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The time is now for Buffalo to get tough

Dec 21, 2011, 8:57 AM EDT

Lindy Ruff AP

While the losses in Buffalo have continued to mount, there’s something more disturbing about their play of late.

The Sabres are a soft team.

This might not be too much of a shock especially after seeing how the team didn’t respond to Milan Lucic running over Ryan Miller over a month ago, but team-wide the Sabres lack any sort of presence on the ice that makes them feared. Oh sure, there’s plenty of talent there with Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Derek Roy. There’s plenty of speed to burn here too, but both up front and on defense they lack any kind of intimidating physical presence.

Take a look up and down the Sabres lineup and try to find a physical, defensive player that makes you think they’ve got that sandpaper-like ability to win those power battles. Robyn Regehr is the closest player they’ve got to that on defense. Amongst the forwards, Cody McCormick plays tough and Patrick Kaleta makes sure you have your head on a swivel, but a power forward? Nowhere to be found.

That lack of physical presence is hurting them too. The Sabres look out of sync defensively and teams are able to maneuver around them too easily. Look at what Ottawa did to them last night winning 4-1. Lindy Ruff can only do so much with who he’s got and it’s up to Darcy Regier to fix this very apparent hole on the team before things get too out of control.

  1. drewsylvania - Dec 21, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Good luck with that.

  2. billsin20xx - Dec 21, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Totally agreed with the idea. But they do have a power forward ‘in training’ in Kassian., plus Gaustad.
    I don’t know if it’s the roster though or have they just quit playing hard for Ruff?

    • danphipps01 - Dec 21, 2011 at 7:09 PM

      I don’t think that they’re not playing for the coach. I doubt they have any problems with him. They’re just… well, too reliant on speed and skill. Even the Canucks, who win games basically by being way faster than their opponents and pitching a tent in the offensive zone from which to shoot over and over and over again, rely on hard checking. Burrows, Kesler, Malhotra, Lapierre, Hamhuis, Bieksa… and this is all on a team that plays a fast, skilled game more than anything. Buffalo’s got a project in the works in Kassian, and having half their big guys out does put the criticism into perspective to a degree, but they ARE left wanting for physicality against many of their opponents.

      At this point, I’d try to trade Leino for someone hittier. Doesn’t even need to be a high-scoring player – Lord knows Leino’s not doing much. Get a team willing to take a chance on his performance improving to take him on in exchange for a bigger, tougher guy with solid checking performance and if possible, a bit of a scoring touch. It might not be the best deal in terms of what you’re giving up compared to what you’re getting, but in terms of what the Sabres really NEED? It’s a good deal. They’re not getting shit from Leino.

  3. riles1008 - Dec 21, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Kassian is that physical power forward. He will develop into that. This is a team that is without Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Brad Boyes, Patrick Kaleta, Ville Leino (who sucks anyway) and Jochen Hecht. So to judge their play without their core is premature. Hecht is a big power forward and Myers is a bruiser on the back end when he wants to be, I.E. his hit on Malkin last year. The soft story is an assessment that I partially agree with. The lack of defensive awareness is for sure something I agree with. The main issue is Miller, or his lack thereof. He was good last year. But only good. GREAT at times, but dog poooh many times. This year it’s been mostly dog poooh. I do agree that these guys may have begun quitting on Ruff. Overall the team just doesn’t seem to respond to Ruff on the bench or on the ice. But again, I think all estimations must be backed off until that core can finally all get on the ice healthy and if Miller can wake up from his coma.

  4. haterzgonahate - Dec 21, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    okay so one incident with the “big bad Bruins” and the Sabres are labeled soft? where have i heard this before??

    this “team Toughness” thing is a little ridiculous if you ask me. why you ask? look at the Detroit Red Wings.. who in that line up is going to scare you off the ice? sure Kronwall can lay a devastating check, Bertuzzi almost killed a guy on the ice but my point is.. skill wins 9 times out of 10.

    and can you really blame Buffalo for designing their roster the way they have? the NHL has laid out the blue print and that blue print does not include enforcer type players anymore. the Sabres are simply following the guidelines. their problem is offense or lack thereof.. as well as some goaltending issues as previously mentioned not “team toughness”. everybody who plays hockey has the ability to throw a body check… thats all the toughness you need to make a difference but with the concussion epidemic.. i dont blame guys for thinking twice about throwing a hit when you factor in what consequences it going to have.

    the Boston Bruins for some reason have the ability to crap all over that blue print and get away with it. this is where the problem lies. if your going to set rules for teams to abide by for the sake of the game than EVERY TEAM has to be governed within those rules..

    and no i don’t have some personal vendetta for the Bruins.. just a mere observer of everything NHL cause i love the game.. or used to anyway.

  5. riles1008 - Dec 21, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    No one will ever pick up Leino’s ridiculous over generous contract in a trade. They have much more physicality than anyone is willing to give them credit for. Do I think they’ve quit on Ruff? Doubt it. It sure seems like Miller is. The problem is the owner expectations on this team from day one. Also, the Sabres were the best team in the NHL last year after the All Star break. With additions this year Buffalo and the national media were all over them. Now because of MAJOR injury bug problem and shotty goaltender play people are criticizing them for any and everything. They are a much more physical and chippy team than people give them credit for. Which is why I think all judgment needs to cease until they get healthy. Beginning of the year with everyone healthy they played fantastic.

  6. billsin20xx - Dec 22, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    So tonight the Sabres try to play tuff. But, against the pussy Phaneuf ! Both Kassian and Reghr tried to get hom to go and he rufused, but he did throw Roy down after a whistle! what a tough guy!!

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