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.

While Sabres owner Pegula was busy selling some 75,000 acres of land in a $1.75 billion deal, the general manager of his hockey club was keeping things rolling within the hockey world.

On Thursday, GM Tim Murray announced that Rochester Amerks bench boss Chadd Cassidy will be retained. Cassidy was brought on board by former Amerks/Sabres head coach Ron Rolston and both were brought in under the previous regime.

Cassidy took the Amerks to the playoffs this season before bowing out in a the deciding game of a first round series with the Chicago Wolves (St. Louis.)

Not only was it a year of turmoil for the parent club, but all that rolled down hill as the Amerks were more transient than the Rainbow bridge on Boxer Day.

Players came and went, but, according to Kevin Oklobzija who covers the Amerks for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "Cassidy never whined" which is something that Murray may have found appealing.

More importantly, though, may have been how Murray perceived the job Cassidy did with the development of the youngins.

Oklobzija points out that there was marked improvement in the players development whether it was  someone like top prospect Joel Armia or a surprise like Andrey Makarov. And he said that Murray also saw improvement when players were called up. "They didn't seem lost or out of place," wrote Oklobzija, "and if they went back a second time, they were even better."

Much attention has been paid to the sheer number of picks the Sabres have had, had or will have at the drafts, not to mention the staggering amount of first and second rounders.

Draft picks are great, but if there's a disconnect between what the scouting department is doing and the development of the players, then the franchise will go no where.

Under the previous regime, the 2013-14 season began with a number of rookies on the roster and they were floundering on a losing team. When Pat Lafontaine and Ted Nolan took over, they put the franchise in reset-mode sending every youngin not named Zemgus Girgensons back to their respective leagues.

Murray has said that he'll be following that model for the up-coming season to further their development. An interesting tidbit from that to was what he said to the boys at WGR on Thursday.

The topic eventually was defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Picked 8th overall at the 2013 Draft, Ristolainen started out last season in Buffalo logging 34 games for the parent club. He was sent back to Rochester.

During his 34 games with the Amerks he developed into a dominating presence on the ice as he and Mark Pysyk became the top shut-down pairing.

Ristolainen still struggled with inconsistencies and despite his desire and fire to play in the NHL next season, Murray might have a different plan. Said Murray (via WGR's Paul Hamilton,) "Could [Ristolainen] play in the NHL this year? Yes, he could. But would another half season in the AHL help him? Absolutely."

Which makes a lot of sense.

During the deciding Game-5 of the Calder Cup playoffs Ristolainen was solid, yet still hesitant and indecisive at times and not the dominant player he could be.

To take Murray's comment a step further, it might not be bad idea for Ristolainen to spend the entire year Rochester to refine his craft and consistently dominate against a group of prospects he'll eventually be facing during his NHL career.

It would be good for him and it would be good for the Amerks too as they might be able to get on a winning track.

Not only that, the defense corps would benefit from having an anchor like that, in particular young Jake McCabe.

A second round pick in the 2012 Draft, McCabe is making his foray into the professional ranks this season after spending three years at the University of Wisconsin. Expectations are high for him in a all-situations/shut-down role and being paired with Ristolainen would certainly get his pro development off to a strong start.

Just some food for thought as we officially begin the off season.

No comments:

Post a Comment