I’m seeing the debate rage on amongst Buffalonians as to what the problem seems to be with the Sabres. Currently, they’re in the bottom 5 of the entire NHL, and 14th place in the Eastern Conference. However, most people are mystified as to what the problem is. The number 1 question;
Is this on the players or the coaches?
I’ll admit, and I’m sure if you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you know I’m on the side of the coaching. There’s several reasons for this, but let’s look at both sides of this equation.
Players have slumps, we all know that. They hit rough patches in their careers. Buffalo has several players who we can all agree aren’t playing to their full potential. Grigorenko, Stafford, Myers, Leopold, Foligno... You know what? Anyone not named Vanek, Hodgson, Pominville, or Miller aren’t playing to the caliber that we know they can play at. Ennis did show a little spark last night, but that’s 1 game. It needs to be consistent.
The difficult thing with just focusing on the players specifically is that we had this same discussion last year in regards to the Sabres. While there were some bright spots last season, the team still failed to win when they needed to. They controlled their fate last year after blowing out the Capitals with only a hand full of games left, and they couldn’t get into the playoffs. There were several other times when the team was in dire need to get a win, and they failed to get the job done. I heard several people talk about Myers, Stafford, and other Sabres players not delivering last year when the team was struggling. I’m hearing the same thing again this year.
I’m not very comfortable focusing on specific players over a stretch of poor play. It’s too tough to point fingers at specific players. Hockey is a team sport, more so than any other. The team wins as a unit and loses as a unit. For certain loses, yes, 1 player may cause a loss, but I’m still not entirely comfy blaming them because several factors contribute to a loss. Same thing with a win.
This year, there’s several other new players who were supposed to provide a spark for this team. The team continues to struggle despite the new additions to the Sabres.
Which leads me to what’s going on behind the bench. The coach remains consistent, and the play continues to be sporadic. There are times Buffalo has looked very well, especially over the past 2 years. For example, Buffalo was on fire last March trying to push into the playoffs. They looked good in 2 games this year, beating the Flyers and the Bruins (still confused as to where that one came from). However, they’ve played 8 more games and haven’t looked that stellar. In the end, it’s up to the coach to get the players playing to their full potential. Yes, there’s supposed to be leaders on the team, but the final voice needs to come from the coaching staff.
So now the question, players or coaches?
It’d be too difficult to just shake up the entire lineup for Buffalo. Plus, how can you determine what players need to go and what one’s need to stay? It’s way to tough at this point in time.
My proposal is pretty simple. If Lindy Ruff is to be fired, and we know that’s a huge IF, it won’t happen until the end of the season. He gets fired and a new coach comes in. New coach, new ideas, new techniques, new game plan, a fresh start. He lays out his game plan and sees how it works and how the current players play in that system. Say Buffalo still struggles?
That’s when players start to get placed on the hot seat. I personally feel that there’s a lot of talent on the Sabres roster. It’s of question of getting them to play to their full potential. Say a new coach comes in next year and Myers continues to play shoddy defense. Well, may be time to move him. However, I think that Buffalo needs to see what a new coach can do with this team prior to making big moves with the players of this team. Also, Buffalo has a lot of appeal right now to other coaches. There’s a lot of good players on the roster that may appeal to another coach. He can assess the situation once he gets here and take it from there.
Coaching is key to this. As much as I like Lindy Ruff, it comes back to needing to be objective. This team isn’t winning, and borrowing some huge turn around, this season doesn’t appear to be very promising. The logical progression is that the Sabres address coaching first.
Then deal with the players.
Follow me on Twitter- @SabresBTB. I live chat during games. Unfortunately I won’t be on the next 2 games due to work (Habs game, I’m recording it) and I’m going to a concert (Isles game). Back to normal on Sunday with the Bruins game though. Thanks for reading!