Apr 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta (36) during the game against the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center. Rangers beat the Sabres 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Preseason Judgment Calls: The Case Against Patrick Kaleta

Following Sunday night’s preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Buffalo Sabres announced on Monday that they have released five players

Apr. 13, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta (36) and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Oliver Lauridsen (38) fight during a game at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

from their roster in the first of many rounds of cuts designed to whittle the team down to the regular season maximum of 23 players.

Five down, 33 to go.  I’m not going to try and tell you today who the next 33 hopefuls to be cut will (or should) be, but I will share with you a few of my thoughts about who should stay, and who should go, beginning today with Sabres forward/instigator/penalty and suspension waiting to happen, Patrick Kaleta.*

*I’m (mostly) playing Devil’s Advocate here, folks.  There’s two sides to every argument, so let the debate be friendly!

Yesterday, Senior Staff Writer Caitlin Campbell asked the question, “Are Fans Fed Up With Patrick Kaleta?”  The majority of you voted, no.  In order to answer that question myself, I’ll do my best Phineas and Ferb impersonation: yes.  Yes I am.

Look: many fans are going to tell me that the Sabres need him because he gives 100%, he plays without any regard to his well-being, that he gives the Buffalo Sabres toughness on the ice – I’ve heard this all before.  It’s all true – but how, exactly, has that helped the Sabres thus far?  His toughness didn’t help the Sabres from looking terrible after Milan Lucic plowed over Ryan Miller back in 2011.  Forget toughness – how about wins?  He’s been with the team since 2007.  He’s seen 12 games of playoffs in that stretch.  The Sabres have made it into the playoffs twice since Kaleta has been here, and been dumped in the first round both times.

He’s not exactly a game-changer, now is he?  Well, unless you’re talking about THIS kind of game-changing:

Fans tell me Kaleta draws a lot of penalties from opponents.  Sure – and how many does he give right back?  That dirty hit he leveled on Richards resulted in a five-minute major penalty that resulted in two New York Rangers powerplay goals, which totally changed the complexion of that game back in March.   Even if you try to argue that the hit in question was not as bad as Richards made it seem – agreed – it was still a reckless play, and Kaleta being who he is, it’s going to burn the Sabres every single time, because no one is going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt.  Playing hard 100% of the time doesn’t equal playing smart, or playing clean.   Do the Sabres want a dirty team that is despised around the league, or a hard-nosed, winning team that intimidates its opponents?  Kaleta puts the Sabres in too many man-down opportunities, and doesn’t create anywhere near enough man-up chances.  Hard to win games when you fight off more penalties than the other team.

Look – I can make this decision easy for you: should Zemgus Girgensons fail to make the Sabres’ opening day roster, would you be able to look me in the eye and say that you are comfortable with Kaleta retaining a spot on the roster, while Girgensons heads down to Rochester?  Girgensons plays hard – gives 100%, if we’re going to stick with this cliche – and unlike Kaleta, he scores.  He also only committed one penalty versus the Canadiens on Sunday, as opposed to Kaleta’s three.  It is possible to play aggressive, physical, SMART hockey, and still have the skills to help your team find the back of the net.  Girgensons has skills; Kaleta, not so much.  I know it won’t necessarily come down to that kind of choice , but the bottom line is Kaleta is taking up a roster slot that could go to a hard-nosed skilled player like Girgensons.  That math doesn’t work out in the Sabres’ favor, in my opinion.

I know we fans of the Buffalo Sabres did not enjoy being called soft and gutless following Miller’s being used and abused by Lucic, and want to rally around Kaleta by saying we need his toughness, but there are players who play this great game who are tough and intimidating, yet talented and respected.  Jarome Iginla comes to mind.  Or Ryan Getzlaf.  Or Scott Stevens when he played for the New Jersey Devils. Or Chris Pronger. When I think of Kaleta, however, I am more inclined to think about Matt Cooke than I am Jarome Iginla.  We all want the Buffalo Sabres to be feared – but no one is afraid of Kaleta.  They despise him for being a dirty- cheap-shot artist.  There’s no fear in playing Buffalo – just disdain.  There’s other players who can hit and stick up for their teammates – it’s time for the Buffalo Sabres to find someone to replace Patrick Kaleta.

Agree or disagree all you want – it’s why I wrote it!  Leave your comments below, or send them to me @theamazingMrS!

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