This is not the season I envisioned for the Buffalo Sabres. While I felt they didn't have a Stanley cup caliber team, I didn't expect THIS. Horrific play in their own end, uninspired performances by some of their "core" and uneven, distracted goaltending from the reigning Vezina winner have led us to this. A 3-7-2 start, which actually looks better on paper from what it REALLY is: 3-9, and in the basement.
So, with this in mind, where DO we go from here?
1) Is a shake up trade in order? Well, if any of you have read posts from me before, you know I am not enamored with some of the personnel on this "team". The goaltenders are not going to change, so we won't even go there. Instead let's start with the keystone cops, otherwise known as our defense.
JORDAN LEOPOLD, TYLER MYERS, STEVE MONTADOR and SHAONE MORRISONN aren't going anywhere any time soon. The only reason I put Montador on this list is because he has been arguably our best rounded defenseman thus far. He is in the last year of his contract, and I wouldn't be shocked if he is kept around for a few more years.
ANDREJ SEKERA has been good at times, and has also looked like the Sekera we all know and hate. He is prime trade bait, because he has the talent to get it done, but CAN he on a consistent basis?
CHRIS BUTLER is a guy that when he's confident, he's a steady, simple defenseman, and there's nothing wrong with that. He has decent size, and I would love to see him be more physical, but he can get it done. Another piece of trade bait.
MIKE WEBER is a guy that I put in the Rhett Warrener type mold, and a guy I personally wouldn't move anywhere. Except into the lineup. He skates well enough, is very physical, but can make that one bonehead mistake that ends up in his own net. But his pluses outweigh any minuses for me. Too new and unproven to consider trading at this point, IMO.
That brings us to the captain (at least on paper), CRAIG RIVET. Is Ruff trying to push him into retirement? Is he going to strip the captaincy away from him? Can this guy even play at the NHL level anymore? One thing I do know. The guy can't skate anymore and he has a bum shoulder. He is a warrior, but warriors have to retire at some point too. Either that or they get killed. I wish he would just ride off into the sunset and save some dignity. He is definite trade bait, but only at the deadline for a team looking for a veteran that they hope has enough gas left in the tank to help push them into the playoffs. Of course, that team could be us, so he may not go anywhere. There is also the scenario that a continued benching leaves him demanding a trade outta here. Maybe that's what Lindy and Darcy ultimately have up their sleeves.
That brings us to the disjointed offensive ranks.
There is no one that is untouchable on this offense, as far as I'm concerned. You want to package VANEK, HECHT and a 1st for a Bobby Ryan or a Dustin Brown? I'm in. How about CONNOLLY for a used zamboni? JK. Or am I? The only players of any value on the offense are probably VANEK, ROY, POMINVILLE, ENNIS and, packaged with the right ingredients, HECHT, GAUSTAD or STAFFORD. At this point I'm not above trading any of these guys, at the very least to wake this team up. These players have to be shown, one way or another, that none of them is untouchable. They're too comfortable and I think some of them think it's still 2005 or 2006, when they were on top of the hockey world. Wake up boys! You're only as good as your last game, or last 12 games, for that matter.
2) Is a coaching change in order?
LINDY RUFF didn't just become a bad coach overnight. Do I agree with the ridiculous lines he puts out there sometimes? No. Should CODY MCCORMICK being playing anywhere except the 4th line? No. He is not the next Cam Neely. He gives 100%, every game. I will not deny him that. But the kid should not be playing with skill players. I understand why RUFF puts him, a kid with size and physicality, with the soft, heartless players like CONNOLLY and HECHT. Maybe he's hoping that MCCORMICK's work ethic rubs off. Well, not so far.
Lindy has shown that he is a good playoff coach and his regular season record is nothing to sneeze at either. It has been suggested that his message has grown stale. Guess what? If multi-million dollar athletes need to be motivated, then there's something wrong with the athletes, not the coach. The paycheck should be motivation enough. But, coaches have been fired since the dawn of time and if that's the message upper management wants to send, then they have what seems to be a great replacement in KEVIN DINEEN, who I absolutey loved as a player. But, I have my suspicions that as long as DARCY's the GM (and I'm not sure how I feel about that, either), that LINDY's not going anywhere.
3) Do we keep benching players, such as our captain?
Hell to the yeah we do. RIVET's benching should have sent a message. Did it? Well, they lost 2 in a row, so the message may have been sent, but was it received? Perhaps TYLER MYERS should be shown a seat for a game. Perhaps JORDAN LEOPOLD or JOCHEN HECHT should be watching the next game or 2 from the press box. Maybe the whiz-kid, TYLER (Afinog)ENNIS should be banished to the sky box, so he realizes that it's not about how many opposing players you STICKHANDLE through. That perhaps it's not a good thing to give the puck away 14 times a game. Too much was expected of this kid this year, I think. Sit him for a game or 2, let him think about it. About how it's supposed to be a team game, not a damn stickhandling exhibition. Keep benching 'em, LINDY. It's really the only power you have. Take away the ice and take away the ice time.
So, where DO WE go from here? Your thoughts?