Double Minors: Wings set the bar for struggling Sabres

The clarion call went out last February. This is going to be “Hockey Heaven”. Terry Pegula and Ted Black came in to Buffalo with the goal of creating the gold standard for a hockey club. The team certainly isn’t there yet and the Detroit Red Wings gave them a rude reminder of how far off they really are.

Detroit jumped on the Sabres from the get-go, forcing turnovers, creating chances and playing nearly flawless hockey. The Red Wings system forced a depleted defensive unit into countless errors, some incredibly egregious, and scored at will. As good as Ryan Miller has been in his career, he looked no better than a pee-wee tonight. It was obvious that he was guessing on shots and he obviously didn’t have it in him to bail out a defense corps that left him hanging in the wind.

It’s not good hockey. It’s not good from top down. I need to be better. I can’t seem to find a night where I can get in a groove. I don’t know what the hell it is. (credit TBN)

To his credit, Miller shouldered quite a bit of the blame. He knew the loss was on him and said what everyone has been wondering. He can’t find a groove and he doesn’t seem to know why. Leaving the juvenile taunts and criticisms – his glove stinks, it is because of his wife etc. – where they belong (the garbage), there is obviously something seriously wrong with Miller. For everything he has done for this team, maybe the time has come to move him. There is no market for him right now, but perhaps he has grown stale on his teammates or vice versa. Either way, he has certainly played his way off the untouchables list.

Of course, this season goes far beyond average goaltending and injuries. The injuries, while a factor, don’t make up for 12 soft, average forwards. The goaltending isn’t bailing out a group of five (when healthy) offensive defensemen. The coach’s message looks like it may be falling on deaf ears.

This is an organization with the highest goal possible. The ownership wants to be one of the greatest franchises in the game. The drive, passion and resources are on the table. Now the table needs to be set properly. Tonight was the only example needed. The Red Wings are the team the Sabres aspire to be. Buffalo attempted to build a team that might compete in that light, they’re still a ways away.

There should be little doubt that this team will get there. It may take a new GM, coach, goaltender and about nine new players. But have no doubt they will get there. Just understand that this season won’t be the year they do so.

  • Miller had a pair of great outings last week. He had a terrible one tonight. It was the third time he was chased this year (the fourth was due to injury). Ruff was right to try and get him rolling, but it is tough to get a goalie going when the defensive play is so poor.
  • Mike Weber has all but cemented his seat in the press box once the Sabres are healthy. Whether he is forcing the play, thinking too much, or is just plain bad; the guy needs to evaluate his game. He certainly isn’t the only culprit, but he has played his way out of the lineup.
  • What may be lost in this massacre was another horrid offensive showing. The alarm bells for a talented center are ringing left and right. It was an unforgivable mistake to move Luke Adam away from Vanek and Pominville. While he probably isn’t the answer, this team played their best hockey with that trio atop the depth chart.
  • The torch and pitchfork mob chasing Ruff and Regier is probably bigger than it ever has been. At some point the management team may just need to bite the bullet. It is not a testament to Ruff’s skills as a coach, it will just be because his message is falling on deaf ears. Something drastic will certainly change in the summer, but something drastic also needs to change in the immediate future.
  • Perhaps the most discouraging thing about this play is the fact that it has come at the beginning of a road trip that will likely define the season. While the injuries and other struggles have been major setbacks, it doesn’t seem as if the Sabres are capable of returning home after a successful run in mid-January. If this roadie ends poorly, there may not be much to mop up for the rest of the season.

Three Stars

1. Pavel Datsyuk

2. Todd Bertuzzi

3. Jimmy Howard

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

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