Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

The Most Underappreciated Sabre

Would you be interested, Sabres devotee, in seeing your team acquire a player who averages more points per game than Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Spezza, and Jonathan Toews?  How about considering a proven veteran who has been hovering near the top ten in league scoring all season?  And he’s talented enough to play on your top power play AND penalty kill units to boot.

Don’t bother firing up the #DoSomethingDarcy twitter hashtag for this one, because that player is already here.  His name is Jason Pominville, and he’s the most underappreciated talent on this team.

I’ve been hearing a lot this season from media people and talk show callers about who the current and future core players are in the Buffalo organization.  Give or take a name or two, it’s been pretty much the same list: Thomas Vanek, Tyler Myers, Ryan Miller, Christian Ehrhoff, Brayden McNabb, Zack Kassian, and Marcus Foligno. 

It’s nothing short of inconceivable to me that Pominville wouldn’t be put into this mix.

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Let Vanek Carry The Load

If Mikko Koivu, Stephen Weiss, Anze Kopitar, Kris Versteeg, Ryan Smyth, Tomas Plekanec, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Shawn Horcoff, and Dustin Brown all can play more than 20 minutes per game, why can’t Thomas Vanek? 

The most important guy in a Sabres uniform has more points this season than each of those 10 players.  It’s not like a team that has scored 1 regulation goal in 8 of its last 16 games couldn’t use more of him.  For the record, Vanek played a part in 5 of those 8 goals.

And with the befitting news that an injury suffered by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in a 3-1 loss last night to the Washington Capitals will keep him out of the lineup for a number of weeks, an undermanned blueline corps means even more of a premium will be placed on goal scoring in Buffalo.

I don’t care for the excuse that Vanek doesn’t kill penalties.  As members of the opposition last night, Alexander Semin, Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich each had more even strength minutes.  Marcus Johansson???

Heck, Vanek even played less than teammate Drew Stafford, which makes a whole lot of sense given Stafford’s blistering pace to reach 13 goals this season.

While Buffalo has gone 5-9-2 in their last 16 games, Vanek has managed to tally 14 points.  He’s on a 7-game point streak and is on pace for 37 goals and 82 points, which would put him in the NHL’s top ten.  Fans and media recognize him as a legitimate superstar in this league.  It’s time to start treating him like one.  Facing the Capitals and giving him fewer shifts than Troy Brouwer doesn’t qualify.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

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Sabres Shouldn’t Panic From Feeling The Hurt

An awful run of injuries has forced most of their projected future stars into the present lineup.  The franchise goaltender is having a season so subpar that his beloved owner is throwing him under the bus.  One Buffalo News writer is bashing fans and bloggers for demanding firings and trades while another columnist at the same paper is demanding firings and trades.

Yet the Sabres have managed through all of this to keep themselves within two points of being a number six seed in the East.

Is the sky really falling, Buffalo?  Realistically, how much worse can it get?

Personally, I have a hunch that we’re at or near rock bottom now.  Is it really that much of a shame that the Sabres won’t beat out the Stanley Cup champs to win their division?  With all apologies to the doomsdayers, a reasonably healthy version of this roster is not a tenth-place team.

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This One’s On Enroth

Forgive me, Sabres fans and Ryan Miller antagonists, for giving Buffalo’s skaters a pass for last night’s ugly 4-1 home loss to the Rangers.  It’s simple to say you need to score more than one goal on backup goaltender Martin Biron, but there’s more to the story than that.

The Sabres this weekend were involved in a pair of ugly, boring defensive hockey games at home.  As far as I’m concerned, that in itself is a good thing.  Trying to put on a show for the home fans wasn’t working.  At the risk of coming off as too simplistic, I like the idea of playing road-style hockey when you’ve been winning most of your games that way.

That’s a potentially elite Rangers club that was in town last night.  And for almost two periods, the Sabres were right there in a tight-checking battle with them.  But the funny thing about playing sound, defensive hockey is that it works much better when your goaltender doesn’t let in three softies.

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Intradivisional Playoffs Were Bad For Buffalo

Under the NHL’s realignment plan, what would be the worst nightmare scenario for the Sabres?

Actually, it’s already happened.

Intradivisional playoffs were in place from 1982-1993, and there are reasons why the scheme was discontinued.

The most unfortunate sequence of events with this format that I can remember as a Sabres fan took place in the 1989-90 season.  A young John Tortorella was the assistant head coach to Rick Dudley, Mike Foligno was captain, and a couple of kids named Alexander Mogilny and Rob Ray rode into the NHL courtesy of a vapor trail and a pair of fists, respectively.

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Miller Will Dress Tonight

Via tweet from Paul Hamilton of WGR-550,

Miller passed his test and will back up Enroth. Ennis and Kaleta also returns. No word on who sits.

This will be Ryan Miller’s first game back, albeit as a backup, since suffering an injury courtesy of a hit from Boston’s Milan Lucic.

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Why Would Buffalo Not Pursue Bobby Ryan?

If you look hard enough, I’m sure you can find 29 team blogs this week theorizing why it’s a good idea for a phone call to be made about Bobby Ryan.  I’ve read a few such pieces, and the worst ones are those that actually think he’s an untouchable and too good a player for Anaheim to give up.

This is the same organization that last night hired the guy who oversaw the repeated failures of the biggest group of underachievers that the league has seen in quite some time.  Who says they aren’t capable of dealing a 24-year old forward who scored 100 goals over the past three seasons?

Word on the street is that the wheels are already in motion.  Ryan hasn’t been as effective this season and is only on pace for 24 goals.  We in Pegulaville can only hope for even a trace of such a swoon to overcome Ville Leino.

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It’s A No-Win Situation Versus Lucic Tonight

The Buffalo Sabres, outscored 17-9 since Milan Lucic played their star goaltender like a fiddle to expedite the post-Cup hangover recovery of his own team, aren’t going to impress anyone by throwing down with the Bruins tonight.  That ship has sailed.

Say what you want about Lucic, but his dastardly deed in that landmark game eleven days ago was effective, bordering on brilliant.  Meanwhile, Patrick Kaleta was too preoccupied with visions of the defendant chair in Brendan Shanahan’s office to regain some dignity for his club at the expense of Tim Thomas.  Nobody else in the Buffalo lineup was up for the challenge that night either.

Boston has outscored their opponents 18-5 since The Hit, although they were already in the process of staking their claim as once again the team to beat in the Northeast Division before then.  Proving to be tougher and more physical than the one club that was expected to challenge for that title certainly helped clear the path.

Sadly, it’s too late for the Sabres to salvage enough face to make up for the embarrassment that took place in Boston.  When you forget your wife’s birthday, buying her a belated gift eleven days later isn’t going to earn you a get out of jail free card.  You’re still sleeping on the couch.

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Myers Will Miss At Least A Month

Via Paul Peck of WIVB-TV tweet,

Tyler Myers broken wrist. Surgery today. Out at least a month.

Myers suffered the injury in Saturday night’s game against Phoenix.

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Will Ruff Pull Out All The Stops At Home?

The Buffalo Sabres have played 50 regular season games in their home building since the start of the 2010-11 campaign, and they’ve only won half of them.  After coming out on top in last night’s 1-0 snoozer in Carolina, the Sabres will play 10 of their next 12 games in front of their faithful yet occasionally cranky fans.  I’ve just been informed by Captain Obvious that this would be a great time for Buffalo to shed its moniker as underwhelming in Buffalo.

Lindy Ruff on so many occasions has shown a knack for pushing the right buttons.  His shifting of Derek Roy to the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville in the third period of the Montreal game helped spark his team to a huge comeback win.  His one-game benching of Tyler Myers seemed to time warp the kid back to his glory days of 2009.

Does Ruff have any more magic up his sleeve that could be used to make his team a tad more miserable to play against at home?  Should he engage in mind games and make them stay at the Adam’s Mark Hotel while enjoying team bonding days taking in the sights at Niagara Falls?  What would his former coach and master mentalist Scotty Bowman do in this situation?

There isn’t much time to figure it out.  The Sabres host a solid Phoenix Coyotes club tonight, followed by a highly anticipated affair on Wednesday against Martin Lucic and the Boston Bruins.

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

2014-15 NHL Reverse Standings

 

Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]

 

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