Saturday, August 31, 2013

Let the predictions begin. The Hockey News has Buffalo finishing...

7th in the new Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.

THN's puck panel bases this upon the Sabres "installing a new young core." Although growing pains will come with this transition, they think that Buffalo is "in better position to do a relatively quick turnaround than some (coughCalgarycough.)"

A "relatively quick turnaround" after this season is very possible for this team. As for this season, if the Sabres move on from veteran goalie Ryan Miller and veteran winger Thomas Vanek, who represent the best two players on the roster, it could get ugly in 2013-14.

Miller, says THN, "is a plus though his numbers haven't been quite as good the last three seasons" since winning the Vezina Trophy. Even so, they think Miller gives the Sabres the "comfort level of a reliable goaltender."

That "comfort level" will be needed on the back end.

Even though the Sabres will have nine or 10 NHL d-men heading into camp, quantity does not always beget quality as they proved last season.

The group of defensemen has vets like Christian Ehrhoff, Henrik Tallinder and Alexander Sulzer and they have a couple heading into their prime in Mike Weber and Jamie McBain

The charge of the younins on the back-end begins with 23 yr. old Tyler Myers. THN points to his declining production since winning the Calder Trophy and they, like everyone else in the hockey world, will be watching his play closely. Most think that his play will improve.

All-in-all, this is still a pretty vanilla group with only Weber showing signs of aggression on a regular basis.

Although the success of the forwards rests upon Vanek's shoulders, THN rightfully points out transition down the middle.

Cody Hodgson is a top-six lock, if and when he signs, and is slated to take on top-line responsibilities. After that they're looking at 19 yr. old Mikhail Grigorenko to transition into a second-line center and fellow 2012 first round draft pick Zemgus Girgensons to make his way on to the team later in the season in a bottom-six role.

The Sabres aren't as thin at center as they once were, but they're a lot younger than "the core" days. That alone indicates more growing pains.

Other forwards to note:  Drew Stafford who's coming off of an abysmal 2013 season; Steve Ott who will be thrust into a spot that's just above where he should be; Marcus Foligno who needs to find his niche.

Look for Girgensons' line-mate in Rochester, Johan Larsson, to make some waves by possibly making the team out of camp.

Lastly, THN takes a poke at Ville Leino and his signing two seasons ago with their peripheral prediction that he "will continue to under-produce for his $4.5 million cap hit and earn $500,000 for each goal he scores."


Quick reaction to the prediction:

Seventh place in the Atlantic is not all that far-fetched, simply based upon the strength of the division. As long as Ryan Miller is in net, the team shouldn't finish lower than that and will probably be looking at finishing somewhere around the bottom-quarter of the league next season.

Take away Miller and Vanek and one could easily see a top-three draft pick next year.

But, like the boys at THN mentioned, with the depth the Sabres have and the cap room that they'll have moving forward, they are positioned for a quick turnaround.

How quick a turnaround will rest squarely on the shoulders of head coach Ron Rolston and his staff.

Rolston has been developing young players througout his coaching career although this will be his first full season behind an NHL bench.

He has a diverse group of players with varying degrees of talent at his disposal and it will be interesting to see where he takes them.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

How much is RFA Cody Hodgson worth?

...And how long should his contract be?

Contract talks between the Buffalo Sabres and the Cody Hodgson camp don't seem to be headed anywhere right now. Hodgson is coming off of his entry level contract and his agent Ritch Winter, like any agent worth their salt, is looking to maximize the top-six center's worth in both dollars and term.

Winter has been in the business for quite a while and for Sabres fans, he'll be remembered for his impact on Dominik Hasek, and the end of "the Dominator's" era in Buffalo. He's a tough agent who won't hesitate to go for the jugular in contract negotiations and isn't affraid to have his client holdout or demand a trade.

As for Hodgson, what is his worth to the Sabres right now?

The 23 yr. old center is coming off of his second "full" season in the NHL, last year being a lockout shortened 48-game schedule. While in Vancouver, he was in a third-line center role as dictated by the players in front of him on the depth chart--Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.

After coming over to the Sabres at the 2012 trade deadline, he was slotted as a second-line center behind Derek Roy. The other top-nine center slot was a mess as free agent signee Ville Leino was tried on numerous occasions to fill that role only to fail miserably. The team eventually settled upon Tyler Ennis as the third-line center for the last 20 games of the season.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, Hodgson should be considered a top-six center in the league, although on the Sabres he would be headed into camp a little above that as their top-line center.

For stats-geeks Hodgson shows solid progression from his Vancouver/Buffalo season to last season:  .49 pts./game in 2011-12; .71 ppg in 2012-13.

Last season .71 ppg ranked him 82nd overall in the league, 23rd amongst centers.

On the negative side, his minus-4 put him way down the ladder overall. Interesting to note, though, is that his plus/minus only started to tumble when he came to the Sabres. In 2011-12 he had a plus-8 with the Canucks and a minus-7 with the Sabres.

This may be the reason why.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis admittedly "built Hodgson into an NHL scorer" and hid Hodgson's deficiencies on defence by giving him an inordinate amount of offensive zone starts to make him "something we could move." Said Gillis, "We put Cody on the ice in every offensive situation we could."

It worked.

The 'Nucks sent Hodgson to Buffalo for fello first round pick Zack Kassian, who was one of six young players Gillis coveted.

Hodgson had good production for the Sabres last year as his 34 points were second on the team. But his minus-4 ranked him near the bottom in Buffalo.

The Buffalo News' Jon Vogl summed it up nicely whe he said, "The 23-year-old [Hodgson] saw goal lights flashing at both ends of the rink all season. His advance stats feature offensive promise and defensive nightmares."

Vogl continued:

The Sabres averaged 2.91 goals per 60 minutes when Hodgson skated five-on-five, according to, a website dedicated to hockey statistics. That number put him ahead of star centers such as Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux (2.90), Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom (2.89) and the New York Rangers’ Brad Richards (2.88).
While his offense was stellar, the other side of Hodgson’s game was a mess. Opponents averaged 3.64 goals against him per 60 minutes while skating five-on-five. Of the 689 skaters who appeared in at least 10 games, Hodgson ranked 665th.
In other words, only 24 players in the league were easier to score against.
Hodgson, defensive nightmares and all, may in fact be the most skilled player on the Buffalo Sabres at this point (sans 29 yr. old Thomas Vanek.)

After his first game as a Buffalo Sabre back in 2012 I wrote, "Vancouver has some real good forward depth from the skill side to be able to trade away a talent like him, Hodgson already looks to be better than almost anyone on the team up-front.

His skating is pretty smooth, he has great on-ice vision, his transition game is quick, he backs off the defenders and he always seems to be in the right position."

And Hodgson still has tremendous up-side on offense. For a team like Buffalo that was 23rd in the league in goals for, they could use all the help they can get.

He also showed great progress under the guidance of head coach Ron Rolston.

With Rolston as head coach for the Amerks during the lockout, Hodgson had what might be considered a solid stat line:  19 games; 5 goals, 14 assists, minus-3.

When Lindy Ruff was fired and Rolston was promoted to Sabres head coach, Hodgson's stat line was 22 games; 6g, 9a, plus-4.

Projecting out, there's no reason to believe that Hodgson won't continue to progress. He's still learning the game, still adjusting to playing against the opposition's best forwards on the top line and he's still working out every summer with Gary Roberts.

Is a consistent 70-80 point producer too far fetched?

Not at all.

While the Hodgson camp is correct in not accepting a "prove it"-type bridge contract the Sabres, especially after dolling out a big long-term contract to Tyler Myers, are rightfully skeptical about going big money/long-term again.

Hodgson will make more than Tyler Ennis' $2.8M per season, and if the Sabres were dumb enough to pay $4M to Drew Stafford and $4.5M to Ville Leino, it's not Hodgson's fault.

A 4yr./$16M contract might be one for them to look into with the Sabres doing most of the giving here.

Hodgson gets himself a hefty pay raise and a contract that will take him to unrestricted free agency at the end of it.

Buffalo gets themselves a top-six forward, potential top-line center for four years while the wealth of center prospects in the organization have the opportunity to sort themselves out.

After year three, both sides will have the opportunity to re-evaluate the situation and see how they'd like to move forward which would mean another extension or a trade.

It's something they all should be able to live with.

Edit:  6yrs/$28.5m
         $4.25m cap-hit

Friday, August 23, 2013

Traverse City and an NHL-ready prospect in Johan Larsson, to keep an eye on

Buffalo Sabres youngins will be headed to Traverse City, Michigan from September 5-9 as part of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

Buffalo won the tournament in their first year--2011--and is the defending champion as last year's tournament was cancelled because of the NHL lockout.

The team will feature a mix of players with some NHL experience like Mark Pysyk and Mikhail Grigorenko, some AHL'ers including Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Fredrick Roy and will feature recent draft picks like Joel Armia (2011,) Zemgus Girgensens (2012,) Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov (2013) who will be making their first appearance.

The Sabres have one invitee, D Connor Bolland.

(for the full roster, click here)

A quick note on the roster in general:  the team has some size and girth. The average numbers up-front are 6' 1/2" 192 lbs while on the back end the average is 6'2" 205 lbs.

Of the 24 prospects headed to Traverse City, two are already slated to be on the big club--Pysyk and Grigorenko. And there may be one more poised to make the team out of camp in two-way forward Johan Larsson.

Larsson is a 5'11" 200 lb. C/LW who came over from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade. Although not the top prospect in the Wild pool at the time, Larsson was right there just behind center Mikael Granlund and neck-in-neck center Charlie Coyle.

The 2010 second-round pick (#56) had just played his first NHL game and was preparing for his next one when the Minnesota Wild told him he was traded. He spent the rest of the season with the Rochester Americans.

Of all the Sabres forward prospects, including Grigorenko, Larsson may prove to be the most NHL ready at this stage of the game. He plays a solid two-way game, can skate and has a nice skill-set. He has a bit of grit to go along with his play-making abilities as well. Although he doesn't have the offensive up-side of Grigorenko, his defensive game is NHL-ready and as we'll see, his offensive numbers eventually come along.

Last year with the Amerks he played in 7 regular season games had one goal, three assists and was a minus-2. Before coming to the Sabres organization he had 15 goals and 22 assists in 62 games for the AHL's Houston Aeros. It was his first year of North American hockey.

From 2008 to 2012, Larsson was in his homeland of Sweden playing in their leagues.

Hockey'sFuture followed his progression through the ranks and his "eye for the game" (as they describe it) reflects in his numbers as he wrapped his hands around the game at the various levels.

Starting with the 2008-09 season, Larsson played for Byrnas at the J20 junior level. That year he recorded 4 goals and 5 assists in 33 games. The next season for the J20 Byrnas team he had 15 goals and 19 assists in 40 games.

Larsson began the 2010-11 season with J20 Byrnas and proceed to torch the league for 6 goals and 9 assists in 10 games before making the jump to the Swedish Elite League.

That season, his rookie season with Byrnas Elite he had 4 goals and 4 assists in 43 games.

His 2011-12 sophomore season for Byrnas saw a big jump in his numbers as he scored 12 goals and had 24 assists in 49 games.

All the positive traits that Larsson shows on the ice--his intelligence, hockey sense, "eye for the game" and work ethic--allowed him to methodically climb up each hockey rung producing big jumps in production as he learned at each level. Those traits also came in handy during his rather surprising April 3, 2013, the date he was traded.

Chadd Cassidy was interim coach (now head coach) with the Rochester Americans at the time of the trade and he had high praise for how Larsson handled everything. He said Larsson "plays a lot older than he is, is very smart and thinks the game very well."

It' echo's something Ryan Kennedy of the HockeyNews wrote about him (via hockeywilderness) back in 2011:  "[Larsson] is a dynamic and intelligent player who works extremely hard and is beyond competitive."

Kennedy ends up comparing Larsson to fellow Swede Sammy Pahlsson. Pahlsson was one of the best defensive forwards in the game during his NHL career, but hockeywilderness author Dan Chan bumps that comparison up a notch, "So the Wild drafted a player that has tons of similarities to Sammy Pahlsson, one of the leagues premium defensive forwards, but seems to have a knack of showing up offensively as well? A bulky, versatile forward? A nineteen year old that plays regular minutes, will captain his country against top junior players, and will be relied on for his offensive game, his defensive game, his faceoff ability, and his grit and energy?

Forget Pahlsson, that sounds alot like what Mikko Koivu does for the Wild."

Some pretty good comparisons that seem to be ringing true two years later.

Larsson had good numbers for the seven games he played as an Amerk after the trade, and proceeded to kick it up a notch in the playoffs.

In three games for Rochester he had three assists and was a plus-2. He centered a line that had 2012 first-round draft pick Girgensons on the wing with the "Latvian Locomotive" cashing in three goals on Larsson's three assists. Girgensons was also a plus-2.

Interesting to note that both Larsson and Girgensons are hard-skating, two-way centers who can play the wing. Having both progressing very well may have allowed the organization to eschew two-way forwards Elias Lindholm and Bo Horvat at the 2013 Draft in favor Ristolainen and Zadorov, two big, gritty, skilled defensmen with some offensive upside.

Larsson (as well as Girgensons) is the type of two-way forwards the Sabres are centering their rebuild around and both will have a shot at the big club this season, probably in a third-line role.

At this point, Larsson probably has the upper edge being older and having worked his way up the ranks. Cassidy took a look at his pro-aspects, '[Larsson is] very good positionally. He’s got a good a good skill level. He’s probably more of a playmaker than he is a finisher. He’s very strong. He wins a lot of puck battles. He’s very well put together. He’s a guy that really helps your D corps out in terms of being able to get the puck out of your zone as a centerman.'

At some point during the 2013-14 season, Larsson will get his shot to take his game to the pro level. The Sabres want players like him. They need players like him. And it wouldn't be surprising to see Larsson bring his "Pahlsson/Koivu-like" game to the Sabres as early as Day-One.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

On's 30-in-30 series--Buffalo Sabres is gearing up for the regular season covering 30 teams in 30 days.

On August 16, they took a look at the Buffalo Sabres.

In their overview, they touched upon the tumultuous 2013 lockout shortened season with the departures of long time coach Lindy Ruff as well as veterans Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and homegrown captain Jason Pominville.

Author Davis Harper points that GM Darcy Regier iced the youngest roster in the league at the trade deadline as the aforementioned three vets were traded for picks and prospects. And he rightfully gives Regier his due for landing a first-rounder and second-rounder for Pominville, two seconds for Regehr and a second for Leopold. Regier also landed two very good prospects--C, Johan Larsson and G, Matthew Hackett in the Pominville trade to Minnesota.

The purge of the Regier's "core," or as Team President Ted Black calls them--"the Rochester Guys"--is in full-force with only two homegrown "core" players remaining--F, Thomas Vanek and G, Ryan Miller.

In looking at the team, which presently stands as the third youngest in the league according to NHL, the Buffalo Sabres are putting the charge of the youngins in the hands of head coach Ron Rolston.

Rolston had been part of an extremely successful US National Team Development Program from 2004-11 and was credited with being, "Perhaps the most decorated coach in NTDP history, Rolston-led teams have never missed the championship game in either of the major NTDP tournaments--the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship. In the 4 IIHF U-18 Championships that his teams competed in, they brought home 3 golds and a silver medal."

"The first professor at the University of Sabres" hits the real world full-time this season with what will probably be the youngest team in the NHL.

As a teacher, he will have the benefit of a full training camp with which to teach and evaluate. And with such a young group of players, he will have the opportunity to mold them into players that fit the new identity of the Buffalo Sabres.

That identity was defined early when new owner Terry Pegula stated at his first presser in 2011 that he wanted "not only statistically good players, but winners, gritty players."

At the 2012 Draft Assistant GM/Head Amateur Scout Kevin Devine hearkened "bigger, stronger, faster."

Leading up to the draft this season we heard Pegula on WGR saying that he likes "players who will not be outworked."

In an interview with GR a few days later, Regier acknowledged (finally?) that "the game is getting bigger and you [need] to have people who are willing to compete and you [need] to have size in your lineup." he said. "There's a shift in that general direction over what we saw coming out of the [2004-05] lockout."

At the 2013 NHL Draft, Devine asked the question, "Do you want to get tougher to play against?" as hulking defenseman Nikita Zadorov kept falling to them at #16. The answer was a resounding yes. They did not hesitate picking the hard-hitting d-man.

Devine himself was a gritty, two-way forward in his pro hockey career and his picks, especially this year, are laden with those traits.

As the team moves forward this season, it will be up to Rolston to mold this group of young players into the team envisioned by the Sabres hierarchy.

After taking over for Ruff last season, Rolston proceeded to stabilize an ugly situation in Buffalo. The team he inherited was a sieve on defense and their effort was inconsistent at best.

His attention to detail and focus upon fundamentals pulled the team up from the depths of the Eastern Conference. Although it wasn't quite enough to get them in to the playoffs, the team ended up a very respectable 15-11-5 during his tenure.

Said Regier of taking the "interim" moniker off of Rolston's title, "seeing Ron's interaction with the team, both as a teacher and a motivator ... for me personally, it became more and more evident that he was a very good fit not only for the present but for the future."

As the team heads into the 2013/14 season, the future is now for Rolston and his charges.

Just how, or even if, his teachings and motivation will result in wins at the NHL-level is to be determined. The Sabres have two big question marks heading into the season in Vanek and Miller who should be looked at as keys to immediate success on the ice.

Without one or both, there could be much more darkness before the dawn.

As Harper concludes, "the overhauled Sabres enter their first full season, [the] future remains uncertain, but the plan is fully in motion."

Which is fine.

The rebuild is on. Let's get the suffering over and done with.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kevin Devine and the Sabres vs. Chris Pryor and the Flyers at the 2013 NHL Draft

Well, not so much a mano-y-mano battle of both teams' head scouts, more of a comparison of thought processes concerning amateur players rankings at the draft.

Before we get into it, much thanks should go out to the NHL and their teams for providing behind the scenes videos of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Previously we delved into the Sabres and their draft workings via Beyond the Blue and Gold.

Last week the Philadelphia Flyers released Flight Plan, Episode 1--The War Room.

Flight Plan takes us into the Flyers draft room as they prepare their list of prospects. Philly scouts are all focused upon Scouting Director Chris Pryor and the draft board up on the wall.

The Sabres and Flyers have a history that dates back to the mid-70's with The French Connection meeting the Broadstreet Bullies in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.

That history is also embedded in Sabres owner Terry Pegula. His introduction to hockey was with the Flyers back then, but he wound up falling in love with The French Connection and the Buffalo Sabres.

Both teams missed the playoffs in the 2013 lockout-shortened season. The Sabres would have the 8th pick in the draft while the Flyers would have the 11th.

And both teams "had their guy" as they went to the table.

For the Sabres, Assistant GM/Head Amateur Scout Kevin Devine and his scouts pegged defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

Pryor and the boys from Philly went to the draft table with their guy as well.

The Flight Plan video gives us a glimpse as to how they got there, but what's interesting concerning the connection between the Sabres and the Flyers is how they ranked their players.

Once again, with the 8th pick in the draft the Sabres were locked into Ristolainen. But they also had a player fall to them at No. 16 that they did not expect--defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

None of the Sabres scouting staff expected Zadorov to be there and some even had him rated higher than Ristolainen. Devine said that the big Russian "kept sliding and we kind of looked at each other and said 'this is a no brainer.'"

He encapsulates the enthusiasm of picking Ristolainen and Zadorov, "If somebody would have told me we got these two guys at No. 8 and 16, I'd be shocked."

Sitting with the 11th pick, GM Paul Holmgren and his staff watched as their guy was slowly falling to them.

Prior to the draft, Flight Plan gives us a glimpse as to how they came to pick defenseman Samuel Morin.

It's later in the video when Pryor asks his staff, "Who has the most upside?"

A scout jumps in, "Morin," he said and quickly qualifies it, "I don't know if he's going to hit it, but he has the most upside."

Pryor proceeds to take his marker and move Morin up the chart (everything on the chart except for Morin's name is scrambled) but we come to find out later that the scouting staff moved him up to No. 6 on their depth chart.

Here's how they rate the group after Morin. Pryor says, "We got Risto (Ristolainen) at #11. (Darnell) Nurse at #12. (Sean) Monahan at #13." Then he amends it to:

  • Morin (defenseman)
  • (Mirco) Mueller (defenseman)
  • Zadarov (defenseman)
  • Nurse (defenseman)
  • Risto (defenseman)
  • Monahan (center)
Unless something happened at the draft table, it would seem as if defense was what they were going for.

What's interesting here is the juxtaposition of the scouting staffs.

The Sabres were intent upon picking Ristolainen, a more well-rounded defenseman, who was said to be the most NHL-ready of that defensive grouping.

The Flyers were more interested in upside on defense and had Morin as the guy, moving him all the way up to No. 6 on their draft board.

Here's what sportsnet's Patrick King had to say about Morin:
"Morin has such raw potential that there is no real consensus ranking among the scouting community. His skating ability at his size is an asset NHL teams will surely covet. He can move the puck well with an outlet pass and shows enough poise with the puck on his stick to seek out his best option. Morin doesn’t have an overwhelming shot, but it is utilitarian in that he generally gets it on net. He’s solid in his own end and uses his long reach beneficially. He’s one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft class, and it should be interesting to see where NHL teams value his potential on draft day."

Here's a scout's take (via sportsnet):
'He’s a monster on the ice,” says Ross MacLean, head scout for International Scouting Services. “He has tremendous size and moves very well for his size. While he is a good skating and decently mobile defender, he still has a lot of technical development left to do with his footwork. He has smooth hands for a big man and some decent offensive upside but his biggest appeal is that he is a capable two-way defender who has a ton of room to develop and who has the potential to be cultivated into a real stud defender.'
Interesting to note that King rated Ristolainen a bit higher than Morin, and said this about teams that might be interested in Ristolainen:
"The Philadelphia Flyers have been in search of quality defencemen for years. There’s no better place to address this need than with a player like Ristolainen, a late birthdate who’s been playing pro for several years and may be ready to make the jump to the NHL as early as next season. They will have several options around the 11th pick and Ristolainen would make a lot of sense for the Flyers."
Another quick note, Philly also had Zadorov and Nurse rated higher than Ristolainen, but had all of them in the mid-teens on their needs-board.

Three or four years down the road, because of these vids, we'll be able to see just how each scouting staff did with their projections.

Maybe both teams will end up with what they wanted, maybe one will and one won't, maybe they'll both be wrong.

But it's awesome having a definitive point of reference to look back upon.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"Do you want to get tougher to play against?"

So posed the question from Buffalo Sabres Assistant General Manager/Head Amateur Scout Kevin Devine to the brain trust seated at the 2013 NHL Draft table.

It was a question that both GM Darcy Regier, seated at Devine's right, and Owner Terry Pegula, seated at his left, emphatically said yes to.

That was the scene from Beyond the Blue and Gold at BBG is an award-winning series that takes us behind the scenes of the Sabres hockey world.

"Tougher to play against" has been a goal of Pegula and Regier ever since the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller incident exposed Regier's weak, fragile team. It's something that they could see, but just couldn't touch.

Devine, on the other hand, knew the type of player they'd need to draft to help fulfill that goal.

The Sabres had already selected "their guy" (according to Devine) with their first pick in the draft, big Finnish defenseman, Rasmus Ristolainen.

Sabres 2013 draft pick, defenseman
Nikita Zadorov said on draft-day,
"Yeah, I really like to hit."
Another defenseman with their second first-rounder, said Devine "wasn't even in their plans," but hulking defenseman Nikita Zadorov kept slipping. And as he got closer to No. 16, where the Sabres sat with their next pick, Devine posed that question, "Do you want to get tougher to play against?"

Make no mistake. This was Kevin Devine's draft.

I'd asked Kris Baker of, about that and he said that it was a team effort, which of course is true. But it was clear in that Devine had the final decision.

Kevin Devine, who played for
the Indanapolis Checkers, was
 "a gritty winger who could score"
In the BBG piece, Devine talks about the work they as a team put into the process and how, maybe unlike other teams, they go as far as they can up until draft day working them to the point where he probably "drives his staff crazy with all the meetings." But, he says, "we want to get this right."

It's always been assumed that Regier has the final say in player personnel matters including the draft, and it would seem as if that had been the case for most of the 16 years he's been on board as Sabres GM. But the winds of change are beginning to howl at the foot of Washington St.

The team is moving away from the passive qualities of Regier, as displayed by in his soft, underachieving "core" over the last six seasons, towards a more aggressive team.

"Kevin's a fierce competitor," said Reiger, "fiery.

Baker said that Devine has tons of say when it comes to team building and that Regier gives him full trust, a trust that stretches back to the 2008 draft where the Sabres sat at No. 13 and only one team standing between them and "their guy."

At that draft, Devine convinced Regier to move up one spot to select defenseman Tyler Myers.

We all know that Myers hasn't been playing well the past few years, but as a rookie in 2009-10, he won the Calder Trophy at age 19. As a scout, that's about as good as it can get.

Since then, Devine has been taking on more responsibility within the Sabres organization.

Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said back in 2012 that Devine needs an "amendment to his job title."

"Devine," he said, "oversees the operations in Rochester. His duties span well beyond just amateur scouting."

That was on the heels of a Regier interview with WGR's Schopp an the Bulldog the previous month where he amended Devine's title while answering a question. "I was talking with Kevin Devine, Director of...Assistant General Manager who still oversees the amateur scouting."

As of yet, there's been nothing official with Devine's promotion to AGM even though he's listed in the Sabres 2012-13 media guide as being in that position for two years.


Perhaps they're taking a page out of the Buffalo Bills playbook.

Earlier this year, Bills AGM Doug Whaley seemed to be the acting GM while Buddy Nix still had the title. It was pretty clear that the reigns of the franchise were in the hands of Whaley, especially at the draft, and soon it was official. Nix stepped aside and Whaley officially took the title of GM soon after the draft.

Regardless of the title, Devine has some serious input into the team.

It's said that a team is a direct reflection of it's GM, and as we look at the Sabres and the types of players that they're rebuilding with, one can deduce that it's more of a Devine team than a Regier team--more aggression, less passivity.

Even something as little as how he briefly describes Ristolainen reveals how Devine looks at a player, "he has size, grit and skill" he said of 8th-overall pick in the 2013 Draft (the "grit" part being placed before the "skill" part.)

There are other little nuggets in the Beyond the Blue and Gold piece as well.

Overall it presents Devine between Regier and Pegula at the draft taking full command of the table.

And he is definitive in his beliefs.

On the Ristolainen pick:  "We're taking Ristolainen at eight, unless he's gone. We've got our guy, we're not moving to 10. They're gonna take our guy."

But what is also revelatory in respect to his somewhat new stature within the organization is that he's a bit spirited at one point, something one would see in a "rookie."

When the Nashville Predators are headed to the podium to make their pick at No. 4 he gets somewhat animated.

"They've got their f-in' Finn scout up there," a nervous Devine bemoans as he anticipates the Preds taking Finnish defensman, Ristolainen. "Holy sh!t."

After Nashville takes Seth Jones 4th overall, he exclaims, "Thank God."

It's pretty obvious that Kevin Devine has scouting and player development (overseeing Rochester) under his belt. Do his duties stretch beyond that into the big club and their player choices at the NHL level? Is his fingerprint on the Derek Roy for Steve Ott trade? A trade that may end up being a franchise landmark in regards to team-building?

For fans like myself who've been dying for a change in the culture of the Buffalo Sabres, specifically at the GM position, I would say that this change has already begun. It's not a firing and hiring, but a transition.

Present GM Darcy Regier seems to be on his way out of that title and Kevin Devine seems to be the man who will take control.

"Do you want to get tougher to play against?" asks Devine, innately, confidently knowing how to address that.

The answer from Sabres-nation is a resounding yes and we know that it starts with the GM and the team he'll  fashion in his image an likeness.

That likeness is not of Regier, but of Devine.

From the 2012-13 Buffalo Sabres media guide:

Kevin Devine begins his 15th year with the Buffalo Sabres and his second as assistant general manager. In this role, Devine oversees the organization’s seven-member amateur scouting staff and is instrumental in making Buffalo’s NHL Entry Draft selections.

Prior to becoming the assistant general manager, Devine spent, five years as director of amateur scouting, six years as a professional scout in the Sabres organization and two as an assistant amateur scout.

Before joining the Sabres, he spent three years coaching the Prince Edward Island Senators of the AHL. He also coached in the UHL, with stints in Port Huron and Thunder Bay.

Much appreciation to the Buffalo Sabres and the producers of Beyond the Blue and Gold.