The Sabres are assiduous in their efforts in becoming the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs in the same season they rattled off a 10-game winning streak. Not an unbeaten streak like in the old days of ties. A 10-game winning streak. Overtime and shootouts included, 10 games in a row in the “W” column is an accomplishment that some of the greatest dynasty teams that won Presidents Trophy’s and Stanley Cups failed to accomplish. The Sabres were at the top of the entire league.
However, that seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.
Watching them now I see them creating chances in the offensive zone and competing in the neutral zone. When I watch them in their own end it looks like they have no systems in place. Players are not staying in the area they are responsible for or on the man they are tasked with keeping in check. In addition, players are chasing opponents around the zone and multiple Sabres are routinely seen behind their own net. No structure.
Attention to detail in the fundamentals of playing the game in your own zone are non-existent. Basic discipline that was routine in the AHL or juniors for the players vanishes when sporting the blue and gold. Please do not get me going on the goaltending drop off in the past two months. And, of course, the coaching debate continues on local sports talk shows and by journalists who cover the team.
“Negative Stanley” who most of you are familiar with from my articles covering the Bills, chimed in quite a bit this morning with an audience at the chiropractor’s office. We chatted about the Edmonton come-from-behind victory over the Sabres last night in hockey heaven.
“Scotty Bowman, who drafted Housley straight out of high school in the first round in 1982, would never have tolerated this kind of play in their own zone,” said Negative Stanley. “The reason why Bowman coached the Sabres on more occasions than just his original coaching stint when hired is simple. Positive Discontent. He coached them originally and then being the GM he assumed the duties other times after hiring and firing Roger Neilson, Jim Roberts, Jim Schoenfeld, and Craig Ramsey. No one could quite do the job to his standards. This was a team that made the playoffs every year, except for one, in Bowman’s years. He would not sit still and accept mediocrity and certainly would not accept being straight out bad. He would have fired receptionists, ushers and security guards, changed beer vendors or traded everyone followed by calling up the entire farm team. Read my lips…. Results based business.”
The Sabres have only 13 wins in 41 games since their win streak ended in Tampa at the end of November. I would certainly anticipate that if Scotty Bowman was the General manager now, this kind of collapse after such a horrible season one year ago, would result in Bowman putting himself behind the bench next season as Housley would be on the outside looking in. Improving over last year would get Housley no mercy from Bowman. Bowman eventually was relieved of his duties in Buffalo after his teams made the playoffs all but one year.
Bowman took over a powerhouse team with the French Connection and traded away legends. He was to be the savior bringing multiple parades to the Queen City celebrating Stanley cup victories. He made some good draft selections like Housley, Dave Andreychuk, and Tom Barrasso. He missed it big on others like Paul Cyr, Norm Lacombe, and Adam Creighton.”
I squeaked in a few words just for fun reminding everyone that Bowman drafted Keith Gretzky 56th overall. He never quite lived up to the name or the draft status. Especially since his entire career was spent playing minor league hockey. He spent time in the IHL for the Flint Spirits, San Diego Gulls and the Phoenix Roadrunners. Gretzky progressed to the AHL Rochester Americans and attended multiple Sabres training camps. He even suited up for pre-season games. However, he never played a regular season NHL game. Not one call up. The name on the back of the jersey can only take you so far.
Stanley continued his loud rant.
“Dwell on him failing to win a cup in Buffalo, and I would listen. That said, he coached the Blues to the finals three times in the late ’60s. He won five cups in Montreal, one in Pittsburgh, and three in Detroit. That said, he was also a director for the Penguins for the first Stanley Cup victory when Bob Johnston was alive and coaching. He was also a consultant for the Blackhawks during the recent three Stanley Cup Victories. He was a winner. Had he just coached here instead of wearing multiple hats, maybe we would have Stanley Cup banners hanging in the rafters and I would not be on a campaign to win one before I die. I am no spring chicken.”
The opinionated Stan allowed no others to speak “Should Housley’s coaching be praised for certain things and given another year in spite of the overall collapse? Should he be gone? Bottrell claims Housley is safe. That is fine, but if the team fails to elevate to a competitor next season with Housley still behind the bench, that could mean trouble for both the coach and GM. The GM really gives himself a bit more time to build the team by replacing the coach and risks his career if he sits on his hands with a coach getting no results.”
So, after I defended Housley in my previous commentary, I failed to get too many comments in with the rant that “Negative Stanley“ was on. So, we got a totally different perspective that was not solicited. “Negative Stanley” usually is not asked of his thoughts. We are just so lucky he is not shy.
Things We Know About the Buffalo Sabres This Week:
- Jeff Skinner hasn’t scored a goal in nine games but has recorded 33 shots—ringing a couple of posts in the process.
- Rasmus Ristolainen is minus-33 which is worst in the league.
- Jake McCabe will be unavailable for up to five or six weeks with an upper-body injury.
- Buffalo had a controlling 3-1 lead in the second period over the Oilers. Edmonton scored three unanswered goals at the end of the second period going on to beat the Sabres which was more than frustrating.