They were sent down because a trio of walking wounded--Robyn Regehr, Drew Stafford and Patrick Kaleta--will all get back into action tonight vs. the NY Islanders.
A quick note on the Capitals. The players, led by Alexander Ovechkin, were successful in ousting their coach, Bruce Boudreau, as he was fired yesterday. GM George McPhee had this to say, "The reason for the change was we weren't winning obviously, This wasn't a slump. You can ride out slumps. This was simply a case of the players no longer responding to Bruce.
"When you see that, as much as you don't want to make a change, you have to make a change." (for more, click here.)
Boudreau was replaced by Dale Hunter.
Another note (part 2): The Carolina Hurricanes fired Paul Maurice (for the second time) replacing him with Kirk Muller the same day.
OK. Back to the Sabres.
We all know what happened with Milan Lucic and Ryan Miller. We also know about the rematch. As Sabres fans we've also seen a parade of smaller, skilled players in the 2000/2010's and the transition to a bigger team seems to be gaining traction.
The decision to keep McNabb (6'4", 205 lbs.) and Kassian (6'3", 215 lbs.) is based, in large part, upon size and, to an extent, attitude. Both used their size and showed glimpses of ferocity on Saturday and will have the opportunity to get more of a taste of the NHL.
They join 2007 draftee Luke Adam (6'2", 203 lbs,) and 2008 draftee Tyler Myers (6'8", 227 lbs.) on a Sabres team intent upon getting bigger.
Yesterday, the team announced that they signed defenseman Joe Finley to a three-year, two-way contract worth $1.575M.
|Recent-signee, Joe Finley may be|
on hisway to bringing that snarl,
not to mention his size, to the
Ironically enough, Finley was drafted by the Washington Capitals with the 27th overall pick in the 2005 draft. He left high school after his junior year and played in the USHL in 2004/05, the year before the draft. Finley attended the University of North Dakota afterwards playing for the Fighting Sioux. In his four years there he played in 154 games scoring seven goals, adding 28 assists and finishing his career plus-66.
For Finely, though, injuries started to creep in. He played in only 27 games his senior year at North Dakota due to concussion. He played in a mere 15 games in 2009/10 for Washington's ECHL affiliate in South Carolina due to a deep hand bruise. Last season he ruptured an artery in his hand and appeared in only 26 games for the Stingrays.
The Capitals opted not to resign Finley after his two year entry-level contract was up. Darcy Regier and the Buffalo Sabres invited him to camp and he was eventually signed to an AHL contract.
You can't teach size, nor can you teach work ethic and Finley has both. Hockey's Future had this to say about him, "Finley has an enormous frame with tremendous focus and a strong work ethic."
The size is obvious, but when he was injured kingsofleonis.com pointed out that he "took a positive approach regarding the time missed due to his injury." Finley put it this way, “Looking back I am just thankful that it wasn’t a lower body injury that would have kept me from skating and doing lower body exercises. It just means that I’ve had more time to work hard and get better at specific areas of my game."
That's where Ron Rolston, Jay McKee and "Sabres University" comes into play.
Finley had acquitted himself well in the previous pro seasons with the South Carolina Stingrays and the AHL's Hershey Bears. In fact only once was he a minus-player. But it's a big jump from the ECHL to the AHL, and there's an even bigger jump to the NHL.
Surprisingly, for a player that big, skating isn't the issue. He can play the role of defensive-defenseman using his size and girth, he's not afraid of hitting people, nor is he afraid of dropping the gloves. Injuries and opportunity were his biggest hurdles up until this point. Being big and tough, as well as being able to skate, and play top-pairing minutes in the AHL is a big advantage for Finley with the way the NHL has changed over the last decade and a half.
|Joe Finley (L) goes at it with|
And it worked for a little while, that was until Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller.
That hit may have changed the whole thought-process of the organization. It showed that Regier's "soft-but-skilled" players are still easy to push around in the post-"New-NHL" era.
So it's not surprising that the Sabres signed big Joe Finley to a three-year NHL contract.
And he's doing his part by putting in the work and playing his game. Letsgoameriks.dom did a piece on Finley. The author of the article, Keith Wozniak, asked Rolston about Finley during the Sabres training camp. Here's what Rolston had to say, “Joe came in and really impressed a lot of people there (in Buffalo). The way he moves, his size, it’s the first thing you see.” He continued, “Watch him skate and his hands, he has a lot of things there. He wasn’t put into any game situations, playing will give him that opportunity to show this is the place to play.” (this Wozniak piece is a great read)
From there to the Amerks where he is paired in a shutdown role with with Shaone Morrisonn. His plus-10 rating, which is consistent with his hockey career, is tops on the team and proves he can play the pro game.
Can he eventually bring his size and brawn to the Sabres? He's definitely out to prove it. The Sabres organization is loaded with puck-movers on the back-end, so Finley stands out. "A guy like (Sabres defenseman) Robyn Regehr, he's obviously someone you want to pattern your game after," Finley said. "But there really isn't any other defenseman that really fits that mold."
If he could get himself into a #6 role playing 10-12 minutes on the NHL level, I'm pretty sure the Sabres would be ecstatic. But he still has some work to do.
For now, Finley is a project that could pay big dividends should he continue to thrive in Rochester. Former Bears coach, Bob Woods, mentioned his sheer size but also mentioned his desire to learn, "His stick's taller than I am," he joked. "He's a big boy, great kid. You can tell he really wants to learn. He's looked good. He moves well for a big boy."
With his size and desire to grow as a player, as well as Rolston's player development acumen and McKee's NHL insight on defense, Joe Finley could be the guy that brings the organization's vision of a "Sabres University" to life.