Sports are built on competition and entertainment. It would be ideal to have a team that will be entertaining on its way to a victory, but sometimes beauty is sacrificed for wins. In a sport like hockey that has non-stop action up and down the ice, it would seem nearly impossible to have a team that makes the sport boring. But the way the Sabres have played this year has them defying that logic.
It’s one thing to be bad and it’s another to be boring. Both together make the Sabres nearly impossible to watch. It’s only 14 games into the shortened NHL season, but watching the Sabres has already gotten to the point of being a chore.
Buffalo looks like they play at 80 percent of the speed as the NHL. If their plan is to wear teams down and win games, it’s not working. Buffalo has 11 points through a league high 14 games. If they are doing it to play a conservative, defensive, low-scoring game, that’s not working either. Buffalo is 27th in goals allowed per game (3.43).
In my opinion, Buffalo’s worst problem is the power play. I can’t remember a team that has so much trouble getting the puck across the blue line into the offensive zone with the man advantage. Buffalo’s power play ranks 26th at 13.5 percent, and has only one goal in eight road games.
Buffalo’s power-play struggles cost them a goal in Ottawa Tuesday night. Christian Ehrhoff had to retreat deep into the Buffalo zone, made a wild pass into the neutral zone and turned the puck over, which led to the Senators capitalizing on the opportunity.
The Sabres have turned into two different squads: with and without Thomas Vanek. Buffalo has 38 total goals this season and Vanek has a league-high 23 points. If Vanek has a game where he doesn’t have at least two if not three points, the Sabres don’t have a chance at winning.
Lindy Ruff did make a smart move cutting Jochen Hecht’s ice time. But if he lets off another backhanded shot beyond the faceoff circle, he should be cut altogether. I’m all for putting the puck onto the net, but sometimes a weak shot like that can end any offensive pressure.
Ruff sat Tyler Myers for two games and it looked like he responded well after a couple games off. Ruff should think about sitting Drew Stafford next. After 14 games, Stafford has yet to score a goal.
After years of waiting for Stafford to become a legitimate scoring threat, it’s time to pull the plug. Stafford is what he is: a player that will score in bunches and pad his stats in 15 games a year and disappear the other 67. Stafford and linemate Marcus Foligno are tied for the worst plus/minus among Sabres forwards at minus-6.
If Terry Pegula doesn’t realize his team needs a coaching change yet, he isn’t the owner Sabres fans wanted him to be. A change now would still give the team time to resurrect its season. As bad and boring as this team has been through 14 games, they are only three points out of a playoff spot.
There’s no question the players in Buffalo have tuned out Ruff. The rest of the season will be hard to watch if a coaching change doesn’t come soon.