You guys don’t get to see as much Eastern Conference hockey as I do, and understandably so. For this reason, please keep in mind that what you are about to see tonight may be shockingly bad.
We are, as people who have watched most, if not all, of the Flames’ games this season, accustomed to ugly play, ugly coaching and ugly roster building. So it is therefore not a compliment when I tell you that the Buffalo Sabres are the Calgary Flames of the East.
They’re fairly old, they’re plagued with injuries, they’re investing bad money in worse players, they can’t score and the only reason they’ve picked up most of their recent wins are strong performances from one forward and/or their goaltender. Unfortunately for the Sabres, the latter can, for the rest of the season, simply read "from their goaltender," because Derek Roy, the only player on the team delivering a decent performance in attack this season, is done for the year. After him, their next-highest scorer is the guy that used to be Tom Vanek, who has 25 points. At least if Iginla got hurt there’d… well, maybe Rene Bourque would do something.
But this is a team with a top pairing of Jordan Leopold and Steve Montador, just to give you an idea of how well-built that backline is. And to give you an idea of how bad things are up front: without Roy in the lineup, their No.1 center is Rob Niedermayer.
Things are so bad for the Sabres that they’re only two points up on Toronto. And they’re one point back of Calgary. It takes a lot of being terrible, especially in the East where you play the Devils and the Islanders a minimum of four times a year, to be a point back of Calgary. And the sad thing is, with only four players north of 15 points(!), Buffalo fans might actually kill someone to take Olli Jokinen off our hands.
Another problem, too, is that Buffalo has a similarly-entrenched incompetent general manager, just like Calgary. Darcy Regier can seemingly sign who he wants to whatever years and dollars he deems fit with no way for him to ever get canned no matter how terribly the team inevitably does. Yes, yes, they won the division last year, but if not for an horrific stretch by the Bruins, they might have missed the playoffs entirely in that airtight East. Worse, Lindy Ruff, who has shown no coaching ability whatsoever lo these last several years (unless you count "Let Ryan Miller worry about it" as an acceptable coaching strategy), might have more of a stranglehold on his job than Regier does. And that’s saying something.
So take heart, Flames fans, that yours will be only the second-worst-run team on the ice tonight. And that, having said the above, Calgary will lose by three.