Greater Expectations?

On Thanksgiving Eve, what some consider one of the biggest "party" nights of the year, the Sabres will square off with the Boston Bruins in probably the biggest game of the young season so far. If you’re like me, you’ll probably take in the tilt at your local watering hole, surrounded by friends or family that have made their way back to Buffalo for the holiday weekend. Or maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to be in the FN Center to see it go down from a first person perspective. It’s a rematch of a game ten days ago which we all remember well, where the Sabres were pushed around and called soft afterwards for not defending their goalie.

Still, we sit at 12-8 through about the first quarter of the season. The team’s star player, Thomas Vanek, has 24 points (including 11 goals) through that stretch. Ryan Miller has struggled and is now hurt, but Jhonas Enroth has carried the torch and ran well with it thus far. Meanwhile, players we relied on to fill up the stat sheet before the season started like Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis (hurt), and Tyler Myers, have been virtual non factors. With all these things considered, I’m fairly happy about where the team sits right now. So why do I turn on local talk radio and hear constant complaining? Why do I peruse my Twitter timeline during a game and see only negative thoughts during games? If I didn’t know our record, I’d think we were sitting in the basement.

So what’s the deal?  Do we feel THAT entitled as a fan base now?

I’ve got some news for you, first off. This is basically the same team that struggled last year and needed to make an incredible run down the stretch just to reach the playoffs. Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff were brought in to beef up the blue line, but has either been a factor? Sure, Regehr’s physical play has definitely helped, but Ehrhoff has basically been the invisible man through the first 20 games. We all know about Ville Leino. Although he has played much better as of late, the point production just isn’t there for a player that was billed to us as capable of transitioning to a first or second line center. So did we expect to go from a team barely making the playoffs to a team easily cruising on their way to winning the Stanley Cup?

Perhaps it’s just frustration.  As Sabres fans, we’ve struggled through near-misses and what-could-have-been’s for decades.  Then, an owner with deep pockets comes along for basically the first time in Buffalo sports history.  Without even playing a game this year, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the Cup was ours (Oh, wait…you mean we have to get through the regular season?).  I understand that feeling.  Now that we have the means to compete every year, we expect results right away.  The problem is, that doesn’t immediately change the product on the ice.  We still have new players learning to mesh, and young players still learning the ins and outs of the NHL.

It’s been an exciting and drama filled season so far, with many story lines.  From the hit on Miller, Lindy Ruff cursing out the media, and Tyler Myers being benched, there’s been plenty to talk about.  Overall, it feels good to be this invested in the hockey season so early in the year.  The Sabres are making headlines around the league, and you better believe all eyes will be on Wednesday’s game – a hyped match up with the defending Stanley Cup Champions…in November!  I’m going to sit back and enjoy it, and despite the Sabres’ inconsistency so far this year, realize we still have 62 games to go.  As a fan of this team, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

What do you guys think?  Are our expectations too high?  Or has this team simply underachieved so far?