A little context here before I give my thoughts concerning the Sabres January (and 10 games into the shortened season):
As I'm writing this Fan Post, the Sabres have probably played their worst game of the season today. They seemed slow and out of place (and I did not watch the entire game, so you are free to criticize me if you'd like). This play was just unacceptable in my humble opinion. For a franchise that is suffering from a 10 year playoff drought and having gone through multiple coaches, GMs, players, and front office personnel, playing a game like today is embarrassing.
Here are my thoughts concerning the team play:
Goaltending: Ullmark has saved us from being in absolute last place and has actually given us solid net-minding. Hutton, leaves a lot to be desired but I think we ride out his contract for the reminder of the year. With the compressed scheduled making a secondary goalie more important than ever, we are lagging behind most ever other team as far as tandems go. Overall grade: C +.
Defense: Risto has been solid as has McCabe. Dahlin and Miller appear on the ice and then disappear. Too many mistakes from a "generational" player but you have to stick with Dahlin. I think you low-ball his next contract though. He's just hasn't been impressive enough to give him a huge raise. Joker has been hurt. Montour and Irwin have been "okay" but nothing to shout about. Adams needs to upgrade this defense over the off-season. Overall grade: C +
Centers: Meh. I expect more from Eichel and Staal and so far they haven't killed us but certainly haven't looked pretty. Eich looks a bit off to me and, honestly, I'm getting tired of the pouty face, hang down your head look. I appreciate the fact that he wants to win, but I expect more from a man wearing a "C". He needs to help drive the team through bad times and missed opportunities. Lazar has looked very good and drives opponents a bit nutty, I think. I believe Staal will have better games in February and March. Overall grade: B (but toying with a B - )
Wingers: Need to get Hall and Skinner more off the snide. Both have had plenty of opportunities to score. Vic looks good. I like the secondary scoring a lot. The offense (overall) doesn't look that bad. It passes the eye-test. However they need much more 5x5 scoring. Overall grade: B
I think the specialty teams have saved us so far. We need more 5x5 scoring (as mentioned above). We're a -2 overall in GA/GF. The skating has looked good. They come to play some games but get overwhelmed with other teams speed and NZ play. We still dump and chase too much and don't drive the lanes as they should. I would like to see us force more turnovers than we do. We're still a team that doesn't respond well when "punched in the mouth". We're soft.
January: Perhaps we couldn't expect more from January, but I'm disappointed the we didn't take 3 more points from this first month. February seems brutal to me right now and if we expect to do some damage, I think February will tell us if we're a bottom 10 team again or will make a push to be better. I don't think we're better than Washington, Boston, or Philadelphia. We have to play well against the rest of the division and hope those three top teams also pound the rest of the Eastern Teams. This is the only way we make the playoffs.
One other note and I'd like your opinion: Having watched a ton of other teams play, it is apparent that many teams are playing tight and not willing to lose a point rather than get two points. There have been way too many OT games, IMO. This means if you lose, you're losing ground to any team working to OT. Does this seem apparent to all of you also or am I just not being observant?
I'm trying to be optimistic but today's game was abhorrent. (if a hockey game can be described as such). Your opinion of January play and thoughts of February? I don't want to be looking at the draft but on Feb 28th, I might be writing to ask you draftniks what the Sabres will be doing in July.