AMHERST – Just a few weeks ago, Tyler Myers was a disappointment……according to all the hockey “experts” around these parts. It was a natural conclusion given his and the Sabres’ very slow start. Of course, the questions were standard.
What is wrong with him? Is he a one-hit wonder? Two of many that were asked. After four decades of having a NHL franchise and seemingly a century of having professional hockey, Buffalo fans still don’t get a lot of stuff. One thing they certainly don’t have is patience.
They just don’t get this patience thing. Of course, if your club is celebrating its 40th anniversary and has only come close to the Stanley Cup a handful times – patience is not a virtue.
Myers, Buffalo’s first-round selection (12th overall) in the 2008 Entry Draft, is an epitome of that. The monster human specimen is still only 20 years old, and already Sabres fans are expecting him to be the catalyst of a very good team. The kid was a tremendous surprise last season, and deservedly earned Rookie of the Year honors. He was also a major factor in Buffalo’s Northeast Division title following two seasons of not qualifying for the playoffs.
But NHL seasons can change quicker that a gust of Western New York wind. This season Myers has suited up in all 25 Sabres games and has three goals and eight assists.
But a glaring statistic is his minus-10 rating. Last season, he was a plus-13 and skated in all 82 Buffalo games.
“I had kind of a slow start,” said Myers after a recent Buffalo practice in suburban Amherst. “The past 10 games I think I am getting back to the player I want to be. Obviously from here, I want to be as good as I can.”
In the big picture he is not an elite player on a great team despite a fantastic rookie season – instead – the giant 6-8, 222-pound defenseman could still be a work in progress on an average team. An average team so far, at least.
One things is for sure – he was better statistically in November than he was in October.
During the first month of the season he was a common pedestrian in getting four points with a minus-10. But in November he accumulated four points but more importantly was even, a significant increase in his plus-minus rating.
He showed a flash of his great potential on November 15 when he scored the game-winner in overtime in a badly needed victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Since that night it seems, the complaints about Myers have descended in paramount fashion.
In fairness to Myers, it would be unfair to ask him to duplicate last season’s success. A reason? He is no longer an unknown commodity, which not surprisingly has made his sophomore season even a greater challenge than his first.
“I would say it is a little tougher,” Myers said. “I think the element of surprise was huge for me last year. I think this year, I don’t have that, so I just to have to work that much harder. It has gone well as of late.
“For me it’s just a case of concentrating on what I have to do.”
And in today’s world of 24 hour news, sports and opinion, criticism of the youngster was everywhere around this area. But Myers learned to tune that out – a long time ago.
“I learned to ignore it before I even made it to the NHL,” he said in authoritative fashion.
How good can this kid be? Brief history… very brief… says very good. But not every game and not every night. Maybe not now. Perhaps down the road when he is older.
That’s what Sabres fans are hoping for – and counting on. And whether it is fair or not, soon.