Thursday, October 8, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015-16 Season Preview

Reprinted with permission from
There was anticipation when new owner Terry Pegula took over the Buffalo Sabres in 2011 with deep pockets and a commitment to winning. Likewise when he opened up his wallet that summer to bring in the best free agents available. Granted it was a thin market that year and things blew up in his face, but Pegula followed through with his declaration that he’d be taking off the financial chains and moving an organizational mandate from “just break even” to “the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup.”
The loose, three-year time-frame that Pegula put on making it to their ultimate goal took a bit of a Griswold detour featuring a comedy of errors lead to an extensive overhaul for the franchise. From team president on down, very few were spared. Three seasons and four drafts later this incarnation of the Buffalo Sabres, one that’s filled with high-draft picks and young veterans just beginning to enter their prime years, will hit the ice for the most anticipated season in years.
Sabres fans expectations have invariably pumped to the point of sheer frenzy in the past, and in every occasion the prize was out of reach. One need to go no further back than the first quarter of the 2015 NFL season to see a Buffalo Bills fan-base get stoked to the point of ponying up for a franchise record-breaking 65,000 season tickets only to have their team get embarrassed twice in front them.
When the Sabres hit the ice at First Niagara Center tomorrow night, fans will be in tizzy as two years of “suffering” are now in the past and the future begins now. It's the beginning of "the Next Chapter” in the book that is the history of the Buffalo Sabres, but it’s only the first paragraph of the first page. Win or lose, fans know (or should know) that there’s a new coaching staff and a revamped roster featuring 12 players 24 yrs. old or younger. New head coach Dan Bylsma will be guiding the youngest team in the league, according to at an average age of 26.230 yrs old, and there will be growing pains.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Some pundits and experts chime in on the upcoming Sabres season

Reprinted with permission from

Just a quick look at what some media members are saying about the Buffalo Sabres and their upcoming season:

Kevin Allen, USA Today:  Plenty of new arrivals for Buffalo with Allen calling GM Tim Murray "a man of great vision." Points out that uber prospect Jack Eichel is coming into a situation where he has a strong, young supporting cast to help in the transition. Allen calls Zemgus Girgensons " a born leader and gritty competitor," thinks Rasmus Ristolainen's ice-time will be in the low 20's and his point total "could rise from 20 to 40-plus," while also saying the youngster to watch is Sam Reinhart, whom he called "a prime prospect.

" Neither Rome nor the Sabres were built in a day," summarizes Allen. "The Sabres were 45 points out of a playoff spot last season. They can’t make that up in a season. Pick them as the NHL’s most improved team, but still seventh in the Atlantic."

Allan Muir,  Muir writes that Murray, "threw out the traditional draft-and-hold approach and charted a more dramatic and risky path to contention." He also points out that the Sabres are strong down the middle and also feels an eye should be kept on Reinhart who he writes, "will have a sizeable learning curve, especially without the puck," and forward Evander Kane who's "ready to get his hockey life back."

"The defense is a work in progress and Murray gambled heavily on Robin Lehner as his new starting goalie," continued Muir. He feels that "the Sabres will be a better team in 2015-16 and certainly more entertaining. The playoffs are a whole lot closer than they were this time last season. Prediction--74 points, seventh in the Atlantic."

Jen Neale, Yahoo's Puck Daddy:  Neale covers Buffalo's "extreme makeover" aptly and in a very cool approach lists Eichel as first on her "five most fascinating players" section. She lists him in the 2-5 spots with a strike-through while adding (in order)--Lehner, Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Tyler Ennis. Neale loves a possible 3-on-3 line of Kane, Eichel and Ennis writing of the three, "In the immortal words of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson: SPEEEEEEEEED."

Attention is paid to head coach "Disco" Dan Bylsma as Neale points out that "he fits what the Sabres need in their transitional period. Bylsma is a players coach who can work with young players shouldering huge expectations." Prediction--"They’ll miss the playoffs but make significant strides towards turning things around."

Joe McDonald,  "There's been a major culture change in upstate New York," writes McDonald. "How long will it be before the Sabres begin to see the results of the rebuild? It won't happen overnight, but there's a lot to be excited about in Buffalo." That excitement includes players like Eichel, Kane and O'Reilly while giving props to the Sabres for signing Cody Franson and acknowledging Bylsma and the "instant credibility" he brought to the organization.

A cool thing he also mentions is that the Sabres "are loaded with young talent and many of those players will participate in the World Cup of Hockey next year." But for this season, McDonald writes, "There's no way the Sabres will be as bad as they were last season, Buffalo should have a better season, but reaping the benefits of the rebuild will take more than one season. Prediction--eighth in the Atlantic Division.

The Hockey News:  "Between 1979 and 2009, 10 teams drafted in the top two in consecutive years," begins THN's season preview of the Buffalo Sabres. "Five of them reached the Stanley Cup final within eight seasons and three won the Cup. Buffalo, after bottoming out for two straight second-overall picks, hopes to join the list." The ascent begins, they write, with the forward group with Eichel, O'Reilly and Kane, but they also point out that "the D-corps remains a major weakness," saying Josh Gorges and Zach Bogosian "will be forced to play top-pair minutes but are better suited to supporting roles."

"The Sabres added about five wins of talent to the roster this season which is the most of any team, writes THN in their outlook. "It’s a huge injection of skill, but what it really shows is just how terrible Buffalo was last season. Take five wins off their current projection and you get a true-talent 69 point team. Most teams fall within the 80-to-100 point range, so a number below 70 is shockingly low. That’s the hill Buffalo has to climb to get out of the NHL’s basement and while this season is a good start, there’s a lot of mountain left for them."

TSN's Frank Servalli's "bold prediction" for the Sabres:  Eichel will beat out Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the Calder Trophy. "He will feed three-time 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson and push the Sabres go the brink of the playoffs." New players "will account for a 35-point turnaround, but the Sabres will fall short of the playoffs."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--The reserves

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres entered camp this year with 60 players on their training camp roster. In just over two weeks and with seven preseason games they’ve whittled the roster down to 29 players after Jason Akeson was assigned to Rochester yesterday. A couple more moves will need to be made to get down to the final 23-man roster by 5pm Tuesday.
Four players presently on the roster—F, Cody McCormick, D, Zach Bogosian and Bobby Sanguinetti and G, Linus Ullmark--are all injured and will miss the start of the season with two being of the longer-term variety. McCormick has not been cleared due to a blood clot issue while Ullmark underwent double hip surgery in April and is slated to return to the ice some time next month. Sanguinetti hasn't been on the ice since the first day of training camp and Bogosian was listed as week-to-week late last week. Head coach Dan Bylsma said that "[Bogosian] is working out and doing off ice workouts and progressing well. We don't have a time table for him to return to get on the skates."
Of the two move the Sabres need to make, the easiest one will be waiving veteran center Cal O'Reilly. The older brother of Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, Cal played for the Utica Comets (VAN) of the AHL last year was brought in to fortify the Amerks roster for this season.
That leaves the reserve forward spot for another veteran, David Legwand.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Some notes in B-flat as the Sabres fall to end the preseason

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres fell just short of staging a third period come back last night. Even though they scored four goals in just over 13 minutes of the third period, it was not a good tune-up for the regular season. Fact is, they were an abysmal, turnover machine last night. The team, in general, also lacked intensity while goaltending did nothing to bail the team out. By the time they snapped out of it the Sabres were down 5-0 with less than half the game played.

But before the Peace Bridge gets overcrowded with Sabres fans or there's a run on pitchforks, torches and lighter fluid, it's best to keep in mind that this team is in the midst of a major transition and there will be growing pains, especially to begin the season. There were eight players on the ice last night (including goaltender Robin Lehner) who weren't with the team last year and three others who spent only a handful of games on the big club last season. In addition to that, the Sabres are employing an up-tempo system that's a far cry from what they were doing last year.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--The fourth line

Reprinted with permission from

The cool thing about the Buffalo Sabres adding top-six forwards in Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel is that not only does it immediately legitimize the Sabres top two lines, but it also pushes the other forwards down to a level more in line with their individual capabilities. And the depth Buffalo is beginning to develop is especially evident on the fourth line.

In the past few years the Sabres lacked true top-line talent and in turn were really thin at the lower levels of the depth chart to the point where the last two seasons, especially the last one, Buffalo relied upon borderline NHL’ers to play fourth-line minutes. Last night's 6-1 shellacking at the hands of the Minnesota Wild was a microcosm of the last two seasons.

While the Buffalo Sabres were dressing a lineup that featured as many as 10 players ticketed for Rochester of the AHL, the Wild were gearing up for the regular season and dressed most of their opening night roster in their final preseason game. "It was two teams at two different levels," said head coach Dan Bylsma after the game.

This huge discrepancy in talent trickled down to the Amerks as well. They opened up their preseason by getting walloped by the Binghamton Senators 8-2. The baby Sens had a team that was also fortified by having a parent club playing most of their opening night roster.

Tonight's home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the Sabres last of the preseason and what hits the ice will constitute much of their opening night roster, injuries not withstanding.

Which brings us to the fourth line.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--G, Chad Johnson

Reprinted with permission from

If the parade of goalies through Buffalo over the past two years wasn't record-breaking, it has to be pretty close. In the 2013-14 season the Sabres dressed an NHL-record 10 goalies for games including goalie coach Arturs Irbe and HARBORCENTER employee Ryan Vinz. Last year five goalies would make an appearance in net--Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, who were both traded, Anders Lindback, who took on post trade deadline starting duties, plus prospects Andrey Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen.

The well-travelled Chad Johnson, who was acquired from the NY Islanders (along with a 2016 3rd round pick) for Neuvirth at the trade deadline, would have made it six, but he took a shot to the ankle prior to his scheduled March 6th start at Ottawa against the Senators. The "lower-body injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Johnson's all that's left of the 16 men in the crease for the Sabres over the last two grueling seasons (save for Vinz,) and he entered training camp as back-up to No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner who was acquired at the draft from Ottawa for the 21st overall pick. Lehner was sidelined in February after suffering a concussion in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes and, like Johnson, hadn't seen action until this preseason.

Lehner got the start (and the 4-0 shutout) last game vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs and with only two preseason games left on the schedule, Johnson will get the start tonight in Minnesota against the Wild.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick...

heading up ice with the puck on his stick...




Speed is speed, whether it's preseason or not and when Sabres rookie phenom Jack Eichel jumps on a puck it's 1st gear to overdrive. Last night Eichel took a chip pass from Nic Deslauriers, blazed through the neutral zone and with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown in hot pursuit, yet still two strides behind, he proceeded to snap a quick wrister past goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Said Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma of the play."D-Lo (Deslauriers) makes a great positional play by being there in the slot and intercepting the pass. In about a half a second it was clear it was going to be a breakaway. [Eichel] took off and beat the guy (Brown) almost by the blue line and had three-quarters of the rink for a breakaway. It turns into another [short handed goal] for us."