Tag Archives: Ryan Miller

An End to Suffering?

So the Sabres season is finally over.  It’s a relief, to be honest, even for someone like me who had tried to keep a lighter level of interest.  John Vogl’s column has the grim details – 2-16-2 through the last 20, 150 goals on the season, clear of the 29th place team by 14 points – but to hear the media tell it, it will never be so bad again.

Will that be true, though?  The turnover will be immense, especially if you count the moves going back to the deadline.  Captains, goaltenders, coaches, execs, nowhere has been immune to the tectonic shifts in the Sabres franchise.  That’s not a recipe for success.  Next season is going to involve a large number of new players which will need time to gel.  The main thing going for them is it would be nearly impossible to be this bad again.  You could just about accidently score more than 150 goals if you swap in a few players that actually shoot the puck.

What does that mean, though?  26th place next year?  A slight chance at a playoff spot?  It may not be suffering, but it isn’t exactly set up for a season of joy.  I’m curious to see how attendance works out next season, whether fans can get excited about seeing more of the young kids, or if there are any new surprising vets to watch.  We’ve got a non-Darcy offseason to look forward to – we don’t know much about Tim Murray and what’s going to happen, so this might just be the most interesting part of 2014 for the Sabres as a team and fans.  See you at the draft lottery.

Backup Goalies, Man

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins last night.  They scored FOUR goals, which is a ton for this team.  It helps that Chad Johnson was the goalie (not the football player), and let in a couple of butter-soft goals.  Of course, it seemed that Miller was going to match him with a rough patch of ‘tending, with two goals by Marchand but those were it for the night.

The goal-scoring came from a variety of sources, and included some hard work in front of the net.  Foligno took a Jamie McBain shot off the chest and tapped it in, for instance.  I like that Myers scored, even if it was a “hey, might as well try it – it went IN??” goal.  Stafford had the game-winner on a wraparound.  It was that sort of night for the B’s backup goalie.

Special recognition to Ville Leino for the dive of the week, drawing a tripping call on Milan Lucic.  On the downside, karmic retribution came on short-handed goal.  Marcus Foligno had the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Buffalo and Boston do it all again on Saturday, with 12:30 tussle in Beantown.  I imagine we’ll see Tuukka Rask this time.

Sorry, Ville

Seriously, can this guy catch a break?  Er, bad choice of words.  The view from the press box probably isn’t helping him any, as his team struggles to find an identity (and their man in the defensive zone) managing only 1 point in the standings in four games.  Goaltending has been a bright spot, though they worked Miller so hard his groin kept him out of a game.  Jhonas Enroth ably filled in, but eventually, your team might have to chip in a goal or three.

I wish I could say things are going to get better soon, but really, a team filled with teenagers, head cases and only one real scoring threat is not one that shakes off a slump easily.  All the line-juggling and benchings in the world won’t help.  Time, practice and teaching will.  That can’t happen if a player is in a suit.  Neither can it happen if he’s toiling on the fourth line alongside John Scott or Cody McCormick.  Mistakes suck, and they are hard to watch.  I get that.  But they need to be made if they are to be learned from.  Or, pessimistically, we need to see if a player CAN learn from them.  So give me Grigorenko and Larsson, Girgensons and Ristolainen.  Foligno, Pysyk, Hodgson – let’s see what we have.  If we’re going to suffer, let’s suffer with a purpose.

Today’s lines at practice:

  • Vanek – Hodgson – Ott
  • Foligno – Ennis – Stafford
  • Girgensons - Larsson – Flynn
  • McCormick – Porter – Kaleta

On D:

  • Ehrhoff - Pysyk
  • Weber – Myers
  • McBain – Ristolainen

This is a problem.  Yeah, Grigorenko hasn’t been great.  But he’s not some 5 year veteran who needs to be shaken up by having to sit a few games.  He’s a KID whose best chance is to work on his game NOW.

Sabres and Leafs – Weekend Warriors

I was at the Sabres/Leafs game on Saturday night with my son, saw a bunch of fights, goals, and an epic shootout.  And that was the LESS interesting game.  Sunday’s game in Toronto saw Tropp possibly concussed, John Scott and Phil Kessel sort of fight (I guess), Miller and Bernier fight, slashing, spearing, bench-leavin’ and pretty much everything else you can think of.

I’m not going to place blame or throw stones at any particular team, coach or player – there really isn’t anybody who comes out looking good in that mess.  It may have been entertaining to watch when it happened, but it doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth once there’s some distance on it.  Let’s just shake our heads and move on.

On the actual hockey side of things, I really liked what I saw from Zemgus Girgensons Saturday.  I thought he played hard and wasn’t afraid to hit.  He could be a fan-favorite here if he sticks.  Cody Hodgson was solid, too.  Jhonas Enroth was great, that shootout was crazy.  By round 15 I probably would’ve been ready just to skate off.  I’m ready to see what these young guys can do.

Aside from the game, I have a few comments on the upgrades to the First Niagara Center.

  • The new food options are nice.  Even the existing stuff, like the hot dogs and hamburgers were much improved.
  • However, if you get popcorn, and they ask if you want butter, SAY NO.  I was expecting the machine at the movie theater that drizzles a little bit on.  NOPE, IT’S A LADLE.  The solid lump in my stomach was not fun.
  • The game presentation was better.  There was genuine laughter at the Celebrity look-alikes thing with Foligno/Fabio.
  • I wonder if that changes when all the sponsored stuff is back in.  Recycle bins!

Looking forward to real hockey.  Getting excited!

Training Camp – Questions Without Answers

The Buffalo Sabres are opening training camp today, with veteran players reporting for their physicals and testing.  I always imagine ‘testing’ as Patrick Kaleta slouched in a desk, face all screwed up trying to answer a multiple choice question.  Anyway, as camp opens, there seem to be more questions than answers for fans that have been tracking the team through the summer.  At least they did announce another assistant coach hiring today, Jerry Forton out of Harvard (though he had a long stint at Niagara before that as well).

But many more uncertainties remain.  Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are both still here, without new contracts.  They are saying the right things – these two usually do – but it’s still unsettled.  Cody Hodgson remains unsigned, and Matthew Coller crunches some numbers on the young center.  They are somewhat bleak, though in my mind, I’d like for a few other players to make the leap up the middle so Hodgson can take the role Thomas Vanek had in 06-07, leading a line that basically just gets told to score and isn’t pitted against superior competition.  Kadri may set the number for Cody’s contract, but will Hodgson take the ‘bridge contract’?

Looking at the roster (you can see the training camp roster up at that first link) it’s hard to get a feel for what this team will be.  There’s room for rookies to stick.  Other questions remain…Will Myers be good with Tallinder back?  Will Hodgson be here?  Is Ott the captain?  Will Miller and Vanek still be here?  The rookies are interesting, especially to compare and contrast between Girgensons and Grigorenko.  And Zadorov!  It’s a team with a ton of questions, which could make for a very long season.  I just hope it’s a fun one.

Free Agent Frenzy Not Likely In Buffalo

GoodbyeGerbeThe Buffalo Sabres are rebuilding.  Danny Briere isn’t walking in that door (he finally went to Montreal, where he’s been rumored to go for years).  Nathan Gerbe is going out the door.  I’m sad to see Gerbe go, but he wasn’t scoring enough to justify being top 6, and as tough as he is, just wasn’t suited long-term for a checking line role.  I hope he ends up in a great spot for him.  Whatever city he ends up in is getting a great person.

When you’re rebuilding, your free agent pick ups are usually pretty limited.  You’re not getting the older big name guys (Iginla, as an example) as they want to win this year.  You don’t want the lower-tier guys for the most part, as the idea should be to see how your young players do with an increased role.  Certainly, if Grigorenko is here all year as was stated, I don’t want him in the press box or toiling away 9 minutes a night.

Andy Boron at Die by the Blade covers some potential targets, but the Mikhail Grabovski situation intrigues me.  He’s a player young enough that you may be able to sell him on a rebuild, and if he wants to stick it to the Leafs, that works too.  He won’t come cheap, but the Sabres have cap space to spare with only Cody Hodgson left as a significant RFA left to sign (Sorry, Flynn).  More so, if Miller gets traded.  I’d want them to keep Vanek if they bring in Grabbo, but if a deal came along…well, make it work.

The idea of a Miller/Vanek trade intrigues me.  Is the deal for a player?  Who still needs a goalie?  Beyond watching for that, my only other prediction is Darcy makes a good, solid move that no one was expecting, because he’s a black hole of information and we never know what’s cooking here.  Go Sabres.

War Without End

The Buffalo Sabres didn’t make the playoffs.  They traded their captain away.  Ryan Miller is selling his townhouse.  We’re booing too much.  It’s a tough life, being a Buffalo sports fan, and I’m not even going into the hand-wringing over what the Bills are doing in the draft.  It seems like forever since we were truly comfortable with the people in charge of our teams, the choices they make.  At best we can offer a lame “Well, at least they made some changes!” when looking at the new coaches, but for many, it’s not enough.  The back office people are all the same, and while many of us are hoping there will be some significant changes in players on the field/ice, well, we’ll see what happens.  Fitzpatrick and Pominville are both gone, both guys who were liked here as much for their nice-guy personalities than for contributions to the cause.  A few shining moments here and there, a ton of mediocrity, and a hearty shrug as they pass through the door.

What does it take to change this attitude here?  There’s an adversarial feel to the team/fan/media dynamic much of the time, does winning alone fix that?  Do you have to win the Stanley Cup or a Super Bowl?  Just make the playoffs?  It can’t be that last one, at least for the Sabres, as just squeaking in and getting eliminated didn’t help much.  Bills fans might kill for that now, but knowing this city, that buys ‘em six months, tops.

It’s like people have forgotten that sports are fun.  I watched the Sabres game the other night, and had a blast.  Despite the fact they were eliminated from the playoffs.  Stop crossing our arms and sitting on our hands because we don’t like their breakout play.  If watching hockey or football makes you miserable, and you can’t help but take it out on your fellow fans, why do you still do it?  Did you forget there are other forms of entertainment?  Or are you afraid of being called a bandwagon fan when you hear about a win streak and start watching again?  I won’t call you that.

I didn’t want this to come out like a “quit booing, dummy” post, but it does seem like our go-to move.  It reflects poorly on a city that loves their sports teams as much as anywhere.  Let’s make next season, a season to be positive.  Let’s cheer again.  Let’s support a player who makes a mistake.  We can’t control the team on the ice or field, or what the media writes, but we are in charge of ourselves.  Be happy.  Have fun.

See you at the draft.

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

The Sabres traded away their captain yesterday.  Jason Pominville was a completely inoffensive, very solid player.  He said the right things, to a fault.  He played hard, he produced at a decent rate.  He provided us with one of, if not THE most exciting moment for the franchise since the lockout, the short-handed OT series winner against Ottawa.  I’ll wish him well in Minnesota.

I do NOT think Buffalo is done dealing their core players.  Obviously they are until the season is over, but no one is yet safe.  Players with years left on their contract make a lot more sense to be moved in the offseason, at the draft for instance.  You know what exact picks you are getting then, and what holes you may need to fill.  And make no mistake, you will want to get players at the draft or via trade – you’ve seen the ‘Top’ UFAs at CapGeek, right?  The only one under 30 is Tyler Bozak, he of 23 points this year.  Pascal Dupuis isn’t scoring 40 for Buffalo, not unless he brings the rest of Pittsburgh’s top lines with him.  That leaves players in the system contributing, and players traded for.  I like the haul Darcy pulled in for Jason.  The two players are actual prospects, with good upside.  Another 1st rounder and a 2nd added to that is great.

Would I trade Miller and Vanek.  My heart says no, especially on Vanek…but my brain says, why not?  You’d get a fantastic return, clear tons of cap room, and be well positioned to build a new core from the existing prospects and draft picks stockpiled.  Girgensons, Grigorenko, Armia, Larsson, McCabe, Hackett, Catenacci, Pysyk, any of them could be a star.  Or it could be someone else.  I’m with the majority that sees Steve Ott as the mentor moving forward, possibly with a letter.  On D, it’s Ehrhoff.

It’s kind of funny how fast this has changed.  A few weeks ago, who could’ve imagined a Sabres team without Vanek and Miller?  Now, I feel almost…excited at the idea.  A new era!  A (presumably) new coach!  I want this, I want to see the change.

A few helpful notes for the Bruins

Just a few things I saw that might help the Bruins after last night’s game:

  1. The opposing team’s best offensive player should probably be covered.  You may even want to shove him around a bit when he’s parked in front of the net on a power play.
  2. Tuukka Rask’s default move when a goal-scorer is near probably shouldn’t be ‘lie on my stomach’.
  3. That best offensive player I mentioned?  Passing him the puck yourself – with a gentle nudge of your hand, no less – also not recommended.

And a few notes for the fans of the Bruins:

  1. We know that Lane MacDermid wasn’t brought up to ‘deal with John Scott’.
  2. The timeout was taken because the wrong Sabres were on the ice.  Tough guys versus skill players is not something you want if you’re a coach.  Reverse the situation, and Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand are standing nose to bellybutton with John Scott (or Jared Boll, or Colton Orr) at a meaningless late-game faceoff, you don’t want to switch them out?
  3. Actually, I kind of want Ruff to own that, since it bothers some of the Bruins players so much.  “Oh, that?  Yeah, I called that timeout for a victory lap.  What of it?”

By the way Sabres fans, this really wasn’t one to crow about after today – the defense on the Buffalo side was just as brutal, only Ryan Miller bailed ‘em out more than Rask bailed out the Bruins.  Many of the same problems remained from the Leafs disaster.

That was a tear your hair out type of game for both fanbases last night, but I’m glad the Sabres came out on top.  They meet again in just over a week, and it’ll be interesting to see if there is any carry-over.  Might depend on how Thornton’s doing.

It’s a GAME

You know, I’m dreading this game.  Not because Buffalo has sucked since game 3 of the season.  Not because we’ll get a hundred and fifty Miller/Lucic references.  Because it won’t live up to the hype.  They almost never do, these ‘team toughness’ statement games.  Oh, Lucic might fight somebody, John Scott may terrorize some poor sap, but at the end of the day, what the Sabres need is two points.  They need to GET RIGHT.  They could hardly pass the puck with a purpose in the last game, the only reason they were in that game at all is the Leafs suck just as bad.  This might mark me down as a ‘bad’ fan for a certain portion of the fanbase, the part that thinks adding -mafia to the team name makes you sound intimidating.  I don’t care.  Two points, awesome goals, that’s what needed.

Now, if John Scott were to rip Lucic’s spine out, Mortal Kombat style, I’d probably nod and say ‘Good Job, Hodor’…but not if it’s 4-1 Bruins at the time.  Sorry.