The Answer We’re Waiting For

There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that the Buffalo Sabres must answer the bell against the Boston Bruins.

Milan Lucic laid a hit on your superstar, face-of-the-franchise goaltender who is now out indefinitely with a concussion. Something needs to be done, something needed to be done, but will it?

The Distant Past:

1988-1989 – Tom Barrasso is run by Bob Probert. Not only do the Sabres bum rush Probert, who is one of the scariest goons of all time, but then they get even. Kevin Mcguire takes a six step drop and crushes Greg Stefan (Detroit’s goaltender) behind the net.

He pays no heed to the fact that soon he would get attacked by 3 players and an irate goaltender. He sent a message. Tom Barrasso is a star and our goaltender. Stay Away!

The Nearer Distant Past:

1998-1999 – Dominik Hasek was the best goaltender in the world save perhaps Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur. Gino Odjick decides I’m going to take a run at him. Richard Smehlik goes after him and Darryl Shannon comes out firing punches.

Later in the game team captain Michael Peca gets mugged by tough guy Donald Brashear and Shannon jumps in again to go after the feared brawler. Steve Shields avenges his starting keeper by teeing off on Canucks’ goalie Sean Burke.

This wasn’t the only time that teammates went to the aid of Hasek, I just wanted to highlight the commitment of a player not considered a heavyweight by any means.

The Recent Past:

2007-2008 – Chris Drury gets pounded by the much despised thug Chris Neil. The first player on the scene was rookie Drew Stafford. What did the kid do? He dropped the gloves and tried to punish Neil. Yeah, he got tossed around a bit, but he tried. Then the Sabres put the goon squad on the ice and attacked Ottawa’s star players. They sent a message.

The Present:

2008-2009 – Just one season after my last example the Buffalo Sabres lost their nerve. In the playoff stretch run Scott Gomez injures Miller behind the net. Anyone on the team up to and including Derek Roy could have taken on the Goliath that is Gomez. Yet no one did. They missed the playoffs.

2010-2011 – Jason Pominville gets run by Niklas Hjarmalsson and misses significant time for the first time in his career. Tim Connolly does his best tough guy impression and skates after Hjarmalsson and tackles him to the ice. Nothing else happens.

They play the Blackhawks again 5 nights later the game after Hjarmalsson’s suspension was up. There wasn’t a single fight in the entire game.

2011-2012 – Milan Lucic runs Ryan Miller and gives the star goaltender a concussion. Andrej Sekera looks like a lost sheep and tries to grab the big guy. Tyler Myers, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville skate in and half-heartedly grope at Lucic while big Paul Gaustad hugs Nathan Horton. It was embarrassing and everyone knows it. Paul Gaustad was man enough to admit it and Lindy Ruff called out all of his players including Gaustad with 5 simple words: “Paul was on the ice.”

The Future:

Buffalo plays Boston on November 23. So what will Buffalo do? Will we see a return to the old time hockey style of previous teams that were as current as 2007-08 or do they take the recent trend of turning the other cheek?

Milan Lucic made things easier on the Sabres by telling the media that the Bruins “wouldn’t have stood for that.” Paul Gaustad, Robyn Regehr and Tyler Myers all said they should have had a stronger response and to understate things a little: Ryan Miller is pissed! So we should see some fireworks a few days before thanksgiving, but will we?

Excuse me if I’m a bit skeptical but it seems ludicrous to think the Sabres have changes that much. Don’t get me wrong, I think Gaustad and Regehr, Patrick Kaleta and Cody McCormick are upset and ready to take someone’s head off. That doesn’t change much. Four guys can be avoided, dodged or swarmed. Mike Weber can’t do much from the press box either. The response can come from those guys but it cannot stop there.

The Sabres need to address the glaring inadequacy of their team toughness. Some players who may not be considered tough guys need to step up. Andrew Peters isn’t here anymore because everyone was going to stand up for everyone else. That hasn’t happened.

If Paul Gaustad or Cody McCormick drops Lucic I might smile a bit, but I still won’t be happy. If Pat Kaleta takes Tim Thomas behind the net and lights him up it’ll be a start. But those are the players that teams know will fight. The players that really need to prove themselves are the other guys that were on the ice.

Andrej Sekera needs to step up, he’s fought before and he needs to man up now. Tyler Myers needs to drop the mitts, I’m sick of having a gentle giant on this club and his defense certainly isn’t instilling confidence right now. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. Yes you read that correctly. I want Pommer and Vanek to find someone about their size and throw fists.

Something I made note of in the off-season was a glaring lack of fighting from most of the Buffalo  roster. Outside of the five guys I’ve already mentioned can you name the only other player with more than two NHL fights? It’s Drew Stafford. That means anyone else on the team is not at all scary to an opposing club.

Brad Boyes, Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff, Luke Adam, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Matt Ellis please do something. Nathan Gerbe, Derek Roy I hear Brad Marchand is pretty small. I need some of these players to take a few knocks to the chin or at least wrestle someone to the ice. If I’m on the Buffalo Sabres right now (which I never would be because I’m terrible at hockey) I don’t trust my team to have my back and that is not a good situation to be in as a team aiming for the Stanley Cup.

This could go one of two ways. This can be a clarion call to the league. “Feel free to mess with our stars.” “Thomas Vanek has weak knees, someone take him out!” Or it can send a different message. It can say: “We are a team and you don’t touch our teammates!” This could be a team building experience that could put this team over the top. One last concept to think about as you get your popcorn ready for the 23rd.

If you went down to Rochester right now and pinned a picture of Milan Lucic up in the Rochester dressing room you would have 24 players willing to take big meaty Chara punches in the face to get into NHL. Shouldn’t we have 20 players in the Buffalo dressing room that would be willing to do the same to stay there?


Adam Qutaishat
Adam Qutaishat
Adam is a 23-year-old student attending the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point majoring in Music Education. Adam lives in Stevens Point, WI and works for many local and national sports media outlets in many different mediums.
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