History should always be looked at as a lesson for the future. This is no more apparent than in sports. When an organization is struggling in their pursuit of success, players and coaches alike need to open the history books and study what legends that came before them had to say about achieving success. At this point in time, that is precisely what Ted Nolan needs to have his Buffalo Sabres do if they have any intention of taking a step towards becoming a stronger team.
One of the most popular NHL quotes came when Wayne Gretzky stated: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” This should very well be lesson No. 1 for the men who play for the Sabres. Every game played by the Sabres in the 2013-14 season has featured a team chasing the puck rather than playing ahead of where the puck is going to be. This has led to several mistakes defensively ultimately including many goals against which aided the Sabres in owning the worst record in the NHL.
While defense is a definite area of concern for the Sabres, the offense needs to be taken into account as well. Fred “The Fog” Shero was once quoted as saying: “Arrive at the net with the puck and in ill humor.” This quote is short and simple yet effective and noteworthy. While the Sabres seem to be content with trying to fancy their way around the goal on lazy skates, their opposition tends to attack the net with a fierce shoot-first, finesse-last attitude. This was clearly illustrated in their Mar. 13 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in which they were outshot 55 to 23. If the Sabres want to change their low scoring offensive tendencies, they need to take Shero’s statement to heart and attack the opposing net with a cold heart and fierce mind.
Step three in the Sabres’ history lesson is the need to apply a quote to the entire team as a unit. Gretzky once said: “Ninety percent of hockey is mental and the other half is physical.” This quote is more important than any other in the history of the sport in that it breaks the entire game down into one sentence. Rather than going out on the ice and giving 100 percent effort, every single player needs to give even more than that. Ninety percent of a player’s effort needs to be on the mental side of the game and the rest needs to be physical. This seems to be reversed in the Sabres’ system as the players tend to pile on the hits till the number of hits meets, or even exceeds, the number of shots they have on goal. Rather than acting like undisciplined battering rams, the Sabres need to execute a disciplined game-plan and aim to score rather than bruise their opposition.
In order to wrap it all up, one simple quote needs to be remembered at all times. This quote was stated by Jacques Plante and goes like this: “How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?” Well, Sabres, it is time to focus on avoiding those boos and taking the advice of your hockey ancestors into account.
If the Sabres intend on making any noise at the end of the season and into next season, they need to approach the game with a strong mind and iron will. By playing ahead of the puck, attacking the opposing goal and working with a strategy-first reckless-abandon-last strategy, the Sabres will severely limit the number of times that “big red light” flashes signaling the team’s failures.