Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"It is what it was, which is sad."

Thus spoke Sabres forward Thomas Vanek about the lockout, albeit without the Dennis Green, "They are who we thought they were," melodramatic emphases.

Simply put Vanek, like a lot of hockey fans and writers (maybe even some owners as well,) felt that the lockout could have been resolved months ago. When asked if he had any message for the fans by WGR's Paul Hamilton, Vanek bluntly and dryly states "I think this whole lockout is stupid."


Fortunately, it's over save for some "i"-dotting and "t"-crossing and the formalities of official ratification.

The game of/business of hockey is back, and in a brief encapsulation/opinion I will say that the league got what they wanted--got what they knew they'd get--but were stymied beyond the 50/50 split and player contract issues. The Proskauer Rose lockout scenario played out and were it not for Donald Fehr, the union would have been trampled under foot--again.


The Stanley Cup Champion odds are in and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the favorites at 8-1 followed by the NY Rangers at 17-2. Vancouver leads the Western Conference at 9-1.

The Sabres come in at 25-1, middle of the pack. Which is about right.

TSN quickly posted their hockey preview, which is normally rolled out over the length of the summer.

Buffalo was middle of the road last season, and it wouldn't seem as if much has changed. Their defining quote for the team is, "The silver lining for the Sabres is that they played their best hockey of the season from February onward in 2012 and – had it not been for a New Year's slide – could have caught Ottawa for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East."

Looking back on last season, the "New Year's slide" was actually an extension of an incredible December fold which followed a mediocre November. Their solid, if inconsistent, start to the season was demolished with the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller incident.

And, as for catching Ottawa, had the line of Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford not caught fire, they'd have finished much worse. Which means they would have drafted Mikhail Grigorenko much higher and wouldn't have got the steal they did at the #12 pick.


Grigorenko leads a group of prospects who've had a stellar year thus far.

The big center is coming off of a Bronze medal performance with Russia at the World Jr. where he scored two goals and had four assists. Not big numbers, but the points that he scored could be considered clutch (for more on the WJr's, visit Kris Baker at sabresprospects.com.)

Before the tournament, Grigorenko was having a great year with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. He's presently 5th in the league in goals (1st on the team) with 29 in 30 games.

Remparts coach Patrick Roy confirmed that he'll be invited to training camp saying, 'I spoke to Darcy Regier [Sunday] morning, and he was very clear,' Roy said Sunday evening during his regular appearance on the RDS panel show L'Antichambre. 'He wants to bring him to Buffalo for the entirety of training camp. Afterward, they will see if [Grigorenko] can make the team or not. But I'm still hoping he will back with the Remparts to finish the season. For us, his loss would obviously be devastating, because we count on him a lot.'

Another Blue and Gold prospect who aquitted himself very well at the World Jr's was 2012 second-round pick, Jake McCabe.

The two-way defensman was part of the Gold-medal winning USA squad and was named to the tournaments All-star team. He'll be returning to the University of Wisconsin for his sophomore season.

In addition, the Sabres other 2012 first-round pick (#14 overall,) Zemgus Girgensons has been plying his trade with the Rochester Americans as the youngest player in the AHL. The shutdown center is learning the professional game playing mostly third-line minutes.

With the NHL gearing up, Girgensons should be moving up the ladder as a number of Amerks forwards are slated for the big club.


Two of those Amerks players are expected to be a big part of the Sabres this season--C, Cody Hodgson and the aforementioned Foligno.

Hodgson is at a point/game pace and is coming back from hand issues while Foligno is second on the Amerks in scoring (27) and leads the team in plus/minus with a +7.

Probably the most interesting prospect coming up from the Amerks will be D, TJ Brennan.

A 2007 second round pick (#31 overall,) Brennan presently leads the team in scoring with 31 points in 33 games. He has been prolific on the powerplay with six of his 12 goals coming with the man advantage.

What the Sabres do with Brennan will be interesting as he'll need to clear waivers if he isn't on the big club. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but this season the Sabres have eight NHL-ready defensemen presently on the roster.

The NHL is presently putting together the 2013 schedule and the Sabres players are beginning to gather for the opening of training camp later this week.

Game on.