Dear Buffalo Sabres, I've Had About Enough

How much is enough?

I was told today, after the Buffalo Sabres were blown out of the building Saturday night by a score of 8-3 at the hands of the the Pittsburgh Penguins, that every team is allowed one “stinker”. Sure, that’s fine. But how many times is a team allowed to blow leads, lose on home ice, cough up the puck, miss countless scoring chances, or not even show up, for crying out loud? It’s not just the 8-3 embarrassment that was Saturday night viewing on my living room television. It’s not the 2 1/2 hours of my life I will never get back. No, it’s how this hockey team continuously finds different ways to lose, and piss away points. Some nights they look like they’ve never passed a puck to a teammate in their lives.

I am not going to mince words here.

I, for one, have had it with the supposed “core” of this “team”, and would like to see some of these heartless, gutless, disinterested players gone off this roster.

Sabres president Ted Black is preaching patience. He also states that he has not given thought to “getting rid of Darcy (Regier) or Lindy (Ruff). No. None”.

If that’s the truth, Mr. Black, then the only other changes you can make would be to the pitiful product on the ice. If some of these guys don’t want to play here, for coach Ruff (who “ain’t goin’ nowhere”), then it’s time to find them a plane ticket to another NHL city now.

There is accountability, pride and heart missing from that Sabres dressing room. All I hear are the same old, tired cliches out of the mouths of the supposed leaders on this team after each loss. “We have to be better…We have to come ready to play…We can’t keep digging ourselves into holes…We were outworked…”

There is no excuse in the world for being outworked. None. This shows a lack of commitment, a lack of heart, a lack of discipline. It’s one thing to lose a game for not burying scoring chances. Those things can happen. It’s another to show up to the rink unprepared to play a full sixty minutes, ever. I can count on one hand the times the Sabres have put in a full sixty minutes of work this season.

There are enough talented players on this team that, despite the non-commitment to give an honest days effort, they have managed a 16-13-3 record (good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference). There is enough depth in this organization as a whole that, despite the countless injuries, the Sabres have a slim hold on a playoff spot.

Guess what? If the season ended today, the Sabres would play the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, holders of a dominant 21-9-1 record, in round one of the playoffs. The Bruins, plain and simple, know how to win. They are talented, big, strong, and determined. They also play one helluva team game. There are no passengers on that Bruins team. It takes a 100% commitment from the players to work their asses off every shift, to buy into the system, play as a team, and put their bodies on the line, and the B’s have it in spades. I, for one, am jealous.

I see none of this with regards to the 2011-12 version of the Buffalo Sabres.

All I hear are excuses and verbal diarrhea from the same mouths after every loss, every blown lead, every missed pass, every blown assignment, and every soft goal.

These mouths need to be silenced, in the form of a trade.

Let’s start with number 21, Drew Stafford and number 9, Derek Roy.

After a 31-goal season a year ago, Stafford was supposed to have finally put it all together. The former first round draft pick with the good size, and better hands, was a disappointment up until last year’s breakout season. The Sabres rewarded him with a new 4-year, $16 million contract, and were expecting him to carry the goal scoring load (along with Thomas Vanek who, for my money, gets a bad rap for supposedly being soft and lazy, of which he is neither) for the club. Stafford is on pace for 17 goals, but it’s not his lack of goal scoring that’s so maddening. It’s his lack of passion, shift-to-shift, that leaves the bad taste in your mouth. Power forwards are supposed to bring a physicality to the game, along with the scoring ability, and Stafford is bringing very little of either. When Stafford’s on, he’s dominant. You’d have better luck flipping a coin.

Roy’s act has grown tiresome. From the incessant diving, to the condescending sneer on his smug mug, to the fact that he gets pushed off the puck much too easily, it’s very easy to dislike Roy as a player. Roy was supposed to be the number one center for this hockey club going forward, especially after the team let Daniel Briere and Chris Drury (that’s right, I said their names) walk via free-agency, and has shown nothing to warrant that undeserving crown. Sources tell me that, for years, Roy has been a very unpopular player within the Sabres dressing room, whether it’s due to his legendary ego, or his propensity for tuning out his coach’s instructions, and that at least last year’s team felt as if they would be better off without him in the lineup. It’s very hard to question any of this, especially after watching the Sabres go on a 29-12-6 tear after he went out with a season ending injury last season.

The Philadelphia Flyers traded two of their top players in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter this past summer, and haven’t missed a beat. The Flyers are first in the conference, third in the league standings, have 20 wins in 31 games and own a 12-3-1 record away from home. They also have the second most goals in the league, even after trading away two perennial team scoring leaders. There was also much talk that these two players were problems from an organizational standpoint, and that it was as much addition by subtraction, as it was getting good return by trading them.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula has put his money where his mouth is. He has given his players a dream of an organization to work for. He has given his management team free reign to spend whatever is necessary. If  Regier and/or Ruff, as Ted Black has us believing, are not going to fall on the sword for this team’s underachieving ways and unwillingness to play hard, then it’s time to make changes in the only other place that’s left. If Regier can’t find that one trade to knock his knickers off, then perhaps a trade for the sake of a trade is in order. Something to wake the Sleeping Beauties on this team up from their 32-game slumber.

As far as I’m concerned, the only untouchables on this team, as it stands right now, are Vanek, Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb, Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers (unless the Nashville Predators want to part with Shea Weber). While it’s not to say that players like Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Leopold and Cody McCormick aren’t important pieces or don’t play hard, these guys aren’t the impact players that the team needs to lead the charge towards the Stanley Cup.

Kassian and McNabb should at least give Regier confidence enough that, if he has to part with 2 or 3 players off his roster in order to acquire a big time centerman, he has the organizational depth to withstand a 3-for-1 deal.

Unfortunately, the NHL’s Christmas roster freeze starts today, December 19th, and is in effect until midnight on December 27th. That means that no trades can be completed during that time.

The Buffalo Sabres cap payroll stands at $66,878,195. Their actual payroll is closer to $76 million. For that kind of scratch, if Terry Pegula wanted a .500 hockey team, apathetic players, and an increasingly ticked-off fan base, then he’s all set.

Somehow, I think he had other things in mind here.

Let’s see if his management team shares those same visions.



Tags: Brayden Mcnabb Buffalo Sabres Chris Drury Christian Ehrhoff Cody Mccormick Daniel Briere Darcy Regier Derek Roy Drew Stafford Lindy Ruff Nathan Gerbe Robyn Regehr Sabres Management Shea Weber Ted Black Terry Pegula Thomas Vanek Tyler Myers Zack Kassian

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