I have not talked much about this because at times it does not make sense. We have watched Tage Thompson evolve into an elite player over the last few years. From the depths of being the integral part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade, to the abyss of a serious injury on one of his first call ups, this guy was definitely thought of as a lost cause by many. After the last two seasons posting 38 and 47 goals respectively, things have changed. These are not convoluted numbers, when he is on, and he shifts gears, he is one of the most dominant players in the league. You do not have to take my word for it, you just have to see the highlights of the last two years. Undeniable hands, shot velocity, and skill. Some may say a unicorn. A generational talent, who with the right mind frame, is a man amongst boys. With determination and confidence, a player can change the game for good in an instant. That is what Tage did against the Senators. Take a look –
Guys who have this size and ability can bring the pain with an energized effort. Our mediocre record points to our top players and their lack of urgency. Now, I do not have inside information on Mr. Thompson’s personal struggle to keep his game elevated. I know there have been injuries, and this simple fact can be a realistic indication of why he has not taken control on a nightly basis. This is not criticism by me, this is a proclamation that if Tage the rage isn’t flowing, we struggle to get victories. He is the cog to our success. Another possible setback is in the air, I hope somehow, he can lace them up against Vancouver in this frozen tundra that we have all been following in anticipation to the Bills game. His performances feed the outcome of a contest. Management assumed that our top forwards who have shouldered the burden could build on career years, it was a miscalculation. These perceived gladiators are human, especially at their young ages. Buttons have to be pushed. From the outside we have a tough time comprehending why their buts aren’t on fire every night. Hopefully Granato is finally finding a way to kindle the keesters. Our top brass has taken way too long to concede to inevitable asset assignments to Rochester. Bryson, Jost, and Comrie have cleared waivers. This is the modern-day NHL, scraps are rarely gobbled off the floor. The salary cap is a prominent thing on general managers minds. They are skeptical with their own waste. Bottom roster players are interchangeable unless you are aggressive with intelligent acquisition in the summer. You have to court the grit guys who have more in the tank. They know their value.
Buffalo Sabres, 18-20-4, vs. Vancouver Canucks, 28-11-3
Saturday, January 13th at 4:00 pm
Still The Crossroads, Snowy Buffalo, NY
The Blue and Gold is up against it today with a rare early puck drop. This should be an entertaining game. The Canucks were on the ropes of despair last year with major speculation in regards to team makeup. In an impressive turnaround, the franchise complimented a core that needed solidifying support. Sound familiar? Pettersson, Boeser, and Miller had trade rumors swirling around them. The fanbase was thoroughly discouraged with years of ineptitude. Now they are one of the better teams in the league. This just goes to show you that higher achievement can be harnessed with bold decisions. Sometimes being loyal and cautious breeds complacency with a core group. Speaking of J.T. Miller, have you followed his journey? He has been in the show for roughly twelve years and has played for three teams. At one time he could have easily been brought into the fold at a modest cost. From the Rangers, to Tampa, to the Canucks. Next thing you know he scores over eighty points the last two years, and is easily on pace to top that production baring a severe drop off. It just goes to show you that the rite fit in a different situation can be arbitrary. When are we going to do something daring and unpredictable? Stagnant or boring just might be Mr. Adams middle name… I am just saying.. The process is starting to be arduous for us loyal fans.
Notes from dodging the path of the lake effect snow band -
Finally, we have a two-goaltender rotation. It was blatantly obvious who deserved to remain on the roster, and it is better to have flexibility with the forwards and d-core. The threat of being out of the lineup is a motivational tool that needs to be leveraged. I understand that the players feelings need to be more considered this day and age, but it has gone too far. If you are not bringing it on a nightly basis, then sit in the press box and watch. Plenty of guys out there who are chomping at the bit to put on an NHL sweater. This is a critical point in the season. If you are wasting our time going through the motions, you are allowed to be sent to Siberia for eternity. We need winners who throw themselves into the competition, not someone playing not to get hurt emotionally or physically.
Shout out to UPL for indicating that he wants the crease. He is slowly showing a commitment to tightening up his game and overall consistency. As you all know, I am a Levi fan, but you have to earn opportunity. I think the competition is good for both of them.
As I made it clear in the start of this blog, it is essential for our top guys to produce on the scoresheet. Hopefully Skinner will be healthy soon, and he, Tuch, Thompson, Cozens, and Casey can take control in the next few months. We need a break, we need some sustained success on the ice.
It would be sacrilegious for me not to mention the Steelers and Bills battle that has been moved to Monday. Although for selfish reasons I wish it was still this Sunday, I understand the need to keep everyone safe. At least it will still be played in our home stadium. We have earned it, and I appreciate the NFL realizing that it is an advantage as opposed to going to a neutral site. I am confident that we will prevail and will be playing next week.