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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Give credit where credit is due

Be honest, Sabres fans. When you think back to the beginning of this NHL season, what were you saying about the Sabres? What type of predictions were you making?
From what I remember, nobody had high expectations for the team. Everyone was saying that it was going to be another typical losing season and that the Sabres didn't have a roster solid enough to compete with star-studded teams like Pittsburgh and Washington.
I'll admit it — I was right there with you, doubting the potential of the Buffalo blue and gold.
Well, look at the Sabres now. On Saturday night, they clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2007, the year Chris Drury and Daniel Briere led the team to the NHL's best record. Here in 2010, the Sabres are in position to win the division, which would give them home-ice advantage in the postseason's first round (knock on wood — this is Buffalo, after all).
Taking the preseason expectations into consideration, it seems to me like the Sabres have had a great season. So why isn't anybody giving this team any credit? Why are people still down on the Sabres after all they've accomplished this season?
When I turn on WGR 550, Buffalo's sports talk radio station, I'm always hearing miserable Mike Schopp talking about how the Sabres have no chance of winning a Stanley Cup. When the Sabres lose two games in a row, everyone I run into suddenly has 10 reasons why the Sabres are terrible. I can't help but feel that they are undeserving of so much criticism.
Call me foolish, but I'm an optimist. I'd like to commend the Sabres for the job they've done this season and give you a few reasons to root for them come playoff time.
1. Though this year's Sabres lack the 2007 team's offensive star power, head coach Lindy Ruff has promoted a team-first philosophy, and the goal scoring has been done by committee rather than by one or two stars. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have each scored 23 goals, leading the team. Right behind them are Derek Roy, whose hat trick on Saturday brought him up to 22 goals, and Jochen Hecht, who has 20 goals.
2. On the defensive end of the ice, six-foot-eight-inch Tyler Myers is a favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league's top rookie. He just turned 20 years old in February and has been dominant all season long. If I were Sabres general manager Darcy Regier, I'd sign Myers to a lifetime contract this summer.
3. Head coach Lindy Ruff is the longest tenured head coach in the NHL. He has seen it all and has become the face of the Sabres since he was hired in 1997 after playing here for most of his career in the 1980s. He will provide experience and toughness for his team when they need it most — in the postseason.
Am I forgetting anything? Let's see ... offense, defense, coaching ...
4. Ryan Miller! Let's remember that Miller, the MVP of the Olympic men's hockey tournament, is considered by many to be the best goaltender in the league. He's had one of the best seasons of his career this year, and he has the ability to carry the Sabres on his back. The team will go as far as Miller takes them in the playoffs. Say what you want about the Sabres' offense, but the opposition can't beat them if they aren't beating Miller.
So there you have it. From now on, whenever you're down on the Sabres, just think back to your expectations for the team in September.

E-mail: luke.hammill@ubspectrum.com


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