Robin Lehner’s Outburst Suggests Changes Could Be Coming For The Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres blew another opportunity to make noise in the playoff race, and their starting goaltender?  Not impressed.

The Buffalo Sabres knew heading into Sunday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks that they had a golden opportunity in front of them.

Despite all of the injuries, despite all of the inconsistent play this season, the Sabres somehow had a chance to pull within three points of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Naturally, the Sabres lost, 4-2 to a Canucks team that is just 7-17-3 on the road this season.  Better still, they did so in typical Buffalo Sabres fashion: by surrendering two goals in a flat, uninspired second period, dropping the team to a league-worst minus-22 during the second period on the season.

Oh Buffalo!  You’re just not happy unless you’re making your fans miserable.

The problem is, it’s not just fans who are miserable following yet another loss, as goalie Robin Lehner unloaded on his team to the media in the locker room (all comments courtesy of The Buffalo News????

We make two plays, score two goals and that’s about it. It’s not even disappointing anymore. I’m starting to get angry.  This is all talk. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror here. It’s disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful when we have a game plan and go through things.

The last few days, we’ve been going through how to play our second period. Coach is drawing it up there, coming up with good game plans and we do the exact opposite. We don’t do what he said and that gets me angry, gets a lot of guys angry. Disrespectful is the word. . .

Look at the veteran teams. It’s not science.  The good teams out there do the same things over and over again. When things happen, when things get a little bit too much, they fall back on the structure. The structure is what bails them out. We have a structure but we don’t play it. If we’re going to chip it deep or do whatever we’re supposed to do, let’s do another deke, let’s do another play. Get out of our zone? No, let’s do the fancy thing. . .

We haven’t done anything in this league. ‘Gio’ has won a Cup.  All respect to him, he’s done something in this league. The rest of us haven’t. End of story.

We’ve got to stop thinking after we win a game we’re Chicago or Boston or who we think we are. I don’t know. But it’s time to realize we’re a grinding hockey team. We’ve got to follow the structure, start listening to our coach and start respecting this team and respecting our coach. . .

I really like everyone on this team. I like this organization but you don’t put up results and things happen. I’ve been a part of that in Ottawa and it’s not a fun feeling. It’s time for us to wake up from the bottom up, from our whole lineup. Reality is going to come real quick if we don’t figure it out. It’s how it is. You can’t hide from it. This building, these fans, they deserve better. Our coaching staff deserves better.

Whew – that’s a lot of frustration spilling out right there, and rightly so.  There’s only so many too many men on the ice penalties, too many ridiculous turnovers in the defensive zone, and too many guys trying to extend shifts instead of keeping shifts short that Lehner can stomach, since all of those idiotic acts wind up becoming a goaltender’s worst nightmare.   The knock on head coach Dan Bylsma is that his system is too complicated and takes a lot of his players’ creativity out of the mix, but listening to Lehner’s comments about falling “back on the structure” and “If we’re going to chip it in deep or do whatever we’re supposed to do, let’s do another deke . . .” you can tell Lehner is a fan of LESS creativity on the part of the forwards at the end of shifts.

The most interesting part about Lehner’s comments to me is the warning he dropped toward the end.  When a player starts talking about how “things happen,” and “reality is going to come real quick,” he’s talking about guys getting traded, and players not getting new contracts, plain and simple.  Lehner is no dummy – he knows that the NHL trade deadline is fast approaching – and he is trying to wake his team the hell up before guys start getting told to clean out their lockers and pack their bags.

The Buffalo Sabres are stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, despite having numerous opportunities to improve their lot in life.  Fans may complain about Bylsma, and I share some of their concerns, but Robin Lehner is just the latest player to advise that his teammates take a look in the mirror.  I highly suggest the players on the Sabres roster actually start listening, before it’s too late.

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