Sabres Thoughts: Buffalo finally hits the Olympic break in stride…Thomas Vanek is the "X" factor..NHL misses the boat, again

-I wonder how much the Sabres performance against the Sharks had something to do with Ryan Miller calling his teammates “fragile.” I’m just putting it out there because it’s a little bit different to have your star player call you out than it is for your coach (whose done it 100’s of times before) to do the same. It’s been an awful last month for the Sabres, and it’s good for them to at least get some sort of confidence builder going into the break. I honestly didn’t think the Sabres would have it in them to beat a powerhouse Sharks team. At least fans can say that the Sabres beat six of the top four seeds in each conference this season-

-Classy move by the Sabres fans to chant U-S-A during the the final moments of tonight’s games. I was actually kind of surprised that the fans didn’t start chanting U-S-A in weeks ago. I remember that chant being a staple for Ryan Miller during the 05/06 season, before and after he got shafted for not being the USA goalie. Heck, I’d rather the fans chant that, than to just do the unimaginative booing of Chara or Crosby-
-Give it up for the Sabres defense tonight. Besides an awful 2nd period giveaway by Craig Rivet, the Sabres blue liners got back to doing what the do best. Play solid, stay at home defense. If the Sabres defense plays like it did tonight, then it’s not going to matter how many games Miller plays. Playing solid defense means that Miller won’t be getting peppered with shots or scoring chances. In other words, a solid Sabres defense will make Ryan Miller healthy, wealthy and wise (or not burned out)

-What happens if Ryan Miller has a 1.90 GAA in the Olympics? Wouldn’t it make you feel kind of stupid to say he’s really tired?-

-Now, I’m not going to give you some sort of slogan like, “Every team has their bumps in the road.” If you’re suppose to be good, you shouldn’t be losing against cellar dwellers in each conference (I don’t care how hot the Hurricanes have been). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, without Miller playing exceptional, this team is very average. I still think this team needs to make a move or two, especially within the top six forwards. It’s not even about making some noise in the playoffs, it’s about finding better players for the future. As for the playoffs, do you really trust this team’s mindset in dealing with the ups and downs of a seven game series? Sorry, but I don’t. Are the Sabres better now than what they were the last two years? Yes. However, can the Sabres beat any of the top four teams in the East? I’m still not buying it-

-The Sabres really miss Pat Kaleta. I feel that when Kaleta hits, it becomes contagious for the rest of his teammates. I can’t remember the last time I saw a really solid hit in a Sabres game. I’m probably not the only one hurting for a solid check, as I think the Sabres TV producers are having a hard time finding legit Carubba Collision hit for the game-


Tell me if you’ve heard this before: “Thomas Vanek should have had a hat trick tonight.” It’s either that one or the other popular slogan: “Where’s Thomas Vanek?” If the team has any shot in doing some serious damage in the playoffs, Vanek has to be Sabres best offensive player. I’m just asking the guy to justify his status. He’s the guy that the Sabres presented as the heir apparent to Drury and Briere when they bolted out of Buffalo. Their the same organization that gave Vanek the richest deal in Buffalo Sports history. I don’t care if it wasn’t his fault or not. I don’t care how dated the comment has become, but when you give a player that much money, you’re telling me that you believe he’s going to be one of the cornerstones of your team.

Now, I’m not going to make this into a bash Vanek post. Everyone knows that this isn’t the real Thomas Vanek. I honestly believe that he can be a player that the Sabres can ride for a series. Last year, we saw a guy who was on pace to score 50 goals before getting injured. I’m hoping that the Olympic break will be helpful for Vanek, so he can regroup and get away from the everyday pressures of being the offensive man on this hockey team. I would also suggest for Vanek to stop by the Sabres video department and borrow a tape from his first two NHL seasons. Thomas needs to get back to what he does best; be creative and use his speed and shooting ability.
Please, stop trying to be Dave Andreychuk and sit in front of the net to tip in goals. Old, slow players score that way. Thomas, you’re better than that. I remember the old Vanek having a kick ass shot and being deadly on the break. I remember the old Vanek being lights out in shootouts. I remember the old Vanek being a nuisance on the power play. I’m sick of seeing Vanek’s facial expressions looking as if he’s freezing his ass off or he’s just really thirsty. Time for the guy to grow up and take the bull by the horns.

Before Sabres fans were treating Tyler Myers as the second coming, everyone acted as if Vanek could have been grouped with other young stars, like Crosby and Ovechkin. It wasn’t because of his high salary or draft pick status, it was because we saw the guy produce with our own eyes. If the Sabres decide not to make a move, it’s going to be up to Vanek to be the Sabres deadline deal. With great money, comes great responsibility. Time for Vanek to understand his responsibility and become the leader that the Sabres paid him to be-


Of course, who am I to not miss an opportunity to bag on the way the NHL does business. What the hell was the NHL thinking by having the Olympic break come after the Opening Ceremony? Not only do I feel bad for guys like Ryan Miller, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin for not being able to attend a ceremony that many of their countrymen dream to participate in, but it’s also a golden opportunity for the Olympic audience to be introduced to the NHL stars.

The opening ceremonies had more than 67 million viewers in the USA. Yeah, that’s a little bit more than what the Winter Classic got. I would think that the NHL would be gushing about having Bob Costas announce that Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the world, and is 29 and single for all the cougars watching at home. I’m sure the Olympic audience would rather hear about a different athlete than retreads like the “Flying Tomato” and Boozie Miller (Not a typo).

Anyone who wants to say that the NHL doesn’t care about the Olympics is just showing their ignorance of being self-important. The NHL decided to let their players in the Olympics, so they could capitalize on what the NBA’s Dream Team did in Barcelona in 1992. That team broke barriers not only in the USA, but in all of Europe. As usual, the NHL just doesn’t understand the concept of marketing and free publicity. I guess they had to make sure that they could sell out some NHL games in the bigger/NBA markets that were on All-Star Break Weekend.
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