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The End of the Road

April 29, 2011

What am I going to remember most about this Sabres season? Here are a few thoughts in no particular order…

– The horrible, horrible first half of the season. The team was a cellar dweller just after the new year, but somehow managed to charge to a respectable 7th in the conference. I still have no idea what caused the come to jesus turnaround, but I’m pleased with how the regular season ended up.

– That Rob Niedermayer took for-freaking-ever to score a goal.

– That Rob Neidermayer played a few games for the Sabres this year. How no one, including Niedermayer himself, realized that his sweater contained a misspelling is a mystery to me.

– The end of the Craig Rivet captaincy. Giving Gaustad/Pominville/Vanek/Hecht the A after he left could have led to a potentially hilarious moment had the Sabres won the cup this year. How would they have decided who got to take the Cup from Bettman? Would there have been a gentlemanly discussion beforehand? A coin flip? A rock-paper-scissors battle? A slap fight? I know the captaincy situation will most likely be resolved by the start of next season, but it still was an interesting problem to have. I’d love to see Goose wearing the C next year, but wouldn’t mind if it was Vanek.

– Connolly’s surprising play on the penalty kill. I didn’t know he had it in him.

– That Nathan Gerbe appeared to find his swagger around February or so and proved that he deserved to be in Buffalo and not in Portland. Somewhere along the way he turned from “why is he here, again?” to “hey, look at that little fun-sized guy taking on Chara.” Gerbe’s persistent tenacity endeared him to a lot of people, me included. I also enjoyed his surprising chemistry with Gaustad. They seriously are the team’s odd couple on the ice, aren’t they?

– This Patrick Kaleta fight.

I was at that game and remember how insanely loud the crowd got. Good times.

– How injury prone Kaleta is. I swear, the guy can’t sneeze without ending up on the 15-day disabled list, to borrow a baseball term. And for some reason, I really do not believe that Kaleta broke his hand blocking a shot in Game 6. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I believe the “he allegedly punched a wall” story more, but I do. I really hope that he just rests and heals this offseason and comes back next year with a new outlook on how to play his game but protect his body more.

– How hilarious a pissed off Ryan Miller is. I’m not talking about the whiny, pissed off Ryan Miller that usually appears when he gets a bad call on the ice, but the ornery, pissed off Ryan Miller that takes swings and slaps at people that come too far into his crease. Since it seems like Miller is left to his own devices entirely all too often, it’s interesting to see just how much Miller’s feathers have to get ruffled before he snaps.

– And speaking of snapping, Miller’s rant/tantrum/shitfit towards John Vogl this year was a thing of beauty. I’m pretty sure no reporter will ever ask Miller “are you ok” ever again.

– Connolly leaving the arena on locker cleanout day without talking to the media. I know Connolly hasn’t always been the warmest and fuzziest interview out there, but it doesn’t say too much about him that he fled without at least making a perfunctory appearance in front of the media. Sure, he was hurt and probably didn’t have much to say, but it’s still a cowardly move in my opinion. Just smile and nod and say all the things you should say and then you can go hide in the corner. It’s not that hard!

– That Enroth proved his worth as a perfectly cromulent backup goaltender while Miller was resting after his temper tantrum and late-season concussion. I know Enroth’s success signaled the end of the Lalime era as backup goalie, but it will be nice to see Miller get a night or two off next year and not have to joke that Miller’s night off means an automatic check in the L column.

– That Patrick Lalime and his giant bear hugs/on ice dances will not be a part of the Sabres next year. That makes me sad, even though I know that his presence on the roster means that Miller has to work harder and wears down faster.

– That I had “Somebody’s Getting Married” from “Muppets Take Manhattan” running through my head after news of Ryan Miller’s engagement leaked out in December. I also remember Miller’s utter shock that the news of his engagement had broken so quickly. Uh, Crunchy, in case you didn’t get the memo, Buffalo is the biggest small town you’ll ever see. Everyone knows someone that knows someone that knows somebody else’s business. You should know that by now.

– The start of the Pegula era. The ownership change was the equivalent of opening up the windows on that first nice spring day and airing out a dark, musty apartment. Pegula brought a sense of optimism and hope to both the organization and the fans. It was good to see him geek out like a fan over seeing Gil Perreault in the audience. You can tell that Pegula is 100% committed to building a team that will win the Stanley Cup.

– Rick Martin’s passing. I feel like this event demonstrated just what it means to be a Buffalonian. While Martin may not have originally been from buffalo, he did settle in and make this community his. He’s what I think of when I hear “lifetime Buffalo Sabre.”

– That some of the players chose to honor Martin by wearing ‘staches & chops during the playoffs. While I admit that some players (Miller, Stafford) pulled off the look better than others (Gerbe), it was a fitting tribute to a team legend (and in some cases, a way to shake up the playoff juju).

– That Nathan Gerbe isn’t going to spend his off-season loafing around or being completely skeezy. He will be going back to class at Boston College and working towards completing his degree. The internet tells me that Gerbe was a Communications major at BC. I’m kind of geeked out that he’s a fellow member of the “communications majors at Jesuit colleges” club. (We have t-shirts and everything.) I know that a lot of players leave school early to focus on their pro careers, so it makes me happy when I hear that someone is going back to school. It’s like they’ve had the realization that hockey careers don’t last forever, so it might be good to finish that college degree. Good luck to little Gerbe.

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