Saturday, March 29, 2014

Time is the great healer as the Sabres recognize Dominik Hasek.

Fomer Sabres great Dominik Hasek is back into the fold in Buffalo where he belongs as tonight he will be enshrined in the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame.

Time heals all wounds. Ted Nolan
and Dominik Hasek, March 28, 2014
It's been a long time coming, and an incredible 180 for the Buffalo Sabres franchise as a whole.

At the beginning of this season, long-time GM Darcy Regier was still at the helm eventually concluding a 17 yr. run. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan was coaching in Latvia at the time while Hasek was enjoying the first year of his final retirement, tooling around his native Czech Republic playing pickup games.

The front office turmoil earlier this month in Sabreland is nothing new to this franchise.

Back in 1997, Hasek was becoming legendary, Nolan was winning coach of the year and John Muckler, the GM who put together a group of Sabres that were dubbed "the hardest working team in hockey" had himself a team that won their first division title in 16 years.

Then the bottom fell out.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Still not enthralled with the Matt Moulson trade to Minnesota. On a number of levels.

Last night vs. Vancouver the Sabres were down 2-1 and had a three-on-one break.

Torrey Mitchell was on the left side and had the puck headed into the Nucks' zone. He sent a pass to Cory Conacher who was streaking up the right side.

The lone defenseman was in retreat and there was tons of space. But...

Mitchell's pass was off the mark. By a mile. Not even remotely close.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Has Ted Nolan lost his fire?

On the table, for Ted Nolan's review, is a contract extension given to him from Sabres GM Tim Murray.

The extension has been out there since before the 2014 trade deadline, but Nolan hasn't signed yet.

At first Nolan had mentioned that he would wait until the dust clears from the resignation of his good friend, Pat LaFontaine. LaFontaine, the man who hired Nolan to help turn things around, left the club rather abruptly after 109 days on the job to rejoin the NHL.

It's still unclear why LaFontaine and the Sabres parted ways.

Nolan now says that his attorney's are looking over the offer from Buffalo, and it would seem as if he's in no hurry to sign.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Big Market teams like George McPhee's Capitals need to STFU when in comes to NHL equality

Washington GM George McPhee really needs to stick a sock in it.

Perhaps he was speaking for the likes of the Phoenix's, Florida's, Edmonton's and Nashville's of the league when he brought up the subject of a team like the Buffalo Sabres having an unfair advantage hosting their own scouting combine.

The League has their own which is held in Toronto in late May before the June draft.

According to McPhee, "We originally came up with a combine to streamline that and have all the players go to one place, work out and you get the results. We've improved the combine over the years to make sure we're getting the results we need."

Teams like the Sabres have run their own combines to get a closer look at prospects.

Said Buffalo GM Tim Murray (via TSN,) "I come from a scouting background, I don't want to criticize the combine we have but I want to be able to supplement that with what I want to do. I'm looking for athletes and there are certain tests (that we feel are important) versus strength tests."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Murray adds depth on the wing. A look at his three new forward additions

The Buffalo Sabres acquired three big wingers leading up to and at the 2014 trade deadline--William Carrier, Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers.

All three are power forwards at least 6' tall and weigh in at about 200 lbs. or more.

Hockey's future slots Carrier and Deslauriers as the Nos. 2 and 3 LW behind 5'10" 180 lb. Daniel Catenacci (2011, #77.)

Fasching, the youngest of the three, has the most upside. He's #4 on the right side behind Joel Armia (2011, #16,) who just came over from Finland and has been with Rochester this season, Justin Bailey (2013, #52) and Nicolas Baptiste (2013, #69.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When all's said and done, this is what the Sabres ended up receiving for Regier's core

(edited 5-19-14 after a report from WGR saying the Blues will not re-sign Ryan Miller)
(edited--NY Islanders GM Garth Snow keeps pick No. 5 in 2014 electing to send the Buffalo Sabres their 2015 1st round pick as part of the Thomas Vanek trade)

La Core is no more.

Over the course of two years and through two GM's that "vaunted" group of Rochester Guys drafted and developed by former GM Darcy Regier has been completely dismantled.

Five core players and eight trades involving either them or a return for them has brought us to a bottom line as to what they were finally worth.

But before the bottom line, we'll take go through all the trades involved.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

News and notes as the time change throws us all off

Spring ahead.

I hate losing an hour, but so be it.

And even as the Sabres continue their grasp on the last place spot in the league, they're moving forward.

With all the turmoil, I still find myself locked in, hoping for a victory.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

All hail the General. Murray puts his stamp on the Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres roster is pretty much set for the rest of the season as the 2014 trade deadline has passed.

GM Tim Murray finished what his predecessor had started--stripping the team of every UFA asset that would bring back something of interest in return. At the end of the day he said, "the big players on our roster that were available were traded."

When asked at his post-deadline presser when the rebuild ends and the building begins, Murray smirked a bit and said, "You're never done. We have to add players. We have to create inner-competition. The start of building for me was Friday (with the Ryan Miller/Steve Ott trade, his first trade as a GM.) Today was a continuation of it."

Make no mistake, Murray is the General, and this is his build. Darcy Regier's core group is gone and the NHL players that came back in Regier's core deals--Ott and Matt Moulson among them--are no longer with the team.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

With the big trade out of the way, Murray sits on his assets

Last Friday, Sabres GM Tim Murray got the big deal done.

By sending Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis for a real solid bounty, Murray took the pressure off of himself and the Sabres at his first trade deadline.

Since then Murray has afforded himself the opportunity to lay in wait for the right offer as other GM's play a bit of catch-up.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Front office turmoil won't derail Sabres vision

Head coach Ted Nolan stood their full of emotion, eyes welling up.

He had just gone through his first practice without franchise goalie Ryan Miller and team captain Steve Ott. Both were traded to St. Louis on Friday just before their game with the San Jose Sharks.

On Saturday, he got word that his "dear friend" Pat LaFontaine had just resigned from his position as the Sabres President of Hockey Operations. Nolan was the first person LaFontaine brought on board back in November to guide the on-ice product.

A lesser man would have stood there spewing clichés while reporters dug for answers as to how the front office split came about.

He simply told the media that too much had just transpired for him to go into any kind of detail. Having LaFontaine depart was too much of a blow to even comprehend at that point, much less talk about.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tim Murray still has a bounty of assets heading towards Wednesday's trade deadline

Sabres GM Tim Murray didn't fool around with his first official trade as a GM.

Sabres GM Tim Murray isn't fooling around
He sent goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott to St. Louis for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, forward Prospect William Carrier and a 2015 first round pick. Also involved is a conditional 2014 first round pick. Should the Blues either re-sign Miller or make the Western Conference Final, the Sabres will receive that pick. If not, that pick can be no worse than a 2016 third-rounder.

It was a good hockey trade.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"LaCore" is no more

During the 2004-05 lockout, former GM Darcy Regier had a core group of youngins down in Rochester that he would look to as his "core" of the future.

Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad and Ryan Miller were all down in Rochester and had a remarkable year for the Amerks.

When the lockout ended they all came up together to Buffalo and joined a group of veterans that would eventually make it to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2005-06 season. They would make the ECF again in 2006-07 before the summer that changed the franchise.

July 1, 2007 would see the departures of two veteran leaders--Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Regier's core now had the reigns of the franchise.

What ensued were years of mediocrity and underachievement. They made the playoffs two times out of five seasons getting bounced in the first round each time.

It was clear that this wasn't working.

WGR's Paul Hamilton said it best when he referred to the team as a collection of excellent individual talent that just never gelled as a team.

After extreme patience and a 2011 off-season spending spree that was designed to add to Regier's core, owner Terry Pegula had seen enough failure during the first half of the 2011-12 season.

One by one, the core was dismantled.
  • Feb. 27, 2012--Paul Gaustad and a 2013 fourth-round pick to Nashville for a 2012 first-round pick (#21 and #42 traded to Calgary for #14--Zemgus Girgensons)
  • July 2, 2012--Derek Roy traded to Dallas for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy
  • March 3, 2013--Jason Pominville and a 2014 fourth-rounder traded to Minnesota for Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett a first round pick in 2013 (#16-overall, Nikita Zadorov) and a 2014 second round pick
  • Oct. 27, 2013--Thomas Vanek traded to the NY Islanders for Matt Moulson a conditional 2014 first-round pick and a 2015 second-rounder.
  • November 14, 2013--Darcy Regier fired
  • Feb. 28, 2014--Ryan Miller and Steve Ott traded to the St. Louis Blues for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a 2015 first round pick and a conditional 2014 first-round pick*
In the end, the Buffalo Sabres received quite the haul for the core, although they've paid quite the price as they're in last place this year.

As a long-time fan of the Sabres, I say good-riddance to "la core" and to the man who assembled them--Darcy Regier.

It's not to say that I hate on these guys individually, to the contrary I've been one of Miller's biggest fans and liked Pominville as well. But this group should have been dismantled three years ago as it just wasn't working.

We can now close the book on one of the most uninspiring Buffalo teams of all time. So much talent, so little intestinal fortitude.

Viva LaCore!!!

*Edit:  the conditional 2014 1st round pick:  if the Blues make the Western Conference Finals or Miller re-signs, the Blues surrender their 1st rounder with the Sabres giving their 2014 2nd and 3rd round picks to the Blues. If the Blues do not make the WCF and Miller re-signs after the draft, the Sabres will receive a 2016 2nd round pick. If neither conditions are met, the Sabres will receive a 2016 3rd round pick

On Ryan Miller

If I were to use one word to describe former Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, that word would be unappreciated.

Buffalo fans can be brutal out of frustration and/or ignorance and/or jealousy, and on many occasions they took their frustrations out on Miller.

I have written 49 pieces on the Miller, most all in his defense so I'm not gonna go there. If you want, you can scan his link by clicking here.

I had started this blog back in August of 2010 with my Sabres 40th Anniversary team.

Miller was an honorable mention in net behind Dominik Hasek and Don Edwards.

At the time he was still relatively young win a only a decent amount of games under his belt and he had just had his Vezina year. But more was needed.

And over the last three and a half years, more was found, with no better a season than the present one in which he faced a year of uncertainty backstopping the worst team in the league.

He heads to St. Louis and immediately makes them one of the top contenders for the Cup this year.

And I hope he gets it.

There's nothing I'd like better than to see Miller tooling around Buffalo in the Mr. Softee truck with the theme song blaring and Stanley Cup in tow.

Good luck to a true pro and a helluva goalie.