Thursday, November 5, 2015

On this year's Sabres, Connor McDavid, the NFL and more

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres have been playing real well as of late and WGR's Paul Hamilton gave us a little insight as to what's transpired on the ice since the beginning of the season. The team went  from struggling early on to putting together four strong games in a row that lead to a 3-1 record. And even in the loss (to Pittsburgh) they were the better team.

So what gives?

"[Buffalo head coach] Dan Bylsma is always teaching and always coaching when he’s on the ice," began Hamilton's piece. "Last season the coaching staff preached hard work, but very little on systems or game plans. Bylsma is the exact opposite."

What it lead to according to was information overload for some of the players. “I think in some instances maybe it’s the first time a players been given a lot of information, I am mindful of that,”
said Bylsma in the Hamilton piece. “It’s evident, I can see it, I can see it from September 18 through the first three weeks of training camp, I can see it in some player’s eyes they’re like, ‘I didn’t know’, they weren’t aware of it, so I know that.”

But the most important thing is that the players "got it" or are close to getting it. Bylsma's systems have lead to the team controlling the puck and getting a pucks to the net. Their puck possession is world's better than last season while they top the league in shots on goal per game and are top-five in shots on goal against.

Bylsma's teachings are now becoming second nature and as they continue their up-tempo pace, hard-work and dogged forechecking things should improve even more. According to Bylsma the players thought process has moved from thinking to reacting. "I think guys starting thinking too much about all the systems and everything," said the coach, "and now it’s all way down in the mind and it just happens on a regular basis, you don’t really think, you play.”

The Sabres have played well enough to win a few more than their five wins and as their offense (hopefully) heats up, it will take some pressure off of the defense and goaltending.

Speaking of goaltending, Bylsma seems a bit smitten with rookie goalie, Linus Ullmark.

He was on WGR for his weekly show on Tuesday and pointed out that Ullmark made some big saves in both victories against Philadelphia on Friday and the NY Islanders on Sunday. "Against the Islanders, he was tested again in the third period and had four really big saves that kept the score 1-0 and allowed us to get that tying goal and stay in the game," he told the Howard Simon Show.

Bylsma had mentioned Ullmark's composure in net the last two games, and how calm he's been no matter what. He went back to that on Tuesday. "I keep looking at his birth certificate to see how old he is," said the coach. "He's got a real calm demeanor, doesn't seem to get too bothered by the limelight or the pressure. He just gets in there and plays a real calm, steady game."

Ullmark, should he continue to earn starts, will need that calm demeanor as the Sabres schedule for November is pretty tough and laden with some Western Conference powerhouses. They play the conference-leading Dallas Stars twice, second-place St. Louis twice (all in a four-game stint,) the third place (tied) Nashville Predators twice as well as sixth-place Vancouver. Buffalo also has the defending eastern conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning on the docket twice.

Regardless of who they're up against, unlike last season (and the season before) the Sabres will go into each game with decent odds of winning the game, no matter who they're playing. Which is something that makes if a lot of fun for the fans.

Edmonton Oilers franchise center Connor McDavid, the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, went crashing into the boards last night and skated off the ice with a look of shock and dread on his face.

The play wasn't out of the ordinary as Edmonton Oilers head coach called it a "hockey play" to the assembled media at Rexall Place. "[McDavid] went to the net hard like he always does. He comes off that wing with a lot of speed, three guys got tangled up in the corner. It's unfortunate."

McDavid had just been named the NHL's October Rookie of the Month after scoring 12 points in the 12 games prior to last night including a seven-game point streak. He leads an incredibly strong rookie class that includes the Buffalo Sabres own Jack Eichel, Detroit's Dylan Larkin (who scored the game-winner for the Wings last night for the second game in a row,) Sam Bennett (CGY,) Arizona's Max Domi and Anthony Duclair as well as the Sabres Sam Reinhart, Chicago's Artemi Paranin and Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers.

As seen when he came back from a broken hand while playing for the OHL's Erie Otters, McDavid should retain his spot as the top rookie once he returns from what's said to be a broken collarbone.


The NFL trade deadline, unlike the NHL trade deadline, came and went like a tree falling in the forest with nobody there to hear it.

For as omnipresent as the NFL goliath is, yesterday's last opportunity for teams to enhance their line up for the playoffs came and went with no trades being made. According to various sources, there were two trades in the works involving a perennial pro-Bowler in Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas as well as Tennessee Titans cornerback Jason McCourtry. Neither came to fruition due to the asking price. Both the Browns and Titans are out of the playoff picture and were looking to build for the future.

It was rumored that the Browns were asking for a first round pick for Thomas plus another high pick, but unlike hockey, draft picks, especially a first-rounder, are highly coveted by NFL teams. Any draft pick from any draft can come right in and start for a team as their incubation period took place while they were in college. The NHL on the other hand is drafting 18 yr olds with nearly all of the picks headed for another year or two, at least, in junior and/or the AHL.

So NFL teams would be giving up a potential starter, at a rookie salary, for a shorter-term solution to an immediate problem.

Perhaps if the Browns had asked for a lower pick in 2016 and a first-rounder in 2017, or even 2018, the deal could have gotten done. They're a team that's rebuilding and the playoffs aren't in the picture anytime soon so what's the difference if they receive a first rounder this year or in the following years?


Continuing with football for a bit, Buffalo Bills fans have been dubbed the drunkest fans in the NFL by

Thanks to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle's article and link, we've found out that, a site devoted to increasing one's knowledge of intoxicating libations, asked BACtrack to "investigate" which NFL team had the drunkest fans. BACtrack makes personal breathalyzers for smart phones and they spent the first seven weeks of the NFL season compiling data from those who blew into their phones. The Buffalo Bills fans came out in at an overall .076 blood alcohol content average topping their nearest "competitors," the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions fans' .069.

The numbers were compiled on Sunday's only so it's not surprising that fans want to let loose for a day of collective sports celebration. But, being old-school with a definitive Orwellian outlook, I'm not so sure blowing into your phone while plastered is such a good idea.

But we have more data now, right?

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