If there is one word that can be used to describe the Sabres’ season so far it would be…interesting. Sure, the hockey can be boring as heck, and when the team is JUST starting to breech the 2.00 goals per game mark, it’s difficult to say that the offense has been remarkable in any way.
The season has been interesting, nonetheless. With 11 different defensemen that have dressed in blue and gold in only 25 games, it’s hard to keep track of the players on the ice.
I highly doubt that Terry Pegula was prepared to do some of the renovations he’s had to do at Key Bank Center when he plunked down his millions and bought the franchise, but here we are a few years later, and TPegs is tasked with installing a revolving door to the trainer’s room for all of the injured blueliners that have to limp through the tunnel and onto the exam table.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s gotten so bad that the team has had to take advantage of a little-used loophole and call up Brendan Guhle from the WHL. The 19 year old defenseman is young enough to be Brian Gionta’s son. That’s where we’re at right now.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, the team had to reach back into the depths of the Rochester Amerks defensive core to call upon Eric Bergdoerfer. In his professional career, Bergdoerfer has floated between the AHL and the ECHL, so…yeah…desperation is an understatement.
Watching all of this helplessly and still gasping for air, probably, is the Finnish machine that is Rasmus Ristolainen. In the team’s last 13 games, Risto has played over 29 minutes in six. In four of those six games, he’s come within 10 seconds of playing 30 minutes – LITERALLY HALF OF THE GAME.
Few people on the ice have suffered from the atrophy of our defensemen as much as our goaltenders. At times, they have to feel like confused mothers, running through an ever-growing list of children to scold as they beg for coverage in the slot. “RASMUJAKJOSHDMITRY!!!!” Goal horn. Crestfallen netminder. Swedish swear words.
Tonight, Buffalo will take on Edmonton in the ultimate battle for…nothing. Hyped as McDavid vs Eichel, the pair will not likely be on the ice at the same time much. McDavid will be facing pair of defensemen that played half of the game last night, a pair of defensemen with three games of NHL experience, and the league’s best (?) backup goalie. To add insult to injury (see what I did there?) Eichel busted up his ankle again in an odd play against the boards. Though he played fine after the hit last night, he sophomore star will probably not be 100% for his primetime showdown.
Let’s take a moment to recognize the real heroes of the season so far – the medical and training staff. They’ve had a lot to deal with, and the bloodletting doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. If you see them out somewhere, buy them a coffee. They’re going to need it tonight when three more guys go down clutching ankles after McDavid crosses them up for yet another highlight reel goal.
Is this cynicism a coping mechanism? Absolutely. Expectation breeds disappointment, and no one knows that better than a Buffalo fan. Remember, though; the Sabres have taken at least one point in eight of the last 13 games. If they continue that pace, they’ll still be in the bottom third of the league. I’m not sobbing uncontrollably. You are.