Stirring The Pot

I won’t be able to do a Knee-Jerk Reaction to the Flyers game tonight, so I am making sure to give a quick run-down of some of the changes that Lindy Ruff has thrown to this Sabres team since this last weekend. This team will look pretty different from last week, and they’re hoping that some shake-ups will get some chemistry going as they face a Flyers team that is 6 – 4 – 1 with a red-hot line consisting of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell‘s hair, and Jaromir Jagr before he falls apart after 20 games.

The big news for a lot of fans is the line switching involving Ville Leino and Luke Adam.

Ruff has juggled the two players, placing Leino on the top line with The Captain and The Camel (great name for a TV show) in hopes of sparking some better offensive output. He’s placed Adam on the wing with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford, searching for a similar outcome. Basically the coach is taking a team that has lost 3 of its last 4 games and he’s trying to find a solid, winning combination. Doing so involves breaking up his best line and spreading out the talent, and I whole-heartedly agree.

Many fans are confused or upset because they feel like Adam has earned his spot, and that Leino should not be rewarded for some lackluster play (2 points in 10 games thus far). While that’s true, and while it’s important to see hard work rewarded, there is also a time when a coach needs to look at the team as a whole and rework some strategies and combinations to benefit it. Maybe this outcome is tough for Adam (if Stafford and Roy can’t get going) or maybe it’s a bad break for Pominville and Vanek (if Leino continues his unsure ways).

Here’s the heart of the matter: if this team wins with these lines, I don’t care. I don’t care at all.

Last season, when the Sabres were off to a horrible start I did not care that Derek Roy was on pace for a record year. I really couldn’t. In fact, I was one of the people who cocked my head when he got injured and the team started doing much, much better. Now, I’m not saying the team won because Roy was hurt (yes I am), but I am saying that his excellent numbers didn’t matter. They didn’t mean anything.

Take that. Reverse it. Pominville and Vanek are doing great things. Let’s say this Leino move hurts their production, but the Sabres go 4 – 0 – 1 in the next five games. Was it a good move? I’d say so. Because while it’s fun to see The Camel as the second or third or, hell, top scorer in the league I don’t want the Sabres to be the team that loses with a really good goal scorer. I’d sign on for them to win games 1 – 0 as long as they win.

If dropping Adam to play with Roy and Stafford can get them at least Luke-warm (I had to) and if raising Leino to play with Vanek and Pominville gets his head in the game, this strategy is genius. And if they fall apart tonight, expect things to be back the way they were next game. It’s a long season. Coaches can toy with lines a lot.

Other notes:

  • Gragnani‘s out, Weber‘s in. Cool. I’ve wanted to see better defensive play, and Weber brings that. Now can we stop celebrating like we all own Mike Weber jerseys? (unless you do, of course)
  • No. There isn’t a goalie controversy. Once Rangers fans start calling for Biron (2 – 0 – 0) to replace Lundqvist (2 – 3 – 3) then we can consider getting our pitchforks.
  • Brad Boyes is a point scorer. Who knew? Oh yeah, Darcy Regier back when he traded for him.
  • Beyond sitting Gragnani and playing Weber, I’d be down for seeing Lindy Ruff try some different defensive combinations. Tyler Myers recently referred to himself and Robyn Regehr as a “shutdown pair.” Ehhhhhh. I’d much rather see Myers fly up the ice and shoot the thing into the net. Maybe pairing him back up with Sekera would be a good move, and moving Ehrhoff to play with Regehr would allow the two new acquisitions to thrive. That also puts Leopold with Weber and allows him to be more offensive.
  • Oh yeah, this game is against the Flyers. Remember when they knocked the Sabres out of the playoffs? I don’t wish injury upon anybody, but I just hope James van Riemsdyke isn’t named the first star for taking one shot and winning a faceoff.


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Tags: Andrej Sekera Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Christian Ehrhoff Darcy Regier Derek Roy Drew Stafford Eastern Conference Fansided Free Agency Hockey James Van Riemsdyke Jaromir Jagr Jason Pominville Jhonas Enroth Lindy Ruff Marc-andre Gragnani Mike Weber Nathan Gerbe New York Rangers NHL Northeast Division Philadelphia Flyers Robyn Regehr Ryan Miller Sabres Scott Hartnell Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Playoffs Terry Pegula Thomas Vanek Tim Connolly Tyler Myers Ville Leino

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