No Panic, But Worry Time? Numbers Say, “Yes”

(WECK 1230) –Back when I was at WGR, Jeremy White and I developed a nice habit whenever it was “panic time” for the Buffalo Sabres. One of us would take a gander at the previous year’s Stanley Cup winner for an easy “Relax, fans” moment.

This year’s losing streak of questionable significance is Buffalo’s five-gamee, four of which came consecutively at home. I had to go back to the 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche — on an admittedly cursory look — to find a Cup team that even lost three consecutive all at home.

(At some point, I should issue the disclaimer that I’ve watched most of these games knowing the final score. It might make some difference to my mindset).

Is it panic time? No. It’s very early in the season for massive anxiety, but this is certainly a significant stretch and one worth attempting to decode. It’s been almost seven years since a Sabres team lost four-straight home contests (Dec. 4-12, 2003 vs.  Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Rangers).

Additionally, Lindy Ruff’s charges are getting their “one out-of-the-way” in a sense. Buffalo has only suffered losing streaks of five-or-more twice since the lockout: a six-gamer last season and a five-game skid in 2008-09.

So we’ve established to some extent that this is significant. Again, it’s not panic time, but there’s a glass half-full argument I’d like to kick in the spine real quick.

“Six games in the NHL is arguably one game in the NFL in terms of sample size. If a team lost one NFL game, you wouldn’t overreact.”

The “sample size” argument kills me every time. That is, quite bluntly, a lame argument. If a football team has a rough 60 minutes, they have a 15-minute halftime period to adjust it. If an NHL team loses five of six, it’s quite obviously different. The only way the sample size works is in terms of what it actually means in the standings. Yes, the Sabres played a tough stretch, but this is a team that was talking Cup before the year, whether fans bought it or not.

So, no, this isn’t time to panic, but being a cheerleader right now is a pretty annoying listen. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t play again until Wednesday, leaving us two more agonizing days. Luckily, it also gives Lindy Ruff a day to skate the heck out of the boys before a mild Tuesday practice.



8 Responses to No Panic, But Worry Time? Numbers Say, “Yes”

  1. “You think you can win on talent alone? Gentlemen— you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” (Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks, natch) I get the sense that this is exactly the problem with a bunch that seemingly lacks motivation at times. Obviously, there are a lot of talented players on this team— but that’s not nearly enough in a league full of talented players. I wish I were confident Lindy could turn this thing around but it seems that he’s been trying to get through to the same handful of players for years (Roy, Connolly, Vanek) with few too many results. Yes, Roy has been terrific at times this season, but he always seems to get casual at the wrong time (OT against NJ) and Connolly is fast becoming “Trent Edwards on Ice”. I’m certain Vanek can still be a beast but I think his annual struggles with streakiness are directly tied to the lackadaisical attitudes present in some of his surrounding teammates.

  2. Yes, there are concerns, but there’s plenty of time to fix things. I’m interested to see (as I just wrote) how this week goes, now that they have a few days to work on stuff in practice.

  3. It’s the same old, same old……….a fresh infusion of “systems”, or excitement or whatever will only come with a fresh coach and assistants. Then, if the team can’t get where there seems to be a collective interest and enthusiasm….then it’s time to pull the plug on those “bad seeds” on the player’s bench. Bring in some Portland players. Maybe they’ll be motivated by playing in the NHL.

  4. I believe sample size is an appropriate term to use. Not for a nonsensical comparison to the NFL, but that the Sabres have played some good hockey in these losses. Both the CHI games, NYR, and most of the NJD game after the dreadful 1st period, BUF has played the better hockey.

    Hockey is a sport largely based on luck… there are few true scoring chances, and a significant amount of “fluke” goals that can skew results drastically. The Sabres have at least average scoring ability, and their defense has been acceptable, along with one of the better goaltenders in the league. They’re likely to win more games with even scoring chances than they lose. That has not been the case this season, unlike the fortunate start the Sabres had last season. Continued play like the last week, and the Sabres should win their fair share of games.

    Of course, that’s hockey hating, never hockey playing, nerd in her mother’s basement talk… Lindy gotta send Millsy, Griersy, and da boys out dere ‘n skate ’em ’til dey puke. Teach dem girls Roy and Connolly ta be men and kick some azz.

  5. The eternal Sabres optimist in me is gonna point to Philly from November 20 thru December 21 last season when they went 3-13-1.

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