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The Sabres Observer

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.

Why is it so taboo to put a lot of the blame on injuries?  Isn’t that the myth originating from the same geniuses who used to try to tell us that players aren’t supposed to lose their starting jobs when they get hurt?

Take a look at the lineup.  This isn’t anything close to what was supposed to be their team.  And as far as blaming the veterans, I’m on board with scapegoating Drew Stafford and Derek Roy, but you also have two guys in Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville who are having career years with both being on pace for 87 points.  Think what you want, but I’m not painting all of the team leaders with the same brush.

While we’ve certainly seen a few too many disconcerting and lackluster games, the situation from a standings perspective is much less bleak than last year at this time.  Maybe finishing sixth in the conference is a good goal to have.  Tell me with a straight face you wouldn’t be thrilled to see your team open a playoff series on the road in Florida.  In summary, a lot of things can go Buffalo’s way.

First and foremost, the Sabres have to get more consistent quality goaltending.  Ryan Miller, still recently removed from a concussion, needs to play his way back to being the guy capable of getting hot and stealing playoff games.  He performs better with a heavy workload and, assuming he’s healthy enough, I’m in favor of obliging him.

Maybe Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe can come back in time to repeat their performances that were instrumental in Buffalo’s remarkable second half surge last season.  Perhaps the time off did Tyler Myers good.  Ville Leino could return and score a timely goal once in awhile.

But none of this is possible if these guys aren’t playing.  In this case, the argument that “all teams have injuries” is so simple-minded.  All teams don’t have a tough time fielding half of their roster.  All teams don’t have to overcome losing their franchise goaltender and their former Calder Trophy-winning defenseman, even considering that neither has fared well overall in the whopping 18 or 19 games that they’ve played this season.

Call me crazy, but I’m not doing anything rash just yet.  Get your team relatively healthy, allow things to play themselves out with the regular group, and let’s see where we’re at in a few weeks.  That was the patient attitude 12 months ago, and it worked out pretty well.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

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Da lil Guy's avatar

I don’t watch all the sabres games or anything, but I did watch them play Ottawa last night. As an objective observer, I’m not sure how you could blame the team for being where they are considering what they’re dealing with in terms of injury.

Your top players still look like top players, but there are holes in the roster as a result of injury.

There’s no evidence I can see that players aren’t buying Ruff’s message anymore. His staying power is legendary for a reason.

Hard to judge the GM on the team he’s put together when so many of the pieces are missing, and the depth is strained because you’ve got players asked to do things they’re not ready to do.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 12/21/11 at 04:06 PM ET

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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.

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