Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Flux, player movement and lack of sandpaper undermines Amerks season

Reprinted with permission from

This is the first in a two-part series reviewing the Rochester Americans season.

While the majority in Sabreland was obsessing over the NHL lottery last Saturday night, hoping that the gold logo would come up Buffalo, the Rochester Americans were in the midst of a three-game-in-three-night season finale' that featured two road games in a row to end the season. When the ping-pong balls came up Edmonton, Rochester was in Binghamton in the second to last game of a long, trying season.

In contrast to the supreme focus of Buffalo hockey fans and media on the circus that was "McEichel" all season, those in Rochester, a mere 60 miles east, were of the casual, detached variety, even when it came to the climax that was the NHL lottery. "We were in the middle of a game," said long time Amerks broadcaster Don Stevens of the lottery draw. "I don't think there was a lot said about it."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

An early look at the Sabres free agents

Reprinted with permission from

Back-to-back 30th place finishes and a general manager who's talked consistently of not wanting a long rebuild is a recipe for some definitive turnover in an NHL organization. Add in an AHL affiliate that just finished the season 29-41-6, good for 14th in the conference and 27th in the league, and one could imagine some major personnel changes and a decidedly different look in Buffalo as well as Rochester.

The Buffalo Sabres have gone through major personnel changes already as less than half the players from the 2013-14 opening game roster are still with the organization. Of the 11 that are still around only three--Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen--have top-six forward/top-pairing defenseman potential.

This season because of turnover and injuries to both clubs, over 50 players pulled on a Rochester Americans sweater. Murray was grabbing players from everywhere to try and fill the Amerks roster, which, be it known, is typical in the relationship between an NHL club and their AHL affiliate. Yet, that much turnover might be a little extreme.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some background on Evan Rodrigues

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Jack Eichel's Boston University linemate and Terriers alternate captain Evan Rodrigues is reportedly headed to Buffalo. The 5'10" 175 lb. winger had a monster season last year finishing with 21 goals and 61 points while riding shotgun with Eichel,  the "presumed" second overall pick in this year's draft. Rodrigues finished second in the nation in points and assist playing in Hockey East, one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA.

Rodrigues went undrafted and is now the second player Buffalo GM Tim Murray has signed out of college this spring. The first was RIT forward Matt Garbowsky who had 26 goals and 28 assists in 40 games. His 56 points placed him tied for 4th in the nation. With the presumed selection of Eichel at the draft this June, Murray will be bringing in three of the top five college scorers in the nation.

A right-handed shot who flourished on Eichel's left wing, Rodrigues' output this year dwarfed his previous numbers. In 105 games prior, he scored a grand total 21 goals plus a total of 39 assists, showing just how much of an impact Eichel had on BU.

Rodrigues is described as a skilled two-way forward who was able to impact the game in multiple facets according to The Daily Free Press at BU. “You guys see us play, it speaks for itself,” Eichel said back in February after Rodrigues notched a pair of milestones. “He’s so skilled, he’s so smart and he works so hard, so if you put these three things together, he’s obviously tearing it up for a reason. I really enjoy playing with him.”

Said BU coach David Quinn, "I’ve seen it ever since I got to BU. He’s just an incredibly smart player, works hard, competes, has a great skill set and he can skate. Other than that (he said with a laugh,) he can’t really do too much.”

Back on April 9th with the Terriers getting ready for the Frozen Four, Quinn had high praise for one of his senior leaders. “You don’t have 60-plus points and not be a huge reason why we’re in the situation we’re in,” said the second-year coach. “He’s made so many clutch plays, might be our best penalty killer. And he’s the most intelligent college hockey player I’ve ever seen.”

Note: Scott McLaughlin of WEEI Boston broke the story last night.

Thanks to Sarah Kirkpatrick and Conor Ryan for their work at the Free Press as well as Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If Jack Eichel decides on another year at Boston University, so what?

Reprinted with permission from

The NHL Draft is still two months away but it's never too soon to start manufacturing drama. Add in some paranoia, melancholy, and a strong inferiority complex--tenets of the Buffalo sports psyche since, at least, "wide right"--and drama explodes into melodrama.

"OMG! What if Jack Eichel goes back to BU after Buffalo drafts him?


If the Buffalo Sabres draft Jack Eichel with the second-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and he decides to go back to college instead of turning pro, it means that he will not suit up for Buffalo next season and his entry-level contract won't kick in for another year. The Sabres hold his rights for three years. Case closed.

And for those who are really paranoid over possibly losing two years of their lives watching a 30th place team while ultimately coming up empty, it's conceivable that Eichel could play three more years in college then declare himself a free agent, but it probably ain't happenin'.

For the safety and security of yourself and those around you please, step away from the edge.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Buffalo, I'm comin' for ya!"

Reprinted with permission from

Plain and simple, I was a little disappointed last night when Edmonton won the "Connor McDavid Sweepstakes." This nothing against Jack Eichel who will be there at No.2 when the Sabres take the podium in Sunrise, FL, but finishing second, especially having endured a season like no other, is at the very least, mildly disappointing. Like Sabres GM Tim Murray said post-lottery, “If you can pick 1 or 2, you’re going to choose 1. Anytime you can get 1 vs. 2 in any walk of life, you’re going to want No. 1."

Which is really no disrespect to Eichel, it's just human nature.

Murray as well as Sabres fans went into this whole process knowing that there was an 80% chance that McDavid would be headed somewhere other than Buffalo. "We came up here with an expectation we’d probably be picking No. 2 and we’re going to deal with it. There’s no issue there.” They'll also be getting a player in Eichel who many feel would be the first overall selection or rival the first overall selection in every draft dating back to John Tavares and Steven Stamkos.

Which was the whole idea behind a few teams wanting to finish in 30th this season.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The NHL Draft Lottery Tonight, plus a welcome to the "dark side"

Reprinted with permission from

At 8:00pm tonight the results of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery will be aired live before the Pittsburgh/NY Rangers game.

Sabres President Ted Black will be in the booth representing Buffalo during the actual number drawing process which will take place beforehand while GM Tim Murray will be in the Sportsnet studios for the unveiling of the team getting the first overall pick. There will no communication from those watching the lottery process and those in studio. A video of the lottery will be available later in the evening.

It's a defining day for whichever team is lucky enough to come out on top as phenom Connor McDavid awaits, but Murray won't allow himself to get caught up in that as he's taken a decidedly "Buffaluck" approach to the drawing. “I don’t think about the Draft Lottery, " he said yesterday. "I just assume we’re going to lose, so it’s just another day. We’ve got an 80 percent chance of losing the lottery."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A response to "Harry Tee" from Puck Daddy's, the Tank That Was

Yahoo's Puck Daddy has been scouring the internet for "different perspectives" on the Buffalo Sabres 2014-15 season described by them as "one of the most disappointing yet hopeful, logical yet controversial seasons in NHL history."

Today's piece features "Harry Tee" whom they found on Twitter. In it, Harry says he's a newbie Sabres fan having followed them since 2008. He's not thrilled that the Sabres finished last this season and calls the entire season a "sham of an arrangement [that] has zapped much of my desire for the sport."

If you wish to read it, click here.

If you wish to read my response to a "thumbs down" from TSN's Dave Hodge who urged the Sabres to "get Connor with honor" and "lose with dignity," click here.


Edit:  from puckdaddy

Editor's note: A fan's guest column posted earlier Thursday has been removed from the Puck Daddy blog and Yahoo Sports. The column was a fan's view of the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 season. The author of the column engaged with other fans on social media upon publication. The author's social media activity is unacceptable and does not represent the views of Puck Daddy or Yahoo Sports.

Of Reinhart and Pysyk, plus former Sabres on playoff teams.

Reprinted with permission from

Sam Reinhart, drafted 2nd overall in the 2014 draft, is getting ready to make his Rochester Americans debut on Friday in the Amerks last home game of the season. They'll play two more games over the weekend, at Binghamton on Saturday and at Adirondack on Sunday in the season finale.

The 6'1" 185 lb. center completed his junior career last week after his Kootenay Ice were eliminated in the WHL playoffs. Reinhart began the season in Buffalo, played in nine games and was sent to Kootenay. Despite only registering one assist in his nine games with the Sabres, some of the attributes that made him the second overall pick were on display during the latter part of the tour. But the big thing holding him back was size.

Sabres GM Tim Murray sent him to junior for the season and said that he wanted to see Reinhart bulk up. At the time Murray said this of sending him down, "I told him, 'you're my first 1st-round draft pick as a GM.' I was cheering for him, but obviously, I can't let emotions come into play.

"I told him he’s just not heavy enough. He’s not strong enough yet. We want him to go back there and get stronger.

“He’s going to have to find a way two or three times a week to slip out on his own and get to the gym and get stronger.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2014-15 Individual Stats--Final

Reprinted with permission from

The 2014-15 season is in the books and Sabreland is much better for it.

It was a season of flux, one that was filled with a wide range of emotions that captured what will be noted as the most divisive season in the history of the franchise. From the demotion of Mikhail Grigorenko to start the season, to the streak in late November/early December, to the franchise-long 14 game losing streak, to the 0-fer in January, to the quest for McEichel and the Arizona Coyotes, to Chris Stewart, Nikita Zadorov, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Myers, Anders Lindback and Mike Weber emotions ran the full gamut. In the end, the only thing left was a 30th place finish and the departure of head coach Ted Nolan and nearly all of his coaching staff with the emotions directed at him this season were more divisive and far-reaching than everything else combined.

A total of 34 skaters and five goalies laced 'em up for Buffalo this season. Nicholas Deslauriers was the only one to play in every game while the departed Joel Armia and goalie Andrey Makarov were the only players to play one game. And if you thought having 39 players play in at least one game was a lot, in 2013-14, there were 39 skaters and six goaltenders who laced 'em up for at least one game.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

No room for sentiment, Ted Nolan fired. Plus 2014-15 Team Stats--Final

Reprinted with permission from

"Was a matter of when, not if."

So a colleague told me last night after Sabres head coach Ted Nolan was fired by GM Tim Murray. Murray also fired assistant coach Danny Flynn and announced that he did not renew the contracts of assistant coaches Bryan Trottier and Tom Coolen. Goalie coach Arturs Irbe has one year left on his contract and is still with the club.

As big a fan as I was of Nolan and the work he did this season, Murray is on a mission. When he stepped to the podium to announce the changes, he was cold and business-like, the same way he's been publically after making a number of franchise-altering decisions. From owner Terry Pegula on down, Murray has been put in charge of building a championship team and he not fooling around. There's no room for sentimentality in all of this despite Sgt. Ted throwing himself and his career on a hand grenade for the Buffalo Sabres organization. From Ryan Miller to Tyler Myers to Nolan and on to the next coaching staff, Murray is all-in on his vision. And he should be commended for it.

That being said, although it's the correct move for the franchise moving forward, it's still a raw deal.

Monday, April 13, 2015

We bid the 2014-15 season, adieu

Reprinted with permission from

One thing we learned, maybe even confirmed last night, concerning the 2014-15 edition of the Buffalo Sabres, is that the team lacked talent, especially top-end talent, to run with the big dogs. It's nothing against the players, but when they stepped into the ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins last night en route to a 2-0 shutout loss to finish the season, they were severely outclassed.

The Pens were in must-win mode, preferring to keep their playoff hopes in their own hands rather than put it in the hands of the Boston Bruins who would hit the ice a half-hour later. You could see it from the way Sidney Crosby was locked in--how he was chippy and in overdrive--and how it filtered down to the rest of the team. With all the attention paid to Crosby centering the first line and Evgeni Malkin the second line, the doors opened up for third line center Brandon Sutter who ended up scoring the only two goals of the game.

Although the Sabres were gamers, they just didn't have the horses. As has been true since mid-December, they might catch a quality team napping and win, or have a goalie steal a game but when they met a team with superior talent, the outcome was a given. And every team in the league save for the post-trade deadline Arizona Coyotes, had superior talent this season. That the Sabres won as many games as they did this season, especially after the deadline, is rather remarkable.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

An epilogue for a dark time in Sabres history

Reprinted with permission from

The Columbus Blue Jackets have one of the coolest goal celebrations in the NHL. When the home team lights the lamp, the horn sounds and AC/DC's cued up.

For those about to rock!!!


And off goes the cannon. POW!!!

For those who've never been there, it'll scare you. Even if you've been there on numerous occasions, like Sabres analyst Rob Ray, and you know it's coming, the firing of the cannon might still send shockwaves through you. "I'm gonna go up there an destroy that cannon," said Ray after Matt Calvert potted his 13th goal of the season to put the Jackets up 2-1. "It scares me every time it goes off, and you know it's happening."

If you're a Sabres fan this season, the firing of that cannon was a beautiful sound and when Boone Jenner scored into an empty Sabres net with 9.7 second remaining in the third period, it might just as well have been a 21-gun salute to lay the 2014-15 season to rest. Although Buffalo still has one more game tonight against a struggling Pittsburgh Penguins club embroiled in a playoff battle, the season is done, 30th place is secure and all that's left is for the fans at First Niagara Center to give this team a rousing ovation for making it through the most difficult and divisive season in Sabres history.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Struggling Amerks sweep Monsters as F, Eric Cornel makes his pro debut

Reprinted with permission from

Head coach Chadd Cassidy's Rochester Americans came into "the Q" last night on a four-game losing streak. They were playing the last game of a four-game road trip and were facing a Lake Erie Monsters team that was still in playoff contention, yet despite that, a little relief was in sight as the Amerks were coming into the contest looking for the season sweep.

In the first three meetings the Amerks outscored the Monsters by a cumulative 14-4 score and last night ended up no different as the Amerks skated to a 5-1 victory in front of 6628 in Cleveland. "It's just one of those things where you just match up well against a team or you just have confidence," said Cassidy after pulling off the sweep. "We've got a lot of new players in our lineup and finally had a long week of practice where we got everyone on the same page.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Some players to keep an eye on and some games to watch tonight

Reprinted with permission from

Yes, the saga continues tonight in Vancouver as the Canucks host the Arizona Coyotes at 10:00pm EST.

From a 'Yote's/Buffalo Sabres perspective, we all know what's at stake. A win by Arizona and it's over. A regulation loss and Howard Simon starts losing hair on his face and ears, security on the Peace Bridge goes orange and fans start gathering fuel for their Ted Nolan effigy.

Just a thought before we move on, were Nolan to get fired at anytime before the end of the season, methinks the team would rally. Whether the rally would be successful or not is another story, but as Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times' Buffalo Hockeybeat pointed out today, he's well thought of by the players as he's managed to keep things upbeat, according to Hoppe, despite the team losing 57 games (including overtime/shootout losses) to date. "Players clearly enjoy playing under Nolan," wrote Hoppe. "They mention the way he communicates, his motivational skills and the freedom he gives them."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Notes to chaw on as the end draws nearer

Reprinted with permission from

To say it's been a strange season would be like saying Sidney Crosby is a pretty good hockey player. With five days to go in the 2014-15 regular season and the Buffalo Sabres off until Friday, there are many fans who are left to manically watch the scoreboard while squirming in "apocalyptic fear," as WGR's Howard Simon put it yesterday. As if the very essence of their existence and every strand of their being hangs in the balance of last place finish. Just the thought of a 30th place finish having that much weight in life is strange.

A colleague asked me if I'm on twitter, and I said no. Although a lack of a social media presence isn't helpful when it comes to professional exposure, I take in enough psychosis just browsing the comment sections throughout the interweb or listening to the reactions of Buffalo fans as well as personalities on GR. Twitter is in direct contrast the old adage, "Think before you speak," and often times tweets and comments, as well as calling in on talk radio, are end up being totally against a common refrain I'd been taught growing up, "If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Time to finish the job

Reprinted with permission from

There's not a Sabres fan that I know of that would want the team to go into Fan Appreciation Weekend with the possibility of Arizona finishing behind Buffalo in the standings. The Sabres would need to snare five of a possible six points and the Coyotes would need to lose out for the Sabres to finish 29th. The odds of that happening are slim to none but Buffalo fans know all to well that anything's possible.

As the 2014-15 is coming to a close, fans can't help but feel that there's been enough anguish especially over the course of the last three months or so. Regardless of all that, the job is not finished.

This is a very winnable game for Buffalo versus the Carolina Hurricanes and one that could give fans heartburn. The season series is split 1-1 right now and it should be noted that the Canes are sporting a 11-24-3 road record and are presently on a three-game losing streak. Yet, for their part, the Sabres haven't won consecutive home games vs. Carolina since a five-game streak from 10-20-2006 to 1-17-2009.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Of Connor McDavid, Nick Baptiste and the light at the end of the tunnel.

Reprinted with permission from

When leaving Erie Insurance Arena last night after the Erie Otters dismantled the Sarnia Sting 7-0 in the OHL playoffs, the first thing I did when getting into the car was turn on the radio to catch the final five minutes of the Buffalo/Chicago Blackhawks game. I was aware that the Hawks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and had left the arena knowing that the game was knotted 2-2.

Barely had the car started when I heard the voice of Rick Jeanneret call Marcus Foligno's third period goal that put the Sabres up 3-2. A sharp pang of anxiety quickly rippled through and some nervousness settled in until Hawks captain Jonathan Toews scored two goals in 47 seconds to pull out the victory for Chicago. As a Sabres fan on Interstate 90, I was part of a collective sigh as the final horn sounded.

There was plenty of Sabres regalia for the Otters/Sting game, probably second only to the number of Connor McDavid jerseys in the crowd as plenty of Sabres fans made it down for the game. Next to me was a young couple from Cheektowaga and the next row up behind them was a gentleman named Ted with his two teenaged sons. They were from Buffalo as well.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ted Nolan, "Agree to disagree"

Reprinted with permission from

Sabres head coach Ted Nolan was on WGR's Howard Simon Show for his weekly appearance. As is par for the course in the Buffalo media these days, the host and co-host spent the majority of the segment trying in many ways to get his thoughts on what's transpired over the course of the last week. Nolan was asked about the home fans cheering the opposition, the players being annoyed by it, the wins vs. Arizona and Toronto, the value of positioning amongst the bottom-dwelling teams and how he's handling it all.

Host Simon and his co-host Jeremy Whiter were sneaky, which is typical, because if one hopes to get an answer, that's the way one must be when asking a question on a touchy subject. And Nolan didn't just fall off the turnip truck. After one question thrown his way, the coach came right out and said, "That's a loaded question."

What we're witnessing, and have been witnessing, throughout this long, tedious and rather exhausting process, is a simple case of people doing their jobs. The boys on the air and in print, in essence, are speaking for many fans (or think they are) and are trying to get some information and/or sound bites. The players on the ice are doing their jobs as they're trying to win and make an impression so that they may continue their careers. Nolan and his staff are doing their jobs in trying to get the best out of each player on an individual basis while GM Tim Murray is keeping in mind the long-term best interests of the franchise.

Add it all up and you have the Sabres tenuous hold on 30th place and a fan-base getting more and more nervous with every point Buffalo gets. But "Tank-nation" needn't fret all that much as the level of competition coming up is sharply greater than what Arizona and Toronto have to offer.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

2014-15 Team Stats--March

Reprinted with permission from

Before we get to the team stats for March, the Sabres organization signed RIT senior forward Matt Garbowsky to an amateur tryout contract with the Rochester Americans, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle's Kevin Oklobzija.

The 5'10" 190 lb. center captained the Tigers to an Atlantic Hockey Conference championship this season and a spot in the NCAA Tournament where they upset #1-seed Minnesota State University-Mankato 2-1. Garbowsky had an assist on RIT's first goal when he took on a hard check along the boards but got the puck to teammate Alexander Kuqali who took it to the front of the net and scored on the backhand. With just under six minutes left in the third he barreled to the front of the net causing an MSU-Mankato defenseman to take out his own goalie. Linemate Josh Mitchell scored the game-winner on the play.

According to Kris Baker of, Garbowsky is a "jack of all trades, great on draws and diligent in the defensive zone." Although he was one of the top scorers in the NCAA with 26 goals and 54 points, Atlantic Hockey isn't quite on par with some of the other big-name colleges. Baker says that "teams want to see more high-end play before fully committing" to a pro contract.

The Sabres still have their eyes on one more college player, Boston University goalie, Matt O'Connor. Unlike Garbowsky who had only one other offer, O'Connor has many teams interested in his services. BU will be in the Frozen Four April 9-11. Should they make it to the finals, that game will coincide with the Sabres last game of the season. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and how the Sabres plan to lure him to Buffalo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2014-15 Individual Stats--March

Reprinted with permission from

Normally we do team stats before individual stats, but with the Sabres finishing up their month yesterday and a game kicking off April on the 1st, individual stats for the month are complete, so we'll begin with them.

Sometimes it takes a while for the older folk to get themselves going. Two of the elder statesman on the Sabres, Brian Gionta (35 yrs. old) and Matt Moulson (31) are really beginning to roll.

Moulson started picking it up last month as he lead the team in assists (7) and and points (9.) He followed that up with another seven assists and 10 more points in the month of march. Joining him in the scoring department was Gionta. The veteran winger had four goals and totaled nine points for the month which represents about a third of his point total for the entire season.