Friday, March 14, 2008

What went wrong?

I guess the question for this season has to be "What went wrong?" and it's not an easy one to answer. The easy way out is to blame it all on losing Drury and Briere, but I've made it clear that I don't buy into that explanation.

Some have blamed the downfall on the loss of Jiri Novotny. While I have wondered why the Sabres didn't try harder to reacquire him during the offseason, somehow I get the idea that Jiri was the center of the Sabres success. Although it well may have been Marty Biron who was traded on the same day.

Perhaps first we should look at who's fault it isn't. The problem was not losing Briere. In last years playoffs he probably did more harm than good, and has never really been a solid two way player. The problem is not the loss of Jiri Novotny (see above). The problem is not worse play from Hecht, Gaustad, Spacek or Kaleta all who have been much better this season. The problem is not Tallinder or Lydman who have always been our best defensemen and were actually healthier this season. Ryan Miller has only been slightly above average this season, but thats all he has ever really been.

Not everyone has played as well as last year though. While Pominville is the teams current captain, and has played great in the past two months, he got off to a very slow start this season. Back in October and November it looked as if he couldn't do anything without Briere and wasn't going to be helping the team all that much. Next is last seasons young superstars. Paetsch, Stafford, and Paille all had their first NHL games last season, and then proved that they belonged in the starting lineup. This season those three haven't looked any better than MacArthur, Ryan or Kaleta and have lacked the spark that was driving this team to greatness. Also what happened to Mair? Last season it looked as if he was almost as good as Gaustad, this year he has been more like Peters. Even Campbell didn't look too good in the last month or so, but that is probably more a result of worrying too much about the contract rather than the hockey.

While the departure of Drury did hurt the team he was only one player. Our best faceoff guy and a team leader, but now away from Buffalo he seems to be struggling. Perhaps loosing Biron is the deep problem. He didn't play much, but everyone loved him and his two closest friends on the team (Briere and Campbell) are now both gone.

Now we have a hockey team that likes to just give up. I don't know if all that effort was there last year as a result of Drury or Biron, but the effort shouldn't be due to just a team mate. This current team needs to learn how to give effort without being pushed. In fact they should have learned this a few months ago when it still might have mattered.

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