It's once again time to face what is fast becoming an annual reality in Western New York. The Buffalo Sabres will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Coming into this past weekend, the Sabres were handed a golden opportunity to assert themselves right into the thick of the race with victories over two teams ahead of them in the standings. Even taking three of four points would go a long way towards catching either Florida or Montreal.
Instead, as we all know, the team was thoroughly outworked in a loss to the Flyers. And in all-too-familiar Sabre fashion, the team failed to capitalize on golden opportunities when the New York Rangers desperately tried to hand the Sabres a much needed victory.
Was the effort there? Well, kind of.
This particular roster of players seems to give a pretty good effort each night (last Ottawa game excluding.) There are players who are notable exceptions (Tallinder and Lydman) but as whole this team gives what it can.
Therein lies the problem; the roster consists of too many of the same mold of player. The Sabre forwards, for the most part, are a collection of undersized finesse players. Defensively they are a team of defensemen who rely on skating ability to survive.
So when a game comes down to stick your nose in an unsavory place to score, such as with the Ranger game, this team simply does not have that kind of player. With Sabre forwards, from the outside looking in, it is pretty tough to pinpoint a leader.
Credit must be given in this regard to Patrick Kaleta. Although he is not extremely talented, he wins battles in the "bad ice," and is really the only consistently physical presence on the team.
This would be the guy who lifts the team on his back, scoring ugly goals, making a key back-check that preserves a lead. This player does not exist on the roster.
To Darcy Regier's credit, he tried to address this same concern on the defensive side by signing Craig Rivet. While Rivet is a gritty defenseman, he has failed to inspire spirited play in his comrades.
This may not be commentary on Rivet as much as it is on veteran players such as Henrik Tallinder and Tony Lydman. This dynamic duo has managed not only to shrink in big moments, but also take ridiculous obstruction penalties night in and night out.
The point of this is that it is easy to blame coach Lindy Ruff or Regier, but this seems to be truly a case of an underwhelming roster.
Seems like the only thing left this season for a fan like me is to sit back and foolishly fall in love with Maxim Afinogenov's play all over again.