Thursday, June 30, 2011

While Waiting For An Ehrhoff Decision and Anticipating a Play For Brad Richards...

...I'd like to direct your attention to The Maine Hockey Journal and something that got lost in the all of the happenings concerning the draft and the Robyn Regehr decision.

The official return of the Rochester Americans.


Darcy Regier, AHL Commisioner Dave Andrews,
Terry Pegula and Ted Black.
The Sabres family is shaping up nicely with the
return of the Rochester Americans


It's an article from June 24th concerning the Buffalo Sabres move from Portland back to Rochester, and if ever there was amicable split between a parent club and it's affiliate, here it is.

It was written by Chris Roy and starts out by summing up the situation perfectly, "It sort of like your current girlfriend dumping you only to go back to their longtime ex."

The process of the move began back in November, 2010 when Terry Pegula was getting serious about buying the Sabres and had the vision to re-unite Rochester with Buffalo.

With Pegula laying out his plans in such a way that made perfect sense for the Sabres organization, Pirates Managing Owner and CEO Brian Petrovek indicated that "we would in no way prevent that from happening.” Petrovek continued, “It was the right thing for Terry Pegula. If I was sitting in Terry’s shoes and had his financial wherewithal I would probably be looking at the same thing. So in the best interest in our league and the Buffalo Sabres I would never put our franchise in a position to where we would have stopped (the sale).”

Class, through and through.

Although we don't know the specifics of the Pirates buy-out, it doesn't really matter. “It only took a couple conversations on what it would take to release and terminate (from the affiliation agreement), Petrovek said, "and as you would expect with the relationship we had with the seller and the buyer that was the easy part."

The article continues with the importance of Rochester being a strong AHL team and market and gives props to the success of the organization in Portland for raising the bar for the team and it's fans.

Nice work on all sides concerning the return to Rochester for the Buffalo Sabres.

Good luck to a classy franchise in Portland.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What About This For the Sabres Centers?

Brad Richards
Derek Roy
Chris Drury
Paul Gaustad


The cool thing about Terry Pegula being owner and taking the chains off GM Darcy Regier is that Sabres can take a "dream scenario" and make it a reality.

Such was the case of recent acquisition, Robyn Regehr.

The 11-year veteran d-man, at first, nixed the trade to Buffalo through his no-movement clause. Then accepted. The disclaimer here is that it was almost a last resort. All things being equal, he'd probably have taken San Jose' over Buffalo more for logistical reasons than anything else.

The last resort for the big blueliner still could have been nixing the entire deal ala Danny Heatley to Edmonton.

But, the deal happened. And, according to Darren Dreger who was on WGR this morning, the National Hockey League has a different view of the Buffalo Sabres. There's a different feel to the organization.


Mine That Brad

Which brings us to the big fish in the unrestricted free agent market, Brad Richards.
Brad Richards has the world
at his feet as the unrestricted
free agent approaches July 1.
First, it would've been unheard of for the Sabres to even be in the mix on their end as recent as last season. We know the drill under Tom Golisano. And, conversely, we know how badly new owner Pegula wants to win the Cup.

From a free agent's perspective, Buffalo has gone from a "snowballs chance in hell" to serious consideration as evidenced by Richards' agent, Pat Morris, saying this on WGR's Howard Simon Show this morning, "If they call, we'll certainly receive them with open arms and listen."

The team has an upper-echelon goalie in Ryan Miller, a very strong back-end anchored by Tyler Myers and Regehr and a diverse, highly-skilled group of wingers, something echoed by Morris, "[The Sabres have] Excellent goaltending, an emerging defense and lots of forward that are skilled and lots of forwards that provide some grit and tenacity

Usually big-ticket free agents of Richards' ilk--highly skilled, veteran and approaching the down-side of their careers--will be looking for the whole shebang. They want the money they deserve, the term to keep them secure and a shot at the Stanely Cup.

In terms of Buffalo, the first two will be no object for an aggressive owner like Pegula. From Richard's perspective, the big hurdle would be how close the Sabres are to Cup-contenders.

With Dallas' ownership in flux, Richards has mentioned that a stable ownership would be a strong consideration, which the Sabres, obviously, have. The hockey market is also important and Morris had this to say when summing things up for his client, "He would like to first and foremost, when you've won a Stanley Cup, you want to win another one. He'd like to win again and have an opportunity to be with a team that has younger players coming in to fill and in a market where hockey matters every game, game in and game out with full buildings. A hockey market with an opportunity to win are the top 2 criteria."  

Convincing Richards to come to Buffalo would be a major coup for the Buffalo Sabres, and although they're not considered favorites in the race, unlike previous years they're in it.

In 2009 Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby. He was the second longest-odds in Kentucky Derby history and his margin of victory was the longest in over 60 years.

In the Sabres eyes, Mine That Brad, can win the roses in Buffalo, but a word to the wise from Morris, "Tell Darcy to be aggressive."


 The Prodigal Son

Prodigal son, Chris Drury?

Yeah, we all know what went down. And now Drury's dream comes to an end in NY with the Rangers. A buy out.

The Rangers will be making a strong pitch for Richards' services come July 1. They have some major restricted free agents to sign and there won't be enough cap-space to keep Drury and sign everyone they want.

Drury had his best statistical years in Buffalo and was a very strong leader on the team before he went for his childhood (and very lucrative) dream.
Former Sabres Chris Drury was
loved in Buffalo...until July 1, 2007.
Would the Sabres welcome him back?

Drury's departure was anything but amicable and with the way Pegula has been mending the wounds of the previous regime, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to see him mend this one.

I think Drury is a Pegula-type of player who fits his edict of "not only statistically good players, but winners, gritty players." Those are the types of players that he wants to have on the team.

And I think that Drury is a perfect example of that type of player.

All-in-all, the Sabres are in the mix for unrestricted free-agents this season and Terry Pegula is not fooling around. He wants it and he wants it now.

He has no problem with aggressiveness.

Hopefully GM Darcy Regier continues this off-season with "out-of-character" moves and bolsters the center position with an upset victory.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

News, Notes and Thoughts From the 2011 Draft Weekend


The Robyn Regehr acquisition was
big for the Buffalo Sabres, but
there was plenty to talk about
at this year's draft weekend.
Before we delve into a weekend that featured the un-Sabre-like trade for Calgary Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr, among other things, we'll go back to something which occured this off-season that will start paying dividends, maybe huge dividends, a few years down the road:  The Sabres Draft Combine.

"Starting today, there will be no financial mandates on the Buffalo Sabres hockey department. there is no salary cap in the NHL on scouting budgets and player development budgets. I plan on increasing...our scouting budgets." --New Sabres owner Terry Pegula at his Feb. 22nd press conference

Early in June, the Sabres held their first ever Draft Combine which lasted four days, something that wouldn't have been considered by the previous regime(s.)

A man of his word, Terry Pegula
It was something that the scouting staff had wanted to do, but the commitment was not there from ownership. Pegula, citing the New England Patriots, mentioned it to GM Darcy Regier who turned it over to Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine.

Devine said that the combine was put together quickly and that there were 35 invitees. These invitees, unlike the NHL draft combine, consisted of some players outside the top-100, all of whom were also evaluated in on-ice workouts, something that's not done at the National Combine in Toronto.

Included in the wide range of players they brought in:  players that they were looking at with the 16th-overall pick, players they were looking at in the third-round, value picks for the latter rounds and local kids.

For an organization that once had the most drafted players that played in the NHL, and which boasts the last three Dudley "Red" Garrett Award Winners for AHL Rookie of the Year, this is a step that would further enhance an already impressive scouting department.



~~~~~~~~~~
 
 
The pick was introduced by new owner Pegula and broke a trend. The Sabres had not drafted an overseas player since Jhonas Enroth was drafted 46th overall in the 2006 draft.
 
Buffalo Sabres 2011 #1 pick Joel Armia
 flanked directly by Kevin Devine on his right and
 Jon Christiano on his left with the rest of the
Sabres family.
With an admittedly bare-bones scouting department overseas, why would they pick Armia, who played in Finland's top proffessional league? They had a chance to get a first-hand look at him during the World Junior Championship held at HSBC Arena last winter.
 
Although he didn't do very much at the World's apparently he did enough for Devine to get in touch with a staffer's "friend of a friend" overseas. They received a video package of Armia and after watching that, the Sabres liked him enough to waste no time heading to the podium to select him with their first pick.
 
From the NHL's Director of European Scouting, Goran Stubb:  ""He's big and tall but surprisingly mobile for a player of his size," he said of Armia. "He has a heavy wrist shot that he gets off quickly and is always looking for the empty spots on the ice. He's a sniper with a good selection of shots. You might have to look for him during some shifts, but then, suddenly, he scores the winner."
 
Although Armia is a right-winger and the Sabres are thin at center prospects, Devine and company were thrilled that "THE guy" they wanted fell to them at 16. Devine mentioned his size, 6'3" and his hands and that Armia is a pure goal-scorer. In fact, his minmal English is dominated by two words:  "Score goals."
 
~~~~~~~~~~
 
The other Sabres' picks in the 2011 draft:
  • #77--Speed-demon, Daniel Catenacci, center
  • #107--Texan Colin Jacobs, center
  • #132--West Seneca native, Alex "the big" Lepkowski, defense
  • #167--Former Kootenay Ice and Brayden McNabb team mate, Nathan Lieuwen, a goalie
  • #197--High school product, Brad Navin, center
Interesting to note that both Lepkowski and Navin were a part of the Sabres first-ever draft combine.

For full coverage of the draft and all of the Sabres prospects, visit good friend Kris Baker at:  http://www.sabresprospects.com/

~~~~~~~~~~

Last off-season, the very thought of the Buffalo Sabres taking on salary to get a player they coveted was unthinkable.
 
Yesterday, the Sabres took on $7M in salary to get a big, tough, physical, veteran, top-pairing d-man to play along side Tyler Myers (who,btw, listed Regehr as his favorite player.)
 
Although it took two days for Robyn Regehr to decide to waive his no-movement clause and accept the trade to Buffalo, the deal was consumated with the Sabres not only taking on his $4M salary, but that of NHL outcast and former Buffalo Sabre, Ales Kotalik who will make $3M next season.
 
Terry Pegula put his money where his mouth was and lifted financial constraints in pursuit of Stanley Cups (yes, plural, in his words.)
 
Sabres d-man Chris Butler, who was insisted upon by Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster, was sent north along with diminutive center-prospect Paul Byron.
 
Butler handled it professionally, calmly and realistically which can be found in the audio here. I've always trumpeted him as a smart, shut-down-type with top-four or even top-two potential.  
 
Good luck, Chris.

~~~~~~~~~
 
Former Winnipeg Jet and Buffalo Sabre
Teppo Numminen should be back in the fold
"doing some work" for the Sabres next season.
He'll probably need those glasses
for his European Scouting Reports.
Butler mentioned Teppo Numminen first in his list of players he's played with and who, probably, had a big influence upon the young d-man and his game.
 
Oddly enough, it wasn't the first time Numminen's name was mentioned this past weekend. While talking about their Finnish first-round pick in Joel Armia, Regier mentioned  (:56 mark) "ironically I've had conversations with [Teppo] Numminen about doing some work with us next year."

This is major on a couple levels. First, the whole physically-unable-to-perfom problem that happened for the 2007/08 season when he had heart surgery seems to have been put to rest and Terry Pegula continues to mend the wounds that the previous regime(s) have caused.

Second, Numminen represents a trusted voice overseas as the team expands their scouting department.

Bravo!

~~~~~~~~~~

Also mentioned in that Regier piece was that Williamsville native David Leggio will return in goal for the Rochester Americans.

David Leggio's rise has been
a lesson in perseverence.
The Sabres like him anchoring
the goal in Rochester.
That's right, it was announced that the Buffalo Sabes AHL affiliate will once again be in Rochester, NY as Pegula spent $5M to bring the Amerks back into the fold.

Leggio, who was mentioned here, had a real solid year last season for the Portland Pirates and re-upped for a contract with the Buffalo organization that could reach the $525K-mark.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Regehr trade will be talked about for years to come as a definitive cut from the past on many levels. But one thing that should not be forgotten:  on Saturday, Day-2 of the NHL Draft, Terry Pegula, his wife Kim and Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff flew to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to meet with the new Sabre with Regehr waiting at the airport for the trio to arrive.

Pegula was influential in getting the trade done, and the fact that Ruff is well respected in the league certainly didn't hurt matters either.

It's a family affair. Terry Pegula (L) has
involved his wife Kim in the Sabres operations.
She joined him and Lindy Ruff on an
"ambassador" mission to meet with newly
acquired Sabre Robyn Regehr and his wife Kristina.
The fact that Pegula wanted to personally welcome Regehr to the family and the fact that his wife Kim was brought along to ease any worries that Kristina Regehr, Robyn's wife, might have had with their move to Buffalo shows that the team is really focusing upon total commitment to the player and his needs.

When you add this to the return of "prodigal son," Rene Robert, the on-ice appearance of "The French Connection," the last home game/fan appreciation/alumni party, Rhett Warrener talking highly of Buffalo to Regehr months ago and the recent quote about Teppo Numminen, Pegula certainly is getting noticed by players in the NHL for all the right reasons.

~~~~~~~~~~
A couple of other quick notes before we move on.

Apparently Terry Pegula is a big fan of Tim Connolly. Connolly has been a fan and media whipping boy for the latter part of his career in Buffalo, yet performed admirably in his role vs. the Flyers in the playoffs before getting injured. Regier said that he has talked to Connolly's agent and will continue to do so.

Regier also said that the team would not be buying out Ales Kotalik. Not only that, he said the they wouldn't be buying out any player and that Kotalik "can play in the National Hockey League...and we expect him to come into camp and compete for a postion.

~~~~~~~~~~
The above two notes were taken from a post-draft article by WGR's Paul Hamilton.

At Day-1 of the draft, Hamilton stated on WGR that it felt good to be there. He walked into the Xcel Center in Minnesota with word that the Regehr trade was on the table and said that it was good to walk in and "have the Sabres relevant again."

And relevant they were.

All because of the influence of new owner Terry Pegula.

This from Darcy Regier (via the above link):  "It's the belief system that he brings. He's very focused on winning championships, not even winning one. He's not focused on 'let’s do our best', it's more than that and it's real. He's on a plane up to visit Robyn, he mentioned last night 'I think I'll go up and see him' and he's very focused on making this family oriented, relationship based and he believes that's what will drive our success. I have not been part of an ownership that has taken that much of an interest in the players and the relationships with them and the importance of it for him." 


An absolutely SOLID!!! start to the Pegula-era.



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Robyn Regehr To Buffalo Is Huge For the Sabres...

...not just in terms of the on ice product, where I thought it would be a rock solid (albeit far-fetched) acquisition for the learning process of young stud Tyler Myers, but also for the perception of the team and the direction they're headed.

One just needs to look at how this trade all played out to show just what the team is up against when trying to lure players to the city.

Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster and Darcy Regier had a deal in place on Wednesday and the only impediment was Regehr, an 11 year NHL vet who earned the no movement clause in his contract.

"You're trading me where?
Buffalo" I think I'll need some
time to cool off, Jay."
From there the shock of being traded to Buffalo took it's toll on the big blueliner as he wavered upon whether or not to accept. "It's a huge, important decision. I just wanted to make sure I explore as many options as possible," Regehr told the Calgary Sun. "Darcy Regier [the Sabres' general manager] has been fantastic. ... It sounds like Buffalo is great ... but until we see what's all out there, we can't make a real good informed decision that we're comfortable with."


Regardless of what Regier and new Sabres Terry Pegula had to say, the stigma of the last four years lingered. Guaranteed if it was Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston (a place he waived his nmc for) or even San Jose' and possibly Vancouver or Anaheim, the rugged d-man would not have had that big of a decision to make.

But, it was Buffalo. And it wasn't until well into the evening on the west coast that Regehr changed his mind and made the decision to go to Western New York.

Former Sabre Rhett Warrener played with
Robyn Regehr in Calgary.
Darcy Regier did some hard selling and Regehr talked to many players, including former Sabre Rhett Warrener who texted Regehr in April while at the alumni gathering the last game of the regular season and told Regehr that "he'd be a perfect fit for Buffalo." Regehr talked to others about the city and the team as well coming away saying “I couldn’t find anyone to say anything bad about Buffalo. Everyone enjoyed the people, the city. Nobody said anything negative about the city." Even with all of that input from GM to ex-players, one would assume that Terry Pegula did most of the heavy lifting.


On February 23, 2011, Terry Pegula's
first game as owner of the Buffalo
Sabres, "The French Connection."
skated together and the Sabres
became whole again.

Pegula has the desire and deep pockets to make his dream of Buffalo winning the Stanley Cup come true. He just needs to convince any player willing to listen that he's gonna get the job done.

The Sabres have been championing Buffalo as "hockey heaven" and have been making all the right moves cosmetically whether it was connecting with past greatness in bringing the French Connection back together on-ice or flying in over 80 alumni for the last home game of the regular season.
Former Sabres d-man Jay McKee was
one of over 80 alumni flown in
by Terry Pegula for Fan Appreciation
Day at the Sabres last home game
in April.

But, there comes a point where they needed to put their money where their mouth is.

Terry Pegula has taken off the financial constraints of the previous regime and is backing it up beginning with this trade. With Calgary needing to dump salary, not only was Regehr's $4M salary involved, but the excess millions tied up in former Sabre Ales Kotalik will also be coming to Buffalo. It's assumed that Kotalik will head to Rochester or be bought out.

All-in-all a pretty impressive deal by Darcy Regier. And a great selling job by Terry Pegula and the whole Sabres organization.

Right now, having Regehr next to Myers in front of Ryan Miller has given me a taste of "hockey heaven."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Filling Holes In the Sabres Line-up, Pt. 2...Or...

Who couldn't use a bonafide #1 center?

There are a few teams who don't, and you'll see them repeatedly going deep into the playoffs. Teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia are strong down the middle. San Jose', Vancouver, and Tampa Bay as well.

The only team to go deep into the playoffs without a legitimate #1 center was the Boston Bruins, who happened to go so deep that they won the Cup. Their #1, Marc Savard, was sidelined for the season in January with a concussion. Two young top-two centers--Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci--picked up the slack down the middle while the rest of the team hunkered down and totally frustrated the Vancouver Canucks on their way to a seven-game series win.

It's something to keep in mind, but something that should not be desired going forward.

The buffalosabresnow roster foundation, as laid out in two previous blogs--top-six and bottom-six--, looks like this:

Top-Six Forwards:

  • Thomas Vanek, ?, Jason Pomminville
  • Tyler Ennis, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford
Bottom-Six Forwards:
  • Nate Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, ?
  • Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta
Soooo, how does GM Darcy Regier fill those two holes?

We'll start by looking at filling the #1 center spot.

And I say, good luck with that. Any attempt to land that type of player will take a boat-load of money, and in the case of a trade, they'll need to add in a first round pick (maybe two,) a top-six player (or two) and a top-notch prospect.

In other words a total commitment with a healthy dose of intestinal fortitude will be required to get the job done.

Looking at Regier's track record, it seems as if it'll be a long shot.

The easiest route to take would be to go after the only bonafide #1 center available in the free agent market:

Brad Richards.

The soon-to-be former Dallas Stars' center has all the tools in the offensive zone to score or set up and has produced 168 points in 152 games over the last two seasons.

Dallas Stars center Brad Richards
will be headed somewhere other
than big-D this summer. Just don't
expect him to land in Buffalo.
Everybody and their brother knows what he brings to the table and come playoff time, he's shown that he can continue to produce, as evidenced by his Conn Smythe Trophy from the 2003 Stanley Cup win with Tampa Bay.

Because he's the only legit #1 center this off-season, and because of his production, the talk is that he'll command around $8M per season. And because he's 31, it's being said that he'll be looking for a longer-term contract that could be around four to five years in length to keep him secure into the latter years of his career.

All the cards are in Richards' hands this off-season.

But, from Buffalo's perspective, Richards is a gamble when you take into consideration that he's coming off of a late season concussion and that injuries are beginning to creep into his career. A concussion is a concussion whether we're talking about Richards or Tim Connolly.

Not to mention that Buffalo probably wouldn't be high on his priority list when you have the likes of NY and Toronto interested in his services. The Sabres would need to go above and beyond what the Rangers or Maple Leafs would be offering in order to land him.

Taken as a whole, it would seem that there's too much going against the Sabres in this situation, and it's highly doubtful that they'd have Richards in the fold.

The trade route seems to be the only way to land that top-center this off-season and it seems as if the center that has the highest probability of moving would be Paul Stastny in Colorado.

'Lanche center Paul Stastny has the pedigree
as well as mad skills and is getting paid well
in Denver. This may be a golden opportunity
to land a young, talented, bonafide #1 center
for some team. Hopefully it will be the Sabres.
The Avalanche have been focusing on the center position going back to the drafting of Stastny in 2005. In 2009 they pulled off a coup by landing a #1 center in Matt Duchene (#3 overall) and a solid two-way, top-nine center in Ryan O'Reilly (#33.)

This year the 'Lanche will have the second overall pick and have one of three top-notch centers to choose from should they wish to go the Pittsburgh Penguins route and go three-deep down the middle. Some would say four-deep with 2010 1st-round pick (#17 overall) Joey Hishon ready to start his professional career after putting up outstanding numbers in junior.

That would seemingly leave Stastny and his $6.6M contract on the way out.

The 'Lanche need goaltending and they need some help on the back-end and I'm not sure if the Sabres have what they'll want, but the 25 year old Stastny should be a prime target for Regier and Co. if the rumors are true that Colorado is looking to shed his hefty salary.



Another trade possibility would be with arch-rival Ottawa.

Word surfaced around the deadline that the Sabres were discussing a deal with the Sens' Brian Murray to acquire center Jason Spezza.

Spezza's legit and he has the numbers to back it up:  526 games, 192 goals, 340 assists for a total of 532 points.

Long time Ottawa Senator Jason Spezza
seemingly wanted out last summer. Now he
seems content in Ottawa. Or so it seems.
Even if available, would the arch-rival Sabres
be a trade partner?
Back in 2010, in the interim between the end of the season and July 1, Spezza was said to be disgruntled about being a scapegoat for the Senators woes and there seemed to be serious talk about him getting moved before his no-trade clause kicked in.

Nothing came of it and he's said to now be interested in sticking around while the Sens rebuild.

He has four years left on his contract that pays him $8M the next two years then goes down to $5M and $4M for the final two years. His cap-hit is $7M.

At one point it was thought that he and his contract were immovable. Now, though, it seems as if the Sens could be building around him.

Who knows, but a player smack-dab in his prime at age 28, with all of his skill, would be coveted by many a team and should be coveted by his present team.

I can't see the Sens parting with him unless there's still some ill-will carrying over from the 2009/10 season.

If the possibility exists to land Spezza, he should be another prime target.



The Philadelphia Flyers will finally have a legitimate #1 goalie this season when they sign Ilya Bryzgalov. Problem is, he'll probably cost somewhere in the $6M area.

For a team that's tight against the cap as is, even with it going up to $64M, something's got to give.

Jeff Carter is the name surfacing, mostly tied with Columbus.

Something's got to give in Flyerdom.
They're running out of cap room and
anti-Flyer Jeff Carter may be
on the move.
Carter is a big center and can score. Problem is that the kid seems to be the antithesis of the hard-charging, hard-forecheking Flyers' forward brigade lead by fellow center Mike Richards. About the only thing those two have in common is the very long-term contracts that will take them to the next decade.

Those contract lengths would be untradeable to almost every team including the Sabres.


Looking at these possibilities, the trade-option with the most up-side would be Stastny. It might take young Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth as a centerpiece, but it would be something that could pay off for the Sabres throughout the length of his career.


As for that #3 RW opening, for a team like Buffalo who's beginning to "get it" but could still use a boost of leadership, especially with the impending departure of veteran leader Mike Grier, Jamie Langenbrunner should be pursued.

Langenbrunner had a brutal season last year.

First off, he spent the first half of the season with the New Jersey Devils. A team that was still reeling from off-season turbulence and who seemed to be scouting the #1-overall pick in the draft until their late-season surge to respectability.

Langenbrunner was traded to Dallas to reunite with an old friend in Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. The two had played on the 1999 Stanley Cup winning Dallas team.

Out of the fire and into the fire.

Dallas was struggling under the cloud of the impending free agency of Brad Richards as well as ownership problems.

The result for Langenbrunner was his worst post-lockout production--9 goals, 23 assists, 32 points and a minus-18.

Ouch.

Although he's getting up there in age at 35, and he's on the declining side of his offensive output, the intangibles he brings to the table are unquestionably longstanding and inexhaustible.

The former captain and two-time cup-winner should be a high priority for Regier should they end up with an opening at RW.

The buffalosabresnow forwards for the 2011/12 season (additions in bold):

Top-Six Forwards:
  • Thomas Vanek, Paul Stastny, Jason Pomminville
  • Tyler Ennis, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford
Bottom-Six Forwards:
  • Nate Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, Jamie Langenbrunner
  • Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Will Darcy Regier Fill These Roster Holes, Pt. 1

After laying out a pretty solid roster foundation from the goal out, there are some definite holes in key positions for the Sabres.

What will Darcy Regier and Co. do to fill them?

(shrugs)

Owner Terry Pegula stated that the he would like to win the teams' first Stanely Cup within three years.

A somewhat daunting task, but certainly not insurmountable.

The team is built well on the back-end with plenty of skill and experience in net with Ryan Miller manning the crease. And with the back-up duties seemingly (hopefully, finally?) in the capable hands of Jhonas Enroth, that area of the team seems well covered for the next three years.

The defense has plenty of youth, skill and talent. Another year under their belts will give them that much more experience. Presently there are two veterans on the team--Shaone Morrisonn and Jordan Leopold--with the latter designated for top-four duties next season.

With goaltending set, here's the buffalosabresnow 2011/12 roster foundation on defense as laid out in previous blogs (with the bottom three spots here):
  • 1st-pairing: Tyler Myers, ?
  • 2nd-pairing: Jordan Leopold, Chris Butler
  • 3rd-pairing: Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani
  • reserve: ?
A top-pairing d-man should be a top priority for the Sabres this off-season. Although there's the possibility that any of Chris Butler, Mike Weber or Marc-Andre Gragnani could fill in up there, it would behoove the team to keep them in lesser roles to allow them to grow while maintaining a strong level of confidence.

Sooooo... who will fill that top-pairing spot?

Ideally a strong, stay-at-home, veteran d-man to hold the fort while Tyler Myers glides up ice. He should also be one who has enough experience and savvy to teach Myers the nuances of the game.

Since the Sabres look at Myers as a franchise d-man and will (hopefully) be looking to sign him to a very long-term contract--as well as a very expensive one--adding a franchise d-man in the mold of Nashville's Shea Weber may not be prudent. Although, admittedly, it would be a sick top-pairing for years to come.

Maybe they should look towards a two to three year player who will give Myers and the rest of the young d plenty of time to develop.

The buffalosabresnow choice to anchor the top-pairing with Myers would be:

Robyn Regehr

The big Brazilian has been an anchor for the Calgary Flames for years and has never wilted while facing the oppositions' top players. At 6'3" 225lbs, the physical shutdown d-man has been surprisingly healthy throughout his career having played in at least 68 games every year post lock-out.

Adding veteran d-man Robyn Regehr
would be a dream-scenario. Highly unlikely,
but nice to think about.
At 31 years old, Regehr follows the Rivet Rule Of Thumb when signing older, physical d-men.

Regehr has two more years on his contract with a $4M cap-hit.

According to capgeek, the Flames have 19 players signed at a cap-hit of just over $57M. With the cap expected to go up to $64M, it would leave them with about $7M in cap-space. Certainly not cap-hell, but it is pretty tight for them to sign four players while keeping some breathing room for in-season call-ups.

Although a trade with Calgary for Regehr--who does have a no-movement clause--is far-fetched, he would be an ideal d-man to fill that role.

With that in mind, Regier will probably look towards the free agent market, and the one who sticks out more than any other would be:

Jan Hejda

A former fourth-round pick of the Sabres (#106 overall, 2003,) Hejda has spent the last four years in Columbus with the Blue Jackets.

Known for his steady, unheralded play, the 6'3", 229lb defensive defenseman is said to be looking to test the free agency waters this off season.

Hejda, at 33, does conform to the Rivet Rule of Thumb having missed only 26 games over the last four seasons with the Jackets.

Not known for his offensive prowess (11 goals, 56 points in four years,) Hejda has averaged well over 21:00 of ice-time per game for the Jackets while going plus-23 over that time span (although he has been in the minus the last two seasons.)


Stay-at-home, Bill Hajt-type
defensive d-man Jan Hejda is the kind
of under-the-radar, reasonably-priced
free agent that Sabres' GM
Darcy Regier is known for acquiring.

Hejda is a Bill Hajt-type d-man who would make a solid partner for Myers. He made $2M last season and will probably get near $3M this off-season.

It's said he's looking for a longer-term contract, three years or more, which would be a good fit for the him and the Sabres.

All-in-all knowing the way Regier operates, the fact that Hejda is a quiet player, is affordable and is off pretty much every ones radar, it wouldn't surprise me if Hejda ends up in Buffalo for the next three seasons as a player that's looked upon as Myers' interim top-pairing d-partner.



As for the reserve spot on defense the Sabres will probably keep that one in-house.

Shaone Morrisson was a big disappointment for the team last season after he came back from injury. He's still signed for one more season at a little over $2.

The acquisition of UFA d-man Shaone Morrisonn
was questionable last off-season and remains
so this off-season.
There have been rumblings that he'll be sent to the AHL therefore burying his contract in the minors.

I'm really not buying into that one. He played really well with Myers at the beginning of last season before he was injured, and ya gotta give a player some time to acclimate to a new system.

My bet is that they keep him on the roster as a reserve d-man with the possibility of moving him at the deadline.

It'll be either Morrisonn or Andrej Sekera in that #7 slot and I believe that Sekera will be a tradeable asset for the Sabres.


The buffalosabresnow back-end for the 2011/12 season (additions in bold):

Goalie:

  • Ryan Miller
  • Jhonas Enroth
Defense:
  • 1st-pairing: Tyler Myers, Jan Hejda 
  • 2nd-pairing: Jordan Leopold, Chris Butler
  • 3rd-pairing: Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani
  • reserve: Shaone Morrisson

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Name This Possible Associate Coach For the Sabres

The Sabres coaching staff is missing an associate coach (as well as a coach for the AHL team.)

Head Coach Lindy Ruff still has assistant James Patrick on board and the team is presently looking to fill the opening created by the departure of Associate Coach Brian McCutcheon.

Former player and Stanley Cup winner, Kevyn Adams, is already in the organization and has done some marvelous work with youngin's like Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe. He seems to be a strong possibility at this point.

But, another possibility has surfaced, and this coach should, imo, get some serious consideration for a number of reasons, including having his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

The following are quotes taken from an article concerning a certain a long-time former assistant/associate coach who has experience as a head coach.

Both the GM and the coach's name are omitted and the link will be available at the end of the blog.

GM:
  • “I don't think there is a better teacher in the game. We think we have some inordinately talented people here and we want him working with them,”
  • “He was the smartest hockey player I ever played with by a considerable margin."
  • “He gets players to understand what he wants and buy into what he's trying to sell. A good coach is a good salesman, and he's very good at it,”
Coach:
  • “I’d like them to learn the game and feel comfortable every time they go out there. When things break down, it’s the people who can react, still keep their composure, deal with it and still be successful.”
  • “X’s and O’s are great. Tacticians are great, important, wonderful, but if you’re going to win, it’s because your team has figured out the game. They’re committed, they are smart and have a feel for the game. Not many teams win who aren’t smart."

  • “I try to keep the game as simple as I can. I don’t have convoluted theories on where people should go and don’t have 100 percent rules on where people should be,”
  • “In my era, there were a lot of pests whose primary responsibility was to shadow the opponents’ best players. We want to make those good players play in their end. They don’t like it. They don’t want to play in their end."
  • “We wanted to score. It’s so much more fun to play in the offensive zone. The trap style? I am not interested. I don’t want to stay on the bench and watch it,”
  • “A leader isn’t always the guy with the “C” on his sweater, sometimes that is a misnomer. I think leadership means that everyone is involved in the team process. You can have a lot of great leaders who play on the third or fourth lines, or maybe the fifth and sixth defensemen, because they come and compete every night."
  • “Teaching your team to compete and demanding it, and recognizing the guys who do compete and having them help you get the other guys on board...Leadership is a team event.”
  • “We want them expecting to win and not just hoping to win. It starts with the coach, but it’s about every player on the team committed to that one goal, which is winning and being a successful team. That’s my idea of leadership.”
  • The link.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sabres Should Bring Cody Hodgson Into the Fold

According to Lyle Richardson over at The Hockey News, "Hodgson rather than [Cory] Schneider, is Vancouver's most probable trade candidate this summer."

That Hodgson may have fallen out of favor with Canuck's Head Coach Alain Vigneault was reported by The Vancouver Province. The article by Tony Gallagher states the obvious, that Hodgson is way down the depth chart for 'Nucks centers behind Henrik Sendin, Ryan Kessler and Manny Malhotra.
Canucks center Cody Hodgson
was the 10th-overall pick in 2008.
It seems as if he's having a tough
time in Vancouver with Head Coach
Alain Vigneault.

Fair enough.

But Gallagher adds this zinger, that "it’s abundantly clear coach Alain Vigneault is not one of his big fans as the youngster was always the last possible option and was repeatedly slotted into situations seemingly designed to make him fail."

Ouch!

Whether there's a problem with Vigneault and his players in general remains to be seen, but, according to the article, Vigneault couldn't trust Hodgson and Hodgson played like he was afraid to make a mistake. The kid is in the second year of his three-year entry-level contract that has him at $1.7M/year. His AHL salary would be $65K.

One could bring up the tale of former Canuck's #1 pick Michael Grabner (14th-overall, 2006) as a parallel to the Hodgson situation, but a direct parallel seems to be a bit far-fetched. For now. After all, could lightning menacingly strike Vancouver GM Mike Gillis twice?



Former Canucks winger Michael Grabner
is playing as if he's really happy to
be out of Vancouver. He just signed
a five-year, $15M contract extension
with the NY Islanders.
Grabner, if you recall, was part of the Vancouver/Florida trade that sent Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich to the 'Nucks for Steve Bernier, Grabner and a 2010 #1 pick (Quinton Howden.) For some unknown reason the Panthers waived Grabner in October, 2010 and he was picked up by the NY Islanders.
He had a banner season (34 goals, 18 assists) and was re-signed to a five-year contract in May, 2011.

Seems as if all he needed was to get into a situation where he was set-up for success and not to fail.

What the Sabres would need to give up to get Hodgson remains to be seen, but it sounds as if he could be had at a very reasonable price.

Hodgson had only 52 games of AHL seasoning last year. Another year in the AHL, or even two, would be extremely beneficial for the kid. We're talking about a center who scored 243 points in 197 games for his OHL career.

With the lack of quality forward-prospects in the Sabres' system, especially at center, adding Hodgson would be a plus. He would immediately be one of the top-two centers for their AHL club should current #1 center Luke Adam make the jump to the Sabres next season.

And getting him out of the tumult that may be Vancouver this season could be just what the kid needs to regain his confidence and reach his 10th-overall pick potential.

Couldn't hurt.

~~~~~~~~~~

Also from Puckdaddy:  Ryan Lambert's What We Learned, column. His take on the recently released Bodog.com odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup, "Buffalo Sabres--If you have some money you'd like to like to throw down the toilet, the Sabres are getting 25-to-1 odds they win the Stanley Cup next year. Bruins at 8-to-1? Might wanna take a run at that."

Ouch! That's cold.


Like the Top-Six...

...the Buffalo Sabres Bottom-Six has holes down the middle.

Holes down the middle has been a theme since 2008 when we found out that Derek Roy and Tim Connolly would not adequately fill the skates of the departed Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. And if you can't fill the top-two properly, the bottom-two will be affected as well.

About the only thing we know for sure when it comes to the bottom-two centers is that Paul Gaustad will be one of them.

The masses chortle GM Darcy Regier for giving an essentially #4 center $2.5M/year and they're somewhat right.

"The Goose" lets loose as he tangle with the
Flyers Scott Hartnell in Game-2 of the
2011 playoffs.
The former 7th-round pick (2000) has the size at 6'4", 225lbs and aggressiveness to be a strong physical presence on the ice and is considered a leader on the team wearing the "A" on his sweater.

"Goose" does a lot of the little things on the ice like sticking up for his teammates and is the team's best face off man, yet we always are left wanting something more than his 12-goal seasons. Fact is, he may not be capable of scoring more than that, which puts him in the bottom-six.

The Sabres have a big body in Gaustad who displays strong on-ice leadership and tenacity in the face off circle. As he enters into the final year of his contract, "Goose" is a Buffalo Sabre and probably will remain as one for his career. Not a bad thing, but a little salary adjustment downward for the center would probably be appropriate.

Gaustad as a #4 center would be ideal, but they still have a hole in the #3 slot.

Last season Rob Niedermayer was the #3 and the Sabres showed incredible patience with the veteran, cup-winning centerman as it took him 53 games to score his first goal of the season. In the playoffs, though, Niedermayer showed why the Sabres signed him as he provided a very steadying influence throughout the 7-game series loss vs. Philadelphia.

As mentioned in a previous blog, under the right conditions, bringing "Nieds" back would be a good thing.

Another player that might fill the #3 center position would be current UFA Tim Connolly.

Connolly has taken a beating over the past four or five seasons both literally and figuratively as he tried to fill a top-six center role. He may be shot to the point where he'd thrive in a bottom-six role as a defensive-minded, penalty-killing #3. But, coming off of a $4.5M/year contract, as well as a lot of guff from Sabreland, it would be easy for one to think that he'll move on for more money and a fresh start.

Jochen Hecht showing some spunk as he
tangles with the Bolts' Vinny Lecavalier.
Then there's Jochen Hecht.

Hecht is a utility-man up-front who's best position is wing. As a very smart, very versatile two-way player, Hecht would be welcome on the Sabres in a third-line role. Problem is, the Sabres are very strong on the wings, especially LW, his natural position.

Would the team want to pay $3.5M to a #3 center who's alternated between very good and very poor over the past four seasons? Have injuries caught up with him? Would the Sabres be able to trade him and his salary?

I like Jochen Hecht as a player and wouldn't have much of a problem with him as that third-line center. He has one more year on his contract and with the salary cap expected to climb into the $62-$64M range it wouldn't be that difficult for the team to keep him and still remain within whatever fiscal parameters Terry Pegula decides upon. After this season, the team can look towards filling that #3 slot with a Ron Francis/Rod Brind'Amour-type, cup-winner if need-be.

Nate Gerbe watches his playoff-
clinching backhander April 8, 2011.
With that in mind, we'll fill out the wings on the bottom-six:
  • LW Nathan Gerbe really kicked it in gear in the 2011 portion of the season. The light-switch seemed to come on after a sub-par, bordering on brutal, first half of the season. But the kid's a winner and seems to have a penchant for the dramatic as witnessed by his game-winning/playoff-clinching, no-look back-hander from the slot vs. Philadelphia in the second-last game of the regular season. He still has work to do and a move up to the top-six would be a strong possibility were it not for the presence of Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis on the left side, but ya gotta love what the kid brings to the table.
  • LW Cody McCormick is another FA, only unrestricted. Rumor has it that he's looking for a big (relatively speaking) pay day. As a fourth-liner, I'd like to see the Sabres re-sign him.
  • RW Patrick Kaleta is a banger and it looks as if he may be in for a short career. He has four full NHL seasons under his belt and has yet to play more than 55 games. With his style of play, it wouldn't be much of reach to think that he'll have the same problems this season. A fourth-line agitator role would be ideal for the kid, playing 8-10 minutes per game.
With the probable retirement of veteran RW Mike Grier and no NHL-ready RW in the AHL, there seems to be an opening at #3.

Would the Sabres use 2011 trade-deadline acquisition Brad Boyes in that slot? That would be $4M there, and if they use Hecht as a third-line center, we're talking $7.5M tied up in two slots on the third line. I cannot see that happening even with Pegula taking off the financial constraints.

Boyes and Hecht are two sides of the same coin--Boyes supposedly the offensive side, Hecht the defensive side--so the team would not be adding anything special for the amount they'd be spending.

One or the other would need to go, and my guess is that it would be Boyes.

As for depth wingers, there will be plenty to choose from in the off-season, Matt Ellis, should he re-sign would be capable of filling in. We'll also probably see Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno get a taste of the NHL as well.

the buffalosabresnow 2011/12 roster foundation:


Goalie:
  • Ryan Miller
  • Jhonas Enroth
Defense:
  • 1st-pairing: Tyler Myers, ?
  • 2nd-pairing: Jordan Leopold, Chris Butler
  • 3rd-pairing: Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani
  • reserve: ?
Top-Six Forwards:
  • Thomas Vanek, ?, Jason Pomminville
  • Tyler Ennis, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford
Bottom-Six Forwards:
  • Nate Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, ?
  • Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta

Sunday, June 19, 2011

About the Only Thing We Know Concerning the Sabres Top-Two Lines...

...is that the #1 center position is quite the quandary.

Right now the wings have plenty of skill and depth, but that pesky center position has been a thorn in the side of GM Darcy Regier ever since the debacle that was the 2007 off-season.

No, Darcy, you never had "two of the top-20 centers in the National Hockey League." Stats, which was the basis for that statement after the 2009/10 season, are for use by fans playing fantasy hockey.

The Buffalo Sabres have one legitimate top-six center on their team right now--Derek Roy.

He's not a #1 center, although if you went purely by stats, you'd have a case.

Derek Roy is a nearly a point-per-game player for the past four seasons and there were moments where he and his wingers looked like a legitimate top-line. At $4M/year, Roy is underpaid, relatively speaking, for his statistical production.

Using Terry Pegula's quote that he "wants to keep not only statistically good players, but winners, gritty players," Roy seems to  be a less than complete player when looking through that lens.

Derek Roy (L) lead the 2003
Kitchener Rangers to the
Memorial Cup.
Not sure how much leading he'll
do (if any) for next season's Sabres team.
On the "winner" aspect, Roy's resume' is filled with awards in junior including a Memorial Cup as captain of the Kitchener Rangers in 2003 when he was named MVP of the tournament.

His NHL career, however, has not lead to anything along those lines. After the departures of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury in 2007, Roy was designated as one of "the core" that would take over the reigns as leaders on the team.

Since then, the Sabres missed the playoffs twice and were bounced in the first round in 2010 by Boston--a series where he failed to score a goal.

This past season saw the team in the bottom-third of the Eastern Conference when Roy was felled by an injury. The team proceeded to come together "as a team" and work their way into the playoffs as the 7th-seed.

Did the Sabres come together as a team because Derek Roy was not there?

I'd say a case could be made.

His demeanor throughout the majority of the past four seasons can be encapsulated in an observation by WGR beat-reporter Paul Hamilton. The Sabres first home game of the 2010/11season was a 6-3 blowout loss at the hands of the NY Rangers. Hamilton noted this about the Sabres' "#1 center": "[Tyler] Ennis was streaking down the near side boards waiting for a trailer to break to the net but no one arrived. [Derek] Roy was too busy trying to draw a penalty and let the referees know there should have been an infraction called."

Although he did rebound to the point where he was showing some leadership in a primary assist role, the team was trudging along at a .500-clip. After a 3-9-2 start to the season, .500-hockey would not get the Sabres to the playoffs.

Interesting to note that Roy was given an "A" on his sweater for the past four seasons, but when he came back for game seven of this seasons playoff loss to the Flyers, he wasn't wearing one.

As for the "gritty" aspect of Pegula's quote, at one point early in his career Roy had spunk. Not any more. Grit seems like a foreign concept to him.

Derek Roy will probably be on the team this season for a number of reasons including, lack of centers on the team, Regier's affinity for his "core,' and his production-to-cost ratio. The latter, though, makes him a very tradeable commodity, especially if the Sabres have a chance to up-grade to a legitimate #1 center.

But, for now, dependent upon what they do between now and July 1st, it's safe to assume that Roy will be a top-six center on the team and, if the Sabres do nothing to address the #1-center position, he will be up-top by default.

On the second line, if Roy does take over the #1 center position, there's a possibility, barring the acquisition of another center, that rookie Luke Adam will be the starting #2 center.
Can Luke Adam Whoop it up
as the Sabres #2 center for the
2011/12 season?

After the Sabres were bounced in the playoffs, Regier and Ruff headed to Portland to watch the Pirates in the playoffs.

Ruff had the opportunity to watch their Sabres prospects in action in the playoffs and said that Adam "is going to be a good two-way centerman that could possibly push up into a one-two role."

Will that role be for the up-coming 2011/12 season, or was he projecting further up the road? Don't know.

What we do know is that the 6'2", 215lb center had a good taste of the NHL this past season putting up pedestrian numbers (3goals, 1assists) in 19 games. The jump to the big club was an eye-opener for both him and Sabreland.

He never really adjusted to the speed of the game and, as shown by his minus-6 rating, had difficulty grasping the defensive aspects of the NHL game.

But, considering he was a rookie and a second-round pick, it was to be somewhat expected.

There could be other options within the next few weeks as it will be much easier to get a #2 center than it is a #1, but for now, it looks as if the #1 center position is a big question mark with the #2 spot being filled by
Derek Roy, although the position will be dictated by what does or does not occur at the top.

Rounding out the top-six on the wings:
  • LW/RW Thomas Vanek who's shown very strong signs of becoming a complete player and leader who could, quite possibly, wear the "C" next season. Vanek seems to have passed through a multitude of thresh-holds since he signed that $50M offer sheet in 2007 and his play really picked up this season after Derek Roy went down for the year. Coincidence?
  • RW Jason Pomminville, a somewhat overpaid two-way forward who does all the little things that go unnoticed by casual fans and who's ripped for lack of statistical production. Yet, this team plays a really solid two-way game when he's in the line up. Don't expect him to come out smokin' on the score sheet to start the year. He seems to really pick things up in the new year and onward into the stretch-drive.
  • Forward Tyler Ennis--the "greazy" (Ruff's word) forward looks to improve upon a very solid rookie campaign which saw him hit the 20 goal mark and tack on 29 assists. In 13 playoff games over two seasons he's managed 3 goals and 5 assists and is a plus-5. At 5'9", 165lbs. Ennis will need to rely on skill and creativity to maximize his potential, but he will also need to curb some bad tendencies--namely, holding on to the puck too long and staying on the perimeter--that have some looking at him as the second-coming of Maxim Afinogenov.
  • RW Drew Stafford--Recently inked to a 4 year/ $16M contract by the Sabres. Was this, finally, his breakout year? (shrugs) For more on him, click here.

the buffalosabresnow 2011/12 roster foundation:

Goalie:
  • Ryan Miller
  • Jhonas Enroth
Defense:
  • 1st-pairing: Tyler Myers, ?
  • 2nd-pairing: Jordan Leopold, Chris Butler
  • 3rd-pairing: Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani
  • reserve: ?
Top-Six Forwards:
  • Thomas Vanek, ?, Jason Pomminville
  • Tyler Ennis, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why the Bruins Winning the Cup Is A Good Thing For the Sabres

I went into the Stanley Cup Finals with a sense of apathy and came out of it with big thanx that the Bruins defeated the 'Nucks.

Although it wasn't do-or-die with every puck-possession like it would be rooting for the Sabres, or rooting against an arch-villain like the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, I really wanted to see the Canucks go down.

Poetic justice was served in this series, just like in the NBA with the Mavericks winning the title over "the Chosen" Heat. The Vancouver Canucks, after winning the first two games on home ice, took their hubris to another level with the flattening of B's forward Nathan Horton by Nuck's d-man Aaron Rome early in Game 3. From thence the sleeping bear was awoken.Vancouver would proceed to drop that game and three of the next four games by a total combined score of 21-4, including two by shutouts.

Total dominance by the Bruins.

The Rome on Horton hit wasn't the only thing that bothered me about the Canucks, they skated throughout the series with a sense of entitlement, like the series had destiny written all over it, I mean, didn't goalie Roberto Luongo win the Olympic Gold Medal on that very same ice a year ago?

Forward Alex Burrows was a jerk throughout the first four games until he was humbled and it was too late, and as the B's got stronger and more physical, the Canucks wilted.

Kinda reminiscent of the Buffalo Sabres from 2007 to 2010, always skating with a sense of entitlement and folding when the going got rough.

"I want to keep not only statistically good players, but winners, gritty players," proclaimed new Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

Players that are like the Boston Bruins, not the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks, btw, won the President's Trophy for best record in the NHL last season. They also scored the most goals and had the best goals against average, but when it came to crunch-time, they folded, and showed that they were merely "statistically good players."

Boston, on the other hand, had "winners, gritty players," and those two of Pegula's three, were the keys to a dominant Bruins victory over the Canucks.

I really hope that the Sabres upper-management takes full notice. The Buffalo Sabres team that GM Darcy Regier built is very similar to the Vancouver Canucks. In fact you could make a case that Regier dismantled a tough, gritty team like the B's--the 1999 "hardest working team in hockey,"--in favor of a "soft, but skilled" team like the 2011 'Nucks.

The "new-NHL" is gone. Playoff hockey is a tough, grind-out style hockey where statistics come from hard work and the hero's keep their ego's in check for the team. Where the perimeter is for also-ran's and any hit taken for the team is a badge of honor. That's the reason that the Stanley Cup is the "hardest trophy in all of sports to win." Will and self-sacrifice over skill and self-adulation.

The type of hockey that the Bruins displayed to hoist the cup--when it comes to the Sabres--is "anti-core," and anti-Regier when it comes to his "two of the top 20 centers in the NHL" thought process.

The win by the Bruins is just another nail in Regier's coffin. And that's why Boston winning the Cup is a good thing for this Sabres fan.


Addendum:  from Puckdaddy, the Vancouver Canucks "eulogy" written by Sam Fels of Second City Hockey. My sentiments, exactly.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Filling Out the Bottom Three D-Men For 2011/12

As mentioned in a prior post, Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold will be a part of the Buffalo Sabres top-four d-men. RFA Chris Butler, if he re-signs, should be a third member.

The Sabres' brass seem to be leaning towards pairing Myers with a veteran shut-down d-man who would fill out the top-four.

With that in mind, the performances of RFA d-men Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani seemed to have locked them both in to the starting six for the 2011/12 season.

Both have spent years in the minors and both have overcome injuries to give themselves jobs-to-lose this season.

And both, as covered recently, should be a part of the Pegula Rewards Program.


Mike Weber has no problem
protecting Ryan Miller
Mike Weber provides a grittiness and toughness that you don't find with any other Sabres d-man or prospect. He patrols the crease with a vengeance and is not afraid to drop the gloves with anyone.

Weber's play has been so solid that it's likely that veteran UFA Steve Montador will move on. In addition, it seems as if last year's UFA signing, Shaone Morrisonn, will either be with another team or over in Rochester with the Amerks (if the Buffalo does reunite with Rochester.)

Marc-Andre Gragnani's performance
in last year's playoffs means he can
probably say goodbye to the minors
and may spell an end to
Andrej Sekera's career as a Buffalo Sabre.

Likewise, the emergence of Marc-Andre Gragnani as a puck-moving, point-producing, potential powerplay quarterback of the future makes fellow RFA d-man Andrej Sekera expendable. Sekera could be relegated to 7th-man duty, but with Buffalo's defensive depth and Sekera's tradeability, it wouldn't come as a surprise if he was moved.

With Weber and Gragnani virtual locks on the starting defense corps, the question will be filling the reserve spot. All of their minor league d-men would benefit from extended minutes in the AHL.

This past season we saw Lindy Ruff rotate Weber, Sekera and Butler.

There's no reason why he couldn't rotate Weber, Gragnani, maybe Butler again, or Sekera again or a guy like TJ Brennan, who's on the last year of his entry-level contract.

Or maybe they should just keep the youngin's in the minors and bring in a reserve d-man at a reasonable cost.

In any event, right now we're leaning towards this as we build from the goal out:

the buffalosabresnow 2011/12 roster foundation:

Goalie
  • Ryan Miller
  • Jhonas Enroth

Defense:
  • 1st-pairing:  Tyler Myers, ?
  • 2nd-pairing:  Jordan Leopold, Chris Butler
  • 3rd-pairing:  Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani
  • reserve:  ?