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Midterm Report Card January 4, 2010

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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I thought I would take some time while I’m 1- sick and 2- home with the baby to issue some midterm grades. I’m only going to grade the Sabres, because, well, I can do whatever I want to. However, I will say this: Carolina sucks. 11 wins in 41 games? OUCH.

Moving on. My grading system might be different from other peoples’. I am grading based on this year’s play, and my expectations for each player are taken into account. Of course, my expectations might be different from your expectations… you’ll no doubt notice many players received a B grade. That means they’re giving me about what I expected them to.

FORWARDS

Tim Connolly: Tim is Tim, and that’s all he is. Tim. Pretty responsible defensively, he has the hands and the vision to be a very good player. Unfortunately, he’s never lived up to his potential. The injuries certainly didn’t help, but he can’t blame injuries for his offensive struggles this year. What I think Sabres fans have to realize is what I said above: Tim is Tim, and that’s all he is. Grade – B minus

Matt Ellis: Ellis is a fine fourth-line player. He doesn’t make many mistakes, and he works hard. That’s probably all you can ask out of him. He’s a bubble player, like so many are on the fourth lines around the NHL. There’s nothing wrong with that. Grade – B

Paul Gaustad: Gaustad has been a pleasant surprise for the most part. Who would’ve thought he’d be leading the NHL in faceoff win percentage for so many weeks? Like Tim, Paul is Paul. What you see is what you get. He stands up for teammates, which I like a lot. It’s too bad he didn’t make Team USA, but to tell the truth, I didn’t think he would. *ducking* I’m not saying I agree or disagree with USA Hockey’s decision, just that I’m not surprised. Grade – B plus

Nathan Gerbe: Gerbe played, what, 2-3 games before he wonked out his groin, right? Grade – Incomplete

Mike Grier: Grier has some sort of ju-ju which makes him a good leader. Maybe he scares the younger guys. I don’t really know, but his presence has seemed to make a difference in team attitude. Other than that, he chips in some goals, is responsible defensively, and defends little Timmy Kennedy, which is good, because Kennedy needs it. I think I could take him even with my current cold medicine-induced stupor. Getting back to Grier, he’s another guy who is what he is. Grade – B

Jochen Hecht: Hecht is not an easy-to-define player. I don’t hate him as much as some other fans seem to, but I’ve never been a huge fan either. He’s versatile, and that’s probably the highest compliment I can pay him. Grade – B

Pat Kaleta: I think we can all agree Kaleta has been a revelation. As I’ve mentioned before, I knew Kaleta had skillz, and while I love his “go out there and put the opposition into the sixth row” style, it isn’t going to hold up in the long run, as we’ve already seen this season with Kaleta’s injuries. If Kaleta can tone down his style just a bit and unleash his skills a little more often he could be the quintessential player other teams and fans love to hate. He has to stay in the lineup to be effective, though. Grade – A minus

Tim Kennedy: I’ll admit it – I didn’t think Kennedy would make the team over Gerbe. After watching both in training camp and preseason, though, it was clearly Kennedy who deserved the chance. He hasn’t disappointed. I still worry that his slight frame is going to get him into injury trouble, especially given his playing style. That being said, for a first-year guy he’s been solid. Grade – A

Clarke MacArthur: C-Mac. He’s 24, so logic would dictate his career is still on the uptick. I’d like to think that’s the case, but I fear it isn’t. My gut tells me MacArthur is going to be like many Sabres before him (see, Dawe, Jason and Audette, Donald et al): a decent one-way player. If he hustled more I’d be more impressed. A -10 on a 2nd place team is not good. Grade – C

Adam Mair: Mair is another serviceable fourth-line player. He’s got some skill, but for one reason or another Lindy Ruff hasn’t given him much ice time in his playing career. I assume that’s for a reason – Ruff is a good coach and presumably knows Mair better than I do. I’d like to see him on the penalty kill a little more – it would rest some of our “Top Six” forwards, and I don’t think he’d be out of place. Grade – B

Jason Pominville: I haven’t made any secret of my affection for the player I call “The Doodle” (much to my hubby’s chagrin). This year, though, I’ll admit it – he’s been a disappointment offensively. His defense is still good, he doesn’t make many mistakes, and he works hard, but he’s just not scoring like we think he should be. Maybe it’s time to accept that Jason is going to be a pretty good two-way forward. He’ll never have the scoring lead, but he won’t burn you either. You need some guys like that on your team, and as long as you can reconcile yourself that Pominville isn’t going to be more than that, you should be a happy fan. Grade – B minus

Derek Roy: I can’t muster up the venom some other fans have for Roy. I think  he’s another player who is what he is: a small, somewhat whiny, but also defensively-sound and solid offensive player. Yes, he argues calls far too often, but let’s give credit where it’s due – he’s pretty good on faceoffs, he takes a regular shift on the penalty kill and doesn’t make many mistakes, and he chips in around a point a game. How much more do the fans want? Grade – A minus

Drew Stafford: Drew, Drew, Drew… You are a puzzle, inside a riddle, wrapped in an enigma. And that’s not a good thing. I have to admit I was surprised to hear how hard he is on himself – he strikes me as a cocky player who has no reason to be cocky. He’s got the skills – we all know that. But I feel like it’s come too easily to him – he hasn’t had to work for his ice time like some other players have. Like MacArthur, he’s only 24, but he’s running out of time to become the player he should be. If he doesn’t I fear he’s going to have to count on a music career, because patience runs thin in the NHL. Grade – C minus

Thomas Vanek: Another player who should be scoring more points. Notice I didn’t say “should be playing better” – I don’t think he’s playing badly, he’s just not scoring goals like we all know he can. He is developing into a good two-way player, and has an uncanny ability to strip the puck from opponents on the backcheck. I’m mystified about why Ruff doesn’t use him on the PK more. Overall, I’m not really worried about Vanek. He’ll get on a hot streak – hopefully soon, and he’ll finish the season with 30 goals, which is going to be at least five more than any other Sabre. Mark my words. Grade: B minus

DEFENSE

Chris Butler: I like Chris Butler. A lot. Of course, I love defensemen in general, and I like intelligent players. Butler fits the bill. He’s already 23 because he took the college route, but I think that, unlike some other players around his age who I’ve mentioned *coughDrewStaffordClarkeMacArthurcough*, he’s got more of his game coming. I think he’ll be a dependable, if not dominant, d-man. Grade: A minus

Toni Lydman: Lydman is having a pretty steady season. I like the Rivet/Lydman pairing – they’re both veterans and I think playing with Rivet is a better fit than some of the younger guys who Ruff has paired Lydman with. I think Lydman is most effective when all he has to worry about is his end, not covering up for rookie mistakes or being the offensive d-man of the pair. Grade: B

Steve Montador: I’ve always liked Montador. Some of you who know me are going to say, “Suuuuure you did – how come you’ve never mentioned him?” My answer – I like a lot of players I don’t mention. I can appreciate the same qualities that I like in my Sabres in players from other teams. I just don’t want those players/teams to win the game. Montador is another WYSIWYG player – what you see is what you get. He’s not flashy, he’s not particularly speedy, but he’ll work hard and he’ll defend his teammates. Grade: B

Tyler Myers: I think the horse has been beaten to death regarding how I feel about him. Need I take up any more space? Grade: A plus!

Nathan Paetsch: A waste of a roster spot. Grade: D

Craig Rivet: Rivet is on the downward slope of his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s useless out there. He defends teammates (are you sensing a pattern here in the traits I like in a player?), he doesn’t make too many mistakes, and he’s a leader. Grade: B

Andrej Sekera: Sekera is still young, and d-men take longer to mature. I like Sekera, but there is a glut of players on defense this season and he’s been left out in the cold at times. As far as I can see he continues to work hard in practice and doesn’t spend a lot of time bitching about how much he’s playing. His time will come (see Campbell, Brian). Grade: B

Henrik Tallinder: Handsome Hank has experienced a resurgence this season. Most fans are attributing that to Tyler Myers, but let’s give Tallinder some credit – he realized he was sucking, and decided to not suck anymore. I know he likes being a mentor for our Gentle Giant, but I doubt that’s the only reason he’s once again become the Rock of Gibraltor on the back end. Grade: A

GOALTENDERS

Patrick Lalime: Apparently kicking some ass in the AHL is good for the confidence. Who knew? I, like most fans, am relieved that Lalime is playing well. None of us want Ryan Miller to play as much as he has in the past. Having a capable backup makes me feel a heck of a lot better. Grade: B plus

Ryan Miller: Ryan Miller is a cocky little SOB, and I like that. I like that a lot. Your goalie should be cocky. Or crazy. Or both (see Roy, Patrick). I’d like to see Miller pack on about 20 more pounds, but that’s not going to happen. Right  now I’d be happy if he could maintain his early season playing weight. Perhaps we should start a baking club to make Miller healthy, yet filling snacks. Of course, I would NEVER eat something some fan gave me, so we might have to submit to background checks before he’ll trust us enough to eat our snacks. Maybe he could share some with Tim Kennedy. Anyhoo, Miller is playing like the elite goaltender we all hoped he would. I’m a little bit skeptical, and am waiting to see if he can keep it up through the rigors of an NHL schedule, the Olympics, and (hopefully) a run in the playoffs. I fear at the end of the season all there will be back there is a set of pads, a helmet, and little 3″ Ryan Miller, a la Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Grade: A

Feel free to disagree with me. It’s what makes this country great.

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Comments»

1. Annette - January 6, 2010

Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe!🙂. I’ll go and read some more!

2. Cindy - January 5, 2010

Wow! I think you hit the nail right on the head with those assessments, skill-wise and personal-wise. Your insight is amazing! If anything, your assessments were a mite generous but not much.

3. manda903 - January 4, 2010

I agree that the team has turned in some real duds, and I attribute that to the offense woes more than defense problems.

I probably was generous w/my grades, but I basically gave any guy who met my expectation – however high or low it was – a B or better.

4. Richard - January 4, 2010

Overall your assessment is close to what I would come up with (meaning I pretty much agree without doing all the work). There are as many “A” grades for the defense as for the offense, but only half as many D-men. Overall the defense is sound. The offense is not doing as well. If the offense was “rocking and rolling” as Roby says, they would deserve better marks. Although “B” is not bad- you might actually be a bit generous. We’ve seen some games where the entire offense deserved a “D” or an “F”.
I too hope that Miller doesn’t get exhausted by the end of the season.


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