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  1. The Instigator |Episode 27 Who is the Right Captain? How important is a good captain to the growth of a hockey franchise? What type of player makes the best captain? All questions that are critical to a teams success. Do all NHL teams have the correct person as captain or has the pressures to select the young goal scorers outweighed the importance of leadership. Brad Burud from Inside Edge Hockey News gives his opinion on young captains. PODCAST
  2. THE DEBATE – Hockey Podcast | Episode 45 Philly Disaster and Bye Bye Berglund$ The Philadelphia Flyers are not in the Christmas spirit as they fire head coach Dave Hakstol. The team is in disarray and Brad Burud and Blake Frairs have their opinions, and they are not very nice. It seems like Philadelphia forgets how to be professional sometimes. Then Patrik Berglund bolts Buffalo and leaves $12 million dollars on the table. Well this one is a shocker and one that no one may figure out. They wrap up the show with Leafs talk as Kyle Dubas makes a bold statment, Ken Hitchcock playing to the officials, and a rejuvenated Pacific Division. It’s an action packed Christmas edition of THE DEBATE Hockey Podcast. PODCAST
  3. Early Season Injury Issues The NHL season is up and running and the injury bug has already hit hard. Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel is just one of many injury casualties. The young phenom was injured Wednesday at practice. He appeared to get tangled up with Zemgus Girgensons in front of the net. The collision left Eichel lying on the ice grabbing his left ankle in pain. VIDEO The injury dampers the excitement of opening the season this Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. "You’re looking at one of your key players, one of your best players going down in pain on the ice," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "It’s not a good thing. We’re going to let it calm down here and get it evaluated and see the extent of him turning his ankle there.” Buffalo confirmed Thursday morning that Eichel did suffer a left high-ankle sprain. The time table given by the team was weeks. It is speculated it could be up to six weeks. Injury Updates: Carey Price – Montreal – Flu – Will miss opener versus Buffalo. Speculation is that this may be more that the flu. Very odd to make starting determination two day out with the flu. Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles – Lower body injury – Was injured Wednesday night versus the San Jose Sharks. This one looks long term. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh – Concussion – Taking it day-to-day with no timetable for return. Scary situation with the amount of concussions that he has had. Partice Bergeron – Boston – Lower body injury – day-to-day Ryan O’Reilly – Buffalo – Back injury – day-to-day Tyler Seguin – Dallas – Heel – day-to-day Nick Bjugstad – Florida – Broken Hand – Long-term Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida – Achilles Cut – Long-term Marion Gaborik – Los Angeles – Broken Right Foot – Long-term injury sustained at World Cup. Matt Murray – Pittsburgh – Broken Hand – day-to-day Jayden Schwartz – St. Louis – Elbow – Long-term Ryan Callahan – Tampa Bay – Hip – Long-term INSIDE EDGE HOCKEY NEWS
  4. With training camp a little over two months away the Sabres will have a lot of roster spots up for battle. New GM Tim Murray and Head Coach Ted Nolan have stated since day one ice time will be earned not given. If the tone of prospect development camp was a slight insight into training camp, the coaching staff will be pushing competition and physicality hard. The goal of the Sabres offseason was to get harder to play against. I think they achieved their goal, perhaps too well and taking them out of potentially being involved for a top 2 draft pick in 2015. On the bubble: Going into camp a lot of players find themselves in a "prove it" situation. One player in particular is Patrick Kaleta. PK36 got into trouble with the NHL and then wore out his welcome with Regier and Rolston. Kaleta was on the verge of being recalled from being sent to the corner (Rochester) for being bad; when the Buffalo native tore his ACL ending his season. Kaleta has always been a favorite among fans. Kaleta is the type of hard to play against player GMTM is looking for, but he needs to clean up his game. He needs to go back to just being a hard player instead of a cheap player. If he shows he can clean his game up in camp I think he makes the opening night roster. Here are some other players that are on the bubble of the NHL/AHL/CHL: -Andre Benoit, Matt Ellis, Brian Flynn, Mikhail Grigorenko, Jake McCabe, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zac Dalpe, Nic Deslauries, Torrey Mitchell, Chad Ruhwedel, and Mark Pysyk Blue Line: The Sabres blue line has only three players locked in to roster spots in the persons of Tyler Myers and newly acquired Andrej Meszaros and Josh Gorges. The remaining three spots are up for grabs between Weber, Pysyk, Risto, Beniot, Zadorov, Ruhwedel and McCabe. The future is bright on the Sabres blue line however I don't think the future is now. Pysyk, McCabe, and as hard is it may be to do Ristolainen will be sent back for more seasoning. Risto and Pysyk still have a good chance of squeezing into the final roster, especially Risto if he can build on his strong development camp. Zadorov is pretty much a lock to be sent back to London for one more season. This paves the way for Weber, Beniot, and Ruhwedel to fill the remaining spots. If the Sabres carry a 7th defenseman on the roster then I think the Sabres will either keep McCabe up with the big squad and let Pysyk and Risto play in Rochester. Also don't rule out another signing before camp starts like Benoit. Forwards: The top 9 for the Sabres in 2014-15 are pretty set with Girgensons, Gionta, Reinhart, Ennis, Stewart, Stafford, Foligno, Hodgson, and Moulson. The battle will come on the 4th line and depth players to fill in the 23 man roster. Flynn, Kaleta, McCormick, Deslauries, Mitchell, Dalpe, Grigorenko, and Ellis will all battle for these spots. Grigo is likely on his way to Rochester play top minutes and prove his attitude is changed. The 4th line battle will be so close and interesting to watch throughout camp. I know it's the 4th line, but the 4th line plays a pivotal part in today's NHL. Especially in Nolan's system of rolling 4 lines. Goal: Enroth and Neuvirth. Hackett will not return from his ACL tear until January at the earliest or he would enter the conversation. Projected pre camp roster: Moulson-Ennis-Stafford Hodgson-Reinhart-Gionta Stewart-Girgensons-Foligno Kaleta-McCormick-Deslauries Myers-Gorges Meszaros-Weber Beniot-Ruhwedel Enroth Neuvirth Extra: Mitchell, Flynn, McCabe
  5. This week the Buffalo Sabres held their development camp with all the prospects in the system. A chance for the fans to get a look at the real future of the Sabres. I'll start with main attraction 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart. Over the first two days in camp you can see Reinhart has come as advertised. He's shifty, great instincts, and quick hands. On the first shift of Tuesday nights scrimmage Reinhart made a great no look pass under pressure right on the tape of 2014 2nd round pick Brendan Lemieux. The thing to watch with Reinhart is how he will stand up to the contact of men who will be out for him this season. Girgensons welcomed Reinhart with a booming hit Tuesday night along the wall Tuesday night and Reinhart jumped right back to his feet. After the scrimmage Reinhart spoke how he liked the contact and players trying to run him will just cause them to be out of position. I have no doubt in my mind Reinhart will be on the opening night roster. Camp stand outs: Rasmus Ristolainen- Risto looked like a man among boys. I find it hard to believe Risto will not start in Buffalo this season. He's too good to be sent back to Rochester. Only excuse they could give is to let him work on his offensive game in the AHL. A lot of upside around this kid; he is the building block of the Sabres blue line for years to come. Mikhail Grigorenko- The 2012 1st round has been a disappointment up to this point. However this year Grigo is back with a new attitude. The 20 year old has dropped the entitlement attitude and has accepted responsibility for his career. Telling the media that if he doesn't start the season in Buffalo he has nobody to blame but himself. Grigo has also worked hard in the offseason adding on 10 lbs. of muscle and it shows. He has been a dominant player in camp. A great sign for the Sabres Nikita Zadorov- Zadorov came up with a bang last year before being sent back to London by the new management regime. He also put on about 10 lbs. of muscle in the offseason and moves extremely well for a player his size. Zadorov will likely be headed back to London for one more season. However in 15-16 season he'll be ready to join a stacked blue line with Pysyk, Myers, Ristolainen, and McCabe. Nick Baptiste- The 2013 3rd round pick continues to just score goals. Last year in Sudbury Baptiste potted 45 goals in 65 games. In every appearance (Traverse City and development camp) Baptise scored in every game/scrimmage except one. The puck always seems to find the 6'0 forward. Baptiste will be a player to watch in the coming years as the 18 year old heads back to Sudbury next season. Linus Ullmark- The 2012 6th round pick is the goalie of the future in my opinion. Ullmark has been outstanding in camp so far. Last year for Modo in the Swedish Elite League Ullmark had a 2.08 GAA and .931 save % on his way to winning goalie of the year. Ullmark will heading back to Modo this year, but he'll be a big part of the Sabres future. Other notes- Newly acquired Jordan Samuels-Thomas is the true definition of a power forward, Brendan Lemieux shares the same feisty attitude his dad played with, Hudson Fasching and William Carrier are big and fast. The one disappointment of camp for me has been the play of 2011 1st round pick Joel Armia. Armia didn't develop the way I hoped he would last year in Rochester. The Finish forward needs to have a good season in Rochester next year to have a chance to make the jump to the NHL in the near future. Development camp wraps up after tomorrow's session. The way camp has gone this week Sabres fans have a lot to be excited about with three more 1st round picks coming in the 2015 draft.
  6. It's ironic that the last trade Darcy Regier made in his long tenure in Buffalo could be move that sets the Sabres up for a bright future. On October the 27th the Sabres sent Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson a 2015 2nd round pick and a conditional 2014 1st round pick. When you look at the return Snow received on Vanek at the deadline (conditional 2nd and prospect); Regier outright robbed the Islanders. Everyone knows that Vanek is going to Minnesota on July 1st. I respect Snow's guts on this move, but it wasn't a wise move. What I want to focus on here is that conditional 2014 1st round pick. For those who don't know the condition on that pick is that if the pick is in the top 10 in 2014 the Islanders have the right to defer that pick to a 1st round pick in 2015. With the loss of Tavares for the season and the Vanek trade the Islanders are almost sure to finish in the bottom 5 if not bottom three in the NHL. Now I would be shocked if Garth Snow survives this season with all that has gone on. So from the Islanders standpoint what should they do? The Islanders are moving to the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn in 2015. You would think they would want to bring some buzz into that season with perhaps a top pick. However no guarantee the Islanders are going to be in the bottom again 2015, but still pretty likely. So do the Islanders swallow hard and let the Sabres keep a potential top pick in 2014? Another issue is that 2015 is the McDavid-Eichel draft. Does New York give up a potential golden ticket in that 2015 draft? If I was the Islanders GM I would let the Sabres take the 2014 pick. Keep an eye on the future with McDavid and Eichel. I know this will be hard to explain to fans however it's the smarter move long run. Now from the Sabres side I think it's simple. You'll take that golden ticket in 2015. Sure you could possibly get two of either Reinhart, Ekblad, or Bennett. I would rather take Reinhart this year and then put him with Eichel or McDavid next year and possibly another high pick in 15. Personally as a Sabres fan I'm begging the Islanders to take the pick this year. The Islanders need to make the decision by June 1st. The lottery is held at the end of April so the Islanders will have about a month after the lottery to make a decision. The only way I would understand the Islanders keeping the 14 pick is if they have the 1st overall pick. What do you think the Islanders should do?
  7. The Sabres seemed to be pulling off the impossible. They are the worst team in the NHL yet the fan moral was at a all time high. The fans were excited about the direction of the team under Pat LaFontaine and new GM Brian Murray. The residents of hockey heaven excepted the idea of losing and rebuilding. However after an eventful weekend in March the atmosphere has changed. On Friday the face of the franchise Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott were traded to St. Louis. Most fans were sad, but understood it. A rebuilding moving assets to get younger and new parts. The following day is when hockey heaven erupted in confusion and despair. Early Saturday afternoon reports started to float out of a shakeup in the Sabres front office. I immediately first thought Tim Murray decided to let long time Assistant GM Kevin Devine go. However as the story unfolded it shifted to Pat LaFontaine leaving the Sabres front office. Around 6:30 PM Saturday the Sabres made the official announcement of LaFontainte's resignation. To say the least people were shocked and confused by this development. LaFontaine brought in the current Sabres coach in Ted Nolan and GM Tim Murray. Now he's out the door abruptly. The speculation quickly began around the NHL. Was there discord in the front office? Did LaFontaine realize this job wasn't for him? Was he homesick and wanted to back to NYC? The popular belief according to various reports is some sort of disconnect in the Sabres front office. LaFontaine was truly out the door by the beginning of last week. LaFontaine was not at all involved in the Miller and Ott trade which rules that out as being the discord. Next the belief was well there must of been a disagreement over the status of interim Head Coach Ted Nolan. Well turns out the Sabres offered Nolan a 3 year contract extension. However here is where it gets interesting. Nolan has not excepted the Sabres offer. Nolan said Sunday that at this point in time he doesn't want to talk about contract and was very upset about LaFontaine's departure. Why would Nolan be so upset if LaFontaine truly left on his own accord as the Sabres claim? In the end I think the Sabres mend fences with Nolan and he remains the coach. From what I have been told a few things resulted in LaFontaine's departure. First off PL thought he would have final say on all decisions. When PL first came in he talked about wanting to be a GM one day, but wasn't ready yet. Many believed he was going to learn on the job and then eventually take over full control. However it seemed as though LaFontaine didn't enjoy having another cook in the kitchen. He wanted everything ran through him first not Murray. The situation then escalated when Pegula friend Joe Battista the VP of Hockey-Related Businesses started to step on some toes. Battista was hired from Penn State by Pegula and has no NHL experience. LaFontaine didn't like the way Battista was getting involved hockey decisions and came to a head a few weeks ago. These two issues combined with the fact that LaFontaine was starting to believe this job was not for him resulted in his resignation. At the end of the day something happened in the front office. The 100% total truth we'll never know. The timing of this couldn't be worse with the deadline approaching. When all is said and done I think Murray is the right guy for the job to rebuild the Sabres. Time will of course tell and he'll get dropped right into the first this week. The turmoil and transition for Sabres fans will continue over the next few days with more player movement to come. On a side a note a colleague of mine and myself are going to be starting a hockey podcast in the next month called The Breakout. I'll have more details as the time comes closer to launch. However gives us a follow @TheBreakoutPC for hockey talk and news on twitter. Thanks for the read!
  8. 1997-2013…The Darcy Regier era for the Buffalo Sabres has come to an end. For the first time in 16 years Regier is not calling the shots over the hockey department in Buffalo. A long time coming. Perhaps one of his worst decisions keeping Ron Rolston as head coach was also shown the door today. Under Rolston the Sabres went 19-26-6; however very few of those wins came in regulation. This year the Sabres gave up the most shot in the NHL and continued to be one of the worst teams in puck possession in the league. Rolston was in over his head and not ready to be an NHL coach yet. I’m not going to bash Regier and Rolston today though. Everyone knows what lead to their failures and no need to go over again. Instead I want to focus on the new era of the Sabres that will be led by new Director of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine and in the short term Interim Head Coach Ted Nolan. First I’m going to touch on what Ted Nolan brings. Nolan and Rolston are on complete opposite sides of the coaching spectrum. Rolston is an X and O’s teacher and Nolan is a lets go play hockey who needs fancy systems guy. Nolan believes in outworking your opponent and winning the battles for the puck. This is a very different style than what was preached by Ruff and Rolston for the players; however I think Nolan’s style better fits this young team better. Nolan is going to demand his players to work hard or they simply won’t play. I think Nolan’s style also fits really well with one important Sabres player in particular…Tyler Myers. I think Myers will be able to join the rush more and show his offensive side we haven’t seen in two years without a coach shoving defense first and second down his throat. Also look for out casts like Luke Adam (11 goals in the AHL this year), Brayden McNabb, and Patrick Kaleta to get another chance to show what they have with no eyes watching. Now to the main attraction Pat LaFontaine. LaFontaine was working for the NHL under Bill Daly before being brought in by Buffalo. People are going immediately point to the fact LaFontaine has no experience however I don’t recall Neely in Boston or Sakic in Colorado having experience before being handed the keys to the hockey team in those organizations and so far so good for them. The hiring of LaFontaine brings excitement and some credibility back to the organization. LaFontaine said he has a short list of GM candidates he’s looking at to replace Regier. He also spoke about his #1 candidate being someone with “multiple Cups” and “one of the smartest hockey people knows”. I immediately jumped to LaFontaine’s former teammate currently working in Edmonton Mark Messier. Messier would bring more star power and credibility to the Sabres front office. Another name to watch who is always connected to Buffalo is Rick Dudley. Do these moves today help the Sabres turn this season around? Probably not. Sabres are still likely headed for a top 3 draft selection in April; however it makes the plan of rebuilding more acceptable to the fans with new people overseeing this organization. It’ll be interesting to see the ripple effects in the lineup these changes cause. Also should be a next interesting few weeks as LaFontaine looks to bring in the new GM of Hockey Heaven. Oh yeah….Sabres have a home and home with the Leafs this weekend, meeting for the first time since the preseason line brawl. Should be intriguing.
  9. It was another familiar and unfortunate site for Buffalo last Wednesday night, not just because the Sabres lost again for the 9th time this season (now at 10), but because another dirty hit was committed. In their 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins Sabres goon (to put it nicely) John Scott delivered a vicious elbow to the head of Bruins star Loui Eriksson on a delayed hit. So once again Scott has the hockey world up in arms after another dirty play. John Scott's hit on Loui Eriksson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojoCAhhOxGs However, it seems that now the talk of the incident is less about vicious hits in the game, but more about having vicious players such as Scott in the game at all. Scott has been coined the term “goon” and rightfully so. Many believe that hockey has no place for people whose sole purpose to take the ice every night is to hurt and attempt to injure other player, while contributing very little to their team in terms of offense. Throughout Scott’s career he has played in 187 games and recorded just one goal and 4 assists. This year in 7 games Scott has no points, has averaged just 4.57 minutes of ice time while averaging just under 3 minutes per game in the penalty box. That means Scott only tends to play about 2 more minutes on the ice then he does in the penalty box. Besides his lack of contribution at the NHL level, Scott’s stats have been similar everywhere he has played. In the AHL he has played 173 games putting up just six goals and 13 points and in the WCHA he played 126 games recording 7 goals and 18 points. It is obvious to see that Scott did not make it to the NHL because of his numbers. Now many might claim that he is just doing what fourth line players are paid to do, be physical, stick up for their stars, and get their team energized with a good fight. This is all true, but Scott tends to do this in a very dirty fashion. Many fourth line players will fight other fourth line players and stick up for their stars when they are in trouble. This is not what Scott has done. In a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the pre-season (likely one of the more famous pre-season games of all-time) Scott jumped superstar Phil Kessel which then resulted in a line brawl that even saw goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Ryan Miller square off. Scott jumped Kessel, in what seemed to be a retaliatory offense, after Maple Leafs tough guy Jamie Devane fought with Sabres Corey Tropp. However, in the case of Tropp, he bit off a little more than he could chew. Tropp being 6’0 decided to take on Devane who towers at 6’5. To make matters worse Devane is a player who has been known to be a good fighter. So, when Tropp was knocked out by a punch by Devane, as tragic and dangerous as it was, it wasn’t Devane’s fault so looking for retaliation should not have been his first thought. Scott though was not pleased with this and to settle the score he decided to take vengeance on the Leafs star, instead of the person who actually had knocked out Tropp. In fact just before Scott jumped Kessel as they lined up to one another on the faceoff circle, Scott told Kessel he was going to jump him. Unfortunately, this has been a pattern with Scott. In both his most recent altercations he has targeted star players, not other fourth line players like himself. This goes to show that he trying to injure stars to give his team an edge the best way he can, since goal scoring for him is out of the question. Many may argue Scott is no different than other fourth line players and goons such as Colton Orr, George Parros, Chris Neil, Matt Cooke, etc. but the fact is that these players do either one or two things that Scott does not. First off most of them can provide a few more points for their team, Chris Neil has averaged about 25 points a season and even put up 16 goals in 2005-06 while Matt Cooke when healthy and in the lineup has been able to put up a solid 40 points and is currently second in scoring on Minnesota with 8 points in 12 games. The other thing many of these other fourth line players tend to do is fight and play physical while also being clean. To be an enforcer does not mean one has to play dirty. Guys such as Colton Orr and George Parros fight a lot and are looked upon to be physical but these players tend to fight the enforcers of other teams. They refrain from going after big stars and when they fight or play physical they do it cleanly. These players don’t look to hit for the head or throw vicious elbows to injure others, they simply do what they can to stand up for their teammates and provide energy and a boost to their team. As the NHL still works to come up with an appropriate suspension for Scott following the Eriksson hit the one thing that Scott might have going for him is the fact that he doesn’t have any prior suspensions and this will be his first offense. Though, if Scott’s style of play and his past show anything it might be that this won’t be the last time he faces discipline. Maybe the league should stop Scott once and for all. Follow me on Twitter: @Craig_Hagerman
  10. Suffering- “to undergo or feel pain or distress.” Since Sabres GM Darcy Regier dropped this now infamous line in the offseason the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres season has been coined the “Season of Suffering”. So far the young season has lived up to that. The Sabres limp into Long Island tonight 0-6-1 tying the franchise record for worst start to a season. They’re the lowest scoring team in the NHL with 7 goals in 7 games and a NHL leading +/- defenseman in Mike Weber who’s a -9. Mikhail Grigorenko is making his second stop to the press box in 7 tonight games and Tyler Myers has showed very little improvement over his awful campaign last year. One has to wonder how many games the Sabres need to lose before someone is out of a job. 10? 15? 20? In reality none of those numbers get main target Darcy Regier canned. Pegula seems oblivious to the obvious while he’s out building hockey arena’s at Penn State and Harbor Center in downtown Buffalo, as his hockey teams continues to crumble under his leadership. By the way I think the Penn State and Harbor Center things are great, but simply making a point of his focus. Let’s make a shift here because frankly I’m sick of beating the horse of negativity to death on this team. I want to look at a potential positive. Let’s say in my best case scenario Darcy is fired within the first 2 months of the season and a new GM comes in. Don’t hit the “X” at the top of the screen after reading that last line, stay with me. Would you sign up for a season where the Sabres finish in the bottom 3 of the league thus getting a top 3 pick next year in the draft? Thus resulting in the Sabres to select D-man Aaron Ekblad or center Sam Reinhart or forward Michael Dal Colle. Outside of that the Sabres finally make the long overdue moves of trading Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. Let’s start with Miller. I still think the best match barring injury for a Miller trade is the St. Louis Blues. For arguments sake here’s the deal; 2nd round pick and a player like Jaden Schwartz or Vladimir Tarasenko for Miller. Schwartz and Tarasenko might be a bit much, but I don’t think out of the question. I think Tarasenko would be great on the wing with Grigorenko and that would be my preferred choice. However if he keeps up with the pace he’s started the season the Blues would be crazy to move him. So let’s say the return is a 2nd and Schwartz. Now let’s move to the Thomas Vanek trade. This is going to be a little tougher than people think. Thought around the league is that Vanek wants to play in Minnesota and Minnesota wants Vanek. In fact Vanek was the initial player the Wild contacted Buffalo about last season before making the Pominville trade. Do the Sabres figure out a way to make a move with the Wild again and make everyone happy? Cap wise I can’t see it working this season with the Wild. They need to clear Heatley’s contract before bringing in Vanek. Unless…..the Sabres take Heater back in a potential deal. Too many maybe’s for me to go down that road. I honestly can’t even think of a potential team right now for Vanek. So let’s go basic here and say you get a 1st and a prospect for Vanek. So let’s recap, going into the 2014 draft you have two 1st round picks (one being a top 3) and two 2nd round picks. You picked up Jaden Schwartz and another high potential prospect. With their top 3 pick they draft Dal Colle or Reinhart or Ekblad. A new GM is in control and lastly your prospect/youth cupboard is stacked with Girgensons, Pysyk Ristolainen, two 2014 1st round picks, Armia, Zadorov, Grigorenko, McNabb, Hodgson, Foligno, Larsson, Schwartz, and prospect from Vanek trade. If you’re a Sabres fan do you take one season of “suffering” for the scenario I laid out above or would you rather have a team like last year?
  11. As we approach the offical start of Free Agency on Friday, teams are starting to talk to players in hope of agreeing to a deal before Friday. I expect the first day of Free Agency to be exciting. The Sabres themselves sit in an interesting spot this year. After attacking the top players in UFA the last two season under the Pegula regime I think they are going to take a different approach this year. I believe they are going to attack the second tier and look for players that will fit in with the young core that is being built. Here five players I would target this year: 1. Danny Briere-35 years old-C/LW The former Sabres Co-Captain is the #1 target this year. I have been told this by an acquaintance who works in Sabres hockey operations department (aka source). Management wants Briere back badly and will go all out to bring him back. They believe Briere can get perhaps get Leino going again with the magic they had in Philly. Also they believe that bringing back Briere will help them convince Vanek to stay. Lastly they believe that Briere can help groom future Sabres stars like Hodgson, Grigorenko, and Girgensons. At this point in his career Danny will not likely play a full season however I think he would be a great fit for the Sabres. 2. Viktor Stalberg-27 years old-LW I think Stalberg would fit in well with his speed and size to a young Sabres roster. The 6'3 winger landed in the dog house during the playoffs in Chicago. I have always liked the game Stalberg played during his time in Chicago. His mix of size and speed would be great for an awful PP and puck possession, Now Stalberg does have some red flags. He will need a coach who can push him to bring it every game and Rolston made a statement last season that you earn your ice or sit. Perhaps a new start could be just what Stalberg needs to jump his career. The Sabres are in a spot where they can take a chance on a player like Stalberg. 3. Damien Brunner-27 years old-LW The Swiss product had a great start to his NHL career last season with Detroit. He ended the campaign with 26 points in 44 games. Like Stalberg, Brunner would fit in well with a young team looking to grow. Brunner could be an example of the magic that happens when you put on the winged wheel sweater, however again a 2-3 year lower salary contract is something the Sabres can live with. I still believe there's a good chance Brunner ends up back with the Wings when all is said and done. 4. Pierre-Marc Bouchard-29 years old-C/W Bouchard's career has been slowed down with injuries. I love a team with speed and excitment, which is why I would look at a player like Bouchard. The Canadian forward will likely get a prove it 1 or 2 year deal from any time this year. To stick with the theme hear why not try to catch lightning in a bottle and a shot with Bouchard. He can bring scoring from a 2nd/3rd line role which the Sabres need badly. If Bouchard can stay healthy I still think he can make an impact in this league. Thats the catch though. Can you get enough games out of him to make it worth it. 5. Mason Raymond-27 years old-LW Raymond struggled to live up to expectations in Vancouver and also delt with a rash of injuries. Raymond was oftern included in trade chatter over the last two seasons and the Sabres did kick the tires on Raymond at one point. A fresh start for Raymond could be just what the doctor ordered. Being out of the spotlight in Vancouver could allow the 27 year old winger to relax and play his game. Raymond can play in both ends of the rink. He can help on the PP or PK. On a line with a player like Steve Ott and a young playmaker like Mikhail Grigorenko I think Raymond has the chance to excel. The Sabres right now sit with 15.5 million cap space after the buy out of Nathan Gerbe. They need to still sign Hodgson, Flynn, Hackett, and Tropp who are RFA's. That should leave the Sabres with about 9-10 million to play with. I dont expect the Sabres to be big players outside of Briere. They'll be looking for players who fit roles.
  12. The citizens of Hockey Heaven are still ready to jump off the cliff because Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are still Buffalo Sabres. To those people I say calm down, still a long way to go. I still believe Buffalo will do everything in their power to keep Vanek in blue and gold. However I mainly want to focus this on what did happen Sunday in Newark. The Sabres flirted early in the day with making a move to the 5 spot in a trade with Carolina. Rumors were swirling of Myers going to the Canes for the 5th pick, which turned out to be totally false and Sekera was the Sabres player in question there. Sekera would eventually find his way to the hated Canes later in the day, I'll get to that later. First lets take a look at the Sabres 1st round selections at 8 and 16. Personally I was hoping for the Russian power forward Valeri Nichushkin. I thought he would be a great fit with Grigorenko and his 6'4 size on the wing would be just what the Sabres need. However I can understand them staying away with the KHL question looming thus causing the big Russian winger to fall to Lindy Ruff and the Stars at 10. Kind of ironic looking back at Ruff's not so great history with Europeans especially Russians (see Afinogenov, Kozlov, and Grigorenko). Instead the Sabres went with Finish blue liner Rasmus Ristolainen. The 6'3 Finn is known to be hard to play against and physical in his own zone. He brings a heavy shot from the point and could be a great PP QB in the future. Riso has a decent chance of making the opening night roster. To be honest I didn't spend a lot of time looking into Ristolainen because I expected the Sabres to go forward at 8, I'm still doing my research. At 16 I again expected the Sabres to look at a player like Adam Erne or Hunter Shinkaruk, they went to the blue line again selecting punishing London Knights defender Nikita Zadorov. The 6'5 Russian was labeled as perhaps the meanest player in the draft this year. Zadorov is more known for his hitting and size than his skill. I can see him projecting out as a Robyn Regehr type player with more speed. He's not going to wow you with his skill, but he will be strong in his end and punish the opposing forwards in the corner. A player who is hard to play against is always a plus. The Sabres need to make teams not want to come into the First Niagara center. The second round I think is where the Sabres earned the excellent draft grade a lot people are giving them. Darcy again was back to robbing his opposing GM's when he traded Andrej Sekera to Carolina for Jamie McBain and the 35th pick. I liked the way Sekera played however to many puck movers on the Sabres blue line and Regier did a good job flipping an asset. McBain is a good pick up with his potential. However I'm more excited about the player Buffalo picked at 35 J.T. Compher from the USAHL. Compher could of gone in the 1st round in a less stacked draft. He has the potential to be a strong two way center who is hard to play against (see the theme here). Compher can be the replacement Sabres fans have been looking for since Drury left. Compher may not score as much, but has some of Drury's same tools. I know the kid is 18 and I might be getting carried away however I love the pick. Also it was nice to see the Sabres select Buffalo's own Justin Bailey with their third 2nd round pick. Bailey is 6'3 190 lbs and has the reputation of being a hard worker and again hard to play against. The Sabres would later pick up another home grown talent in Sean Malone in the 6th round. All in all I give the Sabres an A yesterday. Regier did a good job stocking the cupboard with size and tough prospects. I know they didn't get that exciting forward however they still have Miller, Stafford, and Vanek as chips to deal this offseason. I'll be back later this week with a look at Free Agency for the Sabres. Who could be a surprisingly active team, but not for high end UFA's.
  13. Don't look now, but all of the sudden the Buffalo Sabres are fielding the youngest team in the NHL. At an average age of 26.41 the Sabres have quickly flipped into develop the future mode. After this season with the likely departures of Jochen Hecht (35), John Scott (30), Ville Leino (29), Adam Pardy (29), and Ryan Miller (32), then put onto the roster possibly Mikhail Grigorenko (18), Zemgus Girgensons (18), Johan Larsson (20), Matt Hackett (24), Brayden McNabb (22), Chad Ruhwedel (23), and/or Joel Armia (20) the Sabres could be younger next year. With youth however comes a growing process and mistakes. Sabres fans will deal with games where they will want to pull their hair out, but will also have games where the team will give promise. It's not likely that all of the kids I just mentioned will turn out to be great NHL players, but I would rather be in this postion than a team stuck in mediocrity. The Sabres are on pace to miss the playoffs for the 4th time in 6 years and as this season comes to end I feel they are in a better place now than at the end of any of those six seasons. Now the Sabres need to watch what is happening in Edmonton and remember to surround your youth with good veteran players. The Sabres already have some good vets in place with Ehrhoff, Ott, and Vanek. Next season those three players could very well be the three players with letters on their jerseys. As the season comes to an end a few players are making strong strides to secure roster spots next season. One of the players is Brian Flynn. Flynn turns in a strong performance every night and you never walk away sayin that the 24 year old didn't put in a lot of effort. Flynn has 10 points in 21 games, which would be on pace for around 40 points in a 82 game season. Flynn won't be a top line winger, but will be a good player that can provide secondary scoring and kill penalties. Newest Sabre Chad Ruhwedel has played well in his two games so far. Ruhwedel is a smooth skater and shows great poise. He stepped right into the NHL from the college level and didn't blink an eye. The most exciting perhaps is defenseman Mark Pysyk. Pysyk also shows great poise in his own zone. He is not a flashy player, but he makes smart and quick decisions. The 21 year old defender is seeing time now on the PP and becoming more of a pressance in the offensive zone with his increased ice time. A pairing of Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk should have Sabres fans excited for their future. Mikhail Grigorenko joined the Sabres today after his team was eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs. Grigorenko will not play tomorrow in Boston, but will play the final 4 games of the season with Buffalo before joining the Rochester Americans in the NHL playoffs. Grigo will get his second look of the season in likely a 2nd line role this time with Drew Stafford and Steve Ott. I can say personally I've had more fun watching this kids play with speed and energy than the team the Sabres entered the season with. Hopefully Buffalo can finish strong and build toward next season.
  14. With the trade deadline now passed the Sabres have choosen a direction for the future. That direction is exactly that, the future. Over the last week the Sabres shipped out Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold, and captain Jason Pominville. Regier has finally come to reality that the current core will not take the Sabres to the promise land. Buffalo is set to miss the playoffs for the 2nd straight season. Sabres GM Darcy Regier would not use the "R" word as he put in his post deadline press conference. However with Ryan Miller and maybe Thomas Vanek set to suffer the same fate as Pominville this summer, the Sabres seem to be ready for a youth movement. Next years opening night roster could feature youngsters such as Foligno, Pysyk, McNabb, Larsson, Grigorenko, Armia, Girgensons, Flynn, and Tropp leading the skaters with Enroth and Hackett in the blue paint. A lot of Sabres fans say they are ready for a fresh start, but next year will be the real test to see if they're ready. I want to shift focus a little bit and talk about the three moves the Sabres made at the deadline. Leopold and Regehr have been on the block for most of the season and both brought back a good return for the Sabres in the form of high draft picks. The possibilty of Pominville being moved started to come to the surface in the last week. Many believed that one if not two of the big three (Pominville, Vanek, and Miller) would be moved at the deadline. Pominville was the one choosen and he brought a great return to the Sabres. This move could perhaps have been a job saver for Darcy Regier. Minnesota sent back young Swedish forward John Larsson, goaltending prospect Matt Hackett, a 2013 1st round pick, and a 2014 2nd round pick. Larsson is 20 years old and was the captain of the Sweden Junior Team when they won the World Juniors. The 5'10 200 lb C/LW is a good two way player, that has leadership qualities. Larsson won't wow you with flashy skills, but can put the puck in the net and is responsible in his own end. Larsson had 37 points in 62 games with the Aeros this year. Matt Hackett has seen some NHL action in the last few years as the Wild had to rush the young goaltender due to injuries over the last year and a half. Last year Hackett was 3-6 in the NHL with a 2.38 GAA and .921 SV%. This year with the Aeros of the AHL Hackett was 19-20-3 with a 2.66 GAA and .907 SV%. The 23 year old goaltender is still at least another year from being ready to be a full time starter in the NHL, but gives the Sabres some goaltending youth along with Andrey Makarov. Both Larsson and Hackett will start with the Rochester Americans as they prepare for the AHL playoffs. With the picks the Sabres picked up they now have two 1st round picks and three 2nd round picks in 2013, as well as two 2nd round picks in 2014. So to recap the Sabres deadline moves: Traded: Robyn Regehr (LA) Jordan Leopold (STL) Jason Pominville (MIN) Return: John Larsson Matt Hackett 2013 1st rd pick 2 2013 2nd rd picks 1 2014 2nd rd pick 1 2015 2nd rd pick Tonight the Sabres host the young Ottawa Senators who the Sabres can hope to model themselves after. They will have to deal with new acquisition Cory Conacher in his Sens debut. Buffalo sits 5 points out of 8th with 11 games to go. Sabres are more likely to finish in the bottom 5 of the NHL than a playoff spot. However watching some of the kids play will help me get through the next 11 games. Without Vanek and Leino in the lineup due to injury the roster looks a lot different than opening night. Gerbe-Hodgson-Ott Stafford-Ennis-Foligno Adam-Porter-Flynn Kaleta-Hecht-Scott Ehrhoff-Myers Pysyk-Weber Sekera-Pardy Miller Prediction: I expect the Sabres to take a step back with the loss of their captain the Sens to come out flying with Conacher joining the lineup. 4-1 Sens.
  15. Here we are again for the 3rd straight season the Buffalo Sabres are looking to make a late season run to the playoffs. With 16 games left the Sabres sit 3 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. Sabres have a date tonight with the struggling Lightning on a three game winning streak. This week will be a huge week for Sabres management to decide what they want to do next week at the deadline. With matchups against the Lightning, Panthers, Capitals, and Bruins this week the Sabres can take 6 or 7 points this week. I'm still at put at least two weeks of solid hockey together and then I will buy in. Last time the Sabres were in this position about a month ago they followed a good 3-0-1 week with a 0-3-1 week. This time I will admit I have more faith in the Sabres putting up another solid week. I see imporvement and changes under new coach Ron Rolston. The defensive play has imporved greatly in their own end. The Sabres PP is starting to crawl out of the basement with PP goals in 3 straight and 5 PP goals in those 3 games. One main reason is the turn around play of Tyler Myers. Myers has once again started to return to his old dominate form. He is skating better, being more physical, and getting more involved in the offensive zone. I have always felt as Myers goes so the Sabres go. His value to this team is far more important than people realize. Rolston has been a calming influence for Myers and has forced the 6'8 d-man to turn his game around. Rolston had Myers playing with Ehrhoff and logging 25 minutes a game whether he was playing well or not. I like how Rolston allowed the 22 year old to play his way out of the funk instead of style Ruff took which was to take away his minutes. Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, Steve Ott, Mike Weber, and Brian Flynn have also taken off under Rolston. Drew Stafford will again be a healthy scratch tonight for the second straight game. Rolston has cited Stafford's work ethic as a reason for his benching. I think all signs point to Stafford not wearing a Sabres jersey again. If a team comes in with an offer in the next week I believe Stafford will be sent packing. Mark Pysyk will remain in the lineup tonight for Andrej Sekera who is still not ready to return from injury. Pysyk has surprised me in his 5 games with the Sabres. He shows his smarts and poise under pressure at a very young age. He makes great decisions with the puck and doesn't look flustered under pressure. He is not going to do anything flashy, but at 21 years old is a solid 3rd pairing defenseman. Bright future ahead on the Sabres blue line with Pysyk, McNabb, Myers, and Ehrhoff. Lineup: Pominville-Hodgson-Ott Leino-Ennis-Vanek Flynn-Porter-Foligno Gerbe-Hecht-Kaleta Ehrhoff-Leopold Myers-Regehr Pysyk-Weber Miller Prediction: Close game, but I think the Sabres keep rolling to make it 4 straight 3-2.
  16. Last week the Sabres showed signs of being an NHL hockey club picking up 7 of 8 points last week with wins against Florida, Tampa, NJ, and shootout loss against the Rangers. I'm still on the side of they are dead in the water however if they go out and take another 5 of 6 points this week against Carolina, NJ, and Philly then maybe they are in business. With the awful start the Sabres sit three points back of the Flyers going into tonight's game with 25 games left. However with teams only playing within their own Conference it is extremly hard to make up points. Since Ron Rolston has taken over the Sabres have shown signs of shaking bad habits. They no longer seem to be playing scared and fragile. Last week Buffalo locked down Tampa in 3rd to win 2-1 and also showed a lot of push back. In the Ranger game Sunday, the second game of a back to back, two weeks ago they would of lost that game 6-2. They were controlling the Rangers playing a perfect road game until Kaleta decided to be stupid and give the Rangers a 5 min PP and part of that was a 5 on 3. The Rangers quickly flipped the from 1-0 to 2-1 and I was ready for things to get out of hand. However before the 5 minute PP was over the Sabres tied it with a shorty via Nathan Gerbe and the Sabres were able to walk away with a loser point. Rolston has preached attention to detail to his club since taking over and it is starting to show on the ice. The goals against and shots against are down. The turnovers are no longer a constant occurence in the Sabres zone. Again it was only one week, but I am curious to see how this week goes with Rolston's message now being able to sink in. Rolston has also sent a clear message to players that ice time will be earned not given on reputation. Marcus Foligno was shown the press box last week with his poor play last week and has come back like the player that finished last season. Mikhail Grigorenko was scratched for the first two games of the Rolston era and once he got in the lineup was only given around five minutes of ice time. However over the last two games Grigorenko has stepped it up and is riding a two game point streak, getting minutes on the PP, and played over ten minutes in NY on Sunday. Nathan Gerbe is another player that has seized the opportunity under Rolston. Gerbe has 3 goals in his last two games and is back to playing a top six role on a line with Ennis and Ott. Gerbe has always had the drive and skill to be a good secondary producer in the NHL the key is now that he is healthy after back surgery and is being given the chance. Gerbe was normally a healthy scratch under Ruff or a 4th line winger. Looking forward to tonight's game in Raleigh the Sabres visit the Hurricanes. The Canes will place Justin Peters between the pipes tonight with Ward hurt and Ellis sick. Buffalo needs to get to Peters early and not let him settle in. Good news for the Sabres is team leading scorer Thomas Vanek is returning tonight after missing the last two games. Ryan Miller will again be in goal playing in his 300th straight game or so it seems that way. Miller is having an excellent year and solidifying his spot as the starting goalie for team USA next year in Sochi. The Canes took the first two meetings of the season back when the Sabres were in the middle of their downward spiral. The Staal brothers had their way in the first two meetings including Erik having a hat-trick in the first meeting, which was the last game Jhonas Enroth played this season. Lineup: Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville Ott-Ennis-Gerbe Stafford-Grigorenko-Foligno Hecht-Porter-Flynn Myers-Ehrhoff Regher-Sekera Weber-Brennan Miller Enroth Prediction: Close low scoring game...3-1 Sabres.
  17. Accountability....I've tossed this word around a lot the past three years in reference to the Buffalo Sabres franchise. In my mind I know who I consider accountable to the Sabres play over the past three seasons, but I don't know who Terry Pegula holds accountable. Last year the Sabres missed the playoffs and Darcy Regier along with Lindy Ruff were handed contract extensions. The only real change made from last years team was trading of Derek Roy. So am I to assume it was Derek Roy's fault the Sabres missed expectations last year outside of a crazy month and a half run. Was it Milan Lucic's fault and bringing in John Scott would fix all the problems? I was embarrassed for the franchise when Regier decided it was a good idea to tell the media that Sabres players were scared and thats why they had to get tougher. When Pegula bought the Sabres he came in beating the drum of change and a new direction. Dropping the famous line "The Sabres sole existence is to win the Stanley Cup". Sure like most Sabres fans I ate up and ran with it. Two years later I ask someone to show me where things have changed. Where is the new Pegula run franchise going over and beyond to bring a cup to Buffalo? I give him credit for re doing the Locker Room, paint job to the First Niagara Center, Alumni Plaza, and now developing the Webster block in front of the FN Center with a hotel, shopping center, and ice rinks. I am more than thankful for that. However the product on the ice has got worse in the two years Pegula has run the show. What has been the constant this entire time and over the last 15 years? Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier. I think Darcy has done a decent job in putting this team together however I think Ruff is running it into the ground. If Darcy can't take off the blinders and see that then he needs to go as well. Ruff is not a bad coach, but 15 years of no championships is enough. Player like Vanek, Pominville, Stafford, Miller, and Myers have heard the same voice their entire careers. I reflect back on a moment in Boston this year when the Sabres came away with a 7-4 victory, Ruff ripped the NHL leading scorer and player who single handedly led the Sabres to victory that night Thomas Vanek. On a commercial break Ruff layed into Vanek for a neutral zone turnover on his previous shift. At the end of the game Ruff came over to tap Vanek on the back and give him a "atta boy" smack and Vanek rolled his eyes and muttered a expletive to the player sitting next to him. That alone shows Ruff's style is wearing thin with this roster. Ruff continues to mishandle the youth on the Sabres roster as well. He ruined Luke Adam who now is no more than a AHL winger, Tyler Myers has never been the same since Ruff told him to focus on the defensive end after his Calder Trophy Year, and now he is mishandling Mikhail Grigorenko. Grigorenko is scheduled to be scratched for this 3rd game in the last 4. Ruff doesn't feel he is getting a lot of production from the 18 year old which is hard when he plays with Scott, McCormick, Kaleta, Hecht, and Ott. His best game this year in DC he played with Foligno and Stafford. Watching Grigorenko he looks like he is afraid to make a mistake and someone got in his ear and preached defense first. He leaves the offensive zone early and looks hesitant at times to get caught up ice. A much different style than I watched him play in Quebec. Lindy tells the media that he using the Seguin and Stamkos method with Grigorenko giving him little ice time and letting him come along slow. That style also got Barry Melrose fired. Also that is not the way it is done any more in the NHL. Look around the league Brodin, Granlund, Galchenyuk, Gallahager, Brunner, Tarasenko, Conacher, Yakupov, and Schultz are examples of rookies getting a lot of ice time and thriving. The Sabres franchise always seems one step behind. Tonight the Sabres look to rebound against the struggling Jets at home. Buffalo comes in with a 3-4-1 home record. A struggling Stafford is being put with McCormick and Scott to get his game going and Leopold is going to be a healthy scratch for and replaced by Tj Brennan. Ruff is going with his shut down line again that held Crosby to three points Sunday in Hecht-Gerbe-Ott and Grigorenko will sit. I hope you sensed the sarcasm in the above paragraph. When will someone be held accountable?
  18. Seven games into the young 2013 NHL half season you can see a trend developing for the Buffalo Sabres. Up and down play will likely be norm in Buffalo. To start the season the Sabres looked good beating Philly 5-2 and Toronto 2-1 to start the season. Then losing four in a row before beating the Bruins 7-4 last night in an up and down game. Sabres fans have to try to not get to low or to high this season. The Sabres are a team that will finish in that 6-10th place range in the Eastern Conference and will good at times and very bad at times. They are a tougher team than last season, but still do not have scoring outside of the Vanek, Pominville, and Hodgson line. Marcus Foligno has got better as the games have gone on, Drew Stafford is doing his usual disappearing act, Tyler Ennis is still trying to get used to being a top pivot man in the NHL, and Mikhail Grigorenko is 18 years old. Ville Leino is a question mark and yet to still play a game this year with his mystery hip injury. Leino was jelling well with Grigorenko and Ott in training camp, but he needs to get on the ice before the Sabres can decide what to do with him in the offseason. On defense the Sabres are also all over the place to start the season. Ehrhoff looks like the top d-man that Buffalo paid him to be last year and Sekera looks solid as well building off a strong end to last season. Weber has played well in his two games after sitting in the press box the first 5 games. Robyn Regher is out with a knee injury/old age right now. He has what I like to call Craig Rivet syndrome. He's really good if he can catch you, the problem is he can't catch anyone any more. Then that brings you to Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold. Let's start with Leopold who is in the last year of his three year deal. To start the season Leo was playing well, but the last 3 games he has been a train wreck. Soft playing the body and wiffing on poke checks. I'll give Leo a pass for and blame it on the rust for now. Last and certainly the least so far is Tyler Myers. The Sabres 6'8 big man is now being paid like a top 2 d-man, but is playing like a rookie. Every time he touches the puck now he makes me nervous. He has been a give away machine to start the season and still will not use his big 6'8 frame to his advantage. I will say he looked outstanding in the first period last night, but after getting burned by Marchand on a play the house came crashing in on him the rest of the game. At 22 years old I am not ready to give up on him at any means, but someone needs to get in his ear. Quickly on Ryan Miller he has been the most consistent player so far this season outside of Vanek. Miller looks to be in the zone and stood on his head numerous times this season keeping the Sabres in the game or down right winning the game like in Toronto in the second game of the season. Even though he gave up 4 goals last night Miller was outstanding keeping the Sabres in it at 3-1 and holding the 5-4 lead until Vanek sealed the win. Lastly Thomas Vanek is really good right now and fun to watch. He single handedly has won two games this season with two 5 point nights and leads the NHL in points with 15 through six games (he actually only played in 5). Jump on the roller coaster Sabres fans and hold on tight. A fun and stressful season is headed our way.
  19. The Sabres have lost 5 in a row and 11 straight on the road. They just finished the first leg of the nightmare road trip that ended in 0 points in 4 games. They were outscored 19-5, the 2nd leg features a stop in Newark tomorrow and Montreal after the All-Star Break. With any point tonight by Carolina the Sabres will hold sole possession of the Eastern Coference basement. They have gone from contender or lottery pick in a matter of 6 months. A large fall from grace. I don't want to dwell on the obvious of this team being awful so I want to try to kick some fun into this blog. So I am taking over the Sabres for the trade deadline. If I was GM here is what I would do and why. Move 1 Trade Derek Roy to Chicago for Marcus Kruger and a 2nd rd pick. Roy is on the block for Buffalo. One of the teams to be rumored to be interested in Roy are the Chicago Blackhawks. Kruger is a young center with potential, the Sabres lack depth at center and Kruger is worth the shot. Roy would fit in well between any of the Hawks plethora of snipers. Move 2 Trade Brad Boyes to Florida for a 4th rd pick. Florida is in need of offense to keep their playoff hopes alive. They have the cap space to take in Boyes 4 million dollar cap hit. They would be willing to take a shot and let him walk as a UFA in the offseason. Move 3 Trade Jochen Hecht to San Jose for a 2nd rd pick. Hecht is a good 2 way center that can put up points and kill penalties. He also can play the wing if needed. A 2nd round pick may be a bit much, but hey the Blues got a 2nd rd pick from Buffalo for Boyes. SJ could use a solid two player for a playoff run. Move 4 Trade Jordan Leopold, Mike Weber, Paul Gaustad, and a 2nd rd pick to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi, and a 4th round pick. This is my big/wishful thinking trade. Leopold is a veteran puck moving defenseman with still 1 more year left on his contract. Weber and Gaustad will bring size to the Oilers. Weber is a gritty stay at home player and Gaustad will bring a solid 2 way center to the Oil. Edmonton is looking to shop Eric Belanger who currently holds that rol now. They can replace him with Gaustad who is young and cheaper. He will also be a good leader for the kids. Gagner and Paajarvi would bring skill and youth to the Sabres. These moves will clear cap space for the Sabres and begin the overhaul and installing of the new Sabres core. I hope the Sabres are busy this deadline as sellers and gaining young skill.
  20. Today is the last day of Sabres Prospect Development Camp. All week the Sabres top prospects were ran through on and off ice drills. Every morning they woke up and worked with the Navy SEALS off ice and had a on ice practice open to the public. Last night in front of 5,000 Sabres fans at the First Niagara Center the highlight of the week the Blue and Gold scrimmage showcased the future for the Sabres. The line of Armia-Grigorenko-Girgensons was the main attraction of the night, but they were not the ones who shined the brightest this week. I am basing my assements off of what I read about the practices and what I saw in the Blue and Gold Scrimmage last night. Standouts Jamie Wise- I have to start off with the 1st star of the scrimmage last night. Wise had a hattrick for the Blue team in their 7-3 thumping of the Gold team. I don't have a ton of information on Wise because he was a camp invite on a try out basis and wasn't even listed on the roster that was handed out last night. Ruff described Wise as having a little Kaleta in him. He was hitting everything that moved, but he also showed a scoring touch last night. Wise will probably get a contract and play in Rochester next season. Frederick Roy-F-Quebec Remparts- Frederick is the son of NHL great Patrick Roy. Roy is also in camp on a try out basis. Last year in juniors he put up 92 points playing on a line with Grigorenko. I would say Roy is probably the biggest surprise of the camp this year. He is only listed at 5'10, but still makes me wonder how he did not get drafted. Last night he was all over the ice playing on a line with 2012 3rd round pick Justin Kea and Jamie Wise. Roy would later get a few shifts with Armia and Grigorenko. He looked fast and played with a physical side last night. Like Wise, Roy will probably get a contract and play in Rochester next season. Marcus Foligno-RW- He just looked like a man amongst boys last night and all camp long. He has put on more size and looks faster. He was all over the ice night hitting anything in his way and showing a lot of skill as well. He really seized the opportunity this camp to take up a leadership role for the younger players. Foligno could be wearing the C for the Sabres in a few years with the leadership ability he showcased this week. I am predicting a big season for Foligno this season in his first full NHL season. Joel Armia-LW-Assat- Sabres fans had their first live look at Armia this week in camp. His has silky smooth hands that he showcased over and over again all week, as well in the game last night. To my surprise he also showed a willingness to throw his body around. Cannot wait for him to begin his pro career next year. Zegmus Girgensons-RW/C-USHL- One of the Sabres first round picks this season also made a good impression at camp this week. Such a good impression that the Sabres signed him to his entry level contract and he will not go to the Univeristy of Vermont this year. He had best looking goal of the night last night with a slick move on Nathan Lieuwen. As of right now I say Big Z has a better chance at making the team out of camp over Grigorenko. Jerome-Gauthier-Leduc-D-Remuski- Leduc has a ton of potential on the Sabres blue line. He brings a Kris Letang type dynamic. He had 70+ points last season in 60 games in the QMJHL. He skates extremly well and has size. He showed off his excellent passing last night as well as his ability to get up in the offense and create. He put up two assists in last nights game. Super excited about his potential. Disappointments Kevin Sundher-C-OHL-Sundher struggled in the second half of last season in juniors. He also was not impressive during the scrimmage or during the week in general. Last night he looked nervous with the puck and had a couple bad turnover. He will start the season in Rochester and has to make improvments on his game to be in line for a call up. Luke Adam-F- Adam wasn't terrible last night, but I expected him to stand out more. He played on a line with Tropp and Hodgson, that line in general didn't do a lot to impress. Of the three Hodgson was the most noticeable. Adam is starting to build a habit of disappearing during games. If he wants a roster spot this season he needs to step it up. It also seems the experiment with Adam at center has ended. He played wing last year in the AHL and all this week in camp. Linus Ulmark-G-Modo (jr.)- Now to be fair the kid is 18 and only played two games at the Swedish Elite League Modo, the rest of his season was for the junior team. However last night showed he still has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to have any NHL career. Perhaps a lot to ask for from a 6th round pick, but he does show potential with good movement side to side and patience in the shootout. Some other noteable names worth metioning are Dan Catenacci, who showed excellent speed and skill. The former second round pick reminds me a little of Tyler Ennis. Corey Fienhage was very physical and solid in his own zone. He is worth keeping an eye on in Rochester. Mikhail Grigorenko showed he has the skill, size, and speed to play in the NHL. However he didn't stand out until the shootout with a nifty move, but at the same time he wasn't a let down either.
  21. As we continue on this path known as the NHL Lockout, I figured I would give an update on the status of Sabres players and prospects playing around the world. I was able to pull myself into the mood of writing about hockey for the first time in three months today. I went to the Rochester Americans vs Hamilton Bulldogs game a couple weeks ago in downtown Buffalo to get my hockey fix. Seeing some current and future Sabres players play made me wonder about the other Sabres players playing around the globe. So let's see how they are doing. AHL Let's start in the AHL where some current and future Sabres are currently playing. The Rochester Americans are off to a 5-2-1 record so far this season with NHL caliber players Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno, Brayden McNabb, Kevin Porter, Zemgus Girgensons, TJ Brennan, Luke Adam, Mark Pysk, and Corey Tropp on the farm. Here is a quick player break down of each player so far: Cody Hodgson- CoHo has looked like a man amongst boys so far, which is good news for Sabres fans. Hodgson has 10 points in 8 games for the Amerks and is living up to the playmaker hype. He has 9 assists playing on a line with Amerks leading scorer last season Phil Varone and Marcus Foligno. Hodgson has played well at both ends of the ice and is becoming a force on the PP with his playmaking ability. Hopefully he can continue the playmaking ability at the NHL level if the season does get going this year. Marcus Foligno- Foligno like Hodgson obviously does not belong in the minors and he's showing it. Foligno has 10 points in 8 games (5 goals 5 assists) playing a first line power forward role. Foligno continues to progress at a rapid pace for the Sabres after his excellent end to the season last year in Buffalo. Brayden McNabb- McNabb was going to be one of the players fighting for a roster spot with the Sabres on a crowded blue line. McNabb has six points so far this season and is a +3. McNabb and Pysk are playing # 1 pairing minutes and both have thrived. Zemgus Girgensons- Big Z is having a tough go of it so far to start the season. He has two points in 10 games and is looking for his first pro goal of his career. He is playing on a line with team captain Kevin Porter and Brian Flynn. At 18 years old Girgensons is still learning the pro game and has a bright future ahead. TJ Brennan- Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season so far Brennan has played extremly well down in Rochester perhaps earning consideration for a position on the Sabres blue line if the season was to start. Brennan has 10 points in 8 games from the blue line (4 goals 6 assists). He is excelling in his role as a power play QB something the Sabres have been looking for since Brian Campbell left. Mark Pysk- Like Girgensons, Pysk is trying to learn the pro game. He has shown flashes and has 3 points so far on the season. However he is still making mistakes in his own zone which is the reason for the team low -3 rating. When playing with McNabb seems to excel, however when put out with another partner he struggles at times. Pysk will have some more ups and downs however I think he will be a good 3 or 4 defender in the NHL. Luke Adam- Now we get the to the poor performers so far. Adam continues to regress after his hot start with the Sabres last year. He is now playing the wing and continues to just disappear in games. He has 5 points in 8 games, but is having a hard time back that jump to the next level. Kevin Porter- Porter was supposed to challenge for a 4th line role with the Sabres however he struggled early in the season in Rochester. He was lost at times in his own zone and out of position. As of late he has picked up now have 7 points in the 8 games so far and has brought his +/- to a -1. Porter was given the honor of being the Amerks captain this year and after a slow start he seems to be turning it around. Corey Tropp- Only poor luck can be used to describe Tropp's season which is already over. He started off extremley well in his first two games, but a knee injury will sideline Tropp for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. QMJHL Mikhail Grigorenko- Grigorenko looks to be steal of the 2012 draft still in my opinion. He has 26 points (11 goals 15 assists) in 14 games for Quebec. Grigorenko's head coach Patrick Roy says that he is learning to be the guy this year. Grigorenko's growth continues to be a good sign for Sabres fans to look forward to. Europe Thomas Vanek- Playing for the Graz 99ers in his hometown country of Austria, Vanek has played well. He has 11 points in 9 games and has been the leader of the 99ers so far this season in not only scoring, but team leadership as well. Tyler Ennis- Ennis is playing with his childhood friend in Switzerland for the SC Langnau Tigers. Ennis has only played a few games for the Tigers recording only one point. He missed the last few games with an undisclosed injury, however he did return back to the lineup last night. Christian Ehrhoff/Alexander Sulzer- Ehrhoff went home to play for the German team Krefeld Pinguine in the German elite league. He has played well with 7 points in 8 games. Although D partner Alexander Sulzer playing with ERC Ingolstadt did beat Ehrhoff's team 3-2 last week. Sulzer would earn his first two points in that game. Tyler Myers- Myers decided to go play in Austria at teammates Thomas Vanek's request. Myers has only played in a few games for EC KAC recording two points. Andrej Sekera- Sekera is playing in the KHL for Slovan Bratislava in his native Slovakia. Sekera has 3 points in only a handfull of games with Bratislava. He continues to play well at both ends of the ice growing his defensive game which was much improved last year. A few other Sabres players Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller are now looking at options of playing somewhere else this year after CBA talks have stalled. With no end in sight for the NHL lockout more Amerks and European blogs may pop up throughout the season.
  22. Now in the middle of August the Sabres continue their search for a top Center/Playmaker. Bobby Ryan's name continues to be connected with Sabres, as well as other players like Sam Gagner and Paul Stastny. Let's take a look what each player could bring to Buffalo along with what it may cost to acquire each player. Sam Gagner The 23 year old center really made a name for himself last season with his 8 point game. Gagner was one of the hottest players in the NHL for about a two week span last year. The former 6th overall pick in 2007 has struggled to live up to expectations so far in his NHL career. He has struggled with injury problems and production. Last year Gagner had a career high in points with 47 in 75 games. The two years prior Gagner put up 42 and 41 in 68 games. At only 23, Gagner still has a lot of potential. He has become expendable in Edmonton with Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, and Yakupov expected to lead the young Oilers squad. Gagner just recently signed a 1 year extension with Edmonton and would be a RFA again next season. The Oil are in desperate need of help on their blue line and the Sabres have a crowded blue line. Buffalo has a glaring need up the middle still, so this seems like a perfect match. The Oilers are said to be very interested in Jordan Leopold and have had prior interest in Drew Stafford. A potential deal that has been mentioned is Leo and Adam for Gagner and a pick. Personally I am a huge fan of Gagner and would love to see the Sabres make that deal. Paul Stastny Stastny's name has been on the block for a while. He may have lost his role as a top 6 center in Colorado with Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene now occupying those roles. Also Stastny's contract of two more seasons at 6.6 million makes him expendable to the Avs. They do no want to pay their third line center, first line center money. Stastny started his career on fire with 70+ points in three of his first four seasons (injury short season in third year). However the last two seasons he has been a disappointment with 53 points in 2011-12 and 57 in 2010-11. A change of scenery could do a lot of a good for Stastny. The issue with this match is the Avs do not need defense, it would likely cost the Sabres a top 6 winger, a pick, and a prospect. The Avs have set the price for Stastny high. Some players that would need to be involved in any deal could be Vanek, Stafford, or Foligno to name a few. To me Foligno is a conversation ender, trading Vanek defeats the point of getting him a true # 1 center, and Stafford may not be the type of player that the Avs want in return. I think Stastny is long shot of the group. Bobby Ryan Ryan is now the top dog that could be available with Doan likely headed back to the Desert. Ryan has been on and off the trade block since the beginning of last season. Buffalo has been racking up the long distance phone bill trying to work a deal with the Ducks for the young power forward. Ryan voiced his displeasure with the Ducks in the beginning of the offseason. He has grown annoyed with the constant trade chatter. However I think the Ducks still look at it as they don't have to trade Ryan. Which is the reason the price is so high. However on the other side of the coin the Ducks may have to unload Ryan and his favorable cap hit to resign Getzlaf and Perry who are UFA's after this season. It's hard to read the exact plan the Ducks may have for their three star forwards. Getzlaf's name has been floated out in the rumor mill as well as Perry's around the deadline last season. Right now Murray is in a position to be patient and as the summer comes closer to an end I think it is very likely Ryan starts the season with the Ducks. However Murray's power position starts to decrease as the season wears on because teams know he has to make a decision. So now may be the prime time to get the highest value for Ryan. The Sabres would likely have to include Ennis, Sekera, and a pick for Ryan. The rumored idea around Buffalo is that Regier is first trying to acquire a center to replace Ennis and then he will flip Ennis to Anaheim for Ryan. Also this could be the reason why Ennis has yet to sign a new deal with the Sabres. There's still a chance we could see some fireworks before August ends.
  23. Darcy Reiger pulled off the trade that Sabres fans have been waiting for since the end of the 2010-11 season. Derek Roy was traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Roy has been on the trade block for almost a year and it was feared he was untradeable. Fans were fed with Roy's inconsistent play and lack of energy and hustle at times. He also never really seemed to be on the same page with Lindy Ruff in his entire time in Buffalo. The rift between the two was magnified at the end of this season when Roy voiced his displeasure with the way Ruff treated some of the players in the media. On the other side of the coin Steve Ott is just the type of player the Sabres needed. Not John Scott who will play 15 games this season with an average ice time of 2 minutes. The Sabres needed to become a team that was not an easy night for the opponet. With Ott, Myers, Foligno, Regher, Kaleta, Tropp, McCormick, and to a lesser Scott, the Sabres are no longer a easy night. You can also include the possible size that Zegmus Girgensons might bring if he makes the roster. Ott averages 15 goals a season in his career in Dallas. I would take that production in a second from a third line role with Ott. However my main role would be for him to make the opponets night as unpleasent as possible. Don't want to forgot Adam Pardy who was basically the throw in on this deal. He makes the 9th NHL defenseman Buffalo has on the roster (Myers, Sekera, Weber, Leopold, Ehrhoff, Sulzer, Regher, Pardy, McNabb). Pardy will likely be placed in Rochester as depth, however with the log jam on the blue I have to think another move is coming. Quickly on Roy, I think he will do well in Dallas. He is in a contract year and needed a change of scenery. He will be surrounded by talent with Erkisson, Ryder, Benn, and Whitney. No reason why he can't have another 70 point season if he plays the game right. He just was no longer a fit in Buffalo. So like the rest of the NHL world I will go back to banging my head off my desk waiting for Parise and Suter to pick a new home. Getting rather annoying these two are holding up the entire offseason, I know it is a hard choice, but come on already. It's an unlikely scenerio, but if both go back to Nashville/NJ at this point I might explode. Also off topic I finally joined the twitter world to deal with my addiction for NHL rumors/entertainment @CP1010 if you want to follow. D Roy's last memory in Buffalo...
  24. At noon on Sunday the biding war will begin. Large amounts of money will be thrown around, a new Ville Leino will be crowned. Thanks to the poor excuse for a management team in Calgary the free agent market for defenseman just went way up. The Flames handed Dennis Wideman a 5 year 26.25 million dollar contract with a full "no movement" clause. Yes that is a 5.25 millon dollar cap hit for Wideman, people laughing at the Ehrhoff contract (I don't know why) he only has a cap hit of 4 million. Thanks to the Flames players like Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, and Ryan Suter will be rich men soon. Parise will get a boat load of money and the Justin Schultz drama will also finally come to end. Quickly on Schultz, who does this guy think he is? Never played a game in the league and he is channeling his inner Brad Richards and LeBron James. Inviting only a select list of teams to come down to make a pitch for him to sign with their team. He also demanding that teams guarentee him a roster spot and ice time. A lot of demanding going on for a 22 year old whose never played a NHL game and already turned his back on one NHL franchise, talk about instant pressure. Anyways onto who I think the Sabres should target in the UFA market. 1. Zach Parise-LW-NJ Parise is the crown jewel of this year's free agent group. He is fresh off a trip to the stanley cup final as the Devils captain. Parise will proabably demand around 8 million dollars for between 5-7 years. Honestly I think the Sabres chance of landing Parise will be very slim. I think it is going to be a three horse race between Minnesota, Detroit, and NJ. At the end of the day if the skilled winger does not sign back with NJ by Sunday, I think he is just going to use the offers he receives from other teams to go back to NJ and work out a deal. My money is on Parise staying in Newark. 2. Shane Doan-RW-Phoenix Doan is going to be another highly sought after player July 1. His combination of skill, grit, and leadership will attract many teams. At 35 Doan is looking to sign with a cup contending team. He has been in the Winnipeg/Phoenix organization for 17 years and it is hard to see him leaving the desert. Buffalo again may show they have the money, but will be out classed by the likes of Chicago, Detroit, or Pittsburgh. Buffalo just hasn't shown yet they are just one piece from contending. 3. Guillamue Latendresse-LW-Minnesota This may a be a bit surprising to some, but I have always liked what Latendresse has done with the Wild and Habs. Latendresse has delt with injuries and concussion issues the last two seasons in Minnesota, but at 25 years old I think he is worth taking a shot at. He can provide some size, grit, and secondary scoring from a 3rd line winger role. Also Latendresse is capiable of playing the two hockey system that Ruff preaches. The French Canadian winger has expressed his desire to play near his family in Montreal and the Sabres can fulfill his desire. I think he is worth taking a flyer on and should come some what cheap for what his potential could be. One or two year deal at 2-2.5 million is doable. 4. Peter Mueller-C-Colorado Again another young player at the age of 24 that has had injury issues the last two seasons. Mueller has shown the ability to put up points in this league. He can provide size and depth scoring from a third line center roll. Also fits the bill of a two way center. Mueller was offered a qualifying offer by the Avs making him a UFA on July 1. The crop at center is thin this year and Mueller could be a guy worth taking a stab at if the plan is to move Roy and Adam in offseason trades. 5. Jason Arnott-C-St. Louis Arnott signed a one year deal last season with Blues and provided excellent secondary scoring, leadership, and grit for a young Blues team. At 37 Arnott like Doan, will be looking to sign with a contender for one more shot at a championship. Arnott at 6'5 can provide the size they lost with trading Gaustad and also provide excellent leadership along the way. This may be the kind of signing Buffalo makes next season when they are closer to a championship, however like I said with free agent center being thin it is possible. Other options for Buffalo could be Ryan Carter, Kyle Wellwood, and Jiri Hudler. With the Free Agent market being so slim Buffalo will take a swing at the top two or three free agents and then turn back to the trade market.
  25. The 2012 NHL draft weekend didn't disappoint with big trades, rumors, draft winners, and draft losers. Jordan Staal, Sergei Bobrovsky, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mike Ribero and Brandon Sutter all have new homes after the draft weekend. Yakupov went first as expected and Scott Howson made people scratch their heads as expected. Sabres Draft With the their 12th selection Buffalo took the risk and selected highly talented Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko. Grigorenko started as a top 3 prospect in the draft and by the time the draft rolled around he started to slide. Teams feared his work ethic, his willingness to bolt for Russia, and if he was really 18. I am not even going to discuss the age issue this isn't baseball and he is not from Cuba. The young Russian sniper has guarenteed the Sabres if he does not make the team he will return to Quebec to play in juniors. Also Grigorenko arrived in Buffalo yesterday and already began working out. Grigorenko said he would stay in Buffalo to train until camp starts, showing excellent will and work ethic. Regier has stated he plans to begin contract negotiations very shortly with Grigorenko. The Sabres followed the Grigorenko pick up by trading up to the 14th spot with Calgary and giving up their 21st and 42nd pick. Once I saw the Sabres moved up I expected them to take talented Finnish center Teuvo Teravanien. However the new Sabres want size and skill, so instead they selected big Latvian center Zegmus Girgensons. The Latvian Locomotive has been playing in the USHL for the last three years and is commited to play at the University of Vermont. Girgensons can put up points and likes to throw around the body, likes of Callahan and Brown. In the 2nd round Buffalo selected defender Jake McCabe from the University of Wisconson and with the 3rd pick selected another big center Justin Kea from Saginaw. Three of the top four picks were a 6'3, 6'1 and 6'4 center. The Sabres succeeded in their goal of adding down the middle. I would give them an A in this weekend's draft. Staal Trade After the news broke of Jordan Staal turning down a 10 year deal with Pittsburgh it was only a matter of time. Also the only destination seemed to be Carolina and so it was. The Pens and Canes both made out in this hockey trade. The Staal's will the faces of Carolina hockey for the next decade with Jeff Skinner. Sutter will slot in nicely behind Crosby and Malkin as a third line center. Pouliot will also be a nice addition to the Pens blue line in a year or two. Howson Scott Howson never seems to disappoint. How this guy has a job still is beyond me as he continues to drive the Blue Jackets franchise into the ground. First with the Carter trade giving up Coutourier and Voracek. He would eventually get back Jack Johnson when he moved Carter to LA. He decided that the Flyers haven't ripped him off enough so went back and gave up 3 draft picks for Sergei Bobrovsky. In today's NHL goalie value is at an all time low. It is also being reported that the Islanders offered all of their picks this year for the 2nd overall pick. Sure it might be a roll of the dice if the later picks worked out, but is Ryan Murray going to be that more successful than Griffin Reinhart? I think Garth Snow is dumb to offer that, but I think Howson is ever more dumb to not take that deal and collect prospects. Cannot wait to see what Howson gets for Nash.

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