With the new season bearing steadily but slowly (this last week will take forever, mark my words) down upon us, I think it’s time I turn my attention, as most bloggers do at this time, to the important business of showcasing what lies ahead for my team. Now I know many a more serious hockey blogger than I will be going over the Sabres’ key losses and additions this off-season (well, the losses anyway), predicting who will step up, where the points will come from, and how we will fare compared to the rest of the division, conference, and league. All across Sabres fandom, people want to know, “How good will we be?” But there’s an equally-important question that I think most people won’t be addressing, though many people might be wondering: “How hot will we be?” And that’s where I come in. (Forgive me.)
Okay, forget Drury and Briere. (Please, please forget them.) In terms of hotness, those losses were minor compared to the great crimes committed by this organization over the past two years. I remember thinking, as the camera panned down the line of Sabres during the pre-game anthems of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, “If that is not the prettiest team in all of sports, I’ll eat my hat.” (Of course, that could have had a little to do with the fact that when I was treated to the same view of the Hurricanes, all I could think was, “Dear Lord, what threw up on Rod Brind’Amour, and how can I keep it from coming after me, too?”) Since then, major puzzle pieces of the pretty like Taylor Pyatt, JP Dumont, Mike Grier, Jay McKee, and Marty Biron have walked out the door, and we’ve let replacement back-up hottie Ty Conklin and subtle supermodel Dainius Zubrus slip through our fingers as well, with their true hotness potential barely realized. And who’s been brought in to offset all of these losses? Jaroslav Spacek. Pa-thetic. Between this and the recent suspension of Teppo Numminen, it’s like the Sabres don’t want to be hot, despite their shameless assumption of billboard-sized glamour shots as a marketing strategy. But in the end, how do all of these losses shake out? Where are we left? Well, let’s take a look, on a player-by-player basis:
(Note: I’ve arbitrarily decided that an official nickname is required in order to be included in this most prestigious hard-hotting analysis. As you’ll notice, some are generally known and widely-used, others are recognizable only if you know which are the cool parts of the internet to hang out in, and the rest were all made up in my head, for my own enjoyment. Please excuse the crazy.)
#5 Toni “TMT” Lydman Toni is like a mystery, wrapped in a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in my mom’s haircut. Just when I think I know what he looks like, he goes and changes it up on me. He definitely doesn’t scream hot (I'm not 100% sure that second picture really is him), but I have to give him credit for his fashion fearlessness.
#6 Jaroslav “Jarlsberg Swiss” Spacek Considering I gave him this nickname when I decided that his head bears a striking resemblance to a cube of cheese, the answer here is definitely not hot. Although his interviews, wherein he takes on the English language with all the speed and destructive force of a tornado, almost make up the difference.
#9 Derek “Dr Jesus” Roy By all rights, Roy, definitely shorter than his listed 5’9”, should be in the “cute as a button” category, living out his days as the imaginary tenant of fans’ pockets. But no, Derek is hot. The kind of hot that makes you want to use names like “punk,” “asshole,” and “bastard" affectionately. He’s a pretty boy who certainly knows it, cocky and mouthy, but somehow in a way that only enhances his attractiveness instead of putting you off. You’d never admit to actually liking this type of hot, but that doesn’t mean you can help it whenever you find yourself drawn in by it. (Don’t worry, you can just pretend you’re staring at his awesome silver skates instead.)
#10 Henrik “Tally” Tallinder Long, lean, and the image of grace on skates, Hank brings the classy-hot to the Sabres lineup. In addition to typically Scandanavian good looks and a jaw line stolen from a top fashion magazine, he has an easy smile, and an adorable set of dimples. More importantly, his hotness seems subtle enough to fly under the radar of the more, shall we say, singularly boy-crazy set of fans. The only downside to Hank is that he’s so prone to injury that his Tally-Hos are often required to go long stretches without seeing his hotness in motion. And the withdrawal symptoms, I’m told, can be quite damaging.
#12 Ales “Super Freak” Kotalik Last spring I was procrastinatingly cruising Facebook in lieu of writing a paper, when I stumbled upon the group titled “... and on the Seventh Day, God Created Daniel Radcliffe and Ales Kotalik.” For a moment, my world stood completely still. Confronted with evidence that such a group actually exists—and worse, has members (more than one!)—my brain didn’t know where to start laughing first. Okay, declaring your love for a 17-year-old kid who will one day be 40 and still best known as a children’s book character is one thing. Simultaneously (and irrelevantly) declaring your love for an NHL player is another. But having that NHL player be Al Kotalik? Really? Her? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Super Freak looks like a pile of puke, but when he’s playing like a pile of puke, who has time to notice? To his credit, he would look completely at home in a period film about the 19th century, which as everyone knows was the century of hot. Unfortunately for him, though, he would probably be playing the high-brow politico character that the female lead desperately doesn’t want to marry, and would be therefore way less hot than the actual love interest, and no one would notice him. Sorry, Al.
#19 Tim “Timbit” Connolly Timmy has a face as round and doughy as the donut I’ve nicknamed him for. It’s a good thing chipmunk cheeks, overlarge teeth, and slightly inbred facial features suit him, otherwise we’d have two very good reasons to want to see him in a visor. As it stands, he definitely gets top marks for looks, if not for smarts. Seriously Timmy, tighten the chinstrap, get a mouth guard, and for God’s sake keep your head up. Vegetables are never hot.
#20 Daniel “Shovel” Paille I’ve never noticed whether or not Paille is hot, so must be he’s not. (I’d make a great investigatory journalist.)
#21 Drew “Staffy Stomp!” Stafford Staffy’s alluring perma-scowl and strangely beguiling unibrow bring the term “ugly hot” to a whole new level. Seriously, he has the kind of face that could give small children nightmares, while still somehow managing a certain appeal. I think if he were a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, he would be the “fierce” and “edgy” one, the one who wins Tyra’s praise week in and week out, until it comes time to shoot the Cover Girl commercial, and his look is revealed for the train wreck that it is. Sorry, Staffy, but you’re just not easy, breezy, or beautiful. You’d best stick to hockey.
#22 Adam “Scud” Mair Mair’s hotness has nothing to do with Top Model. It has, shockingly, everything to do with hockey. In a state of perfect health, though there are many other things I love about him, Mair’s not much too write home about in the looks department. With rugged, masculine features, he’s certainly not unattractive—just ordinary looking. But get him a little bruised and banged up (as he is wont to do in his line of work), and he becomes a veritable fountain of sexiness. He proves that the purple blossom of a black eye or the scarlet trickle from a minor temporal gash can be the perfect accessory for the hockey player looking to up his hot status. I salute you, Bloody Mairsy, for making looking like shit look so good.
#26 Thomas “BK Lounge” Vanek Vanek can look like this. Unfortunately, most of the time he looks like this. It’s a shame, really. (But, hey, apparently it could be worse.) He may have led the league in +/- last year, but his hotness level sticks resolutely to zero, neither here nor there, adding very little to this conversation.
#27 Teppo “Teppoware” Numminen Okay, I’ll admit I was once part of the “Ew, Teppo” camp, but only because I was so blinded by his branding as an ancient old man that I never actually took the time to look at him. But once I did, it is safe to say I ew-ed no more. Teppo Numminen is an undeniably sexy beast. He takes the kind of adjectives usually reserved for old-fashioned movie stars, like “suave” and “debonair,” and brings them to life for a new generation. I wish him a speedy—but complete!—recovery from his recently successful open-heart surgery, so that he can get back to playing like a leader on the ice, and looking like a model off it.
#28 Paul “Goose” Gaustad Goose looks like what every girl grew up dreaming her prom date would look like. He’s classically handsome in a non-threatening, boy-next-door kind of way, but avoids the curse of being too pretty, in part by punching guys like Alex Ovechkin in the face. On top of this, he wears glasses and records PSAs about reading. Pretty, sensitive, but still tough, Goose can do no wrong.
#29 Jason “Pommerdoodle” Pominville Pommerdoodle is like the Justin Timberlake of the Sabres. (Not to be confused with the Justin Timberlake of the Kings.) From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I understand that he’s hot, but personally he just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s the fact that he shares most of his fanbase with Fall Out Boy, or that a summer spent at Interchangeable Parts has left me irrevocably associating him with a labradoodle puppy, or that my mom—my mom!—has had a picture of him hanging in our kitchen for the past year, but I’m just not going to be jumping on the Pommer wagon anytime soon. But, if that’s your style, I’ll grant it’s a legitimate wagon to be on. Unless you’re my mom.
#30 Ryan “Crunchy” Miller How Miller managed to gain a devoted following of swooning adolescent girls is one of the great mysteries of the universe. He looks, as Margee from SportSquee so brilliantly put it, like the love child of a Picasso and a Dali. But I suppose if emaciated hipster guys with womanly locks and crooked faces are your personal definition of hot (which, for my sister, happens to be true), then it doesn’t really get any hotter than Crunchy.
#35 Jocelyn “T-Bone” Thibault Coming off a long period of employing the ever-sexy and eternally lovable Marty Biron, the Sabres have a recent history with hot back-up goaltenders. T-Bone seems ready to carry on the tradition. I haven’t really seen anything of him besides his roster photo, but he shows definite promise.
#38 Nathan “Patches” Paetsch I’m really looking forward to watching Patches grow into his hotness this year. All the elements are at his disposal—a nice smile, large puppy-ish eyes, and an expression of general intensity out on the ice. He just needs to start owning it, and learn to stay away from the scarecrow hair.
#45 Dmitri “Tri” Kalinin Intensely shy and eternally too unsure of his English skills to do many interviews, Tri lacks the required confidence that is the cornerstone of any hotness, regardless of physical appearance. He does, however, have the Sabres market on sorrowful adorableness cornered. It can be explained by a simple series of mathematical correlations: As Kalinin’s on-ice inconsistencies approach infinity, the griping from Sabres fandom also approaches infinity. As the griping approaches infinity,
#51 Brian “Soupy”
#55 Jochen “Yo-Yo” Hecht I’m ashamed to admit that I overlooked the hot side of Yo-Yo for far too long, even after I found the courage to declare him my favorite Sabre. His is a subtle hotness. It doesn’t necessarily jump out at you, but it doesn’t disappoint, either. He doesn’t have some of the hit-or-miss inconsistencies, or the vain, preening qualities to which some of his teammates fall victim. His simple variety of handsomeness is alternately sweet and steamy, but always on the mark.
#61 Maxim “Max” Afinogenov What Max lacks in creative nicknames, he makes up for in Faye Dunaway impressions. I'm sure he’s very comforted by the fact that long after his career in the NHL is over, he’ll be able to keep putting food on the table as a celebrity impersonator in Vegas. What I’m getting at here, in case you couldn’t tell, is that Max has a very delicate, almost feminine bone structure. And, while it certainly sets him apart from the average Joe, it doesn’t quite make him hot, instead landing him somewhere in the neutral quagmire between “striking” and “interesting-looking.” (Which everyone knows are just fancy ways of saying “not hot.”) All that goes out the window, though, the second he opens his mouth. In an acoustic embodiment of sex, Max speaks with a deep tonal quality that it seems can’t possibly be his own, the smoothness of a chocolate milkshake poured over velvet, and a Russian accent that will undress you where you stand. He doesn’t do interviews terribly often, but when he does, beware: he takes no prisoners.
#76 Andrew “Gund” Peters Peters looks as plush and cuddly as a Gund Bear, and is about as useful on the ice. Under no circumstances should he be considered hot, but certain fans, it seems, won’t let that stop them.
Conclusion: Surprisingly, if I were actually professional enough to do a real season preview, wherein I discuss these guys’ potential talent instead of (or more probably in addition to) their looks, I think this post would still be ending the same way: We may not be on top anymore, but we’ve still got it. Go Sabres!