You have to love the Mailbag. It's fun, it's provocative, and sometimes it's downright enlightening. Sure, there are some mean souls and vicious trolls out there on Twitter and email. I'll admit, I'm an easy man to despise.
But a lot of the feedback I get from readers is brilliant. A good Mailbag question informs and entertains. It makes everyone around it better, like a good point guard.
Anyway, this week's opening question blew me away. But first, I'm sorry to report the Mailbag will be off next week and maybe longer due to vacation and college basketball. Maybe I'll squeeze one in during the MAAC Tournament.
On to the Mailbag:
Steven Pagallo asks: With the Sabres' dismal record on Thursday 1-10-2, what do you think they have going on Wednesday? That seems really odd.
Sully: Wow. I checked it twice and Steve is right. Heading into Thursday's home game against Colorado, the Sabres are 1-12 on Thursdays this season. That's worse than their record in shootouts! More than a third of their losses have come on Thursday.
What's even worse is that eight of the losses came at the KeyBank Center, where the Sabres have a schedule loaded with Thursday dates. They're better at home this season, but imagine if you could throw out Thursdays (sounds like a promotion). They're 1-7-1 at home on Thursdays, 12-3-3 on all other days.
So you do have to wonder. Are the best parties on Wednesdays? What occupies them after games on Thursday nights? Are they so eager for the weekend they lose focus? Could many of the players be thinking of rushing home to watch "Bones" or "Louie" on TV?
I hate to single anyone out, but it's fairly well established that Evander Kane likes to get out on the town. In seven home Thursday games this season, Kane has no goals and is a combined minus-8. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.
One thing you can be sure of: They'll beat Colorado at home Thursday night. When you draw attention to a streak, it almost always goes the other way. Bucky Gleason and I laugh about it all the time. Last year, I wrote that they were on pace for their worst home record ever. They won the next two. Last week, I pointed out that they were one win from their best home streak in five years.
Loss. I call it writing opinion at the margins. You generally noticed streaks when the law of averages is about to go the other way.
Plus, the Avalanche is the worst team in the league by far. They're last in goals for and against, and they haven't won a road game since before Christmas (wait, maybe that streak is the one that's about to turn). If the Sabres can't win this one, they should consider doing away with Thursday games altogether.
@ZBIV42 asks: Am I a bad person if I kinda want to see the Sabres ditch Disco Dan for Claude Julien (sooner rather than later)?
Sully: Another smart reader, and a somewhat prescient one. Zaphod sent that tweet a few hours before the Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and hired Julien -- who had been fired by the Bruins just one week before.
You're not a bad person for wondering if the Sabres would perform better with a different coach than Dan Bylsma. A lot of fans are having similar thoughts these days. Judging from the mumbling coming from around the team, I suspect some of the players are wondering the same thing.
But it's not Bylsma's fault that GM Tim Murray gave him a weak defense, which makes it hard to play the uptempo style that many fans and players like. I don't imagine Julien would work wonders with a defense that allows the most shots on goal in the league.
@sanford117 asks: Do you think Lorenzo Alexander's Pro Bowl performance has put him outside of the Bills' price range?
Sully: Yes. Alexander had the season of his life last season at 33. He was brought to Buffalo mainly to play special teams, but an injury to Shaq Lawson gave him a chance to start at outside linebacker and finish among the league leaders in sacks.
Despite his age, Alexander should get a nice bump from his $885,000 salary of a year ago. His agent, Peter Schaffer, told Jason LaCanfora of CBS that Alexander will command a salary from $5 million to $10 million as a short-term free agent.
It's highly unlikely that the Bills will re-sign Alexander. They lack cap space and shouldn't be investing in older players when they're looking to rebuild for the long term. As our Jay Skurski pointed out, the Bills are going back to a 4-3 defense and Alexander isn't a good fit in the new scheme.
Alexander was a nice story last season, but he also faded late in the year when Rex Ryan's defense fell apart on numerous occasions down the stretch. He's not worth anywhere close to $10 million a season, but I wish him well.
John Williams asks: What do you think about the proposed rule changes for baseball? These include reducing the strike zone by 2 inches, not needing to throw 4 balls for an intentional walk, and starting any extra inning with a runner placed at second base.
Sully: I know they're trying to speed up games, but I'm not ready to change the essential rules. Strikeouts have gone up every year for nearly a decade, but I'm not ready to shrink the strike zone. They want batters to swing more, but it a smaller strike zone would result in more walks and prolong innings even more.
I don't like putting a runner on second to start extra innings, either. Sorry, but I'm a purist on that one. This isn't softball. It's nine-inning games that need to be shortened. Extra-inning games are a time-honored part of baseball and I'm one of those people who sees extras as a bonus.
As for not having to throw the four balls for an intentional walk, I'm all for it. Just motion to first and put the guy on. I'm still bitter about losing a big game in Babe Ruth League when our catcher was called for a balk during an intentional walk in extra innings.
Matt English asks: On a scale of Tom Brady to the Buffalo Sabres' 2nd Periods ... what are your thoughts on Donald Trump's awkward handshakes?
Sully: Forget big-league baseball games. The inordinate length of Trump's handshakes is a much more pressing issue for the nation. Did you that 19-second shake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe last Friday? I've seen entire Stanley Cup playoff handshake lines that took less time.
Oh, sorry. I forgot us sports writing simpletons aren't supposed to delve into politics.
Lou Speranza asks: Who do you think will disappear 1st in Jacksonville; Coughlin, Caldwell, or Marrone? Something has to give, right?
Sully: Why, because they have an actual command structure with a proven football man at the top? I suppose Caldwell would rather operate without a boss looking over his shoulder, but if Coughlin isn't overbearing, it can work.
My money is on Doug Whaley disappearing before any of those three guys.
Buffalo Ball Buster asks: Do you think you will retire when Brady retires?
Sully: Like Brady, I expect to continue for at least another five years and torment you for as long as I'm able.