With their season over and after a few days to collect our thoughts, it's time to recap the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 2011-2012 Buffalo Sabres season. We explored what went right yesterday, today it's all about what didn't, and tomorrow we'll cover the disasters.
Injuries, injuries, injuries.Yes, it's a song that's been sung to death this season, but that doesn't make it any less true. At this point we shouldn't need to trot out the Sabres record with and without 6 of their top 7 defenseman (Spoiler alert: it's really good with them, not good without without them) but key injuries to Tyler Ennis and Ryan Miller meant that two of Buffalo's most important players couldn't play up to their capability until the end of the season. The team missed over 300 man-games to injury this season, something which almost has to change next season, right? Yes? Hello?
The regression of the core. Aside from Jason Pominville, and the non-concussion-recovery part of Ryan Miller's season, the rest o the Sabres core did not fare well this season. Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford, considered to be the team's go-to scorers, all had disappointing seasons. Roy posted a career low in points for a full season, Stafford went from scoring once in every two games to once in every four games, and Vanek tallied his second lowest point total since his rookie year. These guys all need to bounce back next season if Buffalo expects to make a deep postseason run.
The Sabres record at the First Niagara Library. While the Sabres weren't awful at home this season, their 21-12-8 record isn't great, either. 21 home wins ties them for second worst not only among playoff teams, but among any teams finishing in the top 12 of their respective conference, behind only Ottawa, Carolina, and Minnesota. The Sabres weren't stellar on the road this season (more on that tomorrow), but if you want to dance in May and June, you have to take care of business at home. Hey, maybe more winning will lead to more people cheering...
The backup goalie plan doesn't go according to plan. Again. Lindy Ruff has brought up numerous times his backup goalie schedule, like it's all planned out before the season starts (which to a certain extent, I'm sure it is.) Then he proceeds to play Ryan Miller for two straight months while letting a competent backup goalie rot away on the bench. Yes, Miler was red-hot and the Sabres needed him to help dig them out of a big hole, but this isn't Patrick Lalime here - the Sabres have a young, fairly reliable backup that needs playing time in order to get better. Miller needs rest so he doesn't fade down the stretch. And the Sabres need to not put themselves in such a deep hole that they don't feel like they can ever give Miller the night off. The past two seasons, that's been a disturbing problem.
There was plenty that went wrong this year, and we'll have The Ugly post coming up tomorrow for the worst of it. Have some thoughts of your own? Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments.