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The New Personnel – Are They Enough? December 7, 2009

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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Over the offseason Darcy Regier re-acquired Mike Grier and signed Steve Montador. He also drafted Tyler Myers.

During training camp it became apparent Tim Kennedy wasn’t shufflin’ off to Portland.

How much difference can four players make? And more importantly, how much difference are they making? Let’s take each separately and then talk about them as a group.

Mike Grier: Full disclosure – I’ve never been a huge Grier fan. I feel the same way about Grier that I do about Jochen Hecht. They’re both decent hockey players and seem like mature, stand-up guys, but that’s about as excited as I can get. That being said, from all indications he isn’t afraid to kick a little ass in the locker room. If that’s true than his real value to this team is not on the ice – it’s in the room. I’m perfectly ok with that. Personally, I can think of 3-4 players off the top of my head who need someone to keep after them. Yes, I’m looking at you Derek Roy/Clarke MacArthur/Drew Stafford.

Steve Montador: I’ve always liked Montador, but I never coveted him. There are a bevy of players around the league that I do covet, but Montador was never one of them. However, I think he’s found a good home for himself with the Sabres. They needed a little grit, a guy who could willingly, even gleefully, clear the crease. He does make mistakes, but what defenseman playing for the Sabres doesn’t? He’s not flashy, and he’ll never been an offensive juggernaut, but he is what he is and what he advertises himself to be – a straight-up, competent, tough defenseman.

Tyler Myers: I believe I’ve drooled all over Myers enough in this blog that you all know how I feel about him. If you’re a regular reader you also know that that I love love love defense and defensemen. I’ve been a defenseman – in soccer, but I’ve played the role. I know what it takes and I truly believe it’s harder to do well than play forward. As Tyler can attest to, your mistakes end up in the net.

What I’ve been amazed about with Myers is his calmness and poise. I remember a lot of other defensemen, many years older than Myers, who would have a 10-game meltdown after they made a mistake (see Campbell, Brian). Myers picks himself up, dusts himself off, and gets into position for the face-off. Oftentimes you can’t tell by the rest of his game that night that he’d made a bad mistake. He’s what I’d call a cool customer. He’s been a pleasant surprise. I just hope they bring him along slowly enough that his head doesn’t explode. It’s been known to happen (see Campbell, Brian and Paetsch, Nathan).

Tim Kennedy: I have to be honest – I didn’t expect Tim Kennedy to be nearly as effective a player as he is. I figured he’d get his skinny little ass kicked out there. Apparently I didn’t put enough stock in his upbringing in South Buffalo. The dude can take care of himself and isn’t afraid of anybody. Yes, his teammates (thanks, Goose!) come to his rescue when larger players try to run him over, but the kid does not back down. I’ve nicknamed him “The Little Terrier” because that’s what I think he is – small and annoying. Sorry dog lovers, I’m a cat person. Well, except for Pommerdoodles. No one can help but love a Pommerdoodle.

So where does that leave us? With four solid players. That’s great, but are they the reason the Sabres are playing better hockey than they have been in a couple of years? Yes, but these four players don’t tell the whole story. For the whole story you have to add to the cast of characters above. Who do you add?

Paul Gaustad, who is finally the player we all knew he could be. Ryan Miller, who is playing like the elite goaltender he says he wants to be. Henrik Tallinder, whose resurgence on the blue line may or may not have something to do with playing with and mentoring Myers. Chris Butler, another pleasant surprise. Tim Connolly, who’s managed to stay healthy enough to play every game so far this season. Drew Stafford, who has suddenly emerged as a faceoff wunderkind.

What else explains the team’s improved play? The System. Yes, The System. Before you cover your ears and run screaming from the room, hear me out. I’ve been afraid several times over the past 4-5 seasons that Lindy’s voice was falling on deaf ears. I’m still not sure he’s really getting through to everybody. Despite that, though, the Sabres have been much more consistent about playing The System than they were in past years. They trust The System. They respect The System. And The System loves them back.

Wow, that was a long and rambling post, but I’ve had these ideas rattling around in my head, and I can tell you, it’s crowded enough up there without these pithy opinions taking up space.

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Comments»

1. Kathleen - December 7, 2009

I’ve nicknamed him “The Little Terrier” because that’s what I think he is – small and annoying. Sorry dog lovers

No, fair enough. I have a Jack Russell and he is exactly like TK. (Except he has all his teeth. And I think he could take a faceoff.)

It’s ridiculous how Myers seems at least as mature & composed as Soupy when he left us at… what, 27?

And oh yeah, now they all have The System taped inside their lockers and surrounded by little hearts. Thank goodness.


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