Monday, July 28, 2014

Luke Adam at the crossroads

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Amerks forward Luke Adam is the last of the Sabres restricted free agents still unsigned this summer.

The 24 yr. old who was drafted in the 2nd round (44th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft was qualified by the Sabres but has yet to accept the offer.

All of the RFA's GM Tim Murray looked to keep either signed with the club (Marcus Foligno, Chad Ruwhedel, Tyler Ennis) or accepted their qualifying offer (Matt Hackett.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Amerks Don Stevens chats about building a winning organization

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Don Stevens has been "The Voice of the Rochester Americans" for 28 years. He has seen the Amerks win eight division championships (none since 2005, though) three conference championships (1996, 1999, 2000) and two Calder Cups (1987, 1996) since his career began in 1986.

Yesterday the veteran broadcaster was kind enough to take a moment to chat about the future of the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A case for D, Rasmus Ristolainen to start in Rochester

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Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is on a trajectory to hit the NHL this year in a top-four role.

At 6'4" 207 lbs., the 19 yr. old Finn already has NHL-size and he showed at the 2014 Sabres Development Camp that he's much farther along than any prospects not named Zemgus Girgensons or Mark Pysyk.

The 20 yr. old Girgensons, a forward, was with the Sabres all last season (70 games) while Pysyk has played in 63 games for Buffalo over the course of the last two seasons.

Pysyk is a defenseman and last season he showed that he was ready for full-time NHL duty. But the team took a cautious approach to his development and opted to send him back to Rochester during the Olympic break.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tyler Ennis at 5 years? Fine by me.

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The Buffalo Sabres announced that they have re-signed forward Tyler Ennis to a multi-year contract.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the NHL Network's Kevin Weekes was first to report yesterday that the deal was a five-year deal worth around $23M, which is just about right for Ennis.

Despite his diminutive (5'9", 169 lbs,) Ennis has been able to produce over his career.

In 267 NHL games he has 67 goals and 166 points and in his two seasons of 80-plus games he's hit the 20-goal mark both times. Last year he has a career high 21 goals.

Ennis has also appeared in 13 playoff games registering three goals, none bigger then his overtime winner at the Philadelphia Flyers in Game-5.

In overtime, Ennis got behind the Flyers defense and pounced on a juicy rebound left by goalie Michael Leighton and the Sabres were headed back to Buffalo with a 3-2 series lead.

A quick aside, recently inked defenseman Andrej Meszaros was on the ice for that goal against.

Former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff accurately called Ennis "greazy" as the slick, speedy forward almost always seems to be able to slide out of tight situations.

Buffalo is on it's third coach in just over a year and present bench boss Ted Nolan seems to be tuned in to what Ennis has and what he brings to the table. After being shackled by the X's and O's of previous coach Ron Rolston, Nolan said of Ennis, "To … say, ‘You have to be at this place’ is limiting his ability. We kind of took the reigns off."

To which Ennis responded, “That’s the biggest thing. I don’t have to think,” said Ennis last year. “I’m a little more instinctive." It a mindset which plays to his strengths.

Another thing that's helped him along is the move to center.

Since he's come into the league Ennis has be bouncing around from wing to center. Ruff had said on many occasions that center is the best spot as Ennis has much more room to maneuver. Unfortunately there was no room down the middle on the scoring lines so Ruff had him on the wing. Nolan seems to agree as Ennis spent the majority of his time at center.

Stats geeks will use various numbers concerning the 24 yr. old veteran of four NHL seasons, pointing out Ennis' numerical shortcomings.

The stats may point to an average player, but anyone who's ever watched him knows that he's a highly skilled player with deft stick work who's battling through the inconsistencies of youth.

His team worst minus-25 rating last season accurately point out that the kid needs to become more defensively responsible, which is something Nolan pointed out as well.

But there is much more going on than just number.

Ennis has jam. And GM Tim Murray took notice.

Murray has been constantly pointing to the LA Kings as a team to look at as a model. He points out their sheer size and has backed that up by acquiring big players who play the game "heavy."

Yet, back in June when asked about Ennis and what he thought about re-signing him Murray said simply, "I like the player. I like his approach to the game. I like his compete-level. I like his speed. There's a lot of things I like about him."

Murray backed that up with a $4.6M cap hit over the next five seasons for Ennis. He will be the third highest paid player on the roster right now behind Tyler Myers and Matt Moulson.

Final thoughts on the scrimmage + the 3-stars

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Expectations were high for the Prospect Scrimmage last night as a number of first and second round picks hit the ice.

The announced attendance for the scrimmage was 8725. That's nearly nine thousand fans going to watch hockey on the 15th day of July.

It says a lot about the fans and says a lot about the players that the organization has been accumulating over the course of the last three years.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Intriguing matchups for tonight's scrimmage

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After watching the youngins hit the ice today, a few things popped out:

The White team is going to have a tough time against both Andrey Makarov and Cal Peterson. Both rarely got beat today during their drills, showing a little "Dominator-like" attitude--they did not want the puck getting behind them. At all.

Makarov can really flash the leather and he's really confident.

Last year's run to the playoffs and solid five-game series vs. Chicago got him rolling, and it looks as if he's ready to bust through another threshold this season. Nathan Lieuwen, who looks to be the Amerks starter better look out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Sabres could use a placeholder or two on defense

Reprinted with permission from

As of right now, Sabres GM Tim Murray has four viable NHL defensemen on the roster--Tyler Myers, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Mike Weber.

Add in Mark Pysyk, who's almost assured a spot and that brings the total to five leaving two spots open.

With prospects camp this week, 2013 first round draft picks Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov will be looking to showcase their year-over-year development hoping to serve notice that they'll be ready October 9th.