Friday, March 15, 2013

News and notes--The Ides of March edition

Is it any wonder that the Sabres are near the bottom of the eastern conference?

Maybe. But a look at how they've fared over the last couple of seasons vs. the east might have given an indication as to what this season would look like.

We'll stretch back to the first post-lockout season with the two Drury/Briere years:
  • 2005/06:  46-21-5
  • 2006/07:  47-19-6
The "New Core" years:
  • 2007/08:  35-25-12
  • 2008/09:  32-24-8
The Vezina Year:
  • 2009/10:  35-22-7
The Decline:
  • 2010/11:  33-24-7
  • 2011/12:  28-26-10
  • 2012/13:  10-14-3
Just an FYI.


They say that the goalie market is thin this season and that pretty much all of the teams have their goalie situations worked out.

Fair enough. Teams in a playoff spot or within must have a level of competency between the pipes to get where they are.

Trading Ryan Miller, if that is what management wants to do, will certainly be difficult without any takers--or any takers within Miller's limited no trade clause.

But while looking at the list of contenders, something interesting jumped out in St. Louis--they have given up more goals against than any team presently in the playoffs in the western conference.

Their goals against average of 2.89 presently ranks 22nd in the league and 13th in the west.

As a team, they're giving up only 24.1 shots/game. Tops in the league.

Which leads us to their goaltending trio's save percentage:
  • Jaroslav Halak:  .881 sv%
  • Brian Elliot:  .851
  • Jake Allen:  .915
A quick contrast.

The Buffalo Sabres have given up the third most shots/game at 33.
  • Ryan Miller:  .914 sv%.
  • Johnas Enroth:  .896
The St. Louis Blues defense is markedly better than the Sabres and the team plays coach Ken Hitchcock's system to a "T".

With the Blues defense as solid as it is, would it be too far-fetched to think that Miller would be having a Vezina-like season?

A battle-tested Miller with that defense and a team that's 7th in the league in scoring (3.00 goal/game) looks a lot better than below average goaltending from Halak and an untested Allen heading into the playoffs.

A couple other quick numbers.
  • The Blues are projected to have approximately $33M in cap-space next season to sign/re-sign 11 players.
  • Miller makes $2.5M more than Halak and both will be UFA's after next season.
One final note.

Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News wrote that, "the Sabres have had scouts at recent games in Los Angeles, Colorado and St. Louis, with the first two clubs getting watched on multiple occasions."

St. Louis being a late entry. Just about the time that reports are coming out about Miller and his future.


In that same article, Harrington connects the dots with Los Angeles and Buffalo:
"Defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell have been out all season with injuries, and the Kings are familiar with [Robyn] Regehr and [Jordan] Leopold from their days with Calgary’s 2004 Cup finalists." He adds, "The Kings would also be intrigued by the addition of Vanek or Pominville as well for their run at another Cup."
As of now, the connection with Colorado seems obscure.

Perhaps Thomas Vanek or Jason Pominville would be a fit in Colorado, with the latter being more plausible.

Vanek is a top-line left winger. The Avs have a young, franchise winger in Gabriel Landeskog who happens to be the captain.

On the other side they have PA Parenteau who's having a great year on their top-line. But behind him is big, top-nine winger David Jones.

A top-six, two-way winger like Pominville would seem to be a much better fit for them.

Looking towards next year's salary cap, the Avs have $13M in cap-space to sign/re-sign four players.


Looking at Regehr, Miller and Pominville, all of them have no trade clauses. Miller and Pominville have limited NTC's, each choosing eight teams they do not wish to be traded to.

Regehr has a full NTC, a clause that was re-upped when he came over from Calgary, a condition he demanded. And according to WGR's Paul Hamilton, he's not been asked to waive it at this time.

Nor, according to Hamilton, has Regehr asked to be traded to a contender. When asked if he'd be open to the possibility, Regehr told Hamilton, “I’m not sure. I think I’d just have to see the situation and see where we’re at here and what situation I would be going to. There’s a lot of moving parts to that, but there’s a no movement clause that would have to be signed and waived. If it does come up it’s not just my decision too, it’s also a family one as well.”

Family has always been big for Regehr, that's why Sabres owner Terry Pegula and his wife Kim flew to Alberta to meet with Regehr's family during the 2011 off-season.


The NHL and NHLPA have finalized the realignment plan they'd been working on. And Buffalo's division just got stronger with the addition of the Detroit Red Wings. Tampa Bay's no cake-walk either. Florida will also join the division next season.

As for Sabres fans, things just got worse.

Looking at the northeast division as it stands right now, the Sabres sit in last place seemingly headed in the wrong direction.

The Montreal Canadians have stormed to the top of the division with a young team by overtaking the reigning division champs, Boston. The B's are only two years removed from their Stanley Cup and have a good mix of battle-tested players.

Ottawa's in third, another young team with strong goaltending and the reigning Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson. They've been holding their own with Karlsson out for the season and #1 center Jason Spezza on IR as well.

After a fast start Toronto has come back down to earth, falling to fourth in the division. But even so, they're still eight points ahead of Buffalo.

The new format will have the top three teams in each division qualifying for the playoffs. Right now it would be Montreal, Boston and Ottawa. On the other side of the conference it would be Pittsburgh, Carolina and New Jersey.

The next two best teams points-wise in the conference would land the seventh and eighth playoff spots, or wild card spots as they will be called. Under the new format, right now it would be Toronto and Winnipeg.

To give you an idea as to what it would take to make the playoffs in this scenario, Buffalo is seven points behind Winnipeg. The teams between them (using next year's realignment) would be Detroit (29 pts.,) NYR (28,) NYI (27,) Philly (25,) Washington (23,) and Tampa Bay (23.) The addition of Detroit would give the Sabres a total of seven teams to jump to get into the playoffs.

With all due respect to the organization and their belief in the current team, ummm...right.

And with that in mind, is there any better time to blow it up and start all over again?

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