Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some Buffalo-centeric thoughts

Reprinted with permission from

The video that the Florida Panthers showed before the Buffalo game on Saturday was bush-league and Cats GM Dale Tallon should have been embarrassed that it went on the Jumbotron.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula, a South-Florida resident, also did well in calling the Florida organization out for using it as 13 people died in the "Wall of Snow" storm shown on the video.

The video basically mocked Buffalo for its brutal winter weather while juxtaposing a happy-go-lucky mascot frolicking in the Florida sunshine. Although one cannot dismiss the lives lost, Stanley C, Panthers' joy of not having to deal with Buffalo's winters is something every transplant feels. It was a video intended for the "home" crowd and of the miniscule few thousand in attendance, I'd hazard to guess that upwards of 80% of those at the game were northern transplants or vacationers from up north. They could relate.

My first Christmas away from Buffalo winters as a transplant was spent in 80 degree Florida sunshine on a dock by a small lake. With Otis Redding rolling through my head and an ice cold beer in my hand I sat there just hangin' out thinking to myself how awesome it was that I wouldn't be dealing with another Buffalo winter.

A couple years later would find me on a small lake in Florida spending the entire month of February water skiing on Little Lake Fairview.

It was glorious. That's Florida.

Just a little personal perspective before I mention that I wasn't offended by the video as I knew that feeling. It was a personal thing for me that would be communicated to my family and friends. To have an organization do that on a professional-level reaching a wide audience was tasteless.

No worries, with poor attendance perennially plaguing the Panthers franchise, a move to Quebec City may be in the offing. Ole Stashu Panther is gonna end up Nanook of the North. He'll still be having fun, because mascots do that, but hopefully he won't be juxtaposing waterskiing on a lake in Canada while South Florida's recovering from a lethal hurricane.


The Rochester Americans are in as bad a funk as any team could be right now. After starting the season 6-2 they've gone 3-12-1. During this tailspin, everything is going wrong for the team as their goaltending has gone south and their scoring has dried up.

It's not a good situation for the Amerks or the Buffalo Sabres organization right now.

Rochester was once dubbed the "University of the Buffalo Sabres" by team president Ted Black as former coach Ron Rolston was named "First Professor" and would use his USA Hockey National Team Development Program resume to teach the youngins. When he moved up to the Sabres, his assistant Chadd Cassidy took the reigns.

The Amerks made minimal progress over the course of the last three seasons, as they've yet push things past the first round of the playoffs.

Rolston and Cassidy are of the Darcy Regier tree and it would seem as if the team has gone in a far different direction with GM Tim Murray nearing his second year on the job, something that really doesn't bode well for Cassidy.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Cassidy's on thin ice. You can't dismiss a slide like this. The lineup looked to be better this season and the goaltending situation stable as well, yet they're in a funk they can't seem to get out of. The problems may stem from character issues and lack of heart as alluded to by Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. And if that's the case, it doesn't jibe with the foundation that Sabres head coach Ted Nolan is developing in Buffalo.

Is Cassidy and his coaching staff the problem, or is it more of the players he's given? From a GM's perspective, it's usually the former, especially when the coach is not the GM's guy.

Not sure what will transpire over the course of the next few weeks, but I wouldn't be surprised if Murray made a move.


For the first time in 52 games, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning did not throw a touchdown pass yesterday.

The Buffalo Bills defense held Manning to 14 of 20 for 174 yards, intercepted him twice and held him to his lowest passer rating in six years (56.9%.). They laid out some bone jarring hits and kept the Broncos under 25 points. It's only the third time this season a defense has done that to Denver.

Safe to say the defense did it's job in the loss. They picked their poison as the Broncos scored three rushing touchdowns on 133 total rushing yards gained. Denver running back CJ Anderson had all three TD's while being held to 58 yards on 21 carries.

The Bills offense was once again the culprit as they just couldn't muster anything until it was too late.

Kyle Orton had a pretty good fantasy day going 38/57 for 355 yards and a touchdown, most of it during garbage time. But, as Mike Klis of the Denver Post writes, "the Denver defense forced three turnovers, two on interceptions of [Kyle] Orton, the former Bronco who hasn't changed a bit — pretty good, but not good enough."

"Pretty good, but not good enough," not only sums up the quarterback, but the offense in general this season. Which is why this team looks to be headed to an .500 record and a 15th consecutive season outside of the playoffs.

Granted, there's still hope to end the post-season futility. The Bills will need to run the table. Unfortunately they'll be facing two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Green Bay's Aaron Rogers and New England's Tom Brady along the way.

Bills GM Doug Whaley has done an outstanding job adding quality depth to a stout defense. Next task is to work on offense. Since he can't just go to the Hall of Fame quarterback tree out back and pick one, there's more rough sailing ahead for Whaley as he tries to find a quarterback "good enough."

It's not a very good situation. If Whaley continues to pursue course of development of EJ Manuel, fine, but they'll still need a journeyman to throw to the lions next season. None of the options are all that great as pickin's is mighty slim. They could stick with Orton, or just as easily go after any number of Orton-like, game-manager types like Brian Hoyer (CLE,) Colt McCoy (WSH,) or Matt Moore (MIA) if they feel they can get a slight upgrade.

It's something they may need to do year after year until either a journeymen comes through or Manuel gets "it." But while they're doing that, there's no reason why they can't go after a quarterback in the third or fourth round of the draft this year and look to see how he develops. Something that also may go on year after year until they hit on one.

It's an arduous process that will take a lot of time and a little bit of luck. But they really have no choice at this juncture.

One thing they can do to help this whole situation is bolster the offensive line. Their guard play has been weak at best and it's killing them. I won't begin to say that I know who they should go after or even what's out there, but picking up as good a free agent lineman as they can find coupled with the best offensive lineman available with their second or third round pick in the draft should be priorities.

Tightening up the offensive line will ease the pressure on whomever is at quarterback next season.

And then there's what to do with offensive coordinator Nate Hackett. Yes, a lot of the blame can be put on Orton and the weak offensive line for "missed opportunities," but it still seems as if the young Hackett's in over his head. As of right now we don't have a complete book on him yet he seems to be pretty good, but so far not good enough.

Fix any one of those three problem areas on offense and you could probably tack on a win this season. Fix two or more and it's conceivable that the Bills could be 9-4 right now, almost assured of a playoff berth.

Even though many like myself figured they'd be a .500 team, the defense gave us immense hope that this might be the year to break the playoff drought. Unfortunately, it looks like it wasn't in the cards.

No panic, though. Although next year's schedule is tough, it's not as tough as this season. Fix one or two offensive areas of concern, and I think they'll be good enough to make it to the playoffs. If they get lucky, they might be even better.


The Chris Stewart rumors are heating up again.

The big winger is still mired in a funk but his size and resume has plenty of teams interested in him.

In addition to the never ceasing Stewart to Boston rumors (which make the most sense) Ek has the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes showing interest. Kinda mind-boggling since both look like they'll end up well out of a playoff spot.

Personally, if Stewart is traded, I wouldn't mind the Sabres going after him in the off season. Although they won't go as high as his current $4M cap-hit, I can't see Stewart signing for much less. Despite his travails of late, he's still worth a small gamble.

No reason why he can't be a part of the Sabres for the next few seasons and there's no reason why they couldn't throw $3-3.5M per at him.

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