Sandpaper. Grit. An edge. It seemed quite evident from the moves made back in the summer by Darcy Regier that the organization was intent on becoming harder to play against. Regier told us as much when he came by to visit at one point last spring after the season had ended.
Out goes Derek Roy, in comes Steve Ott. A straight up skill for grit swap. The signing of giant John Scott is also pointed to as a newfound commitment to being tougher.
Problem is, there are all kinds of toughness. I can get myself tied up in knots trying to figure out exactly how much a one dimensional tough guy who plays 3 minutes a night is going to make you harder to play against. I'll accept that smaller players feel more comfortable knowing they have an Atom Bomb on the end of the bench waiting to be set off should the opposition be foolish enough to actually try something stupid.
But jumping guys who hit your other players from behind doesn't in and of itself make you harder to play against. What makes you harder to play against is most of your players, well, playing hard. That means playing hard all over the ice. Like you so often hear Lindy Ruff say, it means being hard on pucks.
Rob Ray did a great job of highlighting an example of the Sabres not doing this the other night. Forgive me, I don't recall which game it was in, they've already started to blend together. Great sign, right? Anyways, a Sabres D man, I believe it was Sulzer, was in a battle for the puck near his own blue line. Kind of a 50/50 looking sort of play. A pair of Sabres just sort of coasted past, making circles while a pair of opposing players stopped, waiting for the puck to perhaps pop free, which eventually it did. Simple little play, that if it's made, makes you harder to play against. You're going to have to battle for this puck, mister. Instead, Sabres players are carving figure eights. Maybe because stopping and starting is harder. Maybe because they're not heady enough to realize what the right play to make is.
I know, one tiny example. Tough to draw any conclusions based on such a small sample size. But just consider the possibility of this play being duplicated a few times a game. Or maybe a dozen times per game. You know what that makes you? Not hard to play against.
These are the kinds of plays good teams make all night long. We never notice them because they seem to just sort of blend in over the course of a game. Make that sort of play consistently over the course of a game and you have taken a step towards being hard to play against.
There is no more annoying player to face than the one who keeps working on you after you think you have him beat. The place this comes most into play is on the defensive side of the game. Playing offense is fun because there's scoring and glory and money and sometimes people throw their hats on the ice if you've had a really great night. Nobody throws anything at you for doggedly working in your own end. But your opponent is going to the bench swearing under his breath because you are so hard to play against.
Going into games Wednesday night, the Sabres were last in goals against. Buck. Naked. Last. That sports fans, is pathetic. It is indicative of a team that is not selling out to play defense. A team that is not selling out to play defense is not hard to play against.
Look, I love the physical stuff. Big hits and yapping at guys to try and get in there heads can contribute to making you a tougher team to play against. Speaking of this, where are you Steve Ott? Picking a fight down 5-1 in Montreal isn't exactly what I had in mind.
Anyways, lots of things have to be present to make you tougher to play against. Exacting revenge for wrongs done and throwing rights at other one dimensional tough guys barely scratches the surface.
Bulldog: Sabres Are Not Hard to Play Against
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It's easy to turn your show off
I just pull the plug.
Correct -and just hard to root for.
Just a complete mess from the top down at FNC. They need to start all over and fast.
Just teasing us, eh?
Why advertise a column that you don't have?
Bring Pickets to the Games now
Demand for the heads of Regier and Ruff
I am sorry it comes down to this
But if this is what it takes to build a winning team, so be it. Buffalo Sabres fans better root for the opponents from here on until RUFF gets axed. Regier will get fired too. So, go Habs!
you hear lindy say a lot of things, fact is his teams rarely compete or play the way he speaks about. He's great at talking to the already hosed buffalo media so that they rarely (if ever) publicly start to question him. He knows his job is safe for ever, so his only real job is to keep the media off his back. That's all lindy does; strategically speaks to the media to place the blame elsewhere (even when he says "the blame is on me"). He's not a very good coach, he's got a lot of wins because he's been in the league forever, he's never won the big one and in the past decade hasn't really even come close. Just not good enough..remind you of a certain hockey club?
you know what's not hard to play against?
Johchen Hecht for 20 minutes a game. give me a break.
Players who have players muttering........
Kaleta has that effect. He's relentless when assigned a 3rd line checking role. Lindy fails to notice this. Hecht Ott and Kaleta when healthy, should be the shutdown line. They showed they could do it once this year. But Lindy needs to reshuffle to show he's 'coaching ".
You Can just keep writing this column every year!
Nothing will change at Walmart!
Just keep selling those Jersies to the IDIOTS!
FORE FORE FORE!! EVER...
amen i say
darcy doesnt get it. i feel like when he was shamed into getting tougher, he added scott and ott, and im guesing he was not pleased about having to do it. he probably thinks it wasnt that long ago that andrew peters was here- spending more nights in the press box than nights in the penalty box. i feel like darcy was trying (laughably) to emulate some of the better soft, skilled teams ie detroit and pitt. the failing to add elite talent is no more evident than the power play. i hate when people blame ruff for this stuff. these were the wrong players brought in from the word go. we are desperate for another pair of eyes to get a look at our talent and see what needs to be shipped out and what kind of real players we can get for them. there appears to be a gaping hole in goal now, especially with millers contract nearly up. they are looking at a top 5 pick that should be used on a #1 center, i cringe at the thought of darcy wasting that pick on an undersized goalie.
The Sabres have no answer for the problems that they have, they are confused and it shows. The blame goes on the Coach for not getting through to them or not working with the talent he has because the system doesnt work when players dont believe in, or like system.
Complimenting Rob Ray????????????
This guy is every bit as bad as Kevin Sylvester, Andrew Peters, John Murphy, Mark Kelso and John Gurtler and that is saying a lot! To say that Rob Ray is a cheerleader makes calling Rick Jeaneret a "homer" seem like a stretch of the imagination! As the first period ended yesterday, good 'ol Ray made the statement "the Sabres did everything right in that period." Of course they were tied 1-1 against the Canadiens' back-up goalie and they didn't exactly get a lot of pressure on him, but that's ok because Rob Ray said so. Thank goodness Spongebob was on so I could hear some intelligent comments on that show!
It's a good time to quit drinkin'. Your blogs just keep getting worse.