Feb 3, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) during the game against the Florida Panthers at the First Niagara Center. Panthers beat the Sabres 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Lockout Lag

With the 2013 NHL season well underway, the Buffalo Sabres have fallen behind the curve and find themselves sitting on the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings just above the last-place Washington Capitals. The hype of the 2-0 start for Buffalo was short lived as they have now fallen to 3-6-1 having lost 7 of their last 8 games. Fans in Buffalo are starting to wonder if this the beginning of end for their playoff hopes this year.

But it’s only ten games in, just a slow start right? That may be so, but I don’t see the team making any drastic improvements anytime soon. And with the abbreviated hockey season this year, every game means so much more. The further the Sabres fall, the less chances they have to make up for it down the stretch.

The Sabres look like a team still coming off the lockout. Their play on the ice is sloppy, they aren’t passing well, the lack of effort is evident, they have no sense of defense in their own zone, the team’s face-off stats are nauseating… the list goes on and on. They can’t go on playing this bad all season, can they?

Honestly, if it wasn’t for Thomas Vanek and the success of the Sabres’ first line, they would not have a win yet this season. This line is second to none in the NHL right now, but it has been the only bright spot for the Sabres so far this year.

It was easy to get distracted by their most recent win in Boston a week ago, in which they put 7 up on the board. But the reality is they didn’t play that well at all and the credit goes to Ryan Miller because it could have easily been a 7 + goal night for the Bruins as well. As good as he looked during that game, Miller has been playing poorly as of late, allowing four goals in each of his last four games. Very un-Miller like stats if you ask me.

What happened to the Calder Cup version of Tyler Myers? One point in ten games is nowhere near where he should be and lets be serious, it’s not like he’s keeping busy on the defensive side of the puck. I cringe every time I see him and Leopold step out onto the ice. That pair needs to really get it together.

The defense in general needs to get a lot better for Buffalo and give their poor tenders a chance to win games for them between the pipes.

Drew Stafford, where have you been all season? He needs to get pull his head out of his a** and break out of his slump and start putting up points for Buffalo.

Buffalo centers! Please start winning some face-offs. This is one of the weakest areas for the team right now and it needs to improve drastically. The Sabres are now ranked dead last in the NHL for face-off win percentage.

I like the way Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis have been playing this season. The work ethic for Marcus on each and every shift is incredible; I can always tell right away when he’s on the ice for Buffalo and Ennis never seems to slow down. His small size doesn’t keep him from playing tough along side Marcus. Look for their hard work to start paying off on the scoreboard more and more this year.

As much as I love Mikhail Grigorenko staying with the team, I don’t see how Lindy Ruff can expect him to produce for Buffalo and develop into a scorer if he’s stuck on a line with Steve Ott and Jochen Hecht. Not much is going to happen there offensively, and with his meager ice-time stats, it’s not going to be the breakout type season we were all hoping to see from the young rookie.

If things don’t improve for Buffalo the spotlight is going to be on Lindy Ruff and his status as head coach for the Sabres. One might assume he’s on the hot seat already but Darcy Regier spoke to the media recently, basically stating that Lindy’s job is completely safe in Buffalo right now. I don’t understand how the pressure isn’t put on Ruff with the team’s recent performance, not to mention missing the playoffs in three out of the last five season.

The dynamic duo of Ruff and Regier looks like it wont be going anywhere anytime soon and its frustrating to say the least with their history of mediocre hockey teams. To put it simply, Sabres fans deserve better.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Lindy Ruff Marcus Foligno Mikhail Grigorenko Ryan Miller Tyler Myers

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