Monday, June 30, 2014

Looks like Christian Ehrhoff will be a surprise compliance buyout

Reprinted with permission from

That Ville Leino was No. 1 on most list of NHL compliance buyouts was a given. He had given bailed and rather than him being a complete waste taking up a roster spot, Sabres GM Tim Murray waived him with the intention of buying him out.

Leino was part of a big 2011 off season that saw new owner Terry Pegula cutting loose the financial chains of then GM Darcy Regier. The unrestricted free agent was signed to a 6 yr./$27M contract.

That summer kicked off with the late June trade for defenseman Robyn Regehr. The Calgary defenseman had a no-trade clause and was convinced by Pegula and Co. to waive it to come to Buffalo.

The Sabres also took back Ales Kotalik and his $3M contract in the deal.

In between Regehr and Leino was another big signing which was actually a "re-signing."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Tim Murray 2014 BPA Draft Show

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Early on when Tim Murray was hired as the Buffalo Sabres general manager, he laid out a definitive procedure for rating prospects. It was a system that he had used previously with Ottawa and was based on a 1-7 grading range.

He was quite adamant that the scouting staff follow his system, one that had worked very well for him.

Murray is a no-nonsense kinda guy. He's also a take control kinda guy. And over the course of the last five months since his hire, he invariably talks in the first person when addressing questions about the Buffalo Sabres.

Sabres grab Sam Reinhart in a fairly predictable 1st round

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The first round of the 2014 NHL Draft was about as predictable as could be player-wise with all the big fireworks coming in the form of the Ryan Kesler trade.

Vancouver shipped the disgruntled center to Anaheim for the 24th pick, a 2014 third rounder, Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa. That the Canucks couldn't get the Ducks other higher first rounder (No. 10 previously acquired from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade) says a lot about who was in control in this trade.

Another trade, one that might have been relatively significant for the Buffalo Sabres was the NY Islanders trading two second rounders (Nos. 35 and 57) for the 28th overall pick.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Two mid-second round picks to ponder

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Most scouts and draftniks look at the 2014 Draft as one that isn't particularly star-studded yet they invariably say that it's filled with many players that will be solid NHL contributors.

Those players expected to be NHL'ers come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. As "best player available" begins to give way to needs, teams will be able to look at their depth chart come the second round and be able to fill a need by grabbing a player whose skill level is similar to those around him.

The Buffalo Sabres need scoring up-front which they'll address in the first round mainly with either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett (or even Leon Draisaitl or Michael Dal Colle.)

Bennett came out on top here in the battle of the Sam's because of his speed, scoring touch and tenacious attitude. That's not to say that Reinhart is chopped liver, but as laid out previously, the Sabres have a Herculean task in front of them and Bennett seems like the type of player that will, in the words of Bruce Cockburn, "kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sisyphus' boulder, Buffalo sports and my No. 2 overall pick.

Reprinted with permission from

It's not hard for Buffalo sports fans to relate to the myth of Sisyphus. In Greek mythology Sisyphus will forever roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down just before it gets to the top.

In 1975 and again in 1999, the Buffalo Sabres rolled that boulder up the hill to the Stanley Cup Finals only to see it roll back down after Game-6 losses.

And the Buffalo Bills in the 90's had it happen four times in a row as they got close to the top only to have it roll back down.

Some call it a curse and others bad luck. But no fan in Buffalo who has watched their teams fall short so many times will take these words by Albert Camus to heart, "The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Not here.

I don't think there's a Buffalo fan out there who's happy just partaking in the journey. Sure, back in '75 there was a "wow" factor as the Sabres made the Finals for the first time. But after being the bridesmaid six times, it kinda gets old. Or worse yet, might give someone a complex.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looking to do a little gambling with the 31st overall pick?

Reprinted with permission from

At one point in the draft rankings Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo looked to be a sure first-rounder.

Central Scouting had him rated as the No. 10 rated North American skater while ISS had him ranked No. 23 and TSN had him 24th.

DeAngelo is an exceptional offensive defenseman. He's an excellent skater who can log big minutes. As his 11 goals and 42 assists in 35 games attest, he's a gifted playemaker as well as finisher. With number like that, and with a big drop-off after top defenseman Aaron Ekblad, he was well on his way to being plucked in the top-15 if not higher.


In February this year, DeAngelo was suspended by the OHL for violating the league’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy. He was said to have made a racist, sexist or homophobic comment at a teammate. For the second time.

There's room on almost any NHL team for a Kris Letang-type defenseman who could run the powerplay, distribute the puck, score and log big minutes. Yet, because of his red flags, there are very few who might be willing to take on the excess baggage DeAngelo's be bringing with him.

As of right now, the draftniks expect him to drop out of the first round all together with a couple of them having him at No. 31 overall. Right where the Sabres presently stand with the first of their three second-rounders.

Were DeAngelo to drop, would it behoove the Sabres to pluck him with the 31st pick?


Although Buffalo has a strong stable of defensemen in the system, like Kris Baker of pointed out, they do not have that preeminent offensive defenseman.

There are mobile defensemen and there are puck movers, but there is no pure offensive defenseman. In fact they haven't had one since Brian Campbell was traded.

At this point in time and with the team at least a year or two from respectability, grabbing a player like DeAngelo and having him slowly develop for a few years is not a bad idea.

Sure it's a gamble, but so is the whole draft process.

Buffalo has a number of character guys throughout the system. They have a number of steady defensive defensemen and players like Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe who have a strong two-way game. And they have some players that are gritty and tough and who play with an edge.

But they don't have that offensive threat from the blueline.

Sure. DeAngelo needs to mature and he may be one cocky S.O.B. And, yes, the rebuilding Sabres organization may end up throwing away the 31st pick in the draft.

It's a gamble worth taking, though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tyler Ennis leads a group of smaller players looking to stick with Buffalo

Reprinted with permission from

At 5'9", 170 lbs. Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis was the smallest player in the organization before Cory Conacher was claimed off of waivers. Conacher is listed at 5'8" 180 lbs.

Yet despite a GM who has been throwing around the word "heavy" ever since the trade deadline, the diminutive Ennis looks to be a part of the organization moving forward.

At Thursday's press conference Sabres GM Tim Murray was asked about the status of Ennis, a restricted free agent. Would the Sabres re-sign him, in part, to help the team get to the cap floor?

"It's not the floor issue at all," said Murray. "I like the player."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Plenty of options for the Sabres to get back into the first round.

Reprinted with permission from

Every year come draft time there's talk of various drop-off points in the pool of prospects.

Last year there were "the big four" of  Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Alexsander Barkov followed closely Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan. The next grouping stretched down to the 10/11 area.

Sabres Assistant GM Kevin Devine was has said that this year's group of prospects begin with the top-four of Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart,Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl. He also mentioned previously that there could be a fifth player in that mix.

During an interview with Mike Morreale of, Devine stretched that a bit saying, "Maybe the draft tapers off a little bit after the top six or seven," but came back to the top-four line of thinking. After those, he said, "The guys in the five to 20 range are probably as strong as we've seen in that range in the past."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Two plus two equals an opportunity with the Sabres for Patrick Kaleta

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Very few players in the National Hockey League elicit extreme emotions like the Buffalo Sabres' Patrick Kaleta.

Universally reviled and hated by the opposition, yet loved by many a Sabres fan, the 28 yr. old veteran of eight professional seasons in Rochester and Buffalo is entering the 2014-15 season on the last year of his contract. Despite a turbulent season that was cut short by an injury while in Rochester, it would seem as if he's headed into camp with a good shot of being with the big club.

That Kaleta was a victim of his own reputation is not to be denied. That he's also been targeted by the NHL and levied extreme penalties because of said reputation is the main reason the Buffalo, NY native ended up in Rochester after being waived by the Sabres.

“This was a move we thought was necessary to help Pat change his game and preserve his career,” former GM Darcy Regier said at the time. “We believe in Pat as a person and we hope he will continue his career, if the circumstances are right, with the Buffalo Sabres.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

Two top-40 draft picks to stretch out the pipeline

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres hit Philly in just over a week with four of the first 49 picks in the draft this year and are slated to have three second rounders at this time.

Over the course of the last two drafts they've taken 19 players filling up their prospect pipeline pretty well. Not all will make the cut, obviously, but there are still a lot of bodies in the organization to sort through over the next couple of years.

With a pretty good bounty of picks in this draft and movable assets within the organization, there's a good possibility Sabres GM Tim Murray will be able to move back into the first round and snag another first round pick using a little quantity for some quality.

But should they not trade up, the Sabres will ultimately need to go the college/European route to stash away some prospects and stretch out the pipeline.

Last year they did quite a bit of that by drafting two top-40 players in the second round who were slated for college--JT Compher (No. 35 overall) and Connor Hurley (#38.)

Hurely in particular was really stretching it out as he spent last season in the USHL. He was the youngest player in the draft and had he been born a day later, he'd be in the 2015 Draft.

He starts his college career this year by joining Sabres goalie prospect Cal Peterson at Notre Dame.

The European route is also a way that a club can give a team an extra time with a prospect before they need to make a decision on his future.

The Sabres used a 5th round pick on F, Gustav Possler last year. Possler will be overseas for at least another year or two before he comes to North America.

Even if Buffalo moves back into the first round this year, they may still be interested in taking more of a project player with a remaining second round pick to continue stretching out the pipeline.

Here's a couple they might look at.

D, Jack Dougherty, USNTDP

Just like the possibility of drafting a goalie early to keep that position stocked, the Sabres should also look to keep adding to their prospect pool on defense as well.

Buffalo has a strong group of youngins slated to hit the big club within the next three years, but there's a bit of a drop-off after that.

Dougherty is a lanky 6'2" 185 University of Wisconsin commit who can skate well and plays a strong all-around game. With his defensive game well grounded he's been jumping in on offense more without being a determent on the back-end. He also has excellent hockey smarts as he reads the ice very well and hits the open man up ice very well.

He'll need to fill out his frame some and continue working on his skating, but the college route will give him plenty of time to address both of those areas.

The Sabres have a pretty good relationship with Badgers coach Mike Eaves as he was responsible for the strong development of D, Jake McCabe who recently turned pro and there's no reason to believe that Dougherty can't develop just as well.

Dougherty came in at #30 on Central Scouting's list of North American skaters while TSN's Craig Button has him way down at #81 overall. Most think that he'll end up somewhere in the 28-35 range.

LW Anton Karlsson, Frolunda, Jr. Sweden

Karlsson is a budding power-forward who's been playing a rugged North American game in his native Sweden.

The book on Karlsson is that he gets his 6'1" 187 lb. frame rolling like a freight train, barreling into the corners with abandon while making life miserable for the opposition.

Although he's shown signs of being able to finish, right now his passing ability seems to supersede his scoring touch.

In a profile piece,'s Mike Morreale quoted Karlsson as saying, "I think the scouts see a warrior in my game. I'm a big player, big size (6-foot-1, 187 pounds). I like to hit bodies and just be a pain in the [neck] for the other team."

Karlsson may have the talent to become a top-nine player, but in the very least he looks to project out as a bottom-six agitator with some scoring prowess on the wing. Teams will have a few years to figure out his ceiling as he'll developing overseas for a few years.

Central Scouting has him as the #11 on list of European skaters while Button has him clocking in at #40 overall.

Composite players are nice, but not this guy's cup of tea

Reprinted with permission from

Yesterday, the afternoon host on WGR used a bleacher report slide-show he'd read to offer a very simplistic approach to the top-10 picks in the NHL Draft. The author of the slide show gave a composite player based upon the previous picks in that particular draft spot and the host rather liked it.

For instance, if you are picking 1st overall, based upon the average, the composite would be a Rick Nash-caliber player. 2nd overall would get you a player like Danny Heatley. At the three spot Jay Bouwmeester, at number four, Steven Weiss and so on.

It's all well and good, and the angle is sure to generate hits. But coming up with a player profile based upon the median talent over the course of "x" amount of years is a statistical average adds little to the conversation. It tells nothing of the player drafted, the team drafting him, the scouting department that drafted him, the situation he'll be finding himself in, or even the luck of landing the first overall pick.

The bleacher report piece takes everything and puts it into a nice, tidy package that's easily digestible with none of those nasty variables that would come into play at any draft.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The best model for a rebuild is?

Reprinted with permission from

Plenty of attention has been paid to Pittsburgh and Chicago when it comes to a model for a rebuild. For them it started with picking high in the draft for consecutive years.

As Buffalo enters another phase of their rebuild, many associated theirs with the Penguins model, as the team has a few of Pittsburgh's architects on board.

Sabres President Ted Black was with Pittsburgh from 1999-2008 as a part of Mario Lemieux's senior management team. Black is Pegula's right-hand man and oversees the entire Sabres operation.

Senior Advisor Ken Sawyer was also with the Penguins. "Under his leadership," reads a portion of his Buffalo Sabres bio, "the Penguins adopted a strategic plan to ensure that the team would be successful on the ice, be successful as a business and thus be assured of a long future in Pittsburgh."

Craig Patrick was general manager in Pittsburgh from 1989 to 2006. He has a long list of accolades and is a Hall of Fame inductee who was brought to Buffalo as a Special Assistant/Advisor.

Black and Sawyer are part of owner Terry Pegula's inner circle while Patrick was brought on by former President of Hockey Operations, Pat LaFontaine.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Some food for thought as the off season officially begins

Reprinted with permission from

First off congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings for winning their second Stanley Cup in three years.

Well deserved.

With the conclusion of the playoffs the next sign-post is the NHL Draft less than two weeks from now.

But before that, there's a little aside as the NHL compliance buyout period begins. It wouldn't be surprising to see a Sabres fan somewhere with a Ville Leino countdown clock ticking away towards the opening of the buyout period. There may even be a ball-drop ceremony at the F'N Center.

With the focus on a pretty exciting Stanley Cup Finals, the draft inching closer, as well as the Leino party favors and "Uncle" Terry Pegula set to pull out his wallet to buy the Buffalo Bills, lesser headlines and/or tidbits are getting lost in the shuffle.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Apparently, Sabres owner Terry Pegula has his sights set on the Bills

Reprinted with permission form

When Sabres owner Terry Pegula announced famously said at his first presser that if he wanted to make money "he'd drill another well," he could have said, "if I needed cash, I'll just sell some land."

Which is what he did this past week, to the tune of $1.75 billion.

The "gas well" quote was in reference to the possibility of losing money and it was coming on the heels of a frugal owner who's dictate was to "break even."

The direct quote from Pegula's presser goes like this, "I want to run the team to win the Stanley Cup. If I wanna make some money I'll go dig a gas well, I don't need to make it in the hockey business."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Target practice: Three worth trading up for...

Reprinted with permission from

...and where the Sabres might be able to land them in the first round.

For a new general manager entering his first NHL Draft with a team that just finished miles from the pack in last place, pretty much anything goes.

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray heads to the City of Brotherly Love on June 27th with a large quantity of prospects already in the system and eight picks in the 2014 Draft. Although you can see a Cheshire grin on his face as he glances at a strong 2015 draft with at least three first rounders in his pocket, the focus now is upon the present group of draft eligible prospects.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Should the Sabres move up to land the top goalie prospect?

Reprinted with permission from

If any team knows about the ups, downs and sheer wackiness that can occur between the pipes, it's the Philadelphia Flyers.

From the tragedy of Pelle Lindberg to Ron Hextall, to Roman Chechmanek, the 2011 goaltending roulette wheel, Ilya Bryzgalov and now Steve Mason, the Flyers have tried nearly every possibility to rectify their goaltending situation since Bernie Parent ruled the net during their Cup-winning days.

Although Mason is locked in as the starter right now, Philly's depth at goaltending is pretty thin and Flyers blogger Bill Meltzer believes that the team will draft a goalie. The question for him is, where should they take one?

Meltzer is leery of using a first round pick on a goaltender. His premise is simple. It's tough to project an 18 yr. old skater, and it's even tougher when it comes to an 18 yr. old goalie. Drafting a goalie not only takes the most guesswork, but the incubation period for a goaltender takes the longest of any position.

Five years down the road that top prospect may end up being a bust, whilst his lower round counterpart may be playing in the NHL.

At one point in time the Flyers stocked up on goalies using two firsts and the top pick in the second round over the span of five years to shore up their organizational depth in goal.

But as the "vicissitudes" of goaltender drafting and development would dictate, one of those top picks had a great rookie year then faded away, and the other two became career minor leaguers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Craig Button has another lofty comparison for Sam Reinhart

Reprinted from hockeybuzz with permission.

The book on Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart unabashedly raves about the 18 yr. old's hockey sense. It's an aspect of his game that is so strong and well defined that scouts and draftniks can't help but be captivated by it.

Buffalo Sabres AGM/Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine seemed enamored with Reinhart's hockey IQ saying that he hadn't seen anything like it in 10-15 years. The direct quote from his appearance on WGR's Howard Simon Show goes like this:  "I don't know that I've seen a guy that can make plays like Sam can in the last 10 to 15 years...his playmaking ability. That's the thing that stands out for him. He sees the ice really well. Knows how long to hold the puck, when to pass it, when to shoot it...just uncanny hockey sense."

Devine stressed the same thing a bit later that same interview, "I haven't seen a guy that can make plays like Sam with the puck, in the playmaking sense, over the last 10 to 15 years.

TSN draft "expert" and former NHL GM Craig Button was on WGR yesterday talking about the draft in general and spent a good portion of the interview talking about Reinhart, his wire to wire top prospect.

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's hard to envision Aaron Ekblad dropping past No. 2

Reprinted from with permission

Despite what Mike Morreale said to concerning the Florida Panthers and the No. 1 overall pick, methinks Florida would be hard-pressed to pass on defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The draft analyst points out the Cats are thin on the wing and he mentions Leon Draisaitl as one to watch for Florida. Morreale referred to him as "that big, power winger" and went on to say that many scouts compare Draisaitl to Jaromir Jagr.

This is fourth time in the last five years that the Panthers will have a top-three pick. They will dictate how the first five picks will play out and for the next three weeks most eyes will be fixed upon the Sunshine State.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Quality over quantity for this year's draft

Reprinted from with permission

In the years following the 2004 lockout, the Buffalo Sabres enjoyed a modicum of success on the ice, but organizational depth took a hit in the process. They either traded away some of the future for playoff runs or ended up with middling picks. As a result (and in conjunction with a depleted scouting staff) few players drafted between 2005 and 2011 ended up with the team and even fewer look to be a part of the future.

It left a big hole in the organization. Instead of having a strong core with a number of young players entering their prime or transitioning to the NHL, the Sabres are in full-fledged re-build mode left to pick through the remnants of those draft classes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The hockey world would be right if former Sabre Robyn Regehr hoisted the Stanley Cup

Reprinted from with permission

Although it wouldn't be a Hollywood-type ending on the level of Ray Bourque in 2001, the hockey world would be right for this blogger if Robyn Regehr was on the last team standing in 2014.

I've always liked Regehr and was thrilled that the Sabres literally went out and got him to accept a trade to Buffalo.

Before joining the Sabres, he had spent nearly his entire career playing out west with Calgary limiting his exposure to those of us in the east. But between 2011 and 2013--just over a hundred games--we Sabres fans got a good taste of what he brought to the table.

Regehr's short stint in Buffalo was somewhat maligned, though, as the subtleties in his play were lost in the downward spiral of the franchise. The 6'3" 225 lb. d-man was never the fastest skater, nor was he a scorer, nor was he an enforcer per se, but he was a strong presence both on and off the ice.

He was overused in expanded roles by the former regime in Buffalo and had he stayed with the Sabres, he may have ended up being a Craig Rivet-like train wreck.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sabres ink Baptiste, Austin plus intro to hockeybuzz

Reposted from hockeybuzz with permission.

Greetings, y'all.

It's been a long time.

I'd like to start out by saying thanks to EK for the opportunity and to Eric for taking the time to read my blogs and for his assistance in this process.

This is a gig was unexpected but one that certainly is welcomed and appreciated.

To all my buzzard buds--homie, sip, indy, ray, 89, cab and others--I kinda missed you all.

And special thanks to Cisco for his awesomeness. We're all lucky to have his solid contributions as both a fan and a ref. My friend, I hope we can get together once again for some frosty adult beverages and maybe a sip or two of some tastiness from Scotland.


The powers that be liked what I've written about the Buffalo Sabres over the years and asked if I would do the same for hockeybuzz. And I obliged.

Hopefully I can keep it rolling.