Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's a career-defining game for Ryan Miller today.

Former Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was acquired by St. Louis to help them reach the next level.

A young, talented Blues team had been bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs two years running and it was presumed that the 1/1A goalie tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot was in need of an upgrade.

It wasn't so much that the tandem was terrible, they shared the Jennings Trophy in 2011-12 for lowest goals against average, but the opportunity for an upgrade in net presented itself with the availability of Miller.

"Ryan Miller's resume' speaks for itself" said Blues GM Doug Armstrong about the trade for the netminder. “He has this little bit of swagger about him,” Armstrong said of Miller. “He’s got confidence...Selfishly, I think we have a better chance to win and I think he makes us a little bit better.”

The "bet" on acquiring Miller was that the team would not only get out of the first round but would make it to the Western Conference Finals. The move was looked upon as turning a Stanley Cup contender into a Stanley Cup favorite.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Should the Sabres draft a goaltender in 2014?


Where in the draft should they take one?

That's a little tricky.

The Sabres' goalie pipeline is set up nicely right now. Although they don't have the luxury of a young prospect like St. Louis' Jake Allen (2008, #34 overall) that could step in and be a #1 in the very near future, Buffalo does have quality amidst the quantity while the ages and contact status' of the pipeline stretch to seven years. (Of note, Allen, the 2014 AHL Outstanding Goaltender and his Chicago Wolves travel to Rochester on Friday to face off against the Amerks in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The development of Joel Armia and Mikhail Grigorenko is Randy Cunneyworth's first major task.

About a year ago I had a discussion with Kris Baker of about Joel Armia and Mikhail Grigorenko.

The gist of it was former GM Darcy Regier and his penchant for drafting or acquiring (see Tim Connolly) soft-but-skilled hockey players, with Armia and Grigorenko being the last in a long line of players like that.

The Sabres' overall philosophy was changing at the time as the team was moving towards "tougher to play against," "gritty," "bigger, stronger, faster."

Both Armia and Grigorenko have size and plenty of natural skill, but it's their will that is being severely tested at the pro level.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nolan may have his eye on Arturs Irbe as Sabres goalie coach

Sabres beat writer Paul Hamilton said head coach Ted Nolan will release his entire staff after the season ends on Sunday.

Hamilton mentions that long-time goalie coach Jim Corsi could possibly be replaced by Arturs Irbe one of Nolan's assistants at the Olympics this year.

After being drafted in the 10th round by the Minnesota North Stars in 1989 Irbe spent two seasons in Russia before being picked by the expansion San Jose' Sharks in the 1991 dispersal draft.

Irbe went largely unnoticed until the 1993-94 season when he made 74 appearances for the Sharks playing an NHL-record 4412 minutes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On John Scott's desire to re-sign in Buffalo and the diminishing enforcer role

Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hoppe penned an article today about enforcer John Scott's desire to return to the Sabres for a third season, “I love it here,” said Scott, “I don’t see myself playing anywhere else, hopefully.”

Which opens up the retort coming from many Sabres fans, "Yeah, buddy. Neither can any NHL team."

Scott was brought in by former GM Darcy Regier to police the ice. The Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller incident was a blow to the organization and showed just how fragile and soft this team was.

In a way, it worked. That was until Scott mopped up the ice with Bruins "master pugilist" Shawn Thornton then taunted the Bruins bench with a "you're next" finger pointed at the entire team.

 (thx Fred Murtz)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Another dirty hit by a dirty player

Sabres d-man Chad Ruhwedel left the game last night early in the third period after a crushing elbow to the head by Flyers winger Zac Rinaldo.

In the still at the right, Ruhwedel releases his shot from the point. He's off-balance and clearly in a vulnerable position.

Rinaldo's got him lined up, shoulder tucked, elbow cocked and he's ready to unload.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Sabres should send the Cavalry to Rochester

Both Buffalo and Rochester were in action last night and while the Sabres are busy finishing out the schedule, the Amerks are fighting for a playoff spot.

Injuries have riddled the parent club to the point where 10 players are--their two starting goalies, three defensemen and five forwards.

The last injury to Marcus Foligno in the St. Louis game on Thursday forced the Sabres to recall F Luke Adam on an emergency basis. And he nearly didn't make it out alive as he took a Jamie McBain shot right to the jaw.

The Amerks went into last nights tilt vs. Binghamton with 20 yr. old Andrey Makarov in net, one top-pairing d-man in Mark Pysyk and a few top-six forwards in Phil Varone, Kevin Porter and Jamie Tardif.

In addition to Rochester's goalies on recall, four of the Amerks best players were in Buffalo--Adam, F Johan Larsson, D Chad Ruhwedel and D Rasmus Ristolainen.

What Chad Cassidy had last night a small core of quality skaters and a goalie in Makarov (with four AHL games to his resume') who ended up stealing the game. Makarov was so locked-in that at one point he made a glove save after losing both his stick and his blocker. (video from Kris Baker, of in his prospects recap)

With the game notted at three going into the third period Makarov withstood a barrage of 23 shots without allowing a goal. In one sequence he stopped six within close range as the Amerks were clinging to a one goal lead.

The Amerks held on for dear life against a Binghamton Senators team that had won six of seven vs. them this season. This time 'round, that small core-group of Amerks players carried the team.

In addition to Makarov's heroics, Pysyk was a rock on defense, Varone had a goal and an assist while
captain Kevin Porter scored the game winner.

The gutsy performance pulled Rochester to within one point of the final playoff spot and a season that once was fading fast now can be salvaged.

But they could use a little help from the big club.

The Sabres are off tonight and will take the ice tomorrow at Philadelphia and they'll play every other day until the season (mercifully) comes to a close with a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday.

The Amerks have an important game tonight at home vs. a Toronto Marlies team that has been a thorn in their side for years.

With Rochester's next game coming six days later, a bugle announcing the cavalry arriving would do them good.

Maybe Ristolainen and Larsson could be sent east for the night. Adam, who seems fit for the AHL would be a big boost as well.

The Amerks sit one point behind the 7th place Rockford Ice Hogs and one point behind Charlotte Checkers with one game in hand on the latter. They will not play either the rest of the season.

With the Sabres season in the tank and the organization in reset-mode, it would be a great thing for at least one of the teams to overcome a tough, tumultuous season and make it to the post season.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sabres "State of the Union": Reset, Redefine, Rebuild

Note:  This piece was written for, and posted by Hockeybuzz

The 17-year reign of long time GM Darcy Regier ended five months ago when owner Terry Pegula showed him the door. Very little of Regier's "vision" remains.

And that's a good thing.

"The core" is no more and a season of upheaval in Sabreland is beginning to settle. As their 21-46-9 record would indicate, this is not a very good team.

Since the trade of captain Jason Pominville at the 2013 deadline it was pretty obvious they were eschewing the present while planning for the future.

The future was now. But it came on a little too fast.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ted Nolan is right for the Sabres' rebuild

“We are very happy to get this deal done and have Ted Nolan as our permanent head coach going forward,” General Manager Tim Murray said in a statement. “Teddy has proven time and again that he is an exceptional leader, motivator and teacher. He is exactly what we need in a head coach for our hockey team, and we’re confident in his ability to guide our players and turn this team around.”

There you have it.

The interim coach that departed hockey ops president Pat LaFontaine brought in, was retained by the GM he brought in yesterday as Ted Nolan takes the reigns of the Sabres for the next three years.

"He's my guy," said Murray.