thomas Vanek, however, has been hot from the start and has shown no signs of cooling.  He’s got 19 points in just 8 games (he missed one), and has never looked more dominant.  He’s being ably assisted by Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville on what might be the best line Buffalo’s had since Briere and Drury were still here.  So what’s the problem?  Well, Vanek isn’t leading the Sabres forwards in TOI, and that’s bad, okay?  It’s terrible!

For reference:  I used to complain about Vanek’s low ice time.  But when I did it, he was getting 14-15 minutes a game many nights.  He’s at 19:13 right now, two minutes better than his highest season average TOI ever (17:21 in 2010-2011).  That sounds pretty good to me.  Mike Harrington and others shout “There are 55 players getting more ice time than Vanek!!”.  Yeah?  How many of those have as many points?  NONE.  Because he’s LEADING THE LEAGUE.  Playing 26 minutes a night hasn’t helped Kovalchuk.  Vanek has more ice time than Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Marian Hossa.  The other top scorers so far are either at the 19 minute range, up at 21 minutes (for those that play on the PK).  Look at it this way – top 60 in icetime in a 30 team league would put you on the top line, if lines were sorted that way

There are other reasons not to play Vanek more.  He’s a guy that puts a ton of pressure on himself.  Do you really want Ruff, who has never seemed completely at ease with Vanek, telling him 19 points in 8 games isn’t good enough?  We already have TV quotes like this:

The latest debacle was a 4-3 loss to Florida after which Vanek was named the first star. He appeared on the verge of a breakdown afterward.

“It adds up to a losing record,” Vanek said. “Obviously, I gotta do more, too.”

No, Thomas, your TEAM needs to do more.  Your defense corps needs to not act like the puck is a being of pure fire, to be thrust away as soon as it approaches.  Other forwards can shoot the puck in and chase after it, instead of trying stupid stuff at the blue line.

“But but but, HECHT!” you cry.  Yes, Hecht is getting a lot of ice time.  Think about Jochen for a second, how would you describe him as a player?  Solid, dependable two-way C/LW, responsible in his own end, chips in some goals.  Sound like somebody Ruff may be leaning on in light of the horrible D?  And for the rest of the players getting more ice time, could Lindy be trying to let them play their way out?  The ideal result here is another line (or two!) playing well, not Vanek playing MORE well, when he’s already better than he’s ever been.  At the end of the day, Vanek and his linemates are working.  Shouldn’t they try to fix the rest of the team before messing with that?

Gameday 2011-2012 – Devils at Sabres

It feels like a really strange night tonight.  The Devils don’t exactly excite anyone, and there’s so much other stuff happening around the Sabres it really feels like this game is an afterthought.  They players are all answering questions about their injured goalie, the injured goalie is snarking at the media, and some of the media is snarking right back (looking at you, Sully).  Add in a few other injuries (Cody McCormick is out, Corey Tropp is back), a goalie ‘controversy’ now on simmer thanks to the concussion, the return of Tyler Myers (Grags sits) and you’re one ring short of a circus.

The Devils might have Kovalchuk back tonight if he feels OK during the pregame activities.  New Jersey played in Boston last night, losing on a late goal, so for once Buffalo will be (slightly) more well rested.  Enroth is firmly entrenched in the net, though I’m curious about what happens this weekend.  It’s a 7:30pm Versus game, though Dave Strader is calling it and he’s solid.  We do get more Pierre though, so look for Rob Ray to ‘accidently’ elbow him in between the benches tonight if he starts close-talking.  Let’s go.

Oh, Kovy…

Were it not for the fact he’s making a cubic buttload of money over the next 15 years, you’d almost feel sorry for Ilya Kovalchuk.  It’s obvious that he WANTS to help his team out but the harder he tries, the worse it goes.  Sort of like a Ben Stiller movie, it’s almost too embarrassing to watch.

A lot of positives for Buffalo last night, with many of the big names contributing.  Derek Roy scored both in regulation and the shootout, Tyler Myers had a goal and 2 assists, and the +3 goes a long way towards getting him back where he belongs.  Enroth had an up and down game but made big saves when it counted (until he didn’t have to, thanks to Kovalchuk).  Is there any reason Enroth shouldn’t be the backup right now?  Leggio is killing it for the Pirates (currently 7-1), so let the Williamsville native take the reins.  How much of a loss is it if Lalime is lost via waivers, really?

Gameday 2010-2011 – Sabres at Devils

Some things you will hear ad nauseum tonight:

You get the idea.  It’s the battle of a backup goalie versus an AHL goalie, with both teams trying to claw their way out of the bottom of the Eastern conference.  Craig Rivet didn’t make the trip, looks like Butler back in.  Perhaps for the best.  Patrick Lalime is back as the backup, apparently his appendix is in fine working order.  Interesting how no one is clamoring for him now that Enroth won a game, including a solid shootout performance.

I am cautiously optimistic about tonight, considering the opponent, it’s on the road, and they beat this same goalie not that long ago quite soundly.  Beyond that, not saying anything else until I see the effort from the past few games continue on for a few more.

The Road Warriors

That’s what the Sabres are lacking, a dog (sorry Sabretooth)

It’s kind of ridiculous, really.  We’ve seen plenty of ‘good signs’ for the Sabres at home, but they still haven’t gotten it done.  Then we see them blast the Devils, without Kovalchuk (seriously what the heck?) and Brodeur on the road, and it doesn’t tell us anything.  Tim Connolly, Tyler Myers, and Thomas Vanek are all scoring now, which is good, right?  But will it last?  Again, good signs abound, but these guys have to get it through their heads that they can do that to any team in the league, any given night.  We can see that they are capable of it, they have great passers, solid finishers, guys with great point shots, and a dominant goalie.  They just need to get things done.


Okay, what the heck is up with Kovalchuk?  I’m not sure what the Devils and John MacLean hope to accomplish by sitting him – goal scorers don’t score/break slumps wearing a suit.  I can appreciate the desire to sit an underperforming player, but I feel that scorers just need to play out of it.  It’s also a PR NIGHTMARE for a team that also had tons of negative press over his contract to begin with.  Look at it this way:  before the bizarre Kovy benching, I would’ve shrugged off an NJ slump and assumed they’d get back in the mix by Christmas.  Now, I have a few more doubts, wondering about locker room issues and MacLean losing the team/getting fired.  Wouldn’t be the first time Lou has dumped a coach and taken over…

Void Them ALL, Let God Sort It Out

So you are telling me that the NHL has voided the crazy awesome Kovalchuk contract?  And is looking into some of the other super-longterm deals?  Nice!  But hey, there are plenty of other deals that don’t make sense, so I have a proposal:

  1. As part of the next CBA, roll back salaries again and lower the cap.  $60 million + is getting too high.
  2. After that, set a hard limit on the allowable length of contracts (5 years?  7 years?).
  3. Void all contracts that exceed that length.
  4. Have a contract draft (like an expansion draft) – teams can protect a certain number of NHL player contracts (10?), the rest get voided.  BOOM.
  5. Following that is REAL ULTIMATE FREE AGENT FRENZY the likes of which the league has never seen.  I suppose if you want to wuss out a bit, give the home team a week or two of exclusive negotiations with their former players.

Okay, I admit that this isn’t entirely serious towards the end there.  Imagine, though, how awesome it would be – every team in the league could get out from under their bad contracts, players could re-sign for what they are actually worth, and the balance of power could be shifted dramatically.  Every fan of every team would be interested…no more could fans of some teams sigh and fuss because ‘we like our core’ or ‘we are priced out of the market’.  You KNOW you’d enjoy it.

You’ve got to go, Domino

I’m with the side that doesn’t think there’s any huge deluge of FA signings now that Kovalchuk is off the board, but there are teams out there that still do need to add salary (or get rid of more than they already have).  The pickings are slim as far as big-impact in free agency, so what we might see are a series of trades from the cap-strapped to those under the floor.  Should be a bit more fun than waiting for Kovy, at any rate.

July 1 – Another Disappointment Day?

The draft was basically a dud as far as trades went, the Sabres made an early exit from the playoffs…are we set up for more disappointment today?  We’ve gone over (and over and over) how Buffalo hasn’t been making splashy moves, likes their ‘core’, whatever, but we fans look forward to this day anyway.  We love the idea of new players, or moreso current players being gone it seems like.  Will the Sabres be participating?  The rumor-mongers like to say we’re ‘in’ on all of the big names (other than Kovalchuk), but do we believe that?  Only when we see it.  That’s the Buffalo way.