Monday, August 29, 2011

This Sabres Fan's "Guilty Pleasures"

I'm a fan of Greg Wyshynski, Yahoo Sports' "Puck Daddy."

His "Guilty Pleasures" series this August, which "features puckheads from all walks of life answering questions about their own hockey-related guilty pleasures," has made for some good reading during the slowest month in the NHL year.

Since I'll never be on that sight, and have the space here, I thought I'd have a bit of fun while strolling down memory lane.

1. The Player You Most Love To Hate
The Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson, and his "holier than thou demeanor." I hate everything about him on the ice, especially the fact that he torments the Sabres. I can (almost) live with the likes of Daniel Carcillo, he's a skating caricature, or Sean Avery, he's kinda like a schizoid uncle. Claude Lemieux and Dale Hunter were crazed provocateurs who could score some and they were particularly annoying. But Alfredsson? The guy skates like he's upper-crust nobility in the midst of mere peasants. I hate his self-righteousness, I hate his team and I especially hate that friggen' Senator guy.

2. Other Than Your Own, The Team You Can't Help Rooting For
Chicago. I go back to the days of Chico Maki, Bobby Hull, Pat Stapelton, Tony "O"  and Stan Makita. I have an old friend who I grew up with who loved the Blackhawks. One of my earliest memories was going to summer camp and doing one of those plaster mold thingies. They had one of an Indian head that strongly resembled the Blackhawks logo. We chose that for the plaster mold and painted it. Wish I still had it. Once the Sabres came along, though, Chicago became my second favorite team.

3. Favorite Fight or Brawl of All-Time
Jim Schoenfeld and Wayne Cashman going through the zamboni doors at the Aud. Unbelievable. No hesitation on either player's part. Just start swinging. I can remember watching that happen, jumping up screaming "Yeah! Yeah! Get 'Im!!!," or something really close to that. I hated the Bruins. Cashman, Terry O'Reilly, Johnny Bucyk, Carol Vadnais, Derek Sanderson. Schoenfeld, a rookie with a fledgling franchise, fought three times that night vs. the Big, Bad, Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

4. The Hideous-Looking Hockey Jersey You Secretly Love The Most
The Vancouver "V" in those 70's colors. They were pretty damn ugly, but the 70's were full of funky things like that. As ugly as they were, I never really minded them.

5. Your Favorite Hockey Cliché (terminology, traditions, announcer-speak, etc.)
"Rang that one off the post." Is there any cooler sound than that of a shot ringing off of the post? It pierces through everything in the arena no matter what the noise-level. The late Ted Darling would just blurt out "Hit the Goal post!" in a higher pitch than his normal announcing voice. Then he would say, "(enter full player name) just hit the post."

6. The Injury You Couldn't Stop Staring At (Non-Skate Lacerations Only)
Many bring up the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty, and I agree, that one was a doozy. But  there's one that's etched into my head from when I was a kid and if there was a video of it available, kids these days would be aghast. There was a player back in the day who was going full speed in on goal and got tripped up. His head went full-on into the post. Back then they had no helmets and steel pipes held the net in place. Can't remember his name, the team or the game, but I've still got a pretty good image of that hideous collision between his head and the post.

7. Your Favorite Cheesy Hockey Reference in Popular Culture
Is there anything more cheesy than an 80's fluff star/Tom Cruise wannabe playing the role of a internally tough, yet sensitive hockey player who beats the bad-guys then beats up "THE BAD GUY" in a hokey, cliched ending?

7a. Your Favorite Terrible Hockey Card Or Hockey Action Figure
Dennis Maruk, 1976. I had it. He had the 70's hair and thick stash. That particular card had connections with two soon to be lost franchises at the same time--a Cleveland Barons card with Maruk in a California Golden Seals uniform.

8. Finally, What's The Thing You Secretly Respect Gary Bettman For The Most?
I like the fact that he held out and didn't go crawling back to ESPN for a television contract. I haven't liked ESPN since Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman left. The irreverence which started early with Tom Mees and a young Chris Berman lasting through Patrick and Olberman, was replaced by religious fervor for sports. Fun became serious business as more ad-revenue--and consequent air-time--was needed to feed the behemoth that is ABC/Disney/ESPN. Two of my favorite sports as a kid--football and basketball--are hardly recognizable anymore with the flow of the game being constantly disrupted by commercials.

Bettman did good by going with Comcast/OLN/Versus. It wasn't the quick fix that fat boy was offering, but at least hockey was able to retain it's identity.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's All In Lindy Ruff's Hands

Jerry Sullivan, in his ever so meekly titled editorial, Sabres Must Put Up Or Shut Up, threw down the gauntlet.

"For too long," Sullivan writes early, "Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff have had a built-in excuse for failing to win. It became convenient to hide behind miserly, dysfunctional or simply non-existent ownership. When they lost in the playoffs, they didn't have the tools. When Regier came up small at the trade deadline, his hands were tied. When Ruff's power play sputtered in big games, or when he abandoned his backup goaltender, it was because the owner wouldn't pay what it took to put them over the top."

True enough. Mmmmm, generally speaking.

Now that the Pegula era is in full swing with unprecedented moves from the draft through the beginning of free agency on July 1, Sullivan has a point when he says, "on paper, Regier may have assembled the best team in his 14 years on the job as Buffalo's GM."

Fair Enough. Mmmmmmaybe.

This year, "the pressure," as Sullivan states, "falls squarely (up)on Ruff, who will be expected to make it work."

And, there's the rub.

Well, at least from the media.

Ruff has had Sabres Owner Terry Pegula's backing from day one mainly because Ruff has made it work under the aforementioned conditions. And Pegula continued his support of Ruff in a recent Bucky Gleason piece with a little shot at Sullivan, "I've heard some comments, 'It's time to put up or shut up. You say you want to win and all this stuff,'" he said. "Well, isn't that why every team should exist?"

The Pressure Is Always On the Coach

The pressure of coaching and winning in the NHL doesn't seem to bother Ruff that much. Hell, he knows the expectations that are upon him, his staff and his team. In the Gleason piece Pegula was tempering immediate expectations when Ruff interrupted, "No, Terry, we do have to win now. You know what? Winning now is good. That's not bad, Terry, that's good. And we need to know that." 

Ruff's a pro and has been on the hot seat before, most recently last October as his team slumped to the bottom of the standings.

During his weekly appearance on WGR's Howard Simon Show at the time, Ruff was asked the tough questions about where the blame lies, about the players possibly "tuning him out," about his job security, etc...and he was pretty straightforward.

Two lines stand out from the appearance, "we're digging in," he said during one question and, "we'll find ways to win," was the other (click here for access to the Ruff interview on WGR.) Oddly enough, those words rang true.

The team eventually dug in and found ways to win enough games to make it into the playoffs as a #7-seed in the Eastern Conference. Just what got them there--a harmonic convergence that included coaching, the Pegula-effect, divine intervention at the insistence of the late "Rico" Martin, the Derek Roy injury, the play of Jhonas Enroth, the Myers turn-around, the emergence of Thomas Vanek as a leader, among other things--is a matter for endless discussion. But, the fact is, the Sabres pulled off a minor miracle to get into the playoffs. And they almost pulled off an upset in the first round.

The argument as to how much influence Ruff had on the turn-around makes for great blog-fodder as well. And the debate as to whether or not Ruff is a top-notch coach, which has gone back and forth for years, will continue.

On the one side (my preferred side,) he's done well and adapted his approach to the players he's had. During his tenure, the team never had a top-three draft pick, never traded for a top-notch player in his prime and never landed any of the top free agents July 1. Yet, he was able to get the most out of what he was given, taking his teams farther than they should have gone.

On the other side, he's never coached the team to a Stanley Cup in 13 seasons behind the bench, although he has had some pretty good teams.

Follow the money

If you're going to judge Ruff (or any coach,) one interesting way to do it is to look at what his former players have done once they moved on to greener pastures via unrestricted free agency. Namely what they did as Sabres, what they received contract-wise upon leaving and how their production fared away from Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff.

Although I'm not a reader of Sports Illustrated, a fan on another site--one who happens to think that the smallest Sabre, Gerbe, will get 75pts--posted the following link which leads to Sports Illustrated's Free Agent Busts.

The impetus behind his post was the constant talk of free agent over payments and, specifically, the Sabres' giving UFA, Ville Lieno, $27M for a career high 19-goal season.

What SI did was compile a list of the top-26 (kind of an odd number, eh?) free agent busts.

(The fact that the NY Rangers have signed the most free agent busts, eight, is irrelevant here. Just wanted to point it out.)

Of note, though, is the fact that former Sabres successfully coached by Lindy Ruff took three of the top 13 spots:

  • #3--Brian Campbell
  • #7--Chris Drury
  • #13--Jay Mckee
Here's what SI said about the three:

Brian Campbell
Chicago Blackhawks, 2008
An All-Star in Buffalo and noted 2008 deadline trade to San Jose, the 29-year old blueliner got an eight-year, $56.8 million deal from the 'Hawks. Campbell became an onerous $7 million cap hit who logged just 20:28 of ice time in the playoffs while Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith became the No. 1 pair in Chicago. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, but were caught in a salary cap squeeze so tight they had to trade off valuable support players. In June 2011, Campbell waived his no-trade clause and was dealt to Florida, which needed his paycheck to reach the cap floor.

Chris Drury
New York Rangers, 2007
Hardly a bad player, but the Rangers gave too much (5 years, $35.25 million) to a center who brought little more than intangibles to their mix. Drury scored 47 goals during his first two seasons with New York, but was a bust as the pivot on Jaromir Jagr's top line in 2007-08. In June 2011, the Rangers bought out the final year of Drury's contract in order to free up $3.3 million worth of cap space. He was to receive $3.35 million from New York over the next two years.

Jay McKee
St. Louis Blues, 2006
The shot-blocking blueliner out of Buffalo got a four-year, $16 million deal from St. Louis where his stay was marred by injuries and low productivity, prompting the Blues to buy out the final year of his deal.

We all rememember what those three brought to the team--Campbell's hit on RJ Umberger as well as his offensive accumen. Drury's leadership and scoring ability (30-plus goals twice with Buffalo.) McKee's stay-at-home, shot-blocking toughness and leadership.

In retrospect they all went from a situation that brought out the best in their games to ones that showed a signifcant reduction in production.

Not every player, though, faltered after leaving the Sabres, some continued their success:
  • Daniel Briere plays as well as he's ever played since his career took off in Buffalo.
  • JP Dumont, part of the 2000 Gilmor/Grosek deal, excelled once he arrived in Buffalo and continued that trend well into his career in Nashville.
  • Clarke MacArthur had a career year last year in Toronto exceeding expectations.
  • Toni Lydman lead he NHL in +/- with Anaheim last year.
But, they all (save for MacArthur) hit their stride in Buffalo.

 The Sabres Are In Good Hands

The frustration that the media and fans have stems from the lack of a Stanley Cup during Ruff's tenure. They'll point to the Hasek years, and the two years post-lockout as teams that, maybe, should have won the cup. And many, like Sullivan, are ready to say that there are no excues now, even though the team still has some holes that were not properly filled by Regier's spending spree.

When you look at the team as it is right now, with strong goaltending, a solid, veteran d-corp with mobility and grit, strength on the wings, and (hopefully) adequate centers, most of the pieces seem to be in place for a good playoff run.

Back in 2005/06 and 2006/07, when the Sabres were on a level playing field financially with the rest of the league because of the cap, the Sabres went deep into the playoffs. And Pegula has put this team on a level playing field once again.

A good touch from Ruff and his staff should be enough to get the team that far this season. And with some timely bounces and a little luck, the team just might fullfill Pegula's stated desire to see a parade down Delaware Avenue within the next three years.

If it's all in Lindy Ruff's hands for that duration, I think the Sabres are in good hands. And if the team can pull off a championship under Lindy Ruff maybe it will be Sullivan who will be the one to finally shut up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Final Thoughts On Chris Drury

Former Sabre Chris Drury was a pro during his 12-year NHL career.

And a winner.

From Trumbull, Connecticut and his Little League World Series triumph to the Stanley Cup in Colorado to Calgary to Buffalo to Broadway, Drury quietly plied his trade becoming the antithesis of the modern sports star. As Lynn Zisner aptly wrote in a piece from Sunday's NY Times, Drury was a "Reluctant Sports Star."

In Buffalo, the retirement of "Captain Clutch" received ample coverage, albeit from a detached, journalistic standpoint. Neither Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason nor Senior Sports Columnist, Jerry Sullivan, inked a inked anything on the former Sabres captain. Which is somewhat curious considering how much Drury meant to the team's success, especially the two post-lockout years.

With plenty of air-time to fill during the summer, WGR had the opportunity to talk extensively about Drury and his years in Buffalo. And they did.

The afternoon crew tempered their spurned-lover bitterness remaining emotionally detached while focusing upon his clutch-scoring, rather than re-opening old wounds.

I had listened to the afternoon show for a good couple of hours, with guest Paul Hamilton chiming in, and was listening for someone to mention his desperation vs. Ottawa in the 2007 Eastern Conference Championship. Not once did they mention a series of events that, for me, not only defined Drury as a leader, but also provided a backdrop to his departure.

The 2007 Ottawa Series and Off-Season

On May 19, 2007, the Sabres faced the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals down three games to one. It was a bleak situation, but not insurmountable.

Midway through the third period, Drury took a Tim Connolly shot to the face that required stitches and a stint in the trainer's room which kept him there until overtime. With his stitches fresh and the season on the line he still had the intestinal fortitude to throw his body in front of a shot to save a goal as the Sabres scrambled to save their playoff lives.

Unfortunately, their season ended that night 9:32 into overtime and, as we all know, the debacle that was the 2007 off-season officially began.

That off-season, he was out the door headed to Broadway.

The reasons for his departure will never be known. All we know is that he received a huge contract from the team he loved growing up, the New York Rangers.

Something that seems to be forgotten concerning that contract, though, is that Sabres President Larry Quinn offered a last-minute contract offer that matched what the Rangers had offered.

Gutting the 2005/06 Sabres

The thing about Drury, especially with the backdrop of the NHL during his tenure which went from "trap hockey" to the "new NHL," is that he was a true pro. His game was not based upon any one skill in particular. He just had the hockey smarts to know where to go, the intestinal fortitude to get there and the skill to finish. Traits that are era-transcending.

The Sabres team that came out of the lockout were just like that. Sure, they had the skill of the young guns, but they also had a group of veterans which exemplified the grit and determination needed to win. It was a very successful, well-balanced team.

But, after losing to Carolina in the 2006 Eastern Conference Championship, the team went through some serious changes with the balance now leaning heavily towards the skill side of the equation.

Gritty defenseman Jay McKee left for St. Louis. Veteran stalwart, and personal Drury friend, Mike Grier, headed west to San Jose'. And in a decision that clearly defined the direction in which the team was headed, rock-solid veteran JP Dumont was allowed to walk in favor of a soft-but-skilled, Ales Kotalik, as the team tried to become cap compliant.

The sucking sound we heard that year was the sound of professionalism, veteran leadership and tons of grit leaving the Sabres.

The NHL Changed, and So Did the Sabres Fate

The Sabres entered the 2006/07 season a markedly different team heavy on skill. And it wasn't a bad thing as they rolled through the regular season skating, scoring and winning at a ferocious clip all the way to the Presidents Trophy.

They were able to play the game at high speed because the NHL rules had allowed for it. But as the season entered the final months, the game was changing, ever so slightly, back to an obtrusive style that was like a restrictor plate on the team that Jaromir Jagr once labeled "a Ferrari."

Even with the changes, the Sabres could still light the lamp. But, the playoffs are a different beast.

The 2007 playoffs saw the run-n-gun Sabres take care of the NY Islanders in five games. They then struggled against the NY Rangers in a hard-fought six games.

In the Eastern Conference Championship that year, the Ottawa Senators, a bigger, grittier team with more skill and veteran leadership than the Sabres, proceeded to dismissed them in five games. Interesting to note that the Sabres had beaten the Senators the year earlier in five games.

Drury Was Slated To Be the Only One Of His Kind Left

As Drury entered the 2007 off-season, he'd witnessed first-hand what the loss of McKee, Grier and Dumont had done to the team--a total turn-around for the worse--and yet another veteran loss was on the horizon.

With the Sabres needing to sign Thomas Vanek, who was coming off a stellar season, it was apparent that either Drury or Briere would need to go for the team to become cap-compliant.

Back in October of 2006, a verbal deal was said to have been reached between Quinn and Drury. The Sabres had made their choice early that season, knowing what lied ahead financially. Briere would be the odd man out. Of the core veterans who took this team to an improbable run in 2005/06, only Drury would remain.

Having seen the results of a decision to go heavy on youth and skill, and with his counterpart--Briere--headed out the door, Drury took the $35m NY Ranger offer and travelled cross-state to play for his favorite team growing up.


The crux of the issue between Drury and the Sabres seemed to be the team-building philosophy of that era. In that 2007 Ottawa series, he'd seen first-hand the character of the players surrounding him. They were his antithesis and there were just too many of those types and not enough of the McKee's, Grier's, Dumont's and Briere's.

To say I was disappointed when he left would be an understatement, but even during the summer of 2007, I never took it personally, never wished ill will on him, or any other former Sabre who left of his own accord.

Best wishes in your retirement, "Captain Clutch."

Thanx for the memories.

Some links that helped with this blog:

Scott Burnside on Chris Drury:

Monday, August 22, 2011

With NBA (Probably) On Haitus, the NHL Loads Up

Say what you will about the NHL (and Gary Bettman in particular,) but they're going for bear this upcoming season when it comes to national TV scheduling.

And they should.

With the NBA in a lockout that could eliminate the entire season, casual sports fans will be looking for their sports fix, especially in 2012.

Puck Daddy recently did a "winners and losers of the 2011/12 hockey schedule," but more important than Edmonton not being televised nationally in the U.S., is the way the NHL is jumping upon this opportunity for national exposure.

The NHL and NBC/Versus/NBC Sports Network (which will be Versus' new name come Jan. 2) kick off their record 10-year partnership with 100 nationally televised games in the 2011/12 season.

They've expanded their coverage on Versus/NBC Sports Network from 56 nights last season to 90 nights of NHL coverage this season.

The Winter Classic will be back as a part of  Hockey Day in America and in addition, they've added a "Black Friday" national broadcast the day after Thanksgiving kicking it off with the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings.

The league will also be getting additional national coverage on Versus/NBC Sports Network Wednesday and Sunday nights.

And, the kicker, during the final week of the season, 10 games will be played, including an unprecedented triple-header on April 7.

Unfortunately for Sabres fans in Buffalo, 12 nationally televised games for the Sabres will mean less of Rick Jeanneret. But for displaced Sabres fans all across the country, it means more access to their team as Pegulaville takes hold for it's first full season.

All-in-all, solid.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Darcy Regier's Keeping Busy This August

To his credit, whilst some other GM's may be taking a bit of a vacation (albeit, not far from their electronic devices,) Sabres GM Darcy Regier is bee-bopping around the hockey world doing various hockey-related things.

Regier's "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" has the usual things this August like signings for the big club (Marc-Andre Gragnani) and their affiliate in Rochester (Mike Ryan, Paul Szechrua,) as well as introducing new Sabre Christian Ehrhoff.

But, this time of year, other things have been occupying his time as well:

  • NHL Research and Development Camp talking (or trying to talk) trade(s) with other GM's as a solution to the Sabres cap-problem.
  • Talking about what's happened, is happening and what will (could) happen with his team during an "Unplugged" interview with Sean Fitz-Gerald of Canada's National Post.
  • Last week he and Terry Pegula, among others, took in a game at Lake Placid watching 2011 first-round pick Joel Armia, flounder on the ice with Team Finland.
Regier, being the longest tenured GM with one team, using his unoffensive personality, also chimed in on the recent death of Rick Rypien in a Canoe-Slam article.

The veteran GM, who often times is asked about the bigger hockey issues, "suggested a possible link to depression, substance abuse and the very difficult, stress-filled job of fighting for a living under risk of serious injury. Regier didn’t pretend to be an expert, but cited the many ex-footballers who were revealed to have similar problems."

One could go on and on about Rypien's suicide and Boogard's overdose and nearly every blogger in the hockey world has presented their own thesis, especially on Rypien's death.

One could also present an elongated diatribe on Regier's thought process when tying together Rypien, Boogard, depression, substance abuse and fighting.

I'll refrain. We have enough arm-chair psychologists dissecting this very complex issue and I'll leave it to former NHL defenseman, Mathieu Schneider to respond to Regier. He said that "[the tie-in was] pure speculation."

Regardless, Regier's been busy, as usual, this off-season and the big thing he has on his plate right now seems to be the Sabres cap-problem. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it in the coming months.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Don't Let the "Big-City" Signings Fool You

Despite the image of a free-spending Terry Pegula, the Buffalo Sabres organization has always put a premium on building from within through internal player development. And they continued with that philosophy recently with the July-hiring of Ron Rolston for the Rochester Americans head coaching slot and the August promotion of player development coach Kevyn Adams to assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.

"There's no NHL salary cap on scouting budgets and player development budgets, I plan on increasing our...scouting budgets" --Sabres Owner Terry Pegula, Feb. 22, 2011

Although those two coach's don't represent an increase in resources devoted to scouting (although it's been mentioned that more scouts are on the way,) they do represent a commitment to player development on a minor league and rookie level within the organization and both are noted for their work in that area.

Darcy Regier and Co. have done very well in the last 14 years when it came to their draft picks making it in the NHL. In fact a couple of years back, the Sabres had the most draft picks playing in the NHL.

Recognizing that, Terry Pegula and his right-hand man, Ted Black, are really focusing on the developmental aspect of the team right now as the team moves from the "honeymoon-phase" into the nuts-and-bolts of a long-term marriage.

With Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine and his merry band of scouts scouring the CHL for prospects, the pipeline seems to be getting stronger by the year. In fact, two of the last three back-to-back-to-back AHL Rookies of the Year (Tyler Ennis and Luke Adam) are a direct by-product of their scouting. That group also scouted Tyler Myers, the 2010 NHL Rookie of the Year.

Former Portland Pirates Head Coach Kevin Dineen was a huge part of that success in the AHL as well as a big reason that the Sabres received strong contributions last season from forwards Ennis and Nathan Gerbe and young d-men Marc-Andre Gragnani and Mike Weber.

With Dineen now in Florida as the Panthers new head coach (well deserved, I might add,) the Sabres continued to focus on the development aspect of the above formula by hiring Ron Rolston as head coach of their AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.

Ron who?


In a typical Regierian move, the Sabres brought in someone that no one outside of management had ever thought of, or in this case, even heard of.  Rolston's only connection to the NHL is his last name. The same last name that belongs to his brother Brian, a veteran winger.

So, what kind of credentials does Ron Rolston have to be a coach at the pro level in the AHL?

No pro experience at all. His resume' has him as assistant coach at the collegiate level to begin his career, then the last seven years as the head coach of the US Hockey National Team Development Program.

But...Notice that word--"development."

And that's what the Sabres were looking for when they hired him. He will teach. If you need more of an indication as to what role Rolston will play, Ted Black even called him the "first professor at the University of Sabres."

It seems like a very good fit. Rolston turned down an offer by Western Michigan to serve as head coach and is thrilled to be a part of an organization that he sees as having a "clear vision on where they want to go, and philosophy they have for players at every level."

Rolston will be looked upon to bring his NTDP success (all seven of his teams made it to the championship game) to the Amerks and will also be expected to continue the success that Dineen had with the youngsters.

Regier put it this way, ""I personally believe you have to be in the forefront of whatever business you're in," he said. "In our case we have, for a number of reasons, strived to find advantages outside of conventional wisdom. ... I recognized that when we first decided to come back to Rochester. The reference to university was largely about doing things differently, taking more responsibility for the players' development and also demand the player take more responsibility for his own development.

"When we started to look at the model and started to look at potential coaches who could fill that, Ron to me was right at the forefront. He was our first choice."

Some of the players Rolston helped develope--Patrick Kane (Chicago,) James Van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia,) Phil Kessel (Toronto,) Cam Fowler (Anaheim) and Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis.)

"Development" was also a major theme as the Sabres recently announced that their Assistant Coach vacancy will be filled by player development coach, Kevyn Adams.

Adams spent a year and a half in his former position and will take over for Brian McCutcheon, a long-serving coach in the Sabres organization, who's contract was not renewed.

Much has been said about Adams and his work with the likes of Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis, with Gerbe talking about how much Adams had to do with his "spin-o-rama" goal versus Philadelphia late last season.

Drew Stafford had a tremendous, breakout season last year scoring 31 goals in 62 games and soon re-signed for four-years, $16M. In an article by Bucky Gleason about Adams' hiring, Stafford's name was mentioned right along side of Gerbe as being a huge benefactor of Adams' coaching.

Another example of Adams work was with Paul Gaustad.

Gaustad had a 59.8% faceoff percentage last season, good for #3 in the entire league. The year before it was at 54.9% and the year before that 52.7%.

Adams was on WGR's Howard Simon Shown this morning talking with Jeremy White when they got to talking about his work with the players--players that Lindy Ruff "assigned" to him--and Adams briefly talked about Gaustad (6:20 mark.) When mentioning "Goose" he talked about their approach using video and the tweaks that were made, "little things," he said..."maybe even a little thing like how [he] may go into a faceoff...something you wouldn't notice, but even where his hand position is, the detail."

In short, Adams helped Nathan Gerbe build the confidence to erase a horrible first-half, helped Drew Stafford reach 30 goals at a half-a-goal/game clip, and helped Paul Gaustad get to third in the league in faceoff percentage.

Player development.

Terry Pegula and Co. are being brandished in the media for their big-city, big-dollar free agent signings last month, but behind the scenes their doing subtle things that will focus upon long-term, home-grown player development.

From Kevin Devine and his scouts to Ron Rolston to Kevyn Adams, a player picked by the Buffalo Sabres should have quality coaches at every level to help them grow professionally and they will be afforded every opportunity to develop their pro-game to the fullest.

Which is good for both the player and the organization.

USA Hockey Ron Rolston resignation:

Kevyn Adams promotion: