See – already I’m out of my mind, putting a rookie on the first line! Good thing I’m not a coach. This is really a case of, “Who else are you going to put there?” I suppose if I was the coach of this team I could turn to Drew Stafford and say, “I know last year was an anomaly; I know you’ll respond this season,” but I just don’t have the faith in Stafford to produce. I don’t think he is now, or ever has been, first-line material.
The mad scientist in me was tempted to put Patrick Kaleta on the first line, only because neither Vanek nor Hodgson have shown much of a knack for playing – wait for it – defense. It might be fun to watch now and then, but allocating this many minutes to Kaleta is just a giant waste.
Which brings me to Armia. Quick story: this summer, my 7 year-old son was about to move up to a new Little League Baseball division, one in which coaches still pitch. Due to his size and talent level, however, he was actually moved up to an even higher level, despite the fact that he had never faced live pitching before and was still very uncertain of the actual rules of baseball. As his coach, I could have buried him in the line-up and hid him out in right field for the entire season. Instead, I moved him all over the field just like I did every player, and I had him bat second in our line-up. He scored the first run of the season for his in the very first game and became a solid contact hitter who rarely struck out and got on base more than anyone else on the team.
The point of this story is not to make you think my son will be playing MLB any time soon (he won’t); it is to show you that I knew he had potential, and threw him out there in order to let him figure things out. I’m not a fan of what Lindy Ruff did with Mikhail Grigorenko last year – namely, the healthy scratch approach. If Armia is as good as promised, play him. Let him figure out his game. The speed of the game is going to come to him eventually, so why not accelerate the process? Seriously – what do the Sabres have to lose? If the Sabres are in a rebuild, we’re in for a bumpy ride regardless, so play this guy on the first line and see if he can rise to the occasion some nights.