There are different kinds of roles for actors. There are prestige projects, in which you sweat and bleed and get fat or get skinny and give everything you have to make art. And then there are paycheck jobs, in which you show up as General Hawk for 10 minutes in “G.I. Joe: Buy This Toy.”
After 10 games, Buffalo Sabres coach Ten Nolan has to realize this is a paycheck team.
This is a collection of players that know they’ve been set up to lose, from the crease out, and know that help isn’t on the way until Bill Daly flips over their logo card at the draft lottery next April.
He has to know that this historically bad start – their 10 goals in 10 games is the fourth-fewest in NHL history – isn’t indicative of anything beyond this being a paycheck team.
But he’s a prideful guy, and thus he skated the Sabres through a wall on Wednesday: Bellowing expletives through 85 minutes of muscle-aching practice.
“I always give our team a 10-game grace period. Give them a little bit of rope, and maybe some of them will hang themselves,” he said. “Taking it easy is over now. Maybe I didn’t push them hard enough.”
It’s not exactly rocket surgery to see who isn’t pulling their weight. Drew Stafford has 16 shots in 10 games for a minus-6. Cody “Fourth Line” Hodgson is a minus-7 with two points in 10 games. Tyler Myers is a minus-2 with no points in 10 games.
All three were here last season, and you figure at least one of them is waiting for his inevitable trade out of Buffalo.
“We got some good characters on this team. I’ve never doubted that. But sometimes we get caught in wishing things will turn around, instead of working to turn them around,” said Nolan.
“We’re the kind of team that has to work. If we don’t work, we’re in trouble.”
And so Nolan gets angry and skates them hard, hoping for some fire or anger or anything. “We’ve got a quiet group of athletes,” he said.
Hoping for some pride.
“This is our occupation. This is our profession,” he said.
Those are two different things, of course. Every player on the roster has chosen to make hockey their profession. But majority of them probably see this season’s job as an occupation separate from the grand scheme; a paycheck rather than a passion project.
There’s no incentive to win, nor will there be dramatic moves to encourage it. They’re six points out of the wild card on Oct. 28, and everyone has two games in hand.
But at least the checks clear.