The Sabres Rebuild So Far


Ok, so it’s no secret the Sabres are basically the laughing stock of the NHL, posting a league worst 6-20-2 in 28 games this season. Pitiful.

So much for a rebuild. To me, it looks like Darcy pulled a Mike Milbury and destroyed a team instead being able to build us in the right way. I am not blaming it entirely on Darcy, but still, there was so

For a team who looked so good in preseason, yes I know it’s only preseason so it doesn’t mean much, they still seemed so competent that Buffalo was bracing for some sort of promise this upcoming season. The way I see it, you still shouldn’t count Buffalo out of anything, yet.

Oct 26, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Under Nolan, Buffalo seems to have some sort of direction. Players who were getting mobbed by countless fans, questioning the fact that they could play any better than their 8-year old kid, are now bouncing back and getting back into motion. Nolan is famous for having the “hardest working team” and granted, the record might not reflect that ideal, but it is showing.

Fair warning, Ted Nolan will be mentioned a lot. All because I am a huge fan of the Ted Nolan era from 1995-1997 and

Let’s take Tyler Myers for example.

Last year, I don’t know who that was on the ice, but that was NOT the Myers that was the kid we had in 2009. You know, that kid who was the heart and soul of our defensive core, that kid who won the Calder as the league’s best rookie. That is the Tyler Myers that we need back, and he is able to become that kid once again, and definitely even better than that.

In the first 20 games of the season under Ron Rolston, Myers had gotten 1 goal and 3 assists. Since Nolan became coach, he has the exact same thing now in the 8 games. Under Nolan, Myers has some sort of spark lit underneath him, looking like he took the coaching change to a whole new level, and under Nolan’s guidance, is becoming his old self again and seems to be learning. I have been a fan of Myers from the start, I have also been a huge critic of him, I believe that this is only the beginning of what we are going to be witness of in the months to come.

The same can be said for Ville Leino.

Leino has never been the elite scorer for a team, all except his 2010-2011 season (19 G, 34 A’s), the same season of his impressive playoff marks in his rookie year with the Philadelphia Flyers.

He comes to Buffalo, signs a massive deal, and POOF! it’s all gone. Downed by injuries and an inability to match up with a solid line have basically brought his play to a screeching halt.

Nov 24, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Ville Leino (23) against the Detroit Red Wings at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The burning question. When will Ville Leino finally put the f$*%ing puck in the f$*%ing net?! I believe that the answer to that question will be coming very shortly. Lately, Leino has been all over the net, even coming close to putting one back against his former Philadelphia Flyers. He is another player who has had a whole new attitude since Nolan took over, putting a smile on my face.

Even Drew Stafford! One of the most criticized Sabres as of late, even he is taking the new regime seriously and being a great presence in both zones. He is carrying the puck deep, making good passes, putting some pressure on the goalies, then rushing back to help out the defense in need. Not to mention he is one of the more frequent shooters of the team. Yet to score with Ted Nolan, I feel Stafford is on his way to breaking open once again.

Where would I see Stafford? There are two ways I see him.

I can see him flourishing under Nolans watch. I see a struggling guy who once had huge promise, almost lost and completely down on his luck. I see a strong willed coach in Nolan lighting a spark to kick the bad mojo out of Stafford, pulling a huge 180 turn and blowing up the charts and starting to give  some threat to the outside once again. He will finish the season strong, and depending how strong he finishes next season determines his worth in the free agency come 2015.

Honestly, I like him, but I also see him as a bargaining chip. Coming into December, I feel he will find his game, redevelop himself, as soon as that happens, BOOM he will be sent west by the trade deadline and Buffalo pulls in maybe Alexander Steen or Dustin Penner. I’d hate to be so critical but in this day and age and with LaFontaine searching for a new GM who will take risks and make the big move that ups the Sabres capabilities, it’s only a matter of time before more people will relocate, and those that don’t mesh well with the direction Buffalo is heading are on the top of the list to go.

I will honestly say this, I am one of the few people who actually believe Ryan Miller isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He is way to valuable and still has a ton of talent left to give, Regier was ready to waive him because he saw that if he puts Miller out there, we would draw a few offers, but none would have put us in a better direction in any way. Pat, Terry, and Ted all know that you put Miller on a team with a decent defense and some scoring, that you will be putting your team on a path to a championship. That should be focus number one.

It’s no shock that my favorite player is #30, so I might be a ton biased, but even so, I think he will and should be a mainstay until he retires. Under both Ruff and Rolston, Miller was worked to the bone, pulling a massive amount of weight for a team that still struggled to get to the playoffs, by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was beaten and abused that he probably wouldn’t be able to handle much more. Overall, if Miller has anything to complain about, it is the fact that he is called on to start a massive amount of games, with a spotty defense and no offensive support.

Jhonas Enroth seems to have the good graces of Ted Nolan, seeing that in Nolan’s 8 games, Enroth has been proving to be a capable backup worthy of taking on a heavier workload. Yes in his two games he has lost both, but he is showing that he can be better and will be better. That is exactly what Buffalo needs out of Jhonas. Is he a great goalie? No doubt. Is he a candidate to be handed the starting job after Miller’s departure? Maybe! Is he ready to handle the starting jobs workload? I am not too sure.

Nov 16, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth (1) warms up prior to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get me wrong, I love his style of play. He is explosive, he really keeps you entertained and he comes up with huge critical saves that are able to lift a team to victory, but I just don’t think he can handle 30-40 shots on a regular basis with the same poise as Miller. Not many goalies can, and even Miller is having difficulty skating on the ice, almost knowing what is in store.

Long story short, if we can supply a defense in front of Miller and sweeten the deal to give him another crack at a cup, Miller is our starter outright and Jhonas is a competitive backup. To me, it looks like Nolan gives Jhonas so much trust that we will be seeing way more of him in net, seeing more reps, and building his NHL status, once Miller finally does retire or gets traded (the latter breaking my heart) we will at least have someone who is somewhat capable of assuming the role, unlike Ty “Let Em By” Conklin, Jocelyn “Timber” Thibault, and Pat “Lalame” Lalime (the first two nicknames courtesy of yours truly).

Let’s do some math shall we?

Realistically, we want to finish above .500 right? We stand at 6-20-2, 14 games below .500. We could finish above that, we just need to win more and lose less in reality (obviously). If the goalies and defense can sustain 30+ shots and still come out with a 2-3 goal margin, then surely the offense can put up some shots, get in the slot, work those corners and get the dirty goals that we need. To the team, let’s start putting together some 2-3 game win streaks, then get a loss, maybe lose a couple in overtime. Those wins could start to pile up, throw in a few losses here and there, and soon enough we could be at 26-24-6 by the Olympic break.

I know, that means taking 20 of the next 26 games, when we can barely win one, my only thing is that Nolan needs to use his practices to find who meshes the best and form four lines that will produce or at least work in tandem to find a way.

Am I crazy? Absolutely. But I strongly believe that a team with this much talent can still turn it around. Even if they start knocking on the door of .500 by the time the break comes, I will be happy. We have yet to see how the team can completely produce at the 100% level of their game. It is time we start getting on teams early and holding the same pressure throughout the entire game, not play one period out an entire one and pray we escape.

That’s a pretty lofty goal Herb. But that could be possible if they take it one game at a time. The Sabres DO NOT have an easy schedule at all, but taking the game period by period and doing the basics and not trying to get fancy could bring us there, or at least close enough to when we get back February 26th, we can continue to streak down the warpath, with Miller having a winning attitude after taking home the gold against Canada, Leino

The way I see it, we have 54 games left. A possible 108 points are up for the taking. There is no way that we are going on a 54 game winning streak, what I am saying is that we are not technically that far off. Looking back at the 2011-12 season, the lowest number of points allowed for the 8th place team was 92 points. We are at 14. (92-14=78…..78/2=39) All we need is 39 more wins, even though it is crazy to think that we can barely get a win now to focus on getting 39 wins. But if the cards play right and we start to click now in December, then we have December, January, February, March, and April to start getting back on the track.

Stanley Cup? NO. Playoffs? Maybe but most likely not. Pressure on the lower seeded teams to make them sweat? That’s more like it!

If Buffalo can start playing to the potential that we have, string decent winning streaks together and redevelop their game and take them one by one, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that Buffalo can put some pressure on the league.

Since Nolan took over, the Buffalo Sabres have, in my eyes, been the hardest working team in the NHL.