Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lockerroom Cancer: Who is it?

It's been a recurring theme for the Sabres the past few years.  Something goes wrong, be it an injury, or a bad call, or a fluky goal, and the wheels seem to completely fall off.  We've seen it time and time again.  Vanek gets chopped down by Boychuk, Pominville goes down, Daniel Briere isn't called for goaltender interference, and everything goes to hell.

Other teams don't do that.  When Crosby got injured a few seasons ago, the Pens responded by beating the crap out of everyone in their way.  Ditto the Devils and Marty Brodeur.  What is it about the Sabres that just kills them the minute something bad happens?

My belief is there's one or more bad eggs in the locker room that pulls the "poor us" routine and the feeling spreads.  All of a sudden Vanek is swearing at himself on the bench and Ruff is shaking his head and Connolly and Roy are trying to win games by playing one on five.  So who is it?

The signs have been here for a while, so it has to be someone who has been with the organization for several years, which pretty much rules out everyone on the defense.  The prime suspects are Tim Connolly, Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad, Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville, and Lindy Ruff.  (We're not even going to consider Ryan Miller.)

Now I was bagging on Roy as much as anyone after last season's shit-tastic playoff performance.  But the way he's opened this season says a lot to me.  Roy has been playing out of his mind, and it seems evident that his method for handling adversity is to play his ass off.  The same goes for Thomas Vanek.  Now I know Thomas Vanek could score nine hundred goals this year and people will still bitch about his contract, but I have to remember how he came back from his injury late last season.  He basically decided to single handedly beat the shit out of everyone.

I was ready to highlight Jochen Hecht, but then I remembered that he didn't actually play in the playoff series against Boston.  I think it's fair to say that he had absolutely nothing to do with the team shitting the bed when Boychuk stepped on Thomas Vanek's leg.

Which brings us to Paul Gaustad, Tim Connolly, and Lindy Ruff.  Gaustad, I think, is one of the hardest working guys on the team, whether his production shows it or not.  He's almost always the last to leave the ice after pregame warm ups, and he's not really good enough to pull the "this shit always happens to me/us" routine.  Yes, his contract is ridiculous, and he will probably never live up to it, but a shitty locker room guy?  I don't buy it.

Oh Lindy.  I love Lindy Ruff, I do, but he has been behind that bench for a really long time.  Change can be a good thing.  However, folding at the first sign of adversity has not been a staple of Lindy Ruff teams.  Remember when Connolly got hurt in the playoffs?  The team didn't bat an eye.  Ditto for when so many defensemen were hurt, even the call-ups were riding in from Rochester on wheelchairs.  What about when Chris Drury went down?  The team responded by beating the piss out of Ottawa both literally, and on the scoreboard.

Then I see him make comments, talking about how this moment was shocking, or that moment let the air out of the building, or how it's hard to focus when something like the Pominville injury happens.  Those are excuses.  And're the guy who's supposed to keep things like that from happening.  You are failing.  Did the NHL neuter the guy that sent Mair, Peters, and Kaleta to beat the piss out of Spezza, Alfredsson, and Heatley?  What the god damned hell happened to that team?  What happened to the hardest working team in hockey?

You may have noticed that I haven't discussed Tim Connolly yet.  What is there to say at this point?  If I asked you to select someone who looks like he would be a locker room cancer, you could pick Connolly's sour puss out from space.  He's the only guy who could have a two goal game like he did against Ottawa and still leave people pissed off.  Everyone is sick of him continually looking like he doesn't give a shit.

Someone needs to either wake Lindy Ruff up or he needs to go...and take Connolly with him.  Because something is holding this team back, and those are the two biggest suspects.

(I realized post-writing this that I forgot to discuss Jason Pominville, which is actually kind of telling.  Has there been a less visible top six guy the past few years?  I know we all like to lambaste Stafford (just as we did MacArthur) for only showing up once every six games, but isn't Pominville kind of the same thing?  I don't know what you can say about him as far as being a locker room cancer.  Pominville is so bland that we don't have much of a feel for his personality.  Could he be?  Sure.  Is he?  It doesn't seem likely.  It's almost a struggle to try and think about it).


  1. We should start a "Run Tim Connolly Out of Town" fan club. You can be President. I'm not greedy.

  2. Saw this a while ago. Just read it again. Still funny. :)