At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say it again - Do not look now but THEY actually did it!
For reference purposes, I would like to point your attention my earlier blog supporting Don Granato, https://www.rantingron716.net/post/don-t-look-now-but-he-did-it where I wrote how Granato could conceivably convince many Sabres fans that he may be worth a look if he manages to turn the Sabres into something at least watchable, and he’s done that AND MORE! I think Granato has earned the right to stay with the Sabres in some capacity or another while still believing that someone like a Bruce Boudreau should still come in as Head Coach. This is by no means any knock on Granato’s efforts here. I just think to REALLY take the Sabres to the next level, you need ol’ Brucey here or someone of that caliber.
There are smarter people than me that crunch data and look at underlying metrics of individual players. Although I have a great deal of respect and I am constantly improving my understanding of those particularly important bits of information – I will rely on the eye test for most of this blog. I suggest dialing in with Expected Buffalo’s - @xBuffaloPod on Twitter - Anthony, Chad or Eddy for their views beyond the eye test as its generally SPOT ON as they take a much more analytical approach to hockey. Their podcasts are also worth a listen! (No, they did not ask me to give them a shout out, and this is not advertisement – just a general respect mention 😊)
ONTO MY EYE TEST
Players are passing tape to tape, playing with emotion, and playing with a purpose. EVEN KYLE OKPOSO IS PLAYING BETTER! The real eye grabber is what is happening with Dahlin. He is finding his way back to his old stomping grounds and holding onto the puck! I believe Dan Giardi has done some glorious work here with him, but Granato’s new system needs some honorable mention here as well. The emperor has found his groove and its beautiful!
Can someone do the same thing with Taylor Hall next?! AND QUICK
Do not mistaken this, Taylor HAS played well, but I still view him far from the 8-Million-dollar player that we all know he is. Right now, he is heading towards Jeff Skinner level – playing great hockey but needs to score goals! Taylor has not been that puck possessing dominant figure that we had all hoped he would be, however its hard to say that he is not a noticeable impact even for the eye test. If someone could convince Taylor to pot 4-5 goals before the trade deadline on April 12th at 3PM …… THAT’D BE SUPER!
Speaking of Jeff
Jeff skinner has earned himself some trust under Don Granato and its hard to argue why. Jeff seems to be getting himself back towards what makes jeff so great! He is extremely noticeable every time he is on the ice and who cannot love that Jeff Skinner smile!
Ullmark’s Return BEYOND noticeable
Ullmark is the first goal tender with more than just “he should be good” stats, since Miller! We are seeing a goaltender emerge here with a true 1A goaltending status. I still believe that he should not be purely a #1 goaltender but utilized in the 1A, 1B role. The nice part about this idea is Ullmark is likely not going to ever command one of those ludicrous #1 goaltender contracts either (see Carey Price). So that will mean there should be some cap space available to acquire a solid 1B goaltender for next season – in order to shore up the goaltending issues from years past! THAT’S EXCITING RIGHT?!
I will not get into it in any great depth on shoot outs, but MAN WHAT A KING IN SHOOT OUTS!
The system changes are working!
Sure, the Sabres are not going to win their last 19 games, but they are showing some swagger and that is what you want heading into next season! That will be a great change from starting every season 10-0-0 and finishing like hot garbage! So that should help. No more “play defense until your opponent screws up and hope you pot one” style of games! We are seeing a system that thrives on playing to players natural talents within the group and un-shockingly enough – ITS WORKING! Keep up the good work Don, you have definitely helped the Sabres find their way out of a hole!
Sorry “snake charmer”, but thankfully your spell has worn off and the Sabres are back to looking like more than just pylons!