Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Buffalo is relevant again, this time at the trade deadline

If this was written at 3:01pm yesterday, trade deadline day, the headline may have read, "Sabres fans storm offices with pitchforks and torches." The tar would have been ready and chickens all over Western New York would be left naked as the need for their feathers far surpassed the need for their personal comfort.

Shortly after the "trade deadline" group at WGR, which included NHL On The Fly analyst, Brian Duff, gathered their stuff to go on their way after three hours of virtually nothing, it was announced that Paul Gaustad was traded to Nashville along with a fourth round pick for the Preds 2012 first round pick.

Yes, you read that right. Goose (with minimal help from a 2013 4th-rounder) netted the Sabres a 2012 1st-rounder.

Gaustad was set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and was a good, solid part to the team. Rumors were flying all trade deadline day that he was a prime target for added depth as his size, defensive skills and faceoff accumen would be a welcome addition to any team looking for a role player like him.

Word on the street the previous day had Regier asking for a first-rounder. Howls of laughter could be heard echoing throughout the NHL landscape, with teams like Detroit, San Jose' and Vancouver balking at the asking price. But, strange things can happen at the deadline and Nashville thought that it was worth it. Regier had to have a huge smile on his face, especially with owner Terry Pegula and right-hand man, Ted Black, in the "war room" looking on.

"We thought long and hard about whether we needed to trade him and under what conditions to trade him," Regier said (1:35-mark.) "We set the standard high, and the standard was we had to acquire a first-round pick. If we couldn't acquire a first-round pick in that process, then we were not going to trade him."

That move would have fueled conversation at WGR for a while, but no where near the three hours that Mike Schopp and the Bulldog needed to fill.

How many times can you say that the Preds got raped? Even those two would have had a hard time keeping it interesting.

Sure, they would have spent plenty of time covering the what ifs? Like if Johnny Oduya could fetch a 2nd and 3rd for Winnipeg (from New Jersey) why wasn't Sabres d-man moved for something similar?

They'd have had plenty of fodder as the 13 trades up until that point were less than last years' 16, and worse yet, the "biggest" trade of the day happened to be the Gaustad one.

But, near the bottom of the 3 O'clock hour, a veritable bomb was dropped, the Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres, two teams that came into the league in the same year (1970,) made a "hockey trade." The Nucks sent young center Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for young RW'er Zack Kassian.

It was a "hockey trade" plain and simple. Both were former first round picks--Hodgson #10, 2008 and Kassian #13, 2009 and both were going to teams that needed their particular skill set.

For Buffalo it meant bringing in a center with top-six potential, sniping skills and a solid two-way game. The lack of depth down the middle has been a constant thorn in Regier's side since 2007.

For Vancouver, it's about bringing in size and grit on the wing as they make another Stanley Cup push. Kassian, along with Sammy Pahlsson (acquired earlier by Vancouver from Columbus) represented moves that are "series specific." The Nucks lost to Boston in the finals last year because they couldn't match the grit that was throw at them by the Bruins and with these two moves they believe they've addressed that.

In another trade, Vancouver and Buffalo also swapped defensemen with Vancouver sending 27 year old Alexander Sulzer to the Sabres in exchange for Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Not much is known about Sulzer in these parts. Looks to be a bottom-pairing, depth d-man with below average size and minimal scoring. He will be unrestricted at the end of the season as well.

As for Grags, his butt has been parked on the bench for a very long time. After bursting onto the seen with a vengeance vs. Philadelphia in the playoffs last season, the "puck moving/offensive d-man went 180 on the team. He has been a turnover machine all year likely because, as WGR's Paul Hamilton puts it, "You could see fear in his eyes every time a forward was bearing down on him. I have never seen an NHL players as scared to get hit as him."

Gragnani had some interesting thoughts on the situation. The first thing that came out of his mouth when asked about his going to Vancouver was, "I'm extremely motivated." link: http://watch.tsn.ca/featured/clip627418#clip627418

Grags is then lead down the path to find out if his "happiness" and "elation" is solely about going to a Stanley Cup contender, or if it's also due in part to leaving a frustrating situation in Buffalo. "Yeah. I was frustrated," he replied. "I think there's a lot of people that was frustrated. People had us in a higher position in the East, and we couldn't get it done. Obviously I was frustrated like many of my teammates."

This could be one of those trades that's overlooked now, but if Gragnani pans out and plays to his potential, the Canucks should be arrested for thievery.

So how did Regier do at the deadline?

Don't know how he pulled it off, but he managed to build for the future and keep his team together the way he wants it right now.

The future looks very promising, not crazy promising, but a big leap in the right direction. They managed to trade from a position of strength for a position of need in the Hodgson/Kassian deal and they added a first round pick in the draft for Goose. That gives them two first-rounders and two seconds, not to mention lots of flexibility.

And the moves that were not made, namely center Derek Roy and defenseman Jordan Leopold will still have value next season as both enter the final year of their respective contracts. Both could command solid returns whether at the draft, over the summer or at next years' deadline.

All-in-all, it was a tremendous deadline for what their stated goals were. They were looking towards the future, yet still wanted to add for the present, but not at the expense of the future. (Got that?)

"When we evaluated our team we knew we had to get better." said Regier. "If it meant that we had to take a minor step back, we were prepared to do it. It still allows us to [make a] run at the playoffs. We all are aware of the odds against us, but I think with Cody [Hosgson] coming in, he will give us a good boost on the offensive side. We'll miss Gaustad, but we really felt that we needed to address the center position, the offense and the opportunity to get a young man like Cody."

And Regier pulled it off about as best as anyone could.

Although there are still reasons to question the type of player(s) Regier favors, no one can question him coming through with the pressure amped up this trade deadline.

The Sabres organization was the talk of the deadline. Remember back to last season at the 2011 NHL Draft. Veteran Sabres beat writer Paul Hamilton walked into the Xcel center in Minnesota saying that the Sabres were relevant again.

And they were relevant once again, eight months later.

other deadline links:


Michael Peca on the Howard Simon Show this morning:

Scott Rintool on the Howard Simon Show this morning:

"Trade stunner." "Looks like one of the most unpopular trades in Vancouver in years." From Vancouver Times:

From The Province, "Marc-Andre Gragnani, a defenseman that wasn't trusted...by Lindy Ruff...This makes him Cody Hodgson on defense."

Hodgson/Kassian similar to Naslund/Stojanov? The Vancouver Sun:

Hodgson shocked by news of trade. From Yahoo:

Kassian "packs plenty of punch." The Vancouver Sun:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

After 14-plus seasons, and a $75M payroll, why is Darcy Regier discussing .500 hockey?

Is it possible to be at .500 with 61 games played?

Only in the NHL. It's impossible in any of the other four major American sports.

But, in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres pulled to 27-27-7 with a win last night vs. Boston. The first number is the number of wins, the second is the number of losses in regulation and the last number, for all of you non-hockey fans, is the number of losses the Sabres had in overtime or the shootout.

So the number of wins that Buffalo has this season is 27. The cumulative number of losses the Sabres have is 34.

Which isn't .500 hockey. But........

Since they get a "loser point" for the seven overtime/shootout losses, it equates to the Sabres earning 61 of a possible 122 points. Which, of course, is .500 hockey.

Fine, I get it. Always have.

So, what is .500 in GM Darcy Regier's mind? Well, he laid it out yesterday on WGR's Schopp and the Bulldog. The question asked by Schopp was how Regier looks at a teams record, "[do] you do it the NHL's way with [calculating] .500?" he asked.

"No, no. I do it the right way," said Regier, "you guys got it wrong." He continued, "If you look at the teams in the standings...it's games over .500."

Schopp then asked for a definition using this as an example, "Whats 30-26-7? Is it four [games] over .500 or three [games] under?" To which Regier replies, "Four over."

Fine, I see where he's coming from.

The chase is on for eighth place and no one's sure who the Sabres are chasing. For instance; right now Florida is in eighth place in the conference, second in the Southeast Division by one point. But, they have four games in hand on division leading Winnipeg. Washington is right behind Florida, one point back, but has played two more games. They're two points back of Winnipeg, but have played two less games. Toronto is tied with Washington in points and games played and is one point back of Florida having played two more games.

Get it?

Their records:
  • Winnipeg--30-26-7
  • Florida--27-20-12
  • Washington--30-26-5
  • Toronto--29-25-7
  • Buffalo--27-27-7
Now, if I get where Regier's coming from, Florida is seven games over .500, Winnipeg, Washington and Toronto are all four games over .500 and Buffalo is presently at .500.

OK. So who is Buffalo chasing?

Apparently it's Winnipeg because, according to Regier, "The lowest team is four [games] over [.500.] That's the team in. [You need] to look at the team with the lowest number of games over .500 that is in the playoffs, that is the team you are competing against."

OK. Got it. Since Winnipeg is in the playoffs right now and is four games over .500 they are the team to chase. Because they're not in the playoffs, Washington and Toronto, who are both also "four games over .500," are not the teams to chase, and won't be until they're in the playoff picture.

I'm glad they didn't get into "wins in regulation and overtime" which is the first tiebreaker in the NHL standings. FYI, right now it would go like this:  Washington--29; Winnipeg, Toronto--26; Florida--24; Buffalo--21. Which complicates things even more.


Not really.

Regier's point at least adds some structure to the Sabres chase for a playoff spot.

My point is this, though, you would think that with nearly 15 years on the job and a payroll this season of roughly $75M, Regier would be discussing the Northeast Division crown and or a battle for home-ice in the first round of the playoffs. Not, how to define .500 and who, amongst four teams, Buffalo is chasing the for 8th spot in the conference.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A few notes as deadline day approaches

***As of right now, the Sabres sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 59 points on the season. They are seven points behind Florida for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Seven points is not a crazy amount of points to make up in the standings, except for the fact that they need to jump over three other teams to get there. And even that, although daunting, is not impossible, except for the fact that many of the teams battling for position--Winnipeg, Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Buffalo and even Carolina, Montreal and the NY Islanders (who each have 58 points)--will be playing each other often during the home stretch.

The crux of the matter is the three point game. Many of the teams that Buffalo is in the race with will take their opponent to overtime with both teams "earning" points for their efforts. And that makes it difficult for the Sabres, if not almost impossible to make the playoffs this season.

***It's hard, if not nearly impossible, for some fans to root against the home team, but there seems to be a growing majority who hope that the Sabres miss the playoffs this year. Some of them hope that the team tanks and ends up with a lottery pick.

Fans in Buffalo have seen this team, constructed around Darcy Regier's "core," for nearly five years. We've seen the same weaknesses and generally the same results for the better part of those five years.

And there are many fans who are tired of the broken record. They're tired of Regier, their tired of Lindy Ruff and their tired of the core.

There's hope in Buffalo that if the team misses the playoffs, especially with the amount of money Terry Pegula has spent, that Regier and/or Ruff will see their 15 yr. tenure come to an end.

Methinks that would be a good thing.

***Darcy Regier was on the WGR's Schopp and the Bulldog last Friday, and it would seem as if the Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting, Kevin Devine, has moved up the ladder. Reiger mentions (1:25-mark) talking with Devine "our Director of...Assistant General Manager who still oversees our amateur scouting."

Good for Devine, he seems to have a real good eye for hockey players, and although not "official," it's a positive for the organization. Congrats.

***Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins took a shot at Buffalo, just like fellow New Englander, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Toronto Maple Leaves forward, Joffrey Lupul had done recently.

Calling Buffalo "the worst place in the NHL," Marchand is drawing the ire of Buffalonians.

He's in town tonight as the Bruins take on the Sabres and this was his follow up, "People have to learn how to have some fun and take a joke," Marchand said in First Niagara Center, where he and the Bruins will face the Sabres tonight. "It's always cold and usually rainy when we come here, and I was just playing around. I hope I didn't offend anyone."

He's right with the "take a joke" part.

Schopp and the Bulldog spent the first 45 minutes of their show talking about it, even though Schopp said repeatedly that it didn't bother him. They could have spent more time on the subject, but I couldn't listen to their blather anymore and turned them off.



***Sabres President Ted Black was on the Howard Simon Show for his weekly appearance.

Early on they jumped right into the playoff picture, the Stanley Cup, and the fact that no team lower than a five-seed has won the Cup.

Roll Ted (1:35-mark):  "The good news is, maybe unlike other teams, we're not under a financial mandate that we must make the playoffs or we don't hit our number. We're capitalized with Terry's resources so at least we don't have that pressure.

That pressure can sometimes create the urge to go for the short-term, to squeak into the playoffs to get playoff revenue. We can still maintain what we want to do long-term."

Black sees the writing on the wall for this season, if fact the week prior he said, "It would take a monumental effort for us to even make the playoffs, that's just the math, and not any kind of false hope or lack of hope."

Put it all together and even if they somehow garner four points from the next two games, they could still find themselves six or seven points out of a playoff spot come Monday, the NHL trade deadline.

And then there's the problem of that pesky road trip coming up next month which will take them to the west coast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Four moves for the Sabres....

if GM Darcy Regier and the Sabres brass are willing to throw in the towel on the season.

That, of course, is a big "if."

The goal, in this blogger's eyes, is to add some center depth now and better position themselves for the draft  by trading movable players. Unrestricted free agents are obvious, but teams are always looking for defensive depth at this time of year and there are a number of teams that could use a top-six center.

The names we'll look at are Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Jordan Leopold and Brad Boyes.

What we're looking for are at least two center prospects in return and two draft-picks somewhere in the the #16-56 range (ideally, we'd want to go higher, but that might be a bit of a stretch.)

Qualifier:  It's kind of fun playing GM from behind a keyboard. After all, your ass isn't on the line as you spend millions of your owner's money both near-term and years down the road. Nor do you have the responsibility of uprooting a player and, possibly, his family.

Speculation is the order of the day at this time of year and even though there's no inside info here, with the amount of information on the internet you can draw some conclusions as to what players, especially prospects, are all about. With that info in hand, you can look at a teams' playoff position and read up on needs and/or wants then play match-maker.

Far be it for me to be so stodgy as to stand idly by with the trade deadline less than a week away. This is the time of year armchair gm's relish as they toy with delusions of Stanley Cup grandeur, and I'm game.

That being said, here we go.

(Edit:  After posting this article, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded forward Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincy. Bolts GM Steve Yzerman then sent Quincy to Detroit for a 2012 first-round pick and a minor league defenseman--Sebastian Piche.)

Derek Roy

It's been said that the Sabres tried trading Roy over the summer, and, obviously it hasn't happened yet.

Up until the Pittsburgh game this past Sunday, Roy was having a dismal season. But during that game he showed glimpses of why he was near a point/game player for a few years.

Back in early January, we focused on three teams in the playoff hunt that could use a top-six center like Roy--Florida, Minnesota and Phoenix.

Florida is in a battle with Washington for the Southeast Division lead and the loser could still end up in the playoffs. Minnesota is a mere four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with four teams to jump. And Phoenix is presently holding down the #7-seed in the West.

We looked at a return for Roy, with the return being a mid-upper level center prospect coming back. The names:  Nick Bjugstad (Florida,) Zack Phillips (Minnesota,) and Ethan Werek (Phoenix.) Click on the link above for more info.

But there's an interesting development in Washington.

Their center depth was depleted with the injury to Niklas Backstrom back in January. Right now down the middle they have sophomore center Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern and Matthieu Perreault at the pivot.

Backstrom's out with concussion related problems and he's yet to resume skating. Although the Caps are not in dire straights right now, a move to keep them in the hunt for both the playoffs and the division title might be a good one.

The Caps are tight against the cap, but could create space for Roy's $4M cap-hit this season and be in pretty decent shape for next season as well.

The cool part about the Caps is that they have an extra first-round pick this season thanks to Colorado giving theirs up for goalie Semyon Varlamov.

As Roy begins to heat up along with Washington's playoff chase, Roy could be put to good use by the Caps. Yes, they are having goaltending problems and would probably would like to have a Jonathan Bernier (LAK) or a Cory Schneider (VAN,) but that isn't likely to happening until the off-season.

If the Caps want to add a #2 center like Derek Roy, they have an extra first-round pick to give in return. But if I were in the Sabres shoes, I wouldn't stop there.

The goal for this arm-chair gm is to add depth to the center position too.

The Sabres are not going to get the Caps top-center prospect, Cody Eakin. Nor will they get any upper-level prospect (unless there's a package deal) so Buffalo can set their sights on an older "prospect" in the Caps system--Mattias Sjorgen.

The 24 yr. old free agent signing is presently playing in Europe after an ill-fated stint with the Hershey Bears. According to Hockey's Future, Sjorgen used an out-clause in his contract and his status with the team is unknown.

Sjorgen has good size, 6'1", 210lbs, and is projected out as a bottom-six center. For the Sabres, other than Luke Adam, their center depth has prospects on the small/skilled side of the equation.

Would the Sabres be able to get Sjorgen along with one of Washington's two first-rounders?

Why not? As a free agent Sjorgen cost the Caps nothing to sign. And they'll have Roy, a clear #2 behind Backtrom, or an outstanding #3 behind Johansson as well.

The trade by buffalosabresnow:
  • Derek Roy to Washington for one of their two first-round picks and prospect Mattias Sjorgen.

Paul Gaustad

"Goose" is a perfect UFA for a contender looking for a deep run in the playoffs. He's big, his defensive play is outstanding and his prowess in the dot is top-five. You're not going to get much offense out of him, but there are at least a couple of teams who wouldn't care.

Oh, and his $2.3M annual cap-hit is easily absorbed.

But, as mentioned here (and a lot of places as well,) Goose to Detroit is about as good a fit as any this trade deadline.

Sunday, on Hockey Day In America, Gaustad's line was up against the Evgeni Malkin line as the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the First Niagara Center. Goose, along with LW Nathan Gerbe and RW Patrick Kaleta, throttled Malkin as the Sabres rolled to a 6-2 win.

Something like that would only enhanced Gaustad's worth.

The Red Wings aren't exactly spring chickens anymore, although players like Niklas Lidstrom somehow defy age. But, as aged as they are, right now they could be looked at as the Stanley Cup favorite this season.

For the Wings, the future is now and adding Gaustad certainly will give them one of the deepest groups of forwards in hockey.

So, as we move Goose to the Wings, a fit like that deserves a decent return. The Wings have plenty of center depth in their system with three of them ranked in the mid-upper area of the organization:  Riley Sheahan, Calle Jarnkrok and Landon Ferraro.

Of the three, Sheahan has attributes that any team would want, specifically the Buffalo Sabres.

A junior at Notre Dame, Sheahan has an NHL-ready 6'2", 200lb frame, plays a solid two-way game and seems to have a good head on his shoulders.

The trade by buffalosabresnow:
  • Paul Gaustad to the Detroit Red Wings for Riley Sheahan

Jordan Leopold

Leopold is one of those veteran, top-four defensmen that always seems to be on the move at the deadline in fact he knows it first-hand. He's dependable, good in his own end, can put up points, and can log big minutes.

The only drawback to him being moved is that he will have one more year on his contract after this season, so he's not a rental.

The Sabres have quite a few defenseman who can do what Leopold does so moving him would not really hurt them next season.

Once again, there are always a few teams that are looking for veteran defensive depth, but one team could really use his services--Florida.

The Panthers are turning their franchise around after not making the playoffs for the last 10 years. They've done it by bringing in a bevy of veterans to hold the fort while their deep pool of prospects develop.

After a hot start, Florida dropped out of the Southeast Division lead only to gain it back a game later from Washington. But injuries on the back-end have the potential to derail their playoff push.

Three of their six starters on defense are on IR with veteran Ed Jovanoski slated to return very soon.

Enter Leopold.

With Florida well-stocked at every position in the organization, the Cats could, conceivably get by with minimal picks in the upcoming 2012 draft. Sending a couple Buffalo's way for Leopold would not hurt the organization in any way.

The buffalosabresnow trade:
  • Jordan Leopold to Florida for a 2012 2nd-round and 2012 4th-round pick

Brad Boyes

The first acquisition by Sabres GM Darcy Regier under the new ownership of Terry Pegula.

Boyes is a former 40-goal scoring winger who was brought in to bolster the forward group--as a center.

It didn't work out well. In 67 games with Buffalo, Boyes has eight goals and 19 assists and has been dropped to the fourth line.

Boyes will be an unrestricted free agent, and with most of his $4m contract being paid, teams in the hunt for the playoffs, or looking to (hopefully) bolster their scoring from the wing for a long playoff run could look to Boyes as an option.

The team that Boyes could end up with is the team that he's played for before--Boston.

The equation is simple. Bruins RW Nathan Horton is out with a concussion and the team is said to be looking for a replacement. Rick Nash has gathered all of the headlines as the Columbus Blue Jackets have said that all is on the table for their last-place team.

But Nash does not make any sense for the Bruins at this juncture of the season. They're looking for rental.

After Nash, the Edmonton's "Captain Canada," Ryan Smyth, would be next on their list, but he's said that he wants to stay in Edmonton. Another Oiler, Ales Hemsky has been a perennial trade candidate for a couple years now with nothing ever coming of it. Perhaps his $5M cap-hit has been a determent.

As we move down the depth-chart of wingers, we get to Brad Boyes. He has the size and can play a gritty game at times, plus he wouldn't cost the Bruins much in return.

The buffalosabresnow trade:
  • Brad Boyes to Boston for a 2012 3rd-round pick.

When owner Terry Pegula said that "the reason for the existence of the Buffalo Sabres is to win the Stanley Cup," he didn't say how they would do it. When he mentioned that his goal was a Cup in three years, he obviously thought this team was closer than they really were, but that vision has been obliterated.

A partial reconstruction should be in the cards this season. This trade deadline along with a potential a lottery pick in the 2012 draft represents a unique opportunity for a team that's in dire need of, at least, a "re-tool."

For too long--nearly ten years--Buffalo has been mired in mediocrity to the point where they're not good enough to win it all, yet not bad enough to get a top-five draft pick. It's time to buck that trend and tank the season.

The buffalosabresnow plan of attack using that thought and the aforementioned trades:
  • Sabres end up in the top-five of the draft and land an impact center.
  • Derek Roy gets them a mid-lower first-round pick plus a big, bottom-six center prospect (Mattias Sjorgen)
  • Paul Gaustad gets them potential top-six center prospect Riley Sheahan
  • Jordan Leopold lands a second and a fourth round pick in the upcoming draft
  • Brad Boyes gets the team a third-rounder
What would you rather have, a team that goes on a run and falls short of the playoffs ending up out of the top-ten in the draft?

Or a team, via the above moves (and a drive to the bottom of the standings by the team) with two first-rounders (including a top-five,) three second-rounders, two third-rounders and a fourth rounder along with two center prospects?

That was fun.

Thanx for reading.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rob Ray nails it on WGR

A couple days ago, Rob Ray was on WGR with Mike Schopp and had some interesting insights into the make-up of the Buffalo Sabres.

There's a progression that starts out with Jaromir Jagr and how he seems to appreciate what he's got in the NHL right now, which is a far cry from the perception of Jagr as a loafer post-Pittsburgh, pre-Philadelphia, his current team.

Ray hearkens back to Jagr's early days when the skilled forward "had no choice but to work hard because of Mario Lemieux and the guys that surrounded him." Once they left, Jagr became "a little sloppy and lazy" but now because of his new found appreciation for the NHL, Ray says that "he's become the perfect role model for these young guys [on Philadelphia]."

Schopp then directs the conversation to Drew Stafford and how the big forward doesn't seem to use his attributes like he should and he mentions the lack of a mentor for Stafford once Chris Drury left.

Getting to the root of it all, Ray begins to lay out what could be considered the most profound of Darcy Regier's design flaw when building the Buffalo Sabres during his 14-year tenure as GM for the team:  the lack of veteran leadership.

WGR's beat writer Paul Hamilton has pointed out on numerous occasions over the past four to five years that there's no one on the ice that can keep this team calm when the pressure is on. There's no one on this team that says, "don't worry, I got it," as he's put it. At the first sign of adversity, the Sabres invariably fold. In fact Hamilton went as far to say on numerous occasions this season recently that this lack of intestinal fortitude and leadership is the identity of the team.

And no truer words have been said.

Go back to the 2002/03 and you'll see not only lack of center depth, but a lack of veteran leaders on the team. That all changed during in the months from the deadline to the off-season when the Regier acquired centers Daniel Briere and Stanley Cup winner Chris Drury. The following season the team was back on the upswing.

Following their departure along with the likes of Mike Grier, among others, the mantel of leadership fell to the young "core." They missed the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 and it was attributed to a "core" that was growing into their new roles as leaders on the team.

Not one player on that 2007/08 team had a Stanley Cup on their resume' and only three could be considered veteran "warhorses" of the playoffs--defensemen Teppo Numminen, Jaroslav Spacek and Toni Lydman. Numminen had never made it past the second round, but had years of playoff experience while Spacek and Lydman had both made it to Game-7 in the Finals in a losing cause (Spacek, Edmonton, 2006; Lydman, Calgary, 2004.)

The 2008/09 team was essentially the same save for the addition of defenseman Craig Rivet and the return of Numinnen who was out for all but one game the previous season. Yet, the result was the same, missed the playoffs. There was a convienient excuse for Sabres management that season, both Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek missed a chunk of time due to injury.

On a side note, Miller's injury was "lower body" caused when NY Rangers forward Scott Gomez, ran the goalie behind the net. Also of note, there was no on-ice retribution at the time.

Who would have thought that the return of forward Mike Grier for the 2009/10 season could make such a difference. Sure, he was getting up there in age and was very limited in the scoring department, but the leadership he brought this team propelled them to the Northeast Division crown and their first playoff appearance since the 2006/07 season.

Not only that, with a tight defense, buoyed by the addition of Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers, Ryan Miller had the best season of his career and wound up with the Vezina Trophy.

Grier was joined by Stanley Cup winner, Rob Neidermayer up front for the 2010/11 season along with veteran d-man Jordan Leopold and the team took Philadelphia to Game-7 of the opening round, only to fall short.

Grier and Neidermayer retired before this season. Their veteran leadership up-front was not replaced, although the team did add solid vets on the back-end in Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff.

The 2011/12 season can be dubbed "the year of the core." This is the year the those who came together in Rochester during the lockout were to have matured enough to take the mantel of leadership on the team. Former Alternate Captain Jason Pominville wore the "C" and Derek Roy continued with the "A." Another "Rochester-guy" (in the words of Sabres' President, Ted Black,) Thomas Vanek was named Alternate Captain (having served in that capacity for half of the previous season.

Two other forwards, Paul Gaustad, who had worn the "A" before, and Drew Stafford became the other alternate captains.

Five forwards, five of Regier's "core players" and one miserable season where they could end up with a top-five draft pick this June.

So what happened?

"When ya got young guys," Ray says (5:15-mark), "it doesn't matter how talented they are, or what they've done in the past, what you think they might do or how big, it doesn't matter. If you don't have those veteran guys around that are going to teach them the game, and even the game within the game, and life away from the game, then you're kinda just wasting time."

He continues, "You're gonna get improvement out of them, but you're not gonna get the best out of them because I don't care how much the coach coaches, you learn more from the guys around you. You don't learn the game from the coach, you learn it from the veteran players in the room."

Going back to the 2002/03 season, and 2007/08, and this season as well, the prevailing theme, and possibly the ultimate reason for poor, underachieving performances has been the lack of leadership up-front to guide Regier's "core."

Ray gave mad props to former Sabre Dave Andreychuk for the latter's leadership and contributions to the development of himself and the other young players. It was something that Andreychuk did willingly. And he carried that to Tampa Bay, being instrumental in that teams' first Stanley Cup.

Ray sums it up this way, in a way that pretty much sums up why the current edition of the Buffalo Sabres sit near the bottom of the league, "If you don't have that type of person working with your young guys, it's gonna take a lot longer for them to develop sometimes, and sometimes they'll never, ever get it."


Thursday, February 16, 2012

2002/03 revisited

The Buffalo Sabres have scored 137 goals in 56 games for an average of 2.44 goals/game. At that pace they'll end up with a total of roughly 200 goals this season.

For some perspective, they have not scored that little since the 2002/03 season when they scored a grand total of 190 goals en route to the fifth worst record in the league.

Miro Satan lead the team in goals that seasons with 26. He was followed by Ales Kotalik (21,) Curtis Brown and Chris Gratton (15 each,) J.P. Dumont and Taylor Pyatt (14 each,) and Tim Connolly (12.)

That 2002/03 team was the remnants of the "hardest working team in hockey" of the late '90's and would soon be rebuilt into "the team built for the New NHL."

The remnants of that 2005-2007 "Ferrari" team make up the present group that is on a pace to end up with a top-five pick in this year's draft. And, oddly enough, wingers are predominant in the goal-scoring department. Although the leader should surpass the 26 goals of Satan, they probably will not have the number of double-digit goal scorers (9) the 2002/03 team had.

Plus-minus is another dismal stat for this edition of the Sabres. Hearkening back to 2002/03, that team had five players in the double-digit negative lead by Connolly's minus-28. Jay McKee (-16,) Dumont (-14,) captain Stu Barnes (-13,) and Maxim Afinogenov (-12) rounded out the bottom-five.

As for the present team none should come close to Connolly's minus-28, but it looks as if more than five have a good shot at negative double-digit.

That 2002/03 team was 25th in the league five-on-five (0.84,) 20th in powerplay efficiency (14.4%,) and t-6th (Detroit) in penalty kill (85.4%.)

This edition presently sits 18th five on five (0.93,) 19th on the power play (16.9%,) and 18th on the kill (81.5%.)

In goal, Martin Biron was the starter back then and he went 17-28-6 with a 2.56 gaa and a .908 sv. %. The team ranked 13th in the league in goals against/game with 2.67.

Ryan Miller is 16-17-3 with a 2.75 gaa and a .909 sv. % while the team ranks 22nd in goals against/game (2.84.)

What does this all mean?

The roller coaster ride is near the bottom again.

Since Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff took over, they peaked in '99 with the Stanley Cup Final loss. The team that previous GM John Muckler built, was dismantled and the Sabres proceeded to bottom out getting the fifth overall pick in 2003. They were rebuilt by Regier and rose again, reaching the semi-finals in back-to-back seasons (2006, 2007.) They were dismantled again in the summer of 2007 and are now about to bottom out again.

Will Regier and Ruff be in charge of another rebuild/retool?

Who knows. But if you took a Cup Finals team and dismantled it, built an era-specific team that only went as far as a Conference Finals, and are looking at a lottery pick this season, I'd say no.

Ted Black seems to be looking towards next season

Two losses in a row at home to Tampa Bay and New Jersey has pretty much sealed the Sabres fate for the year. They're 10 points out of a playoff spot with 26 games to go, a veritable mountain to climb.

Ted Black pretty much laid it out on WGR's Howard Simon Show this morning. As an organization they cannot come out and say the season is over. Not only would it hurt the team at the box office, but it will also hurt them as the trade deadline approaches.

The question posed to Black by Jeremy White was "how realistically" is the team approaching the deadline. The long preface included Black's "somber outlook" the previous week as well as Darcy Regier's intimations that a team outside of the top-eight in the league could win the Stanley Cup.

Here's what Black had to say (4:43 mark):  "It would take a monumental effort for us to even make the playoffs, that's just the math, and not any kind of false hope or lack of hope."

Prior to that (3:30 mark) he alluded to which direction the team would be headed in the next week and a half. Of course, he prefaced it with "we're gonna do everything we can to win the Stanley Cup." then continued, "and to make this team a championship team. If that means we make moves that benefit us next year and the year after, and that opportunity presents itself, then I'm confident that's what Darcy's thinking about."

There you have it. Time to start looking towards next season and beyond. Which is something that fans have been doing since the tail end of the teams franchise record, 12-game road losing streak in January.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sabres in limbo with Gaustad to Wings making a lot of sense

Limbo is the place the Sabres organization finds themselves as the February 27, 2012 trade-deadline approaches. They still don't know if they'll be a buyer or seller or some sort of hybrid.

With two weeks to go until the deadline, Buffalo currently sits in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. They're eight points back of 8th place Toronto and nine points behind 7th place Ottawa and they have a games in hand.

The team has 54 points with 27 games remaining. Right now it would seem as if 94 points for the entire season would get them into the playoffs--the equivalent of 20 wins in 27 games.

Once again, it's not impossible, but even with their current 5-1-1 streak, it still remains an improbability.

Even if they did manage to make the playoffs, they're chances of winning it all are slim to none. They say that winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest championship to win. It take four series' wins--16 games--against four different opponents and nearly always means four different styles of play.

That's why, as of this morning, sportsclubstats has the Sabres at a 2.1% chance of just making the playoffs. Las Vegas has Buffalo at 35-1 to win the Eastern Conference, 65-1 odds to win the Cup.

That being said (in a rather prolonged way,) Sabres GM Darcy Regier should be looking towards the future. It's not to say that they should completely blow it up and rebuild, but they should be looking to move a few of their players starting the transition from Darcy's core (or as Ted Black put it, the Rochester guys) of the last four-plus seasons to an emerging "new core."

The two names that keep surfacing in the rumor mill are centers Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad.

For some reason, Regier thinks that he can get a top-six player in return for Roy, which is a bit absurd considering a potential trade partner would want to bolster their top-nine, not make a trade to exchange struggling forwards.

Traditionally, picks and prospects are what's given up at the deadline for a cup-contending piece, so getting a bonafide top-six forward for a top-six forward is something that usually doesn't happen this time of year.

Which leads us to the Sabres' most movable commodity--Paul Gaustad.

Detroit Red Wings scout, Kirk Maltby, recently attended back-to-back Buffalo Sabres games--visiting Montreal and Buffalo. Detroit, a perennial Stanley Cup contender, isn't looking to bolster their core, which is about as solid as it gets, they're looking for forward depth. It was said that the Canadians Travis Moen, a former Stanley Cup champion, was a person of interest, as was Gaustad.

Both Moen and Gaustad are similar in stature, are rock-solid penalty-killers and both are depth players, but Moen is a winger and Gaustad is a center. Looking at the Wings depth chart, the fourth-line center slot is held down by rookie Cory Emmerton.

Not to get too far into the Red Wings and their depth-chart wants and/or needs, but the addition of both LW Moen and C Gaustad to go along with RW Justin Abdelkader would make for a very formidable fourth line.

But, back to Gaustad.

"Goose" is a fourth-line player who can play on the third line if necessary. He's a big body that is a top-notch faceoff man and an exceptional penalty killer.

On the dot, the Wings are lead by Pavel Datsyuk and his 56.5%. The team is currently 7th in the league at faceoffs, just a few fractions out of the top-three. Goose is at 55.6%, which would rank him second on the Wings and invariably help Detroit get even stronger in the faceoff circle.

On the penalty kill, Sabres currently rank 15th in the league, the Wings, 20th. Darren Helm and Drew Miller (brother of Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller) anchor the PK for the forwards. Gaustad leads Sabres forwards in short-handed time on ice and there's no reason to think that he wouldn't be one of the top-four forwards on the kill for the Wings.

Another big factor in the "Goose to Red Wings" scenario would be salary, but it's a non-starter as Detroit presently has plenty of room to fit Gaustad's $2.3M annual cap-hit. In fact they could even fit Moen in as well and still have room to spare.

This is a real good fit for the 1st place Red Wings and may just be the move (or moves if you add in Moen) that could bring the Cup back to Hockeytown. And it should be done from the Sabres perspective, as long as the return isn't a bag of pucks.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Sabres' rash of injuries may be a positive...

...if the team can continue their push into the top-eight in the conference.

The Buffalo Sabres have played 54 games going into tonight's match up with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And it's a key game right now as Tampa sits in 13th place, two points behind 11th place Buffalo with a game in hand.

As for the Sabres, they're eight points behind 8th place Toronto with one game in hand and nine points behind 7th place Ottawa with three games in hand.

Thanks to parity and the three-point game, there will be much maneuvering and jostling in the standings from now until the end of the year.

Fact is Buffalo still has Winnipeg and Washington (who is constantly switching the division lead with Florida) to jump over just to knock on the playoff door.

Going 5-0-1 in their last six games while earning 11 of a possible 12 points has moved the talk away from the "Fail For Nail" campaign to a possible run into the playoffs. Forget that there's still the possibility of yet another, pesky first-round loss to think about. That's way to far away.

The NHL season is a long grind and there's talk that should the Sabres make the playoffs, they won't have enough energy left to make an impact. And here's where injuries come into play.

Buffalo is icing the same team now that they did to start the season save for some minor moves--defenseman Mike Weber in for Marc-Andre Gragnani and Luke Adam as the 13th forward.

But, should the Sabres continue to roll and climb into the top-eight, a good chunk of their team--including key players--will have played, roughly a 70-game season (or less) which should have a positive impact come April.

Call it the "glass half-full" approach if you want. Or if you so desire, you could add that it's half-full with the koolaid coming from the Sabres brass. But, it's a simple fact.

Barring any weird things happening between now and the end of the year, Jason Pomminville will have played in all 82 games. Four others--Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Jordan Leopold--will be right around 80 games, but wear and tear, as with Pomminville, should be minimal since none of them, save for Vanek maybe, play a rough and tumble style.

The next group should be in the mid to upper 70's in games played--Robyn Regehr, Paul Gaustad, Andrej Sekera and Matt Ellis.

Projected games played for the season if they play all 28 remaining:
  • Christian Ehrhoff--71
  • Nathan Gerbe--71
  • Ville Leino--71
  • Brad Boyes--69
  • Patrick Kaleta--66
  • Tyler Myers--62
  • Tyler Ennis--48

Cody McCormick suffered an "upper body" injury last night so his status is in question. Weber and Gragnani were left out because they've been alternating the #6 d-man slot. Jochen Hecht is out right now and may be done for the year.

In goal  Ryan Miller could play in a total of 63 games. But that would mean him playing every game until the end of the season. Back-up Jhonas Enroth should see action in at least five or six more which would put Miller in the 58-game area.

Take it for what it is, but if the Sabres can continue to climb, the toll of an 82-game schedule will be less because of the inordinate amount of injures incurred earlier in the year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So now what?

The Sabres are on a bit of a roll.

In their last five games they've gone 4-0-1 collecting nine of a possible 10 points. And their wins (as well as their 1-0 shootout loss) have come against some quality opponents.

They started this run with a 2-1 shootout win at New Jersey before the All-Star break then came out of the break with a win at Montreal. The New Jersey win snapped the longest road losing streak in franchise history (12 games) and was against a top-eight opponent in the Eastern Conference.

After their win against the Canadians, they came back home and dropped a goaltenders duel to the Eastern Conference-leading NY Rangers that went to the 10th shooter in the shootout.

They proceeded to come from behind to drop the NY Islanders 4-3 in a shootout and then lambasted their bitter rivals--Boston--at home last night 6-0. The Bruins are second in the conference behind the Rangers.

Ryan Miller is leading the charge in net giving up a mere five goals in five games including two shutouts. Last night five Sabres lit the lamp with three of them--Christian Ehrhoff (1 goal in eight games,) Tyler Ennis (first goal since returning from injury five games ago,) Drew Stafford (one goal in eight, two in his last 14)--getting off the schneid.

The rash of injuries seems to be subsiding (save for Lindy Ruff's three broken ribs in a freak accident at practice) and the team seems to be coming together.

But will it be enough to reach the playoffs?

As previously stated on another blog, nothing's impossible, but making the top-eight in the Eastern Conference is still improbable. Although not as dire as it once seemed. In late January they were said to have a 0.6% chance of making the playoffs. That went up to 3% a few games back and now it's at 3.2%.

Before their streak, the Sabres were 10 points out of a playoff spot. Now they are nine points out. They once had six teams to jump, now they have four.

The three-point game has been a big part of leveling the playing field amongst average to above average teams. While parity has made for some intense playoff races over the years, it also makes it incredibly difficult for a team like the Sabres to gain significant ground on the #8 seed which can be in flux constantly.

I guarantee that no Sabres fan could have predicted a 4-0-1 run in the last five games. In fact the "fail for nail" campaign, one which it was hoped by some that the team would drop to the bottom of the league for a top-five draft pick, was really gaining steam.

If the previous four games did nothing to start the "believe" campaign, last night's big win vs. the Bruins certainly should get things rolling.

As it stands, the team still has a rocky road, and the next two weeks will determine what they'll be doing at the February 27 trade-deadline.

Here's a look at where they stand right now beginning with eight place in the Eastern Conference:
  • Ottawa--61 pts.
  • Florida--59
  • Winnipeg--56
  • NY Islanders--52
  • Buffalo--52
  • Tampa Bay--51
  • Montreal--51
Beginning Friday the team plays Dallas, Tampa Bay and New Jersey at home. They travel to Philadelphia on February 16 then return home vs. Montreal on Friday February 17th.

Kaleta goes "Bonsai!" and takes one for the team

For those fan who weren't born in the 70's, or are too young to remember, the game last night between Buffalo and Boston was something right out of the old Memorial Auditorium days.

The Sabres and the Bruins have and old-school rivalry on their hands, one that goes back to the days of rookie Jim Schoenfeld and his hatred for the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins of 1972.

Buffalo doesn't have the beef to rival Boston when it comes to pugilism, but they seemed to have found their heart and their pride. The Bid Bad Bruins, bully of the NHL, will not get any lunch-money from the Sabres without a fight.

We all know about the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller incident. We all know about Sabres forward Paul Gaustad taking one on the chin in the rematch when he took on Lucic to defend the Sabres' crest. And last night, Cody McCormick, Mike Weber and Patrick Kaleta continued the trend that Gaustad started by standing up and being counted.

There's not a team in the league that can match the collection of back-alley brawlers they have in Beantown. Lucic, Shawn Thorton, Zdeno Chara and Adam Mcquaid are all big, tough, mean S.O.B.'s.

At 6'1", 200 lbs., Kaleta is no flyweight, but he looked like that against 6'4", 220 lb., Lucic. And one would have to question whether or not Kaleta was in his right mind to drop 'em against one of the best fighters in the league. But he did. Standing up to Lucic knowing the consequences can only be described as a temporary bout of insanity.


It was a six-second bout between the two with Kaleta absorbing some punishing blows. It was six-seconds of punishment in a 60 minute game which ended up being a 6-0 "rout" by the Sabres.

There's not a player in the league who wouldn't want to deliver a beatdown on Kaleta like Lucic did last night. He's a known pest and agitator who takes his game to the extreme--and sometimes beyond--to get under the skin of opponents. And he's hated by every team in the league outside of Buffalo. But he may have earned some props for his suicide mission.

Said Lucic after the game concerning Kaleta, “He is who he is and if he wants to be like that, good for him."

If I were Kaleta, I'd take that as a compliment, and maybe a show of respect.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

(Almost) any top goalie would falter with this group of skaters in front of them

Ryan Miller is having an incredibly poor season this year. Fans are booing his $6.25M salary (and cap hit) and busting out the old Mr. Softie schtick, although, surprisingly, not as much as last season.

While some still look at Miller as average and his contract as an albatross, most would agree that the problems on the Sabres are not goalie specific, as evidenced by Jhonas Enroth who is 3-9-3 since early November. Enroth's gaa went from 2.00 at the end of October to 2.59 at the end of last month. During that time his sv% went from .946 to .919.

With the team playing like they have been all season, unless your "The Dominator," the chances for success are minimal for oneself as well as the team.


Without rehashing the whole Milan Lucic incident, it's safe to say that Miller still suffered symptoms of his concussion/neck injury for months following the hit, and his play showed it.

But he, and Enroth as well, got little offensive support from his teammates.

Last season, on two separate occasions, I did a statistical comparison between starting goalies and the effects of the team in front of them. The first was comparing Miller to Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

Howard had a team in front of him that was 2nd in the league in scoring and despite his 2.83 gaa and .906 sv%, he was 27-11-6.

Miller at the time was 19-19-5, with a 2.64 gaa and a .912 sv%. The team in front of him was 18th in the league in scoring.

NY Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is the rage right now, and he should be. He's one of the best, if not THE best, goalie in the league right now.

Miller is often compared to Lundqvist because of their salaries. In fact, Miller's salary was based upon that of "King Henrik." They also play a similar style.

Back in March of last year I did a "tale of the tape" between the two. While Lundqvist was a definitive winner in the regular season, the playoff stats were in favor of Miller.

Miller's line in the playoffs: 22-18, 2.39 gaa, .917 sv.%
Lundqvist stat line: 14-16, 2.66 gaa, .907 sv.%

For years the Philadelphia Flyers boasted the best group of skaters in the NHL from top to bottom, throwing nearly all of their cap-space there while neglecting the goalies. They gambled that they could get by with a roulette wheel of second-rate netminders.

But, it didn't get them to the promised land. They came close having lost to Chicago in the finals, but close wasn't good enough for Chairman Ed Snyder.

At his behest, GM Paul Holmgren created cap-space by moving his top-two centers and went after a bonafide #1 goalie.

Ilya Bryzgalov was said to be languishing in Phoenix before the Flyers signed the free agent to a front-loaded 9yr. contract that averages nearly $5.7M per season.

Right now the Flyers sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference behind the Rangers while missing their top defenseman, Chris Pronger. They're doing it with scoring as the team is 3rd in the league in goals/game.

Bryzgalov has been stellar in four of his last five games with a 1.75 gaa and a .937 sv. %, giving up one goal in four of the five (he gave up five in the other.)

His record now stands at 19-10-5. Compare that to Miller's record of 13-15-3. Bryz has a 2.87 gaa, Miller, 2.89. His sv.% is .898, Miller's is .904.

Even Buffalo's back-up goalies over the past few seasons have been directly affected by the play in front of them.

During the 2010/11 season, Enroth wrested the reigns of back-up goalie by going 9-2-2 with a 2.73 gaa and a .907 sv.%. During the previous year Sabres back-up goalie Patrick Lalime had a 2.81 gaa and a .907 sv%. Yet his record was 4-8-2.

The fact of the matter is this, Ryan Miller is not Dominic Hasek. Neither is Henrik Lundqvist, nor any other goalie in the NHL. The teams playing in front of goalies are important to their success as well as the success of the team.

If you put Miller in Detroit last season or with the Rangers this season, odds are that he would be in the Vezina conversation.

I guarantee that there are a number of teams including the Flyers who would love to have Miller.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Ottawa Sentators are presently in playoff positions, both of whom are having troubles right now directly related to goaltending woes--Chicago ranks 25th in gaa, Ottawa 28th. Chicago's starter, Corey Crawford, is 18-13-5 with numbers slightly below Miller and the Sen's, Craig Anderson is 25-17-5 with a poorer gaa and a slightly better sv%.

This is not to say that Buffalo will win the Stanley Cup someday with Miller in net. But it's simply to point out that the Sabres woes can be attributed more to a poor/underachieving group of skaters than to a goalie who's "perceived" as average and way overpaid.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2011/12 Individual Stats--January

That was painful. Easy, but painful.

Easy because the team only scored a grand total of 18 goals in 12 games for the month of January, painful because...it was an ugly month.

Jason Pominville continued to hold his own. Understated consistency is his trademark. He has 47 points through 50 games and is on a pace to match his career best year back in the 2007/08 season.

In other notes: 
  • Thomas Vanek disappeared this month and will disappear from the line-up for an undetermined length of time as he starts out February injured.
  • Paul Gaustad had a very good month and seems to be picking it up.
  • Nathan Gerbe seems to be getting stronger.
  • Derek Roy looks like a player who doesn't want to play in Buffalo anymore
Three powerplay goals pretty much says it all about scoring and on the back-end, the goalies pretty much held their own but dropped in the rankings.

We'll see tonight if the team stopped the bleeding that started back in early November.

We'll also see how the team does without it's leading goal scorer in Vanek.

Individual stats for the month of January:

  • October--Thomas Vanek--15...Jason Pominville--14...Luke Adam--9
  • November--Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy--12
  • December--Pominville--13...Vanek--12...Stafford, Roy--7
  • January--Pominville--8...Gerbe, Gaustad--5 

  • October--Vanek--8...Pominville--5...Drew Stafford, Adam--3
  • November--Adam, Roy--5...Vanek, Pominville, Jordan Leopold--4
  • December--Vanek--6...Pominville--3...six with 2
  • January--Pominville--5...five with 2

PP Goals:
  • October--Vanek--3...Pominville--2...Brad Boyes, Stafford--1
  • November--Vanek--3...Roy--2...Pominville, Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Marc-Andre Gragnani--1
  • December--Vanek, Pominville--2...seven with 1
  • January--Myers--2, Pominville--1

  • October--Pominville--9...Vanek--7...Ehrhoff, Adam--6
  • November--Vanek, Pominville--8...Roy--7
  • December--Pomiville--10, Vanek--6...Stafford, Roy, Leopold--5
  • January--Gerbe--4...Pominville, Gaustad, Hecht, McNabb--3

PP Assists:
  • October--Pominville--4...Vanek, Boyes--2
  • November--Pominville--4...Vanek, Roy, Boyes, Ehrhoff, Gragnani--2
  • December--Vanek, Stafford, Leopold--4
  • January--Pominville, Boyes, Myers, Gragnani--1

Primary Assists:
  • October--Vanek--6...Pominville--5...Gerbe--4
  • November--Pominville, Stafford--6...Vanek--5
  • December--Pominville--7...Stafford--4...Vanek, Leopold--3
  • January--Gerbe--3...Pominville, Stafford, Boyes, Hecht--2

  • October--Andrej Sekera, +6...Nathan Gerbe, +5...Vanek,+4
  • November--Leopold, Gragnani, +5...Hecht, +4
  • December--Gragnani, +3...Stafford, even...five at -1
  • January--McNabb, +1...three, even...five, -1

Plus/Minus (bottom):
  • October--Ehrhoff, -6...Ville Leino, -4...Cody McCormick...-2
  • November--Myers, Robyn Regehr, Mike Weber, -5
  • December--Ehrhoff, -7...Sekera, Regehr, Pominville, -6
  • January--Weber, Vanek, -6...Adam, Roy, -5

3-Stars (1st=5 points, 2nd=3 points, 3rd=1 point):
  • October--Vanek--16...Pominville, Adam--10
  • November--Roy--13...Adam--9...Pominville--8
  • December--Pominville, Stafford--6...five with 5
  • January--Gaustad--6...Stafford, Miller--5

Time On Ice/Game-Forwards (year-to-date)

  • October--Pominville, 18:00...Vanek, 17:42...Roy, 16:54
  • November--Pominville, 19:06...Roy...18:48...Vanek...17:42
  • December--Pominville, 19:30...Roy, 19:13...Stafford...17:53...(Vanek 17:52)
  • January--Pominville, 19:23...Roy, 18:47...Stafford, 17:50

Even Strength:
  • October--Vanek, 13:47...Gerbe, 13:33...Roy, 13:30
  • November--Hecht, 14:32...Roy, 14:14...Leino, 14:13
  • December--Hecht, 14:50...Roy, 14:23...Leino, 14:00
  • January--Leino, 14:33...Roy, 14:27...Hecht, 14:25 

  • October--Vanek, 3:12...Pominville, 2:57...Adam, 2:16
  • November--Pominville, 3:26...Vanek, 2:23...Roy, 2:41
  • December--Pominville, 3:36...Vanek, 3:33...Roy, 2:55
  • January--Pominville, 3:20...Vanek, 3:14...Roy, 2:37

Penalty Kill:
  • October--Paul Gaustad, 2:56...Patrick Kaleta, 2:40...Pominville, 2:13
  • November--Gaustad, 2:49...Kaleta, 2:41...Pominville, 2:26
  • December--Gaustad, 2:54...Kaleta, 2:56...Pominville, 2:33
  • January--Gaustad, 2:49...Pominville, 2:25...Kaleta, 2:16

Time On Ice/Game--Defensman (year-to-date)

  • October--Ehrhoff, 24:32...Myers, 21:28...Jordan Leopold, 21:06
  • November--Ehrhoff, 24:04...Myers, 21:39...Leopold, 20:48
  • December--Ehrhoff, 23:35...Myers, 21:39...Leopold, 21:29
  • January--Ehrhoff, 23:36...Myers, 22:58...Leopold, 22:13

Even Strength:
  • October--Ehrhoff, 19:21...Leopold, 17:12...Myers, 16:21
  • November--Ehrhoff, 19:06...Leopold, 16:57...Sekera, 16:39
  • December--Ehrhoff, 18:38...Leopold, 17:11...Myers, 16:14
  • January--Ehrhoff, 18:33...Leopold, Myers, 17:46

  • October--Marc-Andre Gragnani, 3:03...Ehrhoff, 2:59...Myers, 1:57
  • November--Ehrhoff, 2:56...Gragnani, 2:52...Myers, 2:43
  • December--Ehrhoff, 3:14...Gragnani, 3:14...Myers, 2:43
  • January--Ehrhoff, 3:12...Gragnani, 2:42...Myers, 2:39

Penalty Kill:
  • October--Robyn Regehr, 3:12...Myers, 3:09...Ehrhoff, 2:12
  • November--Regehr, 3:11...Weber, 2:50...Myers, 2:42
  • December--Regehr, 3:11...Myers, Weber, 2:42
  • January--Regehr. 3:03...Myers, 2:33...Leopold, 2:23

Goaltending (year to date):

Ryan Miller--
  • October--4 wins, 4 losses, .930 sv.% (ranked 9th,) 2.14 gaa (ranked 21st,) 1 shutout
  • November--5-6-0, .909 (37th,) 2.86 (41st,) 1 shutout
  • December--9-10-2, .901 (51st,) 3.05 (55th,) 1 shutout
  • January--13-15-2, .901 (57th,) 2.99 (60th,) 1 shutout

Jhonas Enroth--
  • October--2-0, .946 sv % (8th,) 2.00 gaa (13th,) 0 shutouts
  • November--8-4-2, .926 (21st,) 2.27 (26th,) 1 shutout
  • December--8-7-2, .921 (23rd,) 2.49 (32nd), 1 shutout
  • January--8-9-3, .919 (28th,) 2.59 (39th,) 1 shutout

Drew MacIntyre--
  • October--
  • November--0-0-0, .944, 1.40, 0 shutouts
  • December--0-0-0, .944, 1.40, 0 shutouts
  • January--0-0-0, .944, 1.40, 0 shutouts

2011/12 Team Stats--January

The tailspin which basically began with the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller incident in November continued well into January as the Sabres continued their decent towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Could they possibly be worse than the 4-7-3 mark they had in December? Nope. But pretty damn close. They still only managed four wins, matched their seven losses, and had they played two more games, there's the possibility that they would have.

During the month, the team extended a road losing streak that reached a franchise-worse 12 games, stopped by a 2-1 shootout win in New Jersey before the All-Star break. They bookended the break with a win at Montreal last night for their first 2-game win streak since the Lucic incident. Of note, since that hit on Miller the team has gone 11-19-5.

With the two-game streak to end January, Buffalo seems to have stopped the bleeding, although they jump back into it tonight vs. Eastern Conference leaders, the New York Rangers. A stiff test, to say the least, but a team that the Sabres have had some success with in the past.

Every team stat trended downward last month, most notably scoring. The team scored 18 goals in 12 games, were shut out twice and were held to one goal three times. Although there was a slight decline in shots/game, goals/game plummeted from an already poor 2.58 (17th in the league) to 2.38 (26th.)

Goaltending couldn't bail the team out as their goals against average dropped once again. Injuries on defense decimated the club and there could be a case that Miller was suffering the affects of the Lucic hit up until the last two weeks of January when it seems as if he got his reflexes back. He gave up one goal the last two games, albeit vs. teams without the offensive firepower of a Philadelphia, Chicago or Vancouver.

February is a crucial month for the team with the trade deadline being the 27th. The team looks to be sellers come then, the first time in 10 years, unless they put together an impressive run. They sit nine points out of a playoff spot with five teams to jump.

Impossible? By no means. Improbable? Not really. Long-shot? I'd say so. Every team in that mix has flaws, just like the Sabres...


Buffalo will need to go on a run without their leading goal scorer, Thomas Vanek. Vanek suffered an "upper body injury" after a collision. He will miss some time, maybe weeks.

Year to date team stats:


  • October--6 (T-9th)
  • November--13 (T-10th)
  • December--17 (T-23rd)
  • January--21 (24th)

  • October--12 (12th)
  • November--27 (T 15th)
  • December--38 (T-23rd)
  • January--47 (T-24th)

Eastern Conference Standing:
  • October--7th
  • November-7th
  • December-11th
  • January--T-14th

Northeast Division Standing:
  • October--3rd
  • November--3rd
  • December--4th
  • January--T-4th 

  • October--2.90 (8th)...(#1, Wash-3.78)
  • November--2.75 (15th)...(Philly, 3.48)
  • December--2.58 (T-17th)...(Bos, 3.43)
  • January--2.38 (26th)...(Bos, 3.54) 

  • October--29.4 (18th)...(#1, Det-35.7)
  • November--30.9 (10th)...(Det-34.9)
  • December--29.0 (T-19th)...(SJS-34.6)
  • January--28.8 (20th)..(SJS-34.7)

Goals Against/Game:
  • October--2.20 (T-5th)...(#1, Edm-1.46)
  • November--2.58 (T-14th)...(STL, 2.00)
  • December--2.90 (23rd)...Bos, 1.91)
  • January--2.96 (25th)...(STL, 1.96)

Shots Against/Game:
  • October--31.9 (22nd)...(#1, STL-25.9)
  • November--31.1 (21st)...(STL-25.6)
  • December--31.3 (T-24th)...(STL-26.5)
  • January--31.3 (26th)...(STL-26.2)

Five-On-Five GF/GA Ratio:
  • October--1.43 (2nd)...(#1, Wash-1.64)
  • November--1.12 (T-7th)...(Bos-1.71)
  • December--0.93 (20th)...(Bos-1.83)
  • January--0.87 (22nd)...(Bos-1.72)

  • October--21.9% (8th)...(#1, Ott-31.0%)
  • November--18.4 (10th)...(Van-24.8)
  • December--19.0 (9th)...(Van-24.2)
  • January--17.8 (T-16th)...(Van-23.0)

Penalty Kill:
  • October--91.9% (2nd)...(#1, Pit-92.3%)
  • November--87.6 (5th)...(NJD--94.4)
  • December--84.2 (9th)...(NJD--91.2)
  • January--81.4 (20th)...(Mon--89.6)

  • October--50.8% (11th)...(#1, Col-54.7%)
  • November--51.3 (T-9th)...(Bos-55.0)
  • December--51.0 (11th)...(Bos--55.4)
  • January--49.6 (T-18th)...(Bos--55)