From Thursday through Sunday a bevy of events happened in the world of Buffalo sports.
The NFL draft came and went, the Sabres season ended outside the playoffs again, and the Rochester Americans are in the playoffs are facing the Toronto Marlies--again.
We could get all "War and Peace" on anyone of the topics, but we'll try to keep it a simple as possible and look at everything on an individual basis as good, bad, ugly, typical.
The Buffalo Bills take QB EJ Manuel in the first round of the NFL Draft.
--GM Buddy Nix went into the draft in the #8 spot hell-bent on drafting a "franchise QB," and everybody knew it. Everyone also knew that the prize offensive weapon in the draft was WR Tavon Austin, who the Bills could have easily taken at that spot. What nobody knew was that the Bills wanted Manuel (not Ryan Nassib, Mr. Sal Paolantonio) and very few thought that the Bills would trade down, except WGR's Joe Buscaglia, who deserves high grades for nailing it dead on. The Bills managed to keep Austin out of the hands of the NY Jets, they drafted a "franchise QB" which will keep the fans and media at bay for a year or two, they got an extra second round pick and Nix's "coveted" seventh rounder--Good
The Buffalo Sabres are out of the playoffs, are in the #8 spot in the draft right now.
--The Sabres beat the NY Islanders on the final game of the season 2-1 in the shootout. Goalie Ryan Miller got the win and Thomas Vanek got the shootout winner. Barring a team behind the Sabres in the draft winning the lottery and moving to #1, the Sabres will draft #8, their highest position since drafting Vanek at #5 in 2003. Buffalo is out of the playoffs for the second straight year and will not have a top-three to five pick in the draft (barring a trade up or winning the lottery.)--Typical
Thomas Vanek will (more than likely) be out of Buffalo.
--With a few games left in the regular season an his team out of the playoffs, I watched Vanek do his best Derek "dipsy doodle" Roy impersonation--a little between the legs, a little blind, back-hand passes and a whole lot of fancy. And, like Roy, nothing came of it. Yeah, he checked out. At 29 years old he's in his prime and has said a few times that he's not interested in a draft-driven rebuild. It will take too long for his liking. And that's if the direction of the organization, he believes "it makes sense for both parties to move on." Vanek is a talented goal-scorer. He also showed, and has shown, his true colors dating back to 2007. He was a mercenary for the payout back then, and he'll be a mercenary for the Stanely Cup now. Trading Vanek now should land them a bounty on par with the take for Jason Pominville. GM Darcy Regier won't say as much, but it's a pretty easy choice. So long and thanks for all the fish.--Good
The Rochester Americans are down 2-0 to the Toronto Marlies in the AHL playoffs.
--For the second year in a row, the Amerks drew the Marlies in the first round of the AHL playoffs. For the second year in a row they find themselves down 2-0 as the series heads to Rochester. Last year they were swept out of the playoffs. This weekend, in their 6-3 opening loss, goalie David Leggio surrendered five goals on 17 shots as the Amerks surrendered three third period goals in defeat. Game 2 saw NHL trade-deadline acquisition Matt Hackett (Minn) give up two goals on 18 shots as the Amerks were shut out 2-0. The Amerks cannot seem to beat the Marlies, even with the additions of C, Mikhail Grigorenko, D Mark Pysyk and F Brian Flynn, all of whom rejoined the team after the Sabres finished the season. Oh, and the goalie who's beaten them is former Amerk Drew MacIntyre who's allowed three goals on 59 shots and garnered a 2nd star and 1st star, respectively, in the process--Ugly
Zemgus Girgensons is really developing.
--The "Latvian Locomotive" has come a long way since he first hit the AHL ice as the youngest player in the league. He took it to another level in Game-1 of the playoffs scoring two goals. He should have had a hat-trick but was absolutely robbed by MacIntyre with the game tied in the third period (click here for a replay of both his goals and the save as well.) Girgensons (#14-overall, 2012) is developing into the player that everyone projected him to be--a talented player with a lot of heart who's able to turn it up in big games. To me, it would seem as if the Sabres have themselves a potential Ryan Callahan/Mike Richards-type, someone they haven't had since Chris Drury left. GM Darcy Regier did...--Good
The Luke Adam boat, it would seem, has sailed.
--The big centerman has no goals and is a minus-2 in the series. He has not scored a goal in his last five playoff games and has one assist. What's more disconcerting is what Paul Hamilton reminded us of on WGR today. Adam had the opportunity to really show what he was made of when he was called up this season. And he proved he wasn't made of much. Yes, he scored a goal in his first game, but after that, he looked as if he really didn't belong in the NHL either because his lack of talent or his lack of interest.--Ugly
Tyler Myers said he needs to focus on his off-season conditioning.
--The former Calder winner has been in decline since that rookie year and he left this season with a broken foot. Myers' skill-level is undeniable, but his willingness to put in the work necessary to excell is suspect. Myers said he will work on his condintioning this off-season. Hamilton also pointed out that when Myers plays more physical, his overall game approaches that Calder-level. He either doesn't have the professional drive or isn't in the proper game-shape to do that on a game-to-game basis. It's reminiscent of what's been said about F Drew Stafford over the last few seasons. And that's not good.--Bad
Disturbing stats concerning the team in front of Miller, and what if he leaves?
--WGR's Matthew Coller wrote a good piece concerning "advanced stats" and the Sabres in front of Miller. Encapsulating his statistical analysis: the Sabres were a really bad team and were it not for "good" goaltending, they'd have been worse in the standings. Just watching the games throughout the last six seasons, Miller and a slew of incompetent back-ups have faced an inordinant amount of prime scoring chances because of a poor team in front of them (save for the 2009/10 season.) You don't need "advanced stats" to come to the conclusion that Miller is the reason they haven't been at the bottom of the league. What's even scarier is that some are willing to put Jhonas Enroth or Matt Hackett on the ice with the youngest team in the league in front of them. The youngest team in the league carrying the worst "advanced stats" of any team with a young goalie in net would be...--Ugly
Darcy Regier looks to be back as GM
--The media hates it. The fans hate it. The numbers dictate he should have been gone years ago. The Buffalo News' Bucky Gleason wanted him gone after the Drury/Daniel Briere fiasco. He should have been gone when he stated that Derek Roy and Tim Connolly were two of the top-20 centers in the league three years ago. Nobody who watched his "core" believed, as he did, that the team was "good enough." He's redeemed himself, though, since Terry Pegula took over the team by tearing down his core and getting full return in his trades. But, can a leopard change his spots? Can you trust him to acquire players who make the team tough to play against? Possible, but not probable. When having the choice between "soft-but-skilled" and grit, he still seems to prefer the former and I don't think that will ever change. Brad Boyes, Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff (kudos for the Robyn Regehr trade,) Joel Armia, Grigorenko (#12) before Girgensons (#14, whom they had to trade up for) and even Cody Hodgson, to an extent. Which means the team will never change and the team will always be easy to play against, as shown by their mediocre play over the last six seasons. If Regier does not build with the likes of more Steve Ott's, that's bad, If he cannot change his spots, then it's going to get real...--Ugly
The Bills add a few players with a troubled past
--EJ Manuel seems to be a real character-guy. But...the Bills, somewhat uncharacteristically, drafted a few players who have marks on their record. 2nd round pick (#46-overall) "Kiko" Alonso seems to have had problems with alcohol during college which got him in trouble a couple of times. Fourth-round pick (#105) Michael "Duke" Williams also had some alcohol problems and was caught driving on a suspended license. The Bills also signed free agent WR Da'Rick Rogers immediately after the draft. Rogers, apparently, liked to smoke pot, and was kicked out of Tennessee for failing drug tests (that's plural.) Rogers went to Tennessee Tech and had an average year, nobody drafted him, but the Bills jumped at the chance to sign him. All three of these players are talented and play with some serious edge--Good...as in, I hope they become some Bad-ass mofo's for the Bills, they need that