WHAT COULD REX RYAN AND DAN BYLSMA HAVE IN COMMON?
When Dan Bylsma was named coach of the NHL Buffalo Sabres May 28, 2015, first-year Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan tweeted, “From one head coach to another, welcome to the #OneBuffalo family.”
In the not too distant future , Bylsma might return the tweeter favor with, “From one ex-head coach to another, goodbye to #1OneBuffalo family.”
Ryan didn’t last long in Buffalo. He got the boot from owner Terry Pegula with one game remaining in his second season on the job. His record with the Bills was 15-16. Many fans, some media and – most importantly Terry and Kim Pegula – thought the Bills should’ve been better than that.
And now – in Bylsma’s second season as coach of the Sabres – he reportedly is on thin ice.
Bylsma’s first season with Buffalo (2015-16) was considered a success. The Sabres had been the NHL’s doormat the previous two seasons under Ted Nolan. Those sorry squads might not have won a Calder Cup.
2012-13 (Nolan) – 21-51-10 record; outscored by 91 goals (248-157)
2013-14 (Nolan) – 23-51-8 record; outscored by 113 goals (274-161).
2015-16 (Bylsma) – 35-36-11 record; outscored by only 21 goals (222-201).
This was supposed to be the season the team’s massive rebuilding process would take another big step forward. That has not happened:
2016-17 record after Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss in San Jose: 28-30-12 record; outscored by 29 goals (207-178).
I don’t know if or how much these Sabres are underachieving, but I do know they’re not overachieving.
The Sabres are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games (6 of 22 possible points when they needed a surge to sneak into the playoffs). The team appears to be spinning wheels and everyone is frustrated – the players, the fans, the media and – I suppose – the Pegulas.
Is it Bylsma’s fault? Not totally. These Sabres are not without flaws. There are some very talented young players – particularly budding superstar Jack Eichel and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen -- and Robin Lehner has shown signs of becoming the “franchise goaltender” (I know many of you don’t agree). But there also are several forwards and a few defensemen who belong in the American Hockey League.
The organization obviously lacks quality depth – fans in Rochester and Elmira can vouch for that. But that isn’t Bylsma’s fault. He probably squeezes more ice time out of Eichel and Ristolainen than he would prefer to.
There have been complaints that Bylsma prefers a slow-paced, physical style of play for a team that should be maximizing the speed and skills of the exceptional young players on the roster.
The Sabres are likely to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season. The Bills – not that anyone needs to be reminded, least of all the Pegulas, are on a 17-year playoff drought.
After Tuesday night in San Jose, the Sabres have 12 games remaining – including the next three on the road against Los Angeles, Anaheim and Detroit.
I wonder if Terry Pegula is ready to pull the trigger on another head coach. He must be thinking about it.
CUBA AND ISRAEL ARE OUT…USA VS. VENEZUELA WEDNESDAY NIGHT
In case you aren’t paying close attention – and I know that’s probable – there have been a few interesting developments in the fourth annual World Baseball Classic.
Cuba is out after a crushing 14-1 loss to Netherlands Tuesday night (stopped by the “mercy rule”). Cuba finished 0-3 in Pool E. There is no shortage of excellent Cuban players in Major League Baseball but few of them bothered to represent their country in this competition.
Cinderella Israel also is out after an 8-3 loss Wednesday to Japan. Israel started this tournament 4-0 but lost its final two games to Netherlands and Japan.
Japan won the first two WBC tournaments (2006 and 2009) and is 6-0 so far in the current competition. Japan and Netherlands have advanced out of Pool E to the semifinals in Los Angeles March 20.
The powerful Dominican Republic, the defending WBC 2013 champion, had its 11-game WBC winning streak snapped in a 3-1 loss to Puerto Rico Tuesday in the opening game of Pool F play.
The United States begins Pool F play Wednesday night vs. Venezuela. Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic also are in the loaded Pool F.
USA and Dominican Republic were the favorites to win this tournament, but Japan is looking very good. The enthusiasm of the players and the fans has been extraordinary.
Things could be worse for Syracuse men’s basketball than the NIT. The first annual College Basketball Invitational starts Wednesday night, with a single-elimination format and 16 teams. Five of those teams had losing records this season. Arizona State (15-17), Auburn (18-14) and Towson (20-13) declined invitations to the CBI.
The trusty FiveThirty sports computer gives Connecticut a mere 52 percent chance to win the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. The Huskies have won 107 consecutive games and have three of the five first-team espnW All-Americans this season (Katie Lou Samuelson, Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier). Baylor is the second choice at 23 percent…If I were a computer, I’d give UConn a 98 percent chance to win.
Garrison Sanborn must have been a terrific long snapper for the Buffalo Bills. In his eight seasons, did he have a single poor snap that cost the Bills a game? If you don’t notice the long snapper, that’s a good thing.
The Golden State Warriors are making injured Kevin Durant look ever better by continuing to struggle without him. The Warriors trailed the visiting lowly Philadelphia 76ers by 16 points in the third quarter Tuesday night and had to outscore the 17-point underdog 76ers 28-14 in the fourth quarter to win 106-104. Golden State is 3-5 in its last eight games. Durant (knee) ix expected back before the playoffs.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO..
Wednesday, March 15 – Jabari Parker (22)…Devonta Freeman (25)…Tavon Austin (26)…Trayce Thompson (26)…Jon Jay (32)…Kevin Youkilis (38)…Mike Tomlin (45)…Terry Cummings (56)…Craig Ludwig (56)…Mike Pagliarulo (57)…Harold Baines (58).Eva Longoria (42), Fabio (58) and Mike Love (76) are invited to the birthday party.
Thursday, March 16 – Joel Embiid (23)…Tim Hardaway Jr. (25)…Blake Griffin (28)…Stephen Drew (34)…Curtis Granderson (36)…Rodney Peete (51)…Brian Mullen (55)…Mel Gray (56)…Duane Sutter (57)…Ozzie Newsome (61)…Hollis Stacy (63)…Joe DeLamielleure (66)…Roger Crozier (75). Erik Estrada (68) and Jerry Lewis (91) are invited to the birthday part,.