Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Buffalo "Amerks" fall in Toronto in the shootout

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The Buffalo Sabres iced a large group of players who will be ticketed for Rochester, at least to start this season. Of the twenty players in the line-up, only three are sure to be on the Sabres--Cody Hodgson, Andrej Meszaros and Chris Stewart--while two other, defensemen Mike Weber and Rasmus Ristolainen will probably be with the team when they open the season October 9th vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Amerks open camp today, and many of those who played in last nights 3-2 SO loss at Toronto will be headed east to Rochester. The Sabres have only two more preseason games--Wednesday vs. the Capitals and Friday at Carolina--to get ready for the opener.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The 2014-15 Sabres Training Camp "Also-rans"

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Also-rans might be a little tough, but the Sabres still need to do some serious trimming down of a roster that began with 59 players to open camp.

The next wave has been sent down. On Friday night before their game vs. Toronto, the Sabres sent 11 players to Rochester. Forward Luke Adam is the only one of the group that will need to clear waivers, the rest are:  forwards William Carrier, Dan Catenacci, Colin Jacobs, Justin Kea, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Kevin Sundher and Phil Varone plus defensemen Brady Austin, Jerome Leduc and Chad Ruhwedel.

The team also returned two forwards to their junior clubs, Justin Bailey (Kitchener) and Brendan Lemieux (Barrie).

There are still plenty to go. Here's a list of players, some more notable than others still with Buffalo who might eventually be considered an "also-ran" this season as they head back to their respective clubs :

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Reserves

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz,com

Before we finish up with the roster, some quick notes, via Bill Hoppe of buffalohockeybeat.com:

--The Sabres sent winger Justin Bailey to his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers.

--Former Sabres' defenseman Henrik Tallinder is slated to hit the ice with Toronto this evening as he is on a tryout basis with the Leafs

--Sabres forward Tim Schaller, who was profiled here, will make his Sabres debut tonight. 'This is a dream come true,' Schaller said, 'I’ll bring my A game, that’s for sure.'

--Schaller, according to Hoppe, skated between Brian Flynn and Cody McCormick on one line

--The other lines were: Tyler Ennis/Matt Moulson/Drew Stafford; Cody Hodgson/Sam Reinhart/Brian Gionta; Marcus Foligno/Torrey Mitchell/Chris Stewart.

--The defensemen are: Jake McCabe, Andrej Meszaros, Tyler Myers, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mike Weber, Nikita Zadorov.

Thank you, Mr. Hoppe.

And onward we go.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--The goalies

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth made sure he let the coaching staff know that he's ready for the challenge that lies before him. Enroth shut out the Carolina Hurricanes in his first preseason action. He tracked the puck well, moved well and had the puck sticking to him throughout the night. It should also serve notice to Michal Neuvirth, the Sabres other goalie, that he better bring his A-game.

Enroth is a 2006 draft pick, chosen in the second round with the 46th pick overall. He and Mike Weber (57th) are the only two players to make it from that Buffalo draft class.

It's been a long road for Enroth to get to this point. After getting drafted he spent two more years in his native Sweden then began his North American pro career with the Portland Pirates, who were then the AHL affiliate of Buffalo. In 58 games that season he went 26-23-6 with a 2.75 gaa and a .910 sv%. The Pirates made it into the playoffs that year but were bounced in the first round.

The following year he would get better lowering his goals against average to 2.37 and upping his save percentage to .919 while finishing 20-17-2. The Pirates would make the Calder Cup playoffs once again and, once again, get bounced in the first round.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--The 4th Line

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

On the heels of the Sabres two-goal outburst last night in a shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes, we'll add three fourth-line players to fill out the starting group of forwards.

The running joke with the Buffalo Sabres over the last few years is that they had too many third and fourth-liners on the team and this year is no different. The top seven players on the team--Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Brian Gionta, Zemgus Girgensons, Cody Hodgson, and Chris Stewart--are legitimate top-nine players in the least with all but Girgensons being considered legit top-six.

Barring the inclusion of Sam Reinhart, the rest of the Buffalo Sabres forward roster this season will be populated by bottom-six players, fourth-line players and borderline NHL'ers. The dozen or so players battling it out for bottom-six/reserve roles offer an array of sizes, shapes and styles and two of them--Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn have already been included.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sabres coach Ted Nolan throws some cold water on analytics

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Ted Nolan reminds me of my father.

As a student in college my father and I would often get into philosophical battles over current events and politics. I'd throw a salvo his way replete with "scholarly" theoretic and he'd counter with a simple, down-to-earth retort that would smack me down.

Although I never gave up, oft-times his life experience would trump my book knowledge.

I'm not sure who asked Nolan about analytics, but the Sabres' old-school bench boss was probably the last one to ask about that subject. Corsi and Fenwick might as well be a millennial-generation comedy team in Nolan's eyes.

Nolan kept it simple when broached with the subject, “If you have a Crosby on your team, they’re going to have a little bit more zone time. If you have a Kopitar on your team, they’re going to have a little bit more zone time," he said yesterday. "You look at all the teams that make the playoffs, they make it for a reason, they’re better teams. What we want to do is become a better team and you do that you get better players and it hasn’t changed since the 50’s and 60’s, you get better players, you have a better chance of winning.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--RHD, Mark Pysyk

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Before we get to Mark Pysyk, a few notes on last nights preseason game at Washington.

--The Capitals beat the Sabres 1-0, but the most interesting thing about the game was the fact that superstar Alex Ovechkin played. Not sure why they would have him in vs. a team full of rookies, prospects and borderline NHL'ers, but new Washington bench-boss Barry Trotz must have had a reason. Ovechkin played over 17 minutes and was called for a slash on the Sabres Torrey Mitchell on a breakaway. Not sure I've ever seen Ovechkin hustle on a back-check before. Maybe he just didn't know what to do in a situation like that.

--Rookie center Sam Reinhart's stat-line looks like this: 16:53 of ice-time, zero points, minus-1. To put it in perspective, he's an 18 yr. old playing against men for the first time and he put on a middle of the road performance. No need to jump off a bridge.

--Everyone talks about the textbook hipcheck Washington's Nathan Walker laid on Buffalo's Vaclav Karabacek, and it was a doozy. But Sabres d-man Nikita Zadorov also had a nice one as he sent Caps forward Michael Latta end-over-end at the Buffalo blueline.

--Despite getting sent flying, Karabacek played a real solid game. He's fast and aggressive, goes north/south and plays the game bigger than his 6'0" 190 lb. frame. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.

--Zadorov had a good game. It seemed as if he was locked in. Which is good because over the course of the last year or so he's tended to lose focus making him look like the raw rookie he is. At times it was fatigue, as with the London Knights last season when he was logging 30 minutes a game. At other times he just looks as if his head's somewhere else, like versus Dallas at Traverse City. When he's locked in he'll play within himself and look as if he's ready for the NHL. Looks like he'll need another year or two to work on his consistency.

--It took a while for Joel Armia to get going, but once he did he was battling quite well.

--Nathan Lieuwen had a strong game. He allowed one goal to the Caps Andre Burakovsky on a wicked wrister from the slot that went top-shelf, glove side. It was a sniper's goal as Burakovsky found an opening in the slot and got the shot off quick.

--Newcomer Andre Benoit wore the "A" as did fellow defenseman, Mike Weber.

--Finally, for those keeping track, the Sabres scored 1, 1, 3, and 1 goals at Traverse City and have a goose egg to start out the preseason.


Mark Pysyk is the type of player that doesn't want or need to be noticed. And that's a good thing for a defensive defenseman.

The 6' 1", 193 lb. Pysyk plays an understated game, one that's heady and steady. He's not flashy, won't go on an end-to-end rush won't dazzle you with a spin-o-rama or a bone-crunching hit. What Pysyk will do is move the puck to the proper place anywhere on the ice, in any situation, consistently. It's a product of his innate sense for the game and the way he's climbed through the hockey ranks without any shortcuts.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--LHD, Andrej Meszaros

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Before we get to Andrej Meszaros, the Buffalo Sabres are headed to Washington to take on the Capitals at 5pm this evening. Bill Hoppe reports that the roster for today (with no firm mention of lines and/or pairings) is:

Nick Deslauriers, Sam Reinhart, Joel Armia
Brian Flynn, Mikhail Grigorenko, Valclav Karabaek
Luke Adam, Zac Dalpe, Torrey Mitchell
Johan Larsson, Phil Varone, Matt Ellis

Andre Benoit, Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber, Nikita Zadorov
Chad Ruhwedel, Tyson Strachan

Nathan Lieuwen
Andrey Makarov


When laying out the top two defensive pairings for the Buffalo Sabres heading into the 2014-15 season, many eyebrows were raised at placing former Colorado Avalanche defenseman, Andre Benoit, on the second pairing. Besides the belief that Benoit was nothing more than a bottom-pairing/depth defenseman, there were questions as to why a player of Andrej Meszaros' caliber would be below Benoit on my depth chart.

It has nothing to do with Meszaros' skill-level, which is still apparent. He can still lead or jump into the rush, still can man the point on the power play and still put up offensive numbers. When he's healthy. And it's those words, "when he's healthy," can be looked as the asterisk at this point in his career. Although Meszaros is only 28 yrs. old, his body has a lot of wear and tear on it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Chris Stewart

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Before we get to add another piece to the 2014 roster, for posterity's sake, a look at who was skating for the Sabres on the first day of training camp:
Group A:
Marcus Foligno, Sam Reinhart, Chris Stewart
Luke Adam, Johan Larsson, Zac Dalpe
William Carrier, Phil Varone, Colin Jacobs
Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Joseph Blandisi

Andre Benoit, Rasmus Ristolainen
Nikita Zadorov, Mark Pysyk
Nick Petrecki, Ryan MacKinnon

Jonas Enroth
Francios Brassard

Group B:
Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Gionta
Matt Ellis, Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell
Brendan Lemieux, Mikhail Grigorenko, Joel Armia
Kevin Sundher, Justin Kea, Jack Rodewald

Mike Weber, Andrej Meszaros
Jake McCabe, Chad Ruhwedel
Brycen Martin, Jared Walsh

Nathan Lieuwen

Group C:
Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford
Nick Deslauriers, Cody McCormick, Patrick Kaleta
Daniel Catenacci, Tim Schaller, Justin Bailey
Vaclav Karabacek, Eric Cornel, Michael Joly

Josh Gorges, Tyler Myers
Drew Bagnall, Jerome Leduc
Brady Austin, Tyson Strachan

Michal Neuvirth
Andrey Makarov


He stands 6' 2", weighs in at a thick 231 lbs. and has the size of an NFL linebacker. And when Buffalo Sabres right winger Chris Stewart wants to dictate on the ice, he usually does.

Stewart came to Buffalo as part of the Ryan Miller to St. Louis deal. Unfortunately he only played in two games before being sidelined by an ankle injury. He return for three more games in April before shutting it down for the final game of the season.

About the only thing Sabres fans have to go on when it comes to how Stewart fits into the grand scheme of things is his history with the team that drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche (2008, 18th overall,) and the team that acquired him, the St. Louis  Blues. The 'Lanche sent Stewart, D, Kevin Shattenkirk and a second rounder to St. Louis on February 18, 2011 for D, Erik Johnson, F, Jay McClement and a first round pick.

Colorado paid a hefty price to land the 22 yr. old Johnson who was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft and had huge upside.

As for Stewart, he was already showing big promise as a burgeoning power forward. In his second full season he had 28 goals and 25 assists in 77 games. In 2011 he had 28 goals and 23 assists in 62 games split between Colorado and St. Louis.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--LW, Brian Flynn

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Buffalo Sabres forward Brian Flynn is the type of player who goes about his business on the ice with little fanfare. Last season was his first full season with the Sabres and despite his ability to score, he spent a lot of time in a checking role and on the penalty kill.

It was a messed up season last year in Buffalo, and many things were out of whack, but Flynn just trudged through and did what was asked of him. The numbers weren't staggering, in fact they were rather pedestrian--six goals and seven assists in 79 games--but throughout the season you'd often hear his name mentioned as one of the better players on the ice. And many times you'd also hear how well he was progressing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--C, Marcus Foligno

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

With training camp opening today, the start of the NHL season is not far away. Having the prospects play in Traverse City the last five days was kind of an amuse' for the upcoming season. Now it's time to whet our appetites with some preseason action before the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice for real on October 9th. The opener is versus the Columbus Blue Jackets whose youngins took home the Traverse City Championship this year.

There are seven players up-front who will be in the top-six mix. Six of them have already been profiled with the seventh, RW Chris Stewart, due up in a couple of days.

There are eight more forward spots open and although size is prevalent, there are some differing styles and various ceilings to choose from when filling out the bottom part of the roster.

Of those, forward Marcus Foligno and his progress, will be a focus of the coaching staff throughout the preseason.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Maybe it's not our tournament"

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

That understated quote from Buffalo Sabres prospect Nikita Zadorov pretty much sums it up. It wasn't their tournament at all, in any aspect.

The Buffalo Sabres prospects went 0-3-1 at the Traverse City Tournament and finished in last place. They were outscored 17-6 overall and scored only one goal in three of the four games even though they collectively outshot their opponents by a 134-90 margin. A statistical anomaly had the Sabres scoring their only multi-goal game vs. the Dallas Stars in the only game they were outshot (29-24.)

Numbers are a funny thing as it began in the first game vs. the Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres puck possession numbers were strong and they outshout the 'Canes 35-20 yet lost 6-1. Goaltender Andrey Makarov had a real rough outing allowing 6 goals on only 20 shots. Reports from the rink had him letting in a couple of softies, but he was also a victim of a very poor penalty kill.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Should Traverse City results matter that much to Sabres' fans?

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Not really. But it sure seems as if those results matter to Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray and Traverse City bench boss Chadd Cassidy. And they should.

Mike Morreale of nhl.com just wrote of Murray at the tournament, "[He] is the one standing on his bench in the last row, scribbling notes on a clipboard and every so often shaking his head and yelling to his players with the hope of gaining their attention."

A big chunk of those players are his guys, the ones he's either drafted, traded for or gave a tryout to.

His draft picks include 2014 2nd overall pick, Sam Reinhart and four others from that class--2nd rounders Brendan Lemieux (31st overall,) Eric Cornel (44th,) and Vaclav Karabacek (49th) up front and Brycen Martin (74th) on defense.

William Carrier (2013, 57th, STL) and Jordan Samuels-Thomas (2009, 203rd, ATL) were traded for in separate deals. The team invited six players to Traverse City--goalie Francios Brassard; defensemen Ryan MacKinnon and Jared Walsh; forwards Joseph Blandisi, Michael Joly, and Jack Rodewald.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sibling tough-love and family help define Anthony Florentino

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

One of the things about the Traverse City Tournament is that not all of a teams prospects participate. The eight-team event hosted by the Detroit Red wings is tailor-made for 18-19 yr. old draftees, with some late-bloomers, and free agents thrown in for good measure.

Missing from the tournament, though, are international prospects like goalie Linus Ullmark (who should make an appearance next season,) and wingers Gustav Possler and Victor Oloffson. All three happen to be on the same team, MODO Hockey of the Swedish Elite League. They're already two games into their season.

College players are also not involved in the tournament either as they're readying themselves for the upcoming season. Players like JT Compher (Michigan,) Hudson Fasching (Minnesota) and goalie Cal Peterson (Notre Dame) are in that group.

So too is Providence defenseman, Anthony Florentino. Instead of attending Traverse City, he's with his Friars teammates getting ready for their season opener October 10th at Ohio State.

Traverse City would have been a great way for him to ride into fall and the beginning of hockey season as Florentino had a real strong summer. He showed well in his second Sabres Development Camp in back July and was an invitee to the US National Junior Evaluation Camp in August. He made an impact at both camps and was on a good roll.

The 6'1" 210 lb. Florentino began the summer well, with the 5th round pick (2013) proceeding to do something at the development camp scrimmage he can't do in college--drop the gloves. He and fellow Sabres prospect Justin Kea (2012, 73rd) went at it during the scrimmage in a quick bout that got the crowd going.

"I'd asked him the shift before if he wanted to go," said Florentino, "but he said he was too tired and I didn't want just a half-assed fight." With his Team Blue going down a goal the next shift, Florentino thought they might need a bit of a lift. "Our team went down and I thought I could help by sparking some intensity," he said. So he asked Kea again. The 6'4" 220 lb. forward obliged.

It didn't matter that Kea was bigger. Florentino took a punch and gave a punch and simply shrugged off the disparity. "Size didn't matter," he chuckled, "I've been in worse situations."

Perhaps those "worse situations" he alluded to came about when he was growing up in West Roxbury, a southwest neighborhood in Boston.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Goalies are a little too "comfortable" versus the Sabres

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

NY Rangers goalie prospect MacKenzie Skapski stopped 36 of 37 shots vs. the Buffalo Sabres prospects in yesterday's 2-1 overtime win. The 36 saves was a new Traverse City record for the Rangers, and when asked how he felt out there, Skapski replied, "I felt comfortable."

The Sabres youngins would, once again, throw plenty of rubber at the opposition net and would, once again, leave the ice having scored only one goal. “I thought one of our strengths coming into this tournament was going to be scoring goals. We have a lot of guys who are producers in that area,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “It’s obviously been an issue for us. We had a lot of good chances again tonight.”

The "issue" overall seems to be getting into positions in and around the net to score.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Notes on yesterday's loss to Carolina in Traverse City

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

A highly touted group of Sabres prospects hit the Traverse City ice yesterday and proceeded to lay an egg. Not that anyone should start manning the lifeboats, but a 6-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes prospects in game one of the tournament raised some questions.

The Sabres iced four first round picks and five second rounders yesterday afternoon while also having five players with NHL experience skate in the game. It all went for naught as the wheels fell off in the third period while Buffalo was trying to play catch-up. "We had to start pressing and we gave up some easy opportunities that in a tight game you don't normally give up," said bench boss, Chadd Cassidy.

Buffalo gave up three powerplay goals in the game on five opportunities. "Obviously, their powerplay hurt us a lot," said Cassidy, post game, "you give them a man advantage, they did it last year, I think it was the same group that torched us for three or four goals."

Special teams aside, five-on-five Cassidy thought they played well, "I'm, really happy with the way [the team] played from a structural standpoint," he said. "Possession time and scoring chances we dominated."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--LHD, Andre Benoit...plus...

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Before we continue to build a Buffalo Sabres roster for the 2014-15 season, a couple of quick notes.

Hockey is here, or at least in Traverse City, Michigan. A team of Sabres prospects (plus a handful of "vets") will kick things off with a 4:00pm bout versus the Carolina Hurricanes' prospects.

The likes of Rasmus Ristolainen, Joel Armia, Jake McCabe and 2014, 2nd-overall pick Sam Reinhart will be hitting the ice to face most of Carolina's top prospects. The Cane's are anchored by defenseman Hayden Fleury (2014, 7th) on the back end and left winger Brock McGinn (2012, 47th) who scored 45 goals in 58 games for the Guelph Storm of the OHL.

Of note, Michigan State graduate Jake Chelios will hit the ice for Carolina as an invitee. Chelios' father Chris, played 26 years in the NHL and was the first ever to be named a Montreal Canadiens captain when he shared those duties with Guy Carbonneau in 1989-90.

The younger Chelios is a 6'2" 185 lb. defenseman who also played 7 games for the Chicago Wolves (STL,) the team that took down the Rochester Americans last year in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster--RHD, Rasmus Ristolainen

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Back in July, I wrote a piece laying out a case for defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to start the season in Rochester.

The basic premise was that the Buffalo Sabres organization is still in reset-mode even while focusing upon the "build" aspect of the rebuild. The wrecking ball that came crashing into the parent club last season left so much rubble, it will take at least another year to completely remove it. And although plenty of positive changes have been made, there will be plenty of losing going on this season.

Conversely, the Rochester Americans are in a different situation. Although they've been bounced from the Calder Cup playoffs in the first round three years running, last year they trudged through a ton of adversity to take a very strong Chicago Wolves team to the limit, losing the series 3-2.

Individually, the Amerks have some top-end talent up-front in Joel Armia, Mikhail Grigorenko, Luke Adam and Phil Varone. They have rookie Jake McCabe and second year man, Chad Ruhwedel ready to join a bevy of tough, seasoned vets on the back-end and they have two potential #1 goalies in Andrey Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen vying for the top spot.

Would it be better for both Ristolainen and the organization to let him take the bumps and bruised of life in the NHL on a losing club? Or would all parties be better served to keep him in Rochester in a winning environment?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres 2014-15 roster--RW, Brian Gionta

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Self-proclaimed "online gambling destination," Bovada, released it's annual regular season points over/under for each NHL team yesterday.

The over/under for the Buffalo Sabres is 65 1/2.

It's a total that would represent around 13-14 more points than the their finish last season, or about 6-7 more wins. A point total right around that 65 1/2 number is certainly attainable, in fact, if I were a betting man, the over is looking pretty good. But not too much over as this team looks to be headed for a top-two/three pick in the upcoming draft. Last year's 29th and 28th place teams recorded 66 (FLA) and 67 (CGY) points, respectively.

The Sabres were the surprise of the July 1 opening of free agency in the NHL. Although they didn't land any of the "superstars" of the day, they landed a number of quality players announced in rapid-fire succession that piqued the interest of the entire NHL. Even though a group of eternal optimists busted out their trumpets to start a playoff march, most feel that the moves Buffalo made were foundational more than anything else.

Yes, Matt Moulson is a three-time 30-goal scorer and sniper who will add some desperately needed punch to team that was historically bad at scoring goals. And defenseman Andre Meszaros should help a woefully bad powerplay that was second worst in the league last season (FLA.)

But, of the four players GM Tim Murray was able to bring to Buffalo that day (or in the case of Moulson and Cody McCormick, bring back to Buffalo,) former Montreal Canadien captain Brian Gionta may be one of the most important at this stage of the rebuild.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Traverse City, 2014 plus a quick note on Pegula and the Buffalo Bills

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

First off, while typing this piece, word on the street from numerous sources is that Terry and Kim Pegula have won the bid to buy the Buffalo Bills and will be owners pending league approval.

Back in July, it looked as if the Pegula's put the hammerlock on all other bidders with word of a possible $1.3B non-binding bid. In the eyes of the Wilson Trust, it would seem the Pegula's just had too much going for them--most notable their immense wealth and liquidity and their passion for keeping the team in Buffalo--to deny them.

Congrats to the Pegulas and the Bills, but most of all, congrats to the fans of Buffalo. Stability for the second Buffalo franchise has been a long time coming.

Makes me wanna SHOUT!! (kick my heels up)


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres 2014-15 roster--LW, Cody Hodgson

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

One should never confuse Buffalo Sabres forward Cody Hodgson with a Selke candidate. If playing defense were paramount to his success in the NHL, his career would pretty much be over.

That's not to say that Hodgson doesn't recognize his shortcomings. He has been working on the defensive aspect of his game for the past couple of off seasons, along with his skating, in an attempt to be more responsible in his own zone. But defense is not why the Sabres traded for him, not why he signed a six-year contract extension nearly a year ago, and not why he's now on the wing in a top-six role.

“He’s not known for his great defense," said head coach Ted Nolan (via Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald,) "and we don’t want him to play great defense. We want him to score offensively. But you have to be reliable defensively. One thing about the wing position, it’s not as complicated as playing center ice.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres 2014-15 roster--C, Zemgus Girgensons

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

One should fully expect 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart to get a nine-game look from the Buffalo Sabres to start the season. He has all the tools, including hockey smarts, to be able to hold his own at the NHL-level. But despite Reinhart being a little too talented to gain much from another year in junior, he is still in a 19 yr. old body, and one more year to allow it to mature is something both player and team can afford.

Reinhart will need to get physically stronger to play in a man's league and to be able to absorb punishing NHL hits like the one laid on him by Zemgus Girgensons at the Sabres Development Camp this July. It was a thundering, board-rattling hit that was a "welcome to the NHL" moment from a player who had the physical makeup to make the jump to the pros as an 18 yr. old.

Girgensons is built well. He's not some lightweight looking like he just got through a muscle toning session with an aerobic instructor . He packs some solid muscle onto a 6'2" frame and looks like he's ready to step into the ring at any moment.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres 2014-15 roster--LHD, Josh Gorges

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Had Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray not brought in a number of veterans on July 1, the team would clearly be the youngest in the league. As it stands right now, only three teams have a younger roster than Buffalo's average of 26.6 yr. old--Columbus (26.2,) Edmonton (26.2) and Winnipeg (26.4.)

Defenseman Josh Gorges, who just hit the big 3-0 on August 14th, came to Buffalo along with Brian Gionta (35 yrs. old,) Cody McCormick, (31,) Matt Moulson (30,) and Andrej Meszaros (28) on July 1st. It's a group of aged, character veterans brought in to mentor a large group of up and coming youngins.

Unlike the other four vets who signed with Buffalo as free agents, Gorges was acquired via a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs sent him to the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres for a 2016 second round draft pick. On a quick note, the pick that the Sabres used to acquire Gorges was one they received from Minnesota at the trade deadline for Moulson.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 roster--RHD, Tyler Myers

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Their isn't a microscope big enough to fit in all eyes that will be on Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers these next couple of seasons. At 6'8, 211 lbs. it's really not hard to miss him when he's on the ice and he can skate like the breeze when he gets motoring, thus a nickname like "The Big Easy."

However, the Houston, Texas-born, Calgary, Alberta-raised 24 yr. old still has plenty of work to do. When his confidence is low and hesitation creeps into his game, oft-times he'll look like baby giraffe all wobbly-kneed and having a hard time figuring out how stay upright.

Myers was a product of the insistence of Sabres Head Scout at the time, Kevin Devine, and his selection by the Sabres is a story itself.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 roster--RW, Drew Stafford

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


Name the longest-tenured, homegrown Buffalo Sabre on the roster.

Drew Stafford signed his first NHL contract with the Buffalo Sabres on May 6, 2006 after foregoing his senior season at the University of South Dakota. Both he and Patrick Kaleta were taken in the 2004 draft and both signed that May, with Kaleta putting ink to the paper on May 31.

The 6'2" 212 lb power forward made his NHL debut on November 5, 2006 against the NY Rangers and registered an assist on co-captain Daniel Briere's goal. He would get his first goal less than a week later against Philadelphia.

He would finish his rookie campaign with 13 goals and 27 points in 41 games for the President's Trophy-winning Sabres. And in the playoffs that year, Stafford had two goals and two assists in 10 game.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 roster--LW, Matt Moulson

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

It's been a long journey both literally and figuratively for Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson. But with his signing to a long-term contract in July, perhaps he's finally found a home in Buffalo.

The soon to be 31 yr. old Mississauga, ON native was selected the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 9th round (a round that doesn't even exist anymore) of the 2003 draft.

He was a captain for his Ivy League hockey team, Cornell University, and graduated in 2006 with a degree in economics.

Although Moulson wasn't signed by Pittsburgh, in September, 2006, new LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi signed the winger to a two-year entry-level contract.

He was sent to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, and proceeded to score 25 goals in 77 games. The next year he scored 28 goals in 57 games while also tallying five with the big club through 22 games.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 roster--C, Tyler Ennis

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

At 5'9 169 lbs., Sabres center Tyler Ennis has his work cut out for him as the team's projected #1 center this season.

For Ennis, though, going against the top defenders on a nightly basis may be easier than the changes he and the team went through over the past few seasons.

His introduction to the NHL was with head coach Lindy Ruff for a 10-game stint at the end of the 2009-10 season. Ennis chimed in with three goals and nine points in those games as the Sabres made the playoffs. He had a goal and three assists in a six-game playoff loss to the Boston Bruins that year.

It was a solid NHL start for Ennis who was also named the 2009-10 AHL Rookie of the Year. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Individual goal projections plus, the art of simply watching a game

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Before we get into the individual stats, a quick note.

Last night I was at my son's football game and as I watched these high school kids play, I was reminded of how great it was just to watch a game simply for the competition itself.

There were no names on the back, no fantasy football stats, no television time outs. Just 11 players per side battling it out.

Taking that approach allowed me to simply let the game unfold as it may, with particular players from each side emerging at various moments.

A few years ago when the Buffalo Sabres were mired in mediocrity and I found myself critiquing everything about them, I decided upon that approach as well--simply watch the game.

I tried to enjoy it as much as possible, which, oddly enough, happened about half the time for a 9th place Eastern Conference finish.

In doing so, I found that the games were much more enjoyable and much less stressful.

Don't get me wrong, I have my fantasy football draft on Monday and I'll be locked in to the NFL season, and the Bills as well. And when hockey rolls around, I'll be digging into stats and focusing upon certain players and/or things.

But, to be able to watch a game simply for the competitive nature of the game itself is becoming somewhat of an art form. It's something us "old-folks" did when we were kids, often times, especially with the Sabres, listening to the games on the radio.

It was a perfect night last night. Summer controlled the evening, but as dusk settled in, Fall was in the air.

I almost shot a text out to a friend about how awesome it was. But tucked my phone away.

I didn't want to spoil the moment.

In my last piece, we looked at a goal projection for the Sabres as a team using (Relatively) simple math.

I'd been asked to provide the individual projections so, here we go:

Matt Moulson--28
Tyler Ennis--21
Cody Hodgson--22
Brian Gionta--22
Drew Stafford--19
Chris Stewart--22
Zemgus Girgensons--9
Marcus Foligno--10
Brian Flynn--8
Torrey Mitchell--6
Cody McCormick--4
*Johan Larsson--0

Tyler Myers--11
Josh Gorges--2
Andrej Meszaros--9
Andre Benoit--7
Mike Weber--2
Mark Pysyk--2

*Larsson has played in 28 NHL games and has zero goals.

For more on the process, see my previous piece.

As much as I hate to see summer go, Fall is just a great time of year to be a sports fan.