Despite the title this blog is not entirely about the pathetic play of our first line centre, it's mainly about how after having Roy centering Vanek and Pominville, has suddenly turned those two cold! This blog isn't an over reaction blog after the Sabres laid an egg last night against the Jets, Vanek and Pominville have been quite this whole road trip! The turning point for me personally was the Vancouver game, the first place team, a game where we needed our first line to step up and lead us to victory. The first line of Vanek-Roy-Pominville had just 3 shots! We need more from our top line.
Before the trade deadline Roy was reportedly put on the first line to be showcased for a trade out of town. He started jelling with his line mates, scoring goals and getting everyone excited that Roy's got his game back. On deadline day, Darcy Regier was unable or unwilling to deal Roy. (truth be told I don't think he tried very hard) Now that all the trade rumours are gone and the team is settling back in, Roy has returned to his crappy play from earlier in the season. But on Saturday in Vancouver, after focusing on Roy, I could tell that he was confused and ultimately looked lost out there. He'd receive the puck and immediately and blindly give it away like he was scared to have it. He was caught out of position, it just looked sad! I have two reasoning's behind his slumping play: maybe he really did want out of Buffalo, he was playing amazing with the possibility of him being traded or maybe he's tired of being the Sabres scapegoat, he'll be 29 by the end of the season and would likely want a chance to win and compete for a Stanley cup. In interviews Roy talks about the 2005 and 2006 Stanley Cup playoff runs (2005 was the season I became a Sabres fan!) and how much fun that was, but after the Sabres failed to keep Chris Drury, and Daniel Brier that Sabres have failed to come even remotely close to those runs.
The second reason behind his slumping play, could possibly the acquisition of future first line centre Cody Hodgson. This is a bit of a long shot, but maybe Roy feels threatened by the young star. Hodgson has many years left and can possibly lead the Sabres to a Stanley cup, while Roy is running out of time and likely won't lead the Sabres to a cup.
But ultimately there is no excuse for Derek Roy's poor play this season, if he's hurt then he should get the heck off the ice and let someone (Luke Adam, who played exceptionally well with Vanek and Pommer) who can actually play take his spot, he's not helping. Whatever the case, every line Roy has played on has been brutal! So whats the common denominator? Derek Roy!
Despite leading the team with 23 goals, Pominville has gone cold and hasn't scored a goal in 6 games! Not a major drought but unacceptable from our team captain especially during this crucial west coast road trip. It's hard to blame/get mad at Pominville as he's pretty much carried the team all season, but he's picked the wrong time to get cold! Right now the Sabres are making a big push to make the playoffs and we need are captain to step up and deliver and be the leader of this team! In the game against the Ducks he was playing so poorly I was convinced he was sick. Last night, he was letting pucks dribble off his stick. He's been non-existent, invisible whatever you want to call it, he was a non factor during this road trip and the last 6 games. If the Sabres want to make the playoffs they need their captain to start scoring again!
Whether its injury or tiredness or illness, Pominville needs to step up his game again and prove that he's earned his captaincy. Ultimately he needs to lead this team!
Much like Pominville it's tough to blame and get mad at Vanek, as he was the first half MVP for the Sabres. Vanek has just one less goal that Pominville with 22, and earlier in the season this duo was unstoppable and were leading their team like they should be doing now! He has 1 goal in the last 9 games and has just 3 goals since January 6th, odd since that's around the time Miller and the rest of the team started to play. Vanek has also been absent during the Sabres road trip, and although we've been getting through with secondary scoring, eventually we're going to need the first line to step up and help the younger players through the rough patches. Other than being paired with Derek Roy, I really don't see any reason why Vanek and Pominville are playing such uncharacteristically poor hockey. Maybe they're tired, but that's no excuse during this stretch of hockey when teams are pushing toward the playoffs, everyone is tired, and hurt. But the true good players in the league excel and step up to the plate. Which is what the Sabres need Pominville and Vanek to do!
What needs to be done
Lindy Ruff needs to take Roy off of the first line as it's effecting Vanek and Pominville. I know I said earlier that they should stay together but thats when they were playing. When lines stop producing real coaches start to fiddle with their lines, something Ruff hasn't been doing. I vote that Cody Hodgson be paired with Vanek and Pommer, Hodgson will be a future number one centre and has yet to score his first goal with the Sabres. Maybe putting the hot rookie with Vanek and Pominville will spark the first line and help them start scoring again. I mean it's worth a shot no?
I believe the first line with Hodgson would have amazing chemistry, and help get the confidence of the first line back up. Also, it looks like Ennis and Stafford are playing off each other and not necessarily getting a boost from Hodgson. Their boost may actually be coming from Roy NOT being their center!
One thing is for sure, if the Sabres are to make the playoffs they need Vanek and Pominville to start producing again! We've finally got secondary scoring which we didn't have earlier, but now our first line scoring is gone. Derek Roy is not a first line centre, replace him with Hodgson and watch the scoring begin!