Whether you want to squeeze every last year out of Rick that he has in him or think that the game has started to pass him by, the fact remains that we draw closer every day to Rick stepping down and someone else filling his shoes. This past season we were treated to a few games each from Kevin Sylvester, Mark Jeanneret, and Dan Dunleavy. I would have to guess that the percentage breakdown lies somewhere around 5% supporting the younger Jeanneret, maybe 25% behind Dunleavy, and maybe 40% in the Sylvester camp with the remainder preferring none of the above and hard at work on building an RJ robot.
I've jumped around a little bit between the three. I don't mind Little J as much as a lot of people do, and think that with age, his voice could become a bit less grating. More and more though I feel that he's like the offspring of so many superstars, good enough to thrive in the minors and inspire a lot of wishful thinking, but not cut out for the bigs. I liked Dunleavy a lot, but my complaint with him is that he doesn't have much history with the Sabres or their fans. I'm sure that would come in time, but the "who's this guy?" feeling kind of turns me off.
That leaves good old Kylvester. I was pretty apathetic about him to start. I didn't love him, but I didn't hate him, and because he isn't RJ, I found far too many things to nitpick in his style. The more I watch him though, and think about him as the potential voice of the Sabres, the more I start to come around. There is no doubt that Sylvester has a sharp mind for the game, perhaps too sharp at times. One of the things I've noticed is that he anticipates the action and get's ahead of the play sometimes. While this helps him keep up with the game, it can cause hiccups when something unexpected happens and he's talked himself into a corner. But this is more an issue of rawness than anything. I think that Sylvester has way more natural talent for announcing hockey than any of the rest, the problem is that he's had little opportunity to do so. Like a highly drafted quarterback, Sylvester has quickly hit an announcing ceiling sitting on the bench. The only way he can slide into the role of being "The Guy" is to actually be put into that role and allowed to learn by doing.
Sylvester had plenty of good moments in his limited time last season, the best of which being "Happy Drew Year" (which I didn't hear until later because I was at the game). This year, instead of dreading the non-RJ games, I'm looking forward to seeing good ol' Kylvester in action alongside Danny Gare (with cameos from Rob Ray!). One of the things that Sylvester brings that RJ doesn't is that he's got a much better connection to the younger fans, and with that a better knowledge of pop culture. Something tells me he's got a few aces up his sleeve. (Please god bring me " DON'T PANIC...IT'S NATHAN GERBE WITH THE GAME TYING GOAL!!!) It is perhaps time to usher in the voice of a new generation, and I think the ceiling for our beloved Kylvester is a lot higher than people think. Because of this he has my full support.