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Archive for June, 2008

Patty: I’ll write this later, if you know what I mean.

Heather B.: If you mean, “Stu should sign with Buffalo. It’s the only thing that makes sense,” I know EXACTLY what you mean.

Patty: That’s exactly what I DON’T MEAN!

Look, here’s all you need to know about Stu Barnes: He’s ours and you can’t have him. Buffalo.

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As someone who’s spent the last 8 years living in Buffalo, I’ve had the uh… luxury of watching Brian Campbell up close and personal. I know some of you out there are wondering, “Hey, that Campbell guy, he’s pretty good, right? Should we go after him?” A simple yes or no won’t really capture the adventure that is Campbell so here’s a pros and cons list. Make of it what you will.

PRO: Creates a lot of chances for his team.
CON: Creates a lot of chances for his opponent.

PRO: Very good skater.
CON: Has to be in order to make up for getting caught in the offensive zone.

PRO: Talkative, good interview.
CON: No filter, sometimes talks without thinking.

PRO: Redhead.
CON: Grease head.

PRO: Can carry the puck out of the defensive zone.
CON: Can’t stop the puck from getting into the defensive zone.

PRO: Has often impressed commentators with huge open ice hits.
CON: When talking about huge open ice hits, commentators have to run video from two years ago. That should tell you something, commentators.

PRO: Grows a lovely playoff beard.
CON: Playoffs only a couple of months long, weak-chinned the rest of the year.

PRO: Can eat huge minutes.
CON: Can’t necessarily eat huge minutes that matter.

PRO: Very friendly with people in the community.
CON: Very “friendly” with people in the community ifyouknowwhatImean.

In a nutshell, Brian Campbell has grown into a very good offensive d-man. He’s definitely not without skill and he is, by all accounts, a pretty nice guy. He’s not going to come in and change your defensive corp all by himself though and I have to question how well he’s going to play under the pressure of a huge contract. (Seriously, he must be the only professional athlete in the world who gets so stressed about whose ridiculous offer he’s going to accept.) He’ll also never be a top pairing guy in my book because I prefer my top pairing guys to have some modicum of defensive ability. If you can get him for 5-5.5 million, you might have done pretty well for yourself. Anything above 6 and well… enjoy!

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HANDS OFF!

I didn’t want to have to write anything about Pando, and I was kind of assuming Lou would have wrapped him up by now. But as July 1 creeps ever closer…

*Fights back tears*

Okay, let me put it this way: if Pando isn’t a Devil for the rest of his career, I think my heart will literally break. It will be cleaved asunder. What GM wants to be responsible for that?

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I am not a statbitty person by nature. However, I decided I should probably be responsible and look up some statbits before writing this post. My first stop was Behind The Net but they seem only to provide wacky stats like “GAA on Nights with 3/4 Moons Where Two or Fewer Players on the Other Team have Names that Start with M”. Next up was the Stat Machine on NHL.com which provided me with a bar graph comparing the number of Theodore’s wins to the number of saves he recorded all season. Gosh! When you compare 28 to 1,367, the wins look really insignificant! Gah! That’s when I gave up. Fortunately you don’t need any specific statbits to look at Theodore’s role in the UFA market this summer.

This is because GMs are going to do the same thing GMs have done since the dawn of time. They’re going to see a goalie with a name they recognize. “Oh ho,” they’ll say, “I’ve heard of him! And look! His statbits this year were much better than in the last few years where he looked to be almost finished… I know! I’ll sign him to a long-term deal because surely his commitment to better statbits this past year is indicative of him getting back to the form he had years before the lock-out!” And this is when I will shake my fists at the sky shouting, “WHY DON’T GMS UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF CONTRACT YEARS?!” Seriously, people, every year big-name washed-up superstars net big, long-term deals on the strength of long-ago success and one year’s worth of contract-driven numbers. If GMs stopped looking at statbits for one minute, and looked logically at the big picture, Jose Theodore would be this summer’s Andrew Raycroft. Of course, how delicious would it be if the GMs look so small picture that Theodore’s post-season performance makes him this summer’s Curtis Jospeh?

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Katebits recently asked the ModFan panel whether she should hope for the Sabres to pursue Mike Commodore on this season’s free-agent market. This is my scouting report on what he’d bring to the table in Buffalo:

I think Mikey C really relishes the whole “being treated like a king” thing, so maybe he’s perfect for Buffalo! He’s sort of like Soupy’s good twin (in that Soupy is his evil twin) — both have red hair, both are defensively suspect defensemen, both like the night life. But Mikey C’s a hands-of-cement stay-at-home guy while Soupy’s a disaster-prone jump-into-the-play All-Star; Mikey C’s charmingly self-deprecating and honest about his limitations while Soupy’s a self-aggrandizing nitwit; Mikey C’s the world’s most lovable drunk while Soupy’s sweaty and disgusting; Mikey C is actually interesting about how he can talk for hours with anyone about anything while Soupy’s allegedly a chatterbox, but is really just a complete fucking moron; Mikey C is really intelligent while Soupy is a retard. The Sabres have finished with one side of the red-headed d-man coin — why not take a shot with the flip side?

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Five Things That Made Me Say, “Geez, Hockey SUCKS!”

1. The Sabres Missed the Playoffs

I whipped myself into a total frenzy defending management and the players who were still left here. Yeah, yeah, we lost two big pieces of the puzzle. But we have SO much talent left! Of COURSE the Sabres are going to make the playoffs! They’re too good not to! They’re going to be so tired of talking about the guys who left that they’re going to come out guns a-blazing! They’ll DRAG themselves to the postseason if they have to. Well. Those little bastards had other plans. Instead of busting ass and proving everyone wrong they decided they’d rather try to coast and were dizzingly inconsistent, winning 8-1 one night and losing 15-2 the next, beating very good teams and then collapsing against crappy teams.

2. The Buffalo News Columnists Think I’m an Idiot

I really like both of the Sabres beat writers a lot and I think Sabres Edge, TBN’s hockey blog, is one of the best things the paper has done in the last few years. But this season the columnists hit a new level of shrill, irrational hysteria. Listen, I understand people were upset about losing Drury and Briere and it was certainly newsworthy… in October, maybe November. But to still be pounding that drum in March? When there was plenty to criticize on the ice? Ridiculous. To ignore the players still wearing Buffalo uniforms while endlessly slurping – and defending the poor play of – players no longer in Buffalo uniforms? Stupid. To act like those two players are sacred cows who should be treated like Legends of Buffalo even though other players who have been here longer weren’t given any special treatment upon their return? Also stupid. I feel like we spent the entire season talking about what happened this summer in negotiations that none of us were privy to while completely ignoring what was going on on the ice. And what happens on the ice is kind of why I watch hockey. And worst of all, the columnists consistently wrote with an attitude that anyone who didn’t agree with them has a pea brain. We don’t UNDERSTAND how things really work and we don’t GET IT. I get it. You guys think you’re smarter than me, you’re talking down to me and I don’t have to listen to it.

3. The Brian Campbell Show

Being a Sabres fan can be tough because management is very tight-lipped. We can disregard most rumors about what the team is going to do because no one on the inside talks. But if that saves us from things like this year’s Brian Campbell saga, well thank God for it. Every single step of negotiations between Campbell and the Sabres was made public either by “a source close to the negotiations” (i.e. Campbell’s agent) or Campbell himself. And while there were moments where I did genuinely feel a little sad for Campbell and how emotional the process probably was there came a point where I really just wanted him to shut up and play hockey because man alive, I don’t know what he was doing on the ice those last few weeks before the trade deadline but it didn’t have much to do with hockey. And it turns out Brian Campbell is the gift that keeps on giving since he couldn’t stop making idiotic statements about Buffalo and the Sabres organization even on the other side of the country. If the Sharks are THE BESTEST TEAM EVER! feel free to stay there, Brian.

4. Ryan Miller Wasn’t Very Good

I like Ryan Miller and I do hope he signs a long-term contract with Buffalo but he wasn’t very good this year even if you give him a pass for the last couple of months when he was clearly gassed. In a season where a lot of guys were adjusting to new roles on the team, Ryan needed to be much more consistent than he was. I’m still not sure what happened with him in shootouts this year. The goalie who had ice water in his veins and never flinched first last season suddenly looked foolish on a regular basis. Just a few more points in shootouts might have put the team over the hump and into the postseason. Hopefully it was just a blip on the screen of his NHL career.

5. The Boston Bruins

The Bruins are boring. The schedule says we only played them 8 times but each game felt like an eternity. They’re really boring. And trappy. And boring.

Five Things That Made Me Say, “I LOVE Hockey!”

1. Captain Jason Pominville

I came into this season with pretty neutral feelings about Jason Pominville. I thought he was a fine hockey player and I thought people who thought he was going to fall off the face of the earth without Briere at his side were overreacting. But I admit, I let the whole puck bunny thing sway me. He just seemed too cute and fluffy so I didn’t really take him that seriously. And he is cute and fluffy but you know what? He’s also really, really good at hockey. I feel like he grew up right in front of us this season. In a year where a lot of players seemed content to try and win on talent alone, Jason played hard every night. If he didn’t contribute on the point sheet, it wasn’t from a lack of trying. While almost everyone else flailed, Jason was steady and calm no matter what was going on around him. If you’d told me in October that he’d be wearing the C going into the end of the season I would’ve said you were nuts. But when he was wearing the C going into the end of the season it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

2. Henrik Tallinder Scoring in the Shootout

The shootout is stupid, okay? It’s a ridiculous way to decide which team ends up with more points. But those of you who know me know I adore Henrik Tallinder. And while part of what I adore about him is that he’s a very unnoticed, underrated player, I really enjoyed watching him have his moment in the sun, especially since it was under such ridiculous circumstances. In addition to being inconsistent and annoying this year, the Sabres decided to blow chunks in shootouts. An unassuming stay-at-home d-man breaking that losing streak against a future Hall of Fame goalie was both hilarious and delightful. This picture was my wallpaper for a few weeks afterwards because I love how happy the players looked – seriously, just look at Jason Pomiville’s face – which was not something we saw enough of this season.

3. New Contracts for Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy

I think both of these contracts showed that management was paying attention last summer and realizing some of its mistakes. Based on the timing of the Jochen Hecht signing, the two sides must’ve started talking before the season – a full year before the Sabres have generally re-signed players in the past – and when the season started, the two sides kept talking until an agreement was made. With Derek Roy the Sabres made an effort to lock-up a young player into a reasonable long-term deal. Complaining about Drury and Briere was understandable at first but all that complaining isn’t going to bring them back. All any fan can really ask is for management to do things differently with players they want to keep moving forward and here it certainly seems like they did.

I think both contracts were also smart contracts. On a very young team, Jochen Hecht is a little bit older and more experienced. On a very offensive-minded team, he’s very strong defensively. On a team that’s prone to high-risk passes and moves, he’s more responsible and steady. Jochen will never be flashy and therefore probably never be noticed much outside of Buffalo – heck, I think he’s taken for granted IN Buffalo – but he’s a player that every team needs. And Derek Roy? Well, geez how good does his contract look already? His numbers have improved every year he’s been in the league, he’s showing a little more maturity on the ice, and he’s shaping up to be a very good two-way player who can play in every situation including short-handed. When people are seriously talking about Brian Campbell getting 8 million a year this summer, 4 million for five more years of Derek Roy looks pretty darn good.

4. A Stanley Cup Champion I Can Fully Embrace

Last season I pulled for the Ducks but mostly because they were playing the Senators who had just beaten us (badly) in the previous round. We’re not even going to talk about the season before that. This was the first season in a few years where I’ve really liked the team that lifted the Cup when it was all over. I enjoyed watching the Red Wings. I love Nicklas Lidstrom and how he’s quietly put together one of the best all-time careers. I love that Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are both very good two-way players. I love that the team is so efficient at executing a game plan. And I love how they seem absolutely lacking in ego and self-importance.

5. Realizing the Sabres Aren’t That Far Away

While watching the playoffs this year, one thing became clear: The Eastern Conference isn’t very good. There are a lot of teams that have the potential to play well but no one team that shows up and consistently blows everyone else off the ice. The Flyers made the ECF for crying out loud! They’re good but are they that much better than Buffalo? I don’t think so. If Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy play an entire season like they played in the second half, if Ryan Miller plays more consistently, if management adds one or two physical players to the blueline, if the kids continue to get better, if they come out playing like they have something to prove after missing the playoffs…


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Five Things I Didn’t Love About this Season

5. The stubborn insistence by Versus and NBC to use Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury for color analysis. Or whatever it is they were supposed to be doing. I’m not even sure.

4. Detroit won it all. This was my worst-case scenario for the Stanley Cup. I’m sure everybody was getting sick of my whining about it, but too bad. It was awful.

3. All of March. Schnookie and Pookie already knew that March was fraught with danger, but I just blithely waded into it thinking the Stars’ blazing February would just keep rolling. It was a record-breakingly terrible month.

2. Chris Pronger got away with (attempted) murder. He stomped on a Canuck’s foot with the razor-sharp blade of his skate — an act that got Chris Simon suspended for 30 games — and got suspended for eight games. And that was the League’s SECOND idea. The first plan was to call it an accident and hope nobody checked it out.

1. My beloved Philippe Boucher spent almost the whole season on the IR. First, he had surgery on a shoulder that was injured in the previous playoffs, then injured his other shoulder in his fourth game back. Then just a few games into this year’s playoffs, he tore a hip flexor. I know it just broke his heart not to be playing. I missed him terribly all year.

Five Things I Did Love About this Season

5. The Dallas Stars had the honor of sending the Ducks home in the first round of the playoffs. I just cannot overstate how satisfying that was.

4. I started my own blog. I was sure I’d give up on it after two or three posts. I wasn’t kidding about that at the time. I was sure. Now I’m pushing 200 posts and I am really looking forward to the summer when I can go nuts without having to work in a game recap every other day. Writing the blog has taught me a couple of things about myself. One, that I really do love the Stars. Maybe even more than I thought. And two, that I have my own style of writing and there’s just no sense in fighting it any more. One of the reasons I started it was to relieve my family and friends and co-workers of having to listen to me ramble about hockey, and for the most part it’s actually worked. Now I just ramble about blogging. I’ll let them tell you if that’s any better.

3. Hanging out at IPB all season was a special kind of fun. I never knew there were such intelligent and hilarious people out there that just wanted to talk about hockey with me. It was like being a new hockey fan again. It was new and exciting to talk about different teams and players and conferences. And gardens and knitting. And the MSM and turtles-of-affairs and Katamari and fake mustaches and movies and hockey.

2. I loved everybody on this team. Including the coaches. Including the GM that was fired and the two GMs that took his place. There have been many seasons where I’m highly annoyed by at least a player or two (Bill Guerin), or even downright infuriated (Claude Lemieux). But this year there weren’t any that I didn’t like. Every single player endeared himself to me in his own special way.

1. The Playoff Run. It probably doesn’t seem like a lot from the outside, but getting to the Western Conference Finals was a pretty big deal for us. We’d been beaten down by early exits for a long time and even when the Stars played great against Vancouver in the first round last season, they still lost. That, plus the nosedive in March, set the Stars up to be the underdogs in every series. Yet they knocked out the reprehensible Ducks, and kicked out the Cup-darling Sharks. Then, down three games to none against the hated Red Wings, they still didn’t give up — they got two more wins before losing to the eventual champs. I can’t wait to see if they can top that.

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