Skidding Sabres

I wanted to let the dust settle, on both Buffalo sports teams.

The Sabres were sleepwalking their way through their first dozen games and the Bills have continued to find interesting ways to lose. But there were all of these different opinions floating around each squad, I wanted to let everything settle down before making a judgment on either.

That brings me to the Sabres. Everyone keeps asking, ‘what is wrong with them this season?’ There are a few common threads and a few things no one has really brought up.

Ok, Tyler Myers has been far below average. He has had a few good games and a few terrible games. In between those games he has just been average, but most Sabres fans want perfection from the 20 year-old. I haven’t completely hated his game this season. He has been victimized by bad bounces and poor decision-making. His tentative playmaking has been his biggest curse, thus far. It is a safe assumption to say the 29 other teams did some film study and have learned how to force Myers into bad decisions. However, over the weekend it looked as if he was adjusting to receiving a little extra attention. This week’s trifecta of games will give a better look into his development this season. I wouldn’t place the “sophomore slump” tag on him just yet. Give him a little more time to ease into this season.

Having said Myers needs more time you may think I am from the school of thought that says 15 games is not a broad enough sample size to judge the season. I am not. If you think 20 or 25 games is the mark when you can start asking questions, I feel like you are already too far behind to make a significant change.

The Sabres bad October has put them way behind the eight ball.  They will need to scramble in order to get back into the playoff hunt. Between Myers’ inconsistent play, an injured Ryan Miller and vast underachievments by the forwards, the Sabres have plenty of problems.

After some ups a down play most of the VERY knowledgeable fans who call the WGR 550 whiner line, or write into message boards, seemed to think Ryan Miller was never good enough to be our goalie. Just forget about that big shiny trophy he won for being the NHL’s best goalie last year. Turns out he tweaked something in his lower body during training camp and he hasn’t been 100%. Not only has he suffered, so has his team. Whether it be his knee, hip or something else, not having Miller at 100% has shown a lot of the weak points of this Sabres team. One of which is shoddy goaltending depth. Including Saturday’s shootout win, Jhonas Enroth and Patty Lalime have won five games, combined, between this season and last.

It seems as if Enroth may just need to settle into the NHL style a bit more before he becomes more effective. I wouldn’t hate if Enroth remained in Buffalo as the back-up, at this point it is all about who is giving you the best chance to win, not development.

The biggest problem I have seen, thus far, has been from the powerplay (and most of the top-six). Anemic probably wouldn’t do the Sabres’ powerplay justice. Their inability to enter the zone is astounding. I don’t think the in-zone play has been awful, that is just about converting chances. However, not being able to establish your system in the zone because you can’t get over the blue line, that is a bigger issue.

Even at five-on-five the top-six forwards haven’t done much. Derek Roy and Tyler Ennis have been very good. Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht have not. Drew Stafford has been better than last season, but his consistency remains an issue. Jason Pominville hasn’t played enough to be pointed as a strong or weak point. Either way, having consistent performances from two of your offensive performers is not the formula for winning.

No trade is coming, you shouldn’t expect one. Sure, it is fun to fuel the Jarome Iginla rumors. But they are just rumors. Plus, if you wanted to pluck Iginla, you would need to send Derek Roy plus quite a bit more. This isn’t a situation where you can say, “Here is Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly and Craig Rivet. I will take your two best players, thank you.” That isn’t how the NHL works and it certainly isn’t how Darcy Regier works.

It is going to be a frustrating season, especially if the ups and downs continue. Don’t expect any huge shake-ups. They won’t happen. So deal with this squad and hope they start winning.