Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

The Sabres Appear To Have A Maturity Problem

You can add Robin Lehner's postgame tirade in the Sabres dressing room last night to the growing list of episodes revealing some issues between the ears with this team.

Jack Eichel implicitly calls out fans who were booing during a poor stretch of a recent game against the Sharks which Buffalo eventually came back to win. What we think are big foundation-building wins against good teams are followed by absolute stinkers against the league's lesser lights. The act of successfully completing a line change is often an adventure.

But Lehner using the media as his personal soapbox to lay into his teammates, including a veiled reference to two of the most productive in Eichel and Evander Kane, really takes the cake.

Playing very well for a couple of weeks has apparently further deteriorated his filter with the press. The passion was great, but the method was terrible.

I couldn't possibly dislike what Lehner did any more.

Sure, it's a good thing that Buffalo's netminder is angry. Fans of underachieving teams yearn to see raw emotions from players and coaches, and we get frustrated by what often has the appearance of indifference.

But that gets ruined when players start criticizing each other with a microphone in front of them. This is going out on a limb, but it's easy to think an irritated Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist in a similar situation would handle their business in what's referred to as a closed-door meeting. You know, in a professional way.

Getting upset during interviews after ugly losses is fine, and actually encouraged. Blasting your teammates publicly in the process is not.

By my count, Lehner used the word 'disrespectful' three times during his rant. That's really rich.

What's more disrespectful than criticizing a mistake by the 20-year-old franchise center who's playing like a 70-point player on a bad team? Is it a show of respect to stare down the coach after rightfully getting pulled? What about blaming the officials for an October loss in Calgary when the real culprit is a softie Matthew Tkachuk goal in the third period?

At least Lehner had the decency to acknowledge Brian Gionta as the only Sabre to win a Stanley Cup. The captain knows a thing or two about what it takes to reach the top. Trash talking guys you do battle with behind their backs is probably not on the list. I wonder what Gionta thought about the shot by nemesis Alex Burrows that could've used a big save by Lehner but instead went right through him for the game-winning goal, but I don't expect him to tell the press.

The right thing for Tim Murray to do is make it clear to his players that this window-to-the-soul drama with the media needs to stop. But past history says he won't.

When Eichel went to a place where a player really shouldn't go by voicing his displeasure with booing fans, Murray responded with "He certainly won't get his pee pee slapped by me for being more outspoken".

Part of me wonders if Murray not only is an enabler of this behavior by some of his players but actually gets a kick out of it. 

Lehner today predictably backtracked on his comments, either through his own efforts at damage control or after conversations with Dan Bylsma and/or Murray. Either way, this cycle of inflammatory postgame commentary followed the next day by downplaying it is becoming seemingly commonplace.

Meanwhile, the Sabres continue to blow leads and lose games they should win. Even with this poor defense, there've been so many points that have been left on the table. Much of it can be chalked up to mental mistakes and lapses. Silly penalties and failure to bear down and avoid panic are heavily contributing to leaving a once promising season in ruins.

And now, apparently, the players are ignoring the system put in place by their coach. There's a whole other discussion itself.

That will likely be the sad legacy of the 2016-17 Sabres -- that an 80-point team had the talent for 95, but a lack of maturity prevented them from getting out of their own way.


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Looking to go out for the game? The best fan experience for every Sabres game can be found at Amherst Pizza & Ale House. Have dinner and drinks at the next "Hockey Night in Amherst".

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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]

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