A lot of fans in Buffalo might have lost a lot of hope in the Sabres this season, but not their biggest fan, the one who became the owner.
It's no exaggeration to say the Sabres have been one of the worst teams in the league since the opening month concluded. They enter the weekend with a record of 18-19-5, good enough for 11th place in the Eastern Conference. That's not really helping Terry Pegula reach his goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to Buffalo, no matter the cost.
But as far as Pegula is concerned, the roster that GM Darcy Regier has put together is still capable of doing big things. It's just that it needs to be healthy.
Here's what Pegula told Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News in a recent phone interview:
"What everybody is missing is that I've been carrying around 167 man games," he said by telephone Thursday evening. "Forget about the season. I'm talking about the last 25 games. We've had 18 players go down. It's like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who's healthy?
"I think what's important is the number of guys. You can have 167 man games with four, five, six guys out for a long period. Eighteen? Cut me a break. I told Darcy Regier one time, 'If I was you, I would be afraid to get on the plane.' "
There is no doubt the Sabres have been hit by the injury bug this season, losing several key players at one time or another, including Tyler Myers, Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis, Jochen Hecht and Ville Leino, just to name a few. And while that's true, there's probably not many teams in the NHL that are going to feel any sympathy for the Sabres (just take a look at the injury lists for teams like Pittsburgh and Florida, for example).Of course, injuries aren't the only thing working against the Sabres this year. The early returns on their summer-long free agent frenzy that included the signings of Leino and Christian Ehrhoff, as well as the addition of Robyn Regehr via trade with Calgary, have failed to produce much bang for their buck. And while Leino and Ehrhoff have had some injuries of their own, they haven't exactly produced when they've been healthy. Ehrhoff's offense from the blue line has taken a noticeable drop now that he's no longer getting significant power play time with the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, with the Canucks, and Leino has really only produced for one full season in the NHL.
And then there is goaltender Ryan Miller. Suddenly the target of some criticism from the local press, Miller hasn't been able to recapture the magic from his 2009-10 season when he was one of the best goaltenders in the world, not only as the netminder for the Sabres, but also for team USA in the Vancouver Olympics. This season his save percentage has dropped all the way down to .902, which is 36th in the NHL.
Are injuries hurting the Sabres? Sure, but they're not the only thing that has the team with the largest payroll in the league five points out of a potential playoff spot. There are a lot of players that are underperforming, or perhaps just aren't as good as the Sabres originally thought.
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