Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 10/28/10 at 11:13 AM ET
Rewind to three weeks ago: The 2010-11 season is about to commence, and your friends over at Psychic Freaks Network get a few premonitions right for a change. The crystal ball shows the Sabres completing their first 10-game segment with a winning road record, Derek Roy on pace for a 90-point season, and Tyler Ennis delivering pretty much as advertised and battling for the lead in rookie points.
If you’re a Sabres fan you’d be guessing first place on Halloween and hearing pundit predictions of a 40th franchise anniversary party with a happy ending, right? After further review, you might want to throw that crystal ball in the trash along with the Brett Hull trading card your prankster friend got you for your birthday.
Given all of the above, plus the fact that Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford are each on pace to exceed their respective goal totals from last season, how does this team find itself wallowing near the bottom of the pack at 3-6-1?
It’s not a news flash that the Sabres don’t have the impact forwards to compete with the big boys in this league. If you’re facing Buffalo and need to know who to be concerned with up front, as in marquee forwards who can take over a game, right now the list begins and ends with Roy and Vanek. Stafford is playing a tad better than last season, but that’s not saying much. Connolly has regrettably picked up where he left off in the playoffs.
To make matters worse, the Sabres have begun this season with some issues on the back end. First and foremost is the slow start of Tyler Myers. With the defense as a whole, for that matter, it’s been quite an adventure just consistently trying to clear the puck out of its own end. The transition game has been virtually non-existent.
So, where lies the best hope for a quick turnaround? In their own panic-driven minds, many armchair GM’s in Buffalo have already solved the problem. They’ve fired themselves and their coach, and have put an end to the Sabres career of Connolly, in the final year of his contract, six months ahead of schedule.
For those of us who still have a few ounces of patience left in the hope tank, there is another option. Perhaps it’s as simple as asking the best player to take the buffalo by the horns and carry his teammates for a few games while they collectively try to get their act together.
It might be a lot to ask, but now would be as good a time as any for Ryan Miller to stand on his head and steal a few games. Consider it not to be a criticism as much as a desperate plea for the sake of Sabres Nation.
This isn’t exactly a new concept for the Sabres - it’s actually the major component of a simple formula that won them a division title in 2009-10, when the eventual Vezina Trophy winner robbed somewhere between 12-16 points for this team, mostly in a lot of close games early on.
Now this season the Sabres have been on the losing end of those close games. They’ve lost four out of their five contests that were decided by one goal.
Miller isn’t to blame for Buffalo’s poor start, but he hasn’t been the solution to the problem either. The Sabres can’t be contenders if he is just an above average goaltender. He’s certainly capable of playing at a higher level to help bail his club out. The team MVP is overdue for his first big heist, and the Sabres could really use it.
Subtract those points not stolen and do the math - if Miller isn’t banking a few extra wins for his team here and there, then by April you’re looking at an average club struggling to make the playoffs.
As last season proved, you don’t have to be a psychic to come up with a few miracles now and then.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org