What's Wrong With This Team?
It's no secret that the Buffalo Sabres have been struggling as of late. The team has gone win-less in their last 5 and they haven't won a road game in the last 12 attempts. Injuries have plagued the team this year with only 3 players that started the season not missing at least a game due to injury. The management has been vocal that these injuries are the cause of their last place in the East standing but what if there is more to it?
Is it time for Lindy to go?- This seems to come up every year when the team hits a bump but this year that bump is the deepest it's been since the lock-out. Game after game it seems as if this team is skating around like they all have something better to do. Sure, you can place the blame on the players themselves but don't you think Lindy should be making sure they give it 100% every night? If they don't shouldn't they be benched? When Leino loses the puck after a bone-headed between the legs pass shouldn't he sit for a bit? Isn't that the job of a coach, especially at this level? This team isn't exactly over-flowing with extra players due to the injury issues but the guys getting called up seem to be playing well and I'll take Finley skating at 100% over Gragnani at his usual 40% any night. Without this accountability where's the motivation to play at their best, especially when they're tied for last in the East? There's no denying that Lindy hasn't had at least some success here in Buffalo but if a coach went 13 seasons without a cup in any other city, do you think they'd still be behind the bench?
Now a coaching change isn't guaranteed to change this team around. We all know it hasn't worked in Anaheim for example, and things didn't get much better in Washington either. However we can hope for a turn-around like the Blues have seen since Hitchcock took over. Whether or not this team can turn a 180 with a new coach is certainly up for debate but it probably would be the biggest shake-up this team has seen in it's history, and maybe that's just what they need.
What about the front office?- It seems like Regier takes the most heat out of anyone associated with this team when things aren't going well. It might still be the sting from losing both Drury and Briere or the lack of any big moves year after year (I suppose this off-season was a change from that though). However, under the previous ownership, his arms were tied, lacking the funds needed to keep or acquire all-star talent. I find it hard to fault him in years past as he managed to pull in some impressive young talent (Gerbe, Ennis, Myers, Enroth, Adam). With some extra cash this off-season his big name acquisitions gave us reason to believe this new team was different and they could bring in that already developed, veteran, talent. However, those contracts have yet to live up to the hype. Ehrhoff seems to be doing the best out of the bunch and even with that it's hard to argue he's worth the money spent. Maybe Regier is just better at finding young talent that will develop than he is at getting veteran players here and performing well.
Could have Pegula been a bad thing?- I, along with most of the fan base, was ecstatic when the ownership of this team changed last year. We had hope that things were going to be different, money would be spent to pick up and keep those star players we let slip through our grasp prior years. He spent money on rugs, the locker room, etched some glass, added more staff, and was actually a hockey fan instead of a politician. It was a big shake-up and just as those sweeping changes can have positive effects, these quick changes can carry negatives also. This team was decent last year, a young group meshing together well and winning games through hard work and not raw, all-star-level talent. Yes, they fell short but with one of their stars out of the game (Roy) a lot of young talent stepped up and pushed this team to a game 7 in the first round of the playoffs. It was disappointing for sure but it gave us hope they would be better this year after more development and more players getting closer to that veteran status. On top of that we'd have money in the off season to bring in some much needed "imported" talent...it was going to be a good season.
Of course, that's wasn't the case. What if, this new money that led to these "star" player signings messed with the dynamics of this team. We all know you can create your dream team of talent but without some sort of deeper relationship within the team you're no better than the team with no stars. Just look at the Miami Heat. Adding these new veterans to the team is sure to have changed the dynamics in the locker room and maybe that's what the problem is. This team that's worked and developed together for so many years now has to find spots for these new players to fit.
My opinion? I think it's a result of all the above. Injuries are hard on a team and when you have half the team coming back from injuries you have a team that's only capable of so much. Add to that a coach that may have lost his touch and a GM that has trouble bringing in big name talent the owner demands but that still works with your current roster. It might not be too late for this team but we're almost to the point of no-return. Confidence is hard to find when you've dropped as many games as these guys have but a few wins can turn that around. Perhaps that coupled with the all-star break helping get this team a bit healthier is what they need. Throw in a trade before the deadline that will help this team find the back of the net and maybe they can make a borderline-miracle comeback. Of course isn't it what a Buffalo sports fan wishes for every year? Just a simple miracle?