Sunday, January 31, 2016

2015-16 Individual Stats--January

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January was a tale of two players for the Buffalo Sabres amidst maddening team inconsistency. Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel are the Sabres top-two centers and for the first half of the season it was O'Reilly doing the heavy lifting. While Eichel was busy acclimating himself to the NHL-game, O'Reilly was busy leading the team in every statistical category save for plus/minus. In addition to that he lead all NHL forwards in average TOI (21:52) and was tops in the NHL in the number of faceoffs taken (1267) and his 57.1% is third in the league amongst those who've taken 1,000 faceoffs or more.

O'Reilly was a busy man, to say the least. And it was somewhat of a Herculean feat as he tried to almost singlehandedly lift the Sabres out of the basement while helping the entire team acclimate to new coaches with new system. Reports always have him as first one on the ice and last one off and he even made time to work with rookie Sam Reinhart on face offs and shots after practice.

He was pretty much St. O'Reilly throughout the first few months of the season but being a mere mortal, it took a heavy toll.

Good thing for the All-Star break. Although O'Reilly is in Nashville representing Buffalo as their lone All-Star time away from the everyday grind of the NHL should serve him well. O'Reilly's numbers took a dive last month as he went from 14 points (7+7) in December to only seven (2+5) last month. Dude was at his usual pace to start the month but entered the All-Star break with zero goals in nine games although he did have five assists.

Friday, January 29, 2016

2015-16 Team Stats--January

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If you can say anything about the Buffalo Sabres in their first season focusing on the "build" portion of their rebuild, it's that they're consistent in their inconsistencies. Within their monthly records of 4-7-0 (Oct,) 6-5-2 (November,) and 5-7-2 (December) there were stretches of excellent play and not so good play punctuated by displays of awesomeness which were balanced by the occasional stinker. Through 50 games this season (20-26-4) the Sabres have managed to make huge strides towards the .500 fulcrum as evidenced by their 10 one-goal wins and 10 one-goal losses.

January was very similar to the 2015 portion of the campaign as the team finished 5-7-0. Buffalo started out losing three in a row, then won four of five, then found themselves on a three-game losing streak before winning the final game against Ottawa. It was a maddening display of hockey which had the fanbase caught up in manic mood-swings leaning heavily towards the negative side. However, positive individual efforts during the month, especially near the end with Jack Eichel showcasing his elite talent, kept lit Zippo lighters away from kerosene-soaked torches at the foot of Washington St.

With the way the year has gone so far, it's pretty safe to say that the Sabres won't make the playoffs  for a franchise record-extending fifth consecutive season. As it stands now Buffalo is 12 points out of a playoff spot with 30 games to play. Although a precedent was set last season as the Ottawa Senators, once 12 points out, went on a run that propelled them to a 7th-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sens were a little further along in their development and rode the Hamburglar's hot hand.  Buffalo is loaded with rookies and have been besieged by injury's to the tune of 207 man-games lost to injury, according to, which is second only to Edmonton's 214. That combination plus utterances from GM Tim Murray that the for sale sign is about to go up pretty much seals their fate for this season.

That and the fact that they haven't been scoring that much either.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jack Eichel forces himself into the Calder Trophy conversation.

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There was a point in time during the season where Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel was really struggling. The 19 yr. old, 2015 Hobey Baker winner was adjusting to the rigors of the NHL and had simply hit a wall. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas where it looked as if there was a fog surrounding him. Sure, his quick acceleration blazing speed was on display and he still possessed deft stick work and a wicked shot, but he was fighting fatigue for that 12 game period.

Stat-watchers and fancy analytics gurus who hadn't seen him play were probably asking themselves what all the hype was about. After all, Chicago's Artemi Panarin was tearing it up as was Detroit's Dylan Larkin. And then there was Edmonton's Connor McDavid who was living up to the hype (5g, 7a, in 13 games) before he succumbed to a broken collar bone. In Eichel there was a player as hyped as much as fellow 2015 draftee McDavid, but the results just weren't there.

From the beginning of the season those watching the Sabres could see that his linemates were struggling to keep up. Eichel had five goals in 13 games but didn't record his first assist until the 14th game.  He followed that stretch with some solid production and finished the first part of the season with eight goals and 4 assists in 22 games before the Thanksgiving holiday.

However, between Thanksgiving and the Christmas break he only had five points (2+3) in 12 games including a seven-game goal drought heading into the break. Were it not for two assists, he'd have headed into Christmas on a seven-game pointless streak. Eichel had hit the rookie wall and headed back home to North Chelmsford, MA to re-energize.

And that he did.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Eichel and Girgensons weren't enough. But for 4:52 of the game, it was a blast.

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For 4:52 of the third period last night, the Buffalo Sabres and the NY Rangers played the type of hockey that energized the audience. The 18,006 at Madison Square Garden as well as those watching on NBCSN were caught up in the ebb and flow of the game as players were flying up and down the ice and goals were being scored.

In less than five minutes the Sabres erased a two-goal deficit early in the third period only to see the Rangers gain it back with two of their own, and man, was that fun to watch. It was a bit of time-warp back to the "New-NHL" that was on display for a year-and-a-half after the 2004 lockout.

When Sabres GM Tim Murray stocked up on speed and skill up-front acquiring the likes of Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly while drafting Jack Eichel, it looked as if he was loading up a team that would play exactly like that, an aggressive, "catch-me-if-you-can" style. Instead Sabres fans have watched the team laboring under the weight of X's and O's, team-defense and proper on-ice positioning. And I get that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Who's ready for primetime? Sabres at MSG, face baffling Rangers

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For a change, the Buffalo Sabres are headed into a city digging out of a massive snowstorm instead of the other way around. Images from the blizzard known as Jonas, are very familiar to stout Buffalonians--white-outs, cars buried knee-deep in snow, tunnels being dug out just to get to the street, people having fun and those struggling.

It was the second biggest snowstorm on record in New York City dropping 26.8 inches of the white stuff on Central Park. It missed tying the record-breaking storm of February 10-11, 2006 by 0.1". Of course, it's The Big Apple where everything there needs a dramatic headline on a Broadway marquis and Jonas provided that. called it, Snowpocalypse. How apropos.

As the NY Rangers prepare to take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Madison Square Garden, they're going through their own drama as they're in the midst of a middling season while getting buried by the press.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Sabres scoring woes continue in 3-0 loss to Detroit at home.

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When Buffalo goaltender Robin Lehner got angry after allowing the first goal of the game by Detroit's Dylan Larkin, one had to wonder if his frustration was directed exclusively at himself or more broadly at how the team in front of him was playing.

The Sabres and the Red Wings had been going at it for over 50 minutes with neither team able to break through. The ice had been decidedly tilted towards Buffalo's end for the lion's share of the game and Lehner had to stand tall just to keep Buffalo in it. It was as frustrating Sabres fans as it was for Lehner as the lead-in to Larkin's eventual game-winner in the 3-0 shutout by Detroit. In an all to familiar scenario a Buffalo player was sent to the penalty box for a double-minor, the Sabres killed it off but they would get scored upon not long after.

Marcus Foligno clipped Larkin with a high stick in the Buffalo crease, drew blood and the Sabres were facing the prospect of shutting down a pretty potent Red Wings powerplay for four minutes. What Foligno was doing in that instance is questionable as the force of his upward stick movement could've lofted a hay bale 20 feet in the air. But off he went to the box.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

BUF vs. DET--Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin head-to-head. Plus...

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Buffalo's Jack Eichel and Detroit's Dylan Larkin will hook up for the fourth of five meetings this season as the Sabres host the Red Wings at First Niagara Center. Buffalo is 1-1-1 against Detroit so far with a win and a shootout-loss at Joe Louis Arena and a 4-3 loss at home.

The matchup of Eichel (born October 28, 1996) and Larkin (July 30, 1996) features two 19 yr. olds only three months apart but separated by the September 30th draft cutoff. Both are American born and both played for Team USA at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships, and would end up finishing their college careers before joining Team USA for the Men's World Hockey Championships last May.

Although Larkin was a 2014, 15th-overall pick by Detroit and Eichel was drafted 2nd-overall by Buffalo last season, both are in their first NHL season and are part of an extremely strong rookie class. They're also off to a very good start to their NHL careers and, what a surprise, they enter tonight's matchup with the exact same stat-line of 14 goals and 16 assists (with Eichel playing in two more games than Larkin.)

In the three head to head games thus far Eichel has 2g, 0a and is a plus-1 while Larkin has 0g, 1a, and is also a plus-1. Eichel had a shootout attempt as well and couldn't convert.

Friday, January 22, 2016

If...Moving on from a tough loss in Denver

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--If the Buffalo Sabres could have converted on of their many odd-man rushes to get the score to 2-0, they'd not have been clinging to a one-goal lead in the third period...

--If Evander Kane could have kept his stick lower, or if Colorado Avalanche veteran center John Mitchell wouldn't have given Kane's left arm a shove as the latter was trying to forcefully backhand the puck to center ice from the snowy boards, Kane's double minor for drawing blood on a high stick wouldn't have happened. Or at least it would have only been two minutes...

--If Buffalo had been able to get one more change after killing off that four-minute double-minor, or if goalie Robin Lehner would have refrained a desperation sprawl in the crease and stood tall...

--If Kane would shown more hustle when the puck went into their corner and the game tied at 1-1 with just over :30 seconds to play in the third period...

--If Kane's stick wouldn't have nicked Francois Beauchemin's shot from the point or if defenseman Mark Pysyk's hand was just an inch tighter to his body...

Such are the "if's" of losing a close one in the waning minutes of the third period.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Revisiting the trade that brought Ryan O'Reilly to Buffalo

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"It's over -- finally. Like a blue sky after a terrible storm, we can all exhale as the Colorado Avalanche relieve themselves of young center, and perpetual discontent, Ryan O'Reilly."

--Ryan Murphy, Mile High Hockey, June 26,2015

Such was the reaction of that Avalanche blogger to the trade of O'Reilly. Murphy would continue, "General Manager Joe Sakic tried for years to sign his budding star to a long-term extension, but no agreement could be reached. The Avalanche, from  the moment he was drafted, valued O'Reilly very highly, but never for a dollar amount that would satisfy the 24-year old and his agents. Unable to come to terms, he was shipped off to Buffalo."

At the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, that "blue sky after a terrible storm" Murphy was talking about was actually resonated in Sabreland. After two years of "suffering" with a hockey club that finished in 30th place two years running, the "tortured fans" of Buffalo, as NBCSN's Liam McHugh described them, were about to witness the parting of the clouds. It took all of two minutes and in shone a bright, warm sun on the beleaguered fans.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Eichel rips one home. Ristoainen rocks it. Buffalo downs Arizona

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Buffalo Sabres fans have seen rookie center Jack Eichel's wrist shot, which is top-notch. Late in a 5-on-3 powerplay last night against the Arizona Coyotes, Eichel unleashed the fury of his slapshot as Rasmus Ristolainen sent a cross-ice pass right in his wheel-house. In channeling Alexader Ovechkin and his patented one-timer, Eichel's composite stick bent like a fly-rod with a lunker on it as he blistered home his 14th goal of the season.

Eichel was named the game's first star as he finished with a goal and an assist.

The Sabres, who had just defeated the league-leading Washington Capitals two days before, rode a wave of confidence and played a fast game against the 'Yotes en route to a 2-1 victory. Buffalo has now won four of five and are on a three-game road win-streak and they seemed to have found a pretty good winning formula.

Chad Johnson got the start in net for the Sabres on the heels of that impressive 4-1 victory over the Caps. Starter Robin Lehner may have been scheduled prior to the Washington game, but when you shut down the Capitals like "Johnny" did in stopping 33 of 34 shots, it was a performance worthy of another start.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sabres hit Arizona having won three of four

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It was a good stretch for the Buffalo Sabres dating back to the Sunday before last. The Sabres headed to the frozen outpost of Winnipeg Manitoba on a six-game losing streak before their tilt with the Jets which included lots of familiar faces skating for both sides. Five of eight pieces from the February 11, 2015 blockbuster trade between the Sabres and the Jets were on the ice.

The centerpiece of the trade for Buffalo was Evander Kane. The malcontent of Manitoba was at the center of a media circus because of his exploits. He hit the ice, literally, as he fell out of the gates during warmups much to the satisfaction of the crowd who jeered him at every turn. A raucous Winnipeg hockey community dubbed the game, Track-suit Night, in honor of an infamous incident, but Kane and the Sabres would get the last laugh.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Powerless at the F'N Center as an inept 0-4 powerplay dooms Sabres.

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After winning two games on the road by playing a rather tight game, and scoring some goals for a change, the Buffalo Sabres came back home to the First Niagara Center looking to keep it simple and pounce on opportunities as they faced the Boston Bruins in the first of back-to-back games this weekend.

They kept it simple, alright, to the point where it produced a very blasé game against the B's last night. With Boston invoking a tight-checking game and the Sabres unable to either any speed, the game resembled a Floyd Mayweather fight as it plodded along. Buffalo would throw some shots from the outside, which Boston blocked, but they failed to gain an inside presence which made for a rather easy night for Boston goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

Boston gave the Sabres four powerplay opportunities but clogged the lane for all eight minutesa allowing very few shots to get through. With the score tied 1-1, the Sabres had three consecutive power plays in less than seven minutes but couldn't score and it was the powerless powerplay that really did the Sabres in last night as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Bruins.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Robin Lehner trade hangs heavy over Tim Murray. Lehner in net tonight.

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Like it or not, Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray will always have the Robin Lehner trade hanging over him for the foreseeable future. In a move that screamed nepotism and overpayment, and has been universally panned by many, especially the Buffalo media and Sabres fans, Murray sent a 2015 first round pick (21st-overall) to his uncle Bryan Murray, GM of the Ottawa Senators for Lehner and veteran forward, David Legwand.

Despite howls from Sabreland that a first-rounder for a goalie was somehow deemed unprecedented, and that the move rated high on a scale of deplorable moves (ranking it just shy of grounds for being fired) it was a calculated risk for Murray. The price was steep, and it left many pundits and experts scratching their heads, but Murray had the need for a goalie, he knew what type of player he wanted and he had the assets to get it done. So he jumped on it.

As for it being an unprecedented move, the Vancouver Canucks traded goalie Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the June, 2013 draft for the ninth-overall pick. Schneider, 27 yrs. old at the time, had been in a weird situation in Vancouver as he, as a back-up to Roberto Luongo were in a 1A/1B situation in net. Then GM Mike Gillis found himself in a tough spot and traded away Schneider who was ready to stake his claim to a starters role after playing in 98 games for the Canucks. He left for the Garden State with a 2.20 GAA and a .927 SV%.

The Canucks selected C, Bo Horvat with the ninth-overall pick. Horvat, now 20 yrs. old, has appeared in 112 games for Vancouver registering 43 points (19+24) and a minus-30 plus/minus rating. He also appeared in the 2014 playoffs last season. In six games had a goal and three assists and was a plus-one as the 'Nucks dropped a six-game series to the Calgary Flames.

It's pretty clear right now as to who has the bragging rights on this trade.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bennett one-ups Reinhart as the Battle of Sams is re-ignited

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Prior to the great thoroughbred race between Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel known as "McEichel" at the 2015 NHL Draft there was the Battle of Sams for the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo finished last in the league and was looking at the second-overall pick in the 2014 Draft after losing the lottery to the Florida Panthers.

The 2014 NHL Draft was considered a horse race between three players at the top of Central Scouting's list--C, Sam Bennett, D, Aaron Ekblad and C, Sam Reinhart. The Panthers, who had been bottom-dwellers in the league for most of the previous four seasons, had been stocking up on forwards since picking defenseman Eric Gudbranson in 2010 with the 3rd-overall pick. There was a good chance were taking Ekblad at the draft and sure enough, that's what they did. He went on to win the 2015 Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.

For Buffalo Sabres fans, the debate raged over which Sam the Sabres should take. Both were considered to be at the top of the heap of forwards, but were stylistically different in their on-ice mannerisms.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Watching the Wild last night vs. Buffalo reminiscent of watching "The Core"

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For any newbies who are just beginning to watch the Buffalo Sabres with interest, you should be happy with the fact that you didn't have to sit through the post Chris Drury/Daniel Briere years. From the 2007-08 through the 2012-13 season Buffalo was a middling team with a plenty of talent that always seemed to leave you wanting more.

Last night I saw that in the Minnesota Wild.

This is not a shot at certain Wild players like Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu or Zach Parise, all of whom are top-notch NHL'ers. Nor is it a shot at the Wild organization who've drafted future studs like Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, augmented the roster with some quality vets and brought in a real good coaching staff lead by head coach Mike Yeo.

Unlike the post-Drury/Briere Sabres, the group of players they've assembled in St. Paul has reached the playoffs the last three seasons. Unfortunately Minnesota has had to face the juggernaut that is the Chicago Blackhawks early on in the playoffs all three times. The Wild lost to the Hawks in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, then in the second round in 2014 and 2015. Chicago won the Cup in 2013 and 2015.

But watching last night's game seemed eerily familiar to this Sabres fan.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Notes as the Sabres visit frigid St. Paul looking to get hot

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The Buffalo Sabres finally broke a six-game losing streak with a strong win against a good team in a hostile, yet, fun-loving, environment of the MTS Center, home of the Winnipeg Jets.

Lots of sub-plots to that contest beginning and ending with former Jet and present Sabre, Evander Kane. In between 20 yr. old rookie forward Sam Reinhart recorded a hat trick, the first of his career and, via Sabres PR, the first by a Sabres rookie since Jason Pominville did so on January 14, 2006 vs. the LA Kings.

The Jets at the time had a 19-19-3 record heading into the game and sat near the bottom of the Western Conference. It was a bit of a break for Buffalo as they'd just came off of a seven-game post-Christmas break schedule featuring games against the Boston Bruins, a home-and-home against the Washington Capitals, a three-game homestand vs. the NY Islanders, Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers then hit the road for the first of their three-game Midwest roadtrip in Chicago. All of those teams have more wins than losses and OT/SO losses combined and are in the top-10 of their respective conferences.

In light of that, and with the full knowledge of the rough patch the team went through in November facing some of the powerhouses of the Western Conference, I said to myself, "Self? Just how rough a schedule did the Sabres have the first part of the season?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dear Winnipeg, Track-suit Night was fun, Love, Evander Kane. PS, Sam Reinhart says hi!

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He slipped on a puck during warm-ups, he was vociferously booed every time he touched the puck, and the hometown Winnipeg fans cheered loudly every time a Jets player laid a hit on him.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to "Track-suit Night in Winnipeg" to honor the incident that would become the precursor to the eventual trade of Winnipeg's least favorite ex-player, Evander Kane. For Jets fans it was fun as the teams met for the first time since last February's blockbuster trade and for the team it was an opportunity for them to ride an emotional home-wave after having been on the road playing five games in eight days.

Winnipeg may have been a little too preoccupied with Kane early on as they allowed the Sabres to do something they don't really do too often, score first. It only took Buffalo 1:37 to get on the board as Sam Reinhart took a feed from Johan Larsson and rifled a wrister past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

Before we get too much further into the pregame headliner which was Kane "The Evil" and his return to Winnipeg, big props to Reinhart for his first career hat trick. It started early with that first goal and ended with an empty-netter with only :26 seconds left on the clock.

In between Reinhart was the beneficiary of a deflection off the stick of Jets d-man Toby Enstrom. The Sabres were on the powerplay because former Buffalo Sabres defenseman, Tyler Myers, who was a part of the trade, put an arm on a streaking Kane and pounded him to the ice much to the pleasure of the fans in Winnipeg. Myers was whistled for holding and Reinhart was the recipient of a the fortuitous deflection past Hellebuyck on the ensuing powerplay.

Somehow Reinhart named the game's third star behind another part of the Kane/Myers deal, Drew Stafford.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Half-way point: 29th place, 6-game losing streak, mid-term grades

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After 41 games the Buffalo Sabres are 15-22-4 thanks in large part to their longest losing streak of the season. Last night's loss at Chicago to the Blackhawks pushed the streak to six and it won't get too much easier as they'll be on the second leg of a three-game road trip. They play at Winnipeg tomorrow and at Minnesota on Tuesday. Both, it would seem, are more winnable than the Chicago game for this young squad, yet getting a victory remains a tall task.

At the half-way point of the season, with the players and coaching staff familiar with themselves, each other and the systems in place, here's a quick synopsis and grade for each individual player. But we'll start with the coaching staff.

Coaching Staff, C-

Last night after the Blackhawks game I sent a text out to a friend that read, "It would seem as if teams know how to defend against Buffalo." Head coach Dan Bylsma has not been able to use his teams strengths, nor has he found way to get the puck on the stick of his best players in prime areas recently. That has lead to only eight goals-for during this six-game losing streak and only a 2.24 goals/game average on the season.

Former head coach Ted Nolan had his team in the same position last season with far less talent in a far less structured system. Not that the Sabres should go back to that, but contrary to the relentless barbs thrown at GM Tim Murray, the players assembled have talent, but it's being bottled up.

In the here and now, this team has regressed and the coaching staff hasn't figured out how to reverse it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ice cold Sabres head to midwest. Craig Rivet talks Jack Eichel, Ristolainen.

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As if a five-game losing streak stretching back to December wasn't bad enough, the ice cold Buffalo Sabres begin a three-game road trip in Chicago tonight before heading to the frozen outpost known as Winnipeg on Sunday to play the Jets who are 19-19-3. As they conclude their trip on Tuesday in Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Wild (1-11-8,) the hope is that Buffalo will have heated up on the ice even if the weather is frigid outside.

For the many who thought that this young Sabres squad might compete for a playoff spot, the bucket of water that's been tossed on you is mighty cold. Just the facts:  The Sabres have a 15-21-4 record good for 34 points and the 29th spot in the league and, including the 0-2 start to this month, Buffalo is 4-20-4 in the month of January over the last two seasons.

El niño? Enero no ha sido bueno, señor.

The Sabres hit the ice at 8:30pm tonight in Chicago to face a Blackhawks team that, what a surprise, is on a five-game winning streak. Kinda seems like a theme for Buffalo. They started out the season facing a Montreal club that was on the brink of setting an NHL record for wins in a row to start the season and proceeded to get thumped, 7-2. Last month Washington came strolling into First Niagara Center on a seven-game winning streak and proceeded to up that to nine with consecutive wins over the Sabres (2-0 and 5-2.)

And the surprising (to some) Florida Panthers hit Buffalo this past Tuesday on a nine-game win-streak. They proceeded to make it 10 games as they thumped the Sabres 5-1 in one of Buffalo's worst efforts of the season.

Are you depressed yet?

Hope not, cause I got more for ya. The Sabres are 1-8-1 in their last 10 against Chicago and haven't emerged victorious at the Madhouse on Madison since January 10, 2007. Jochen Hecht and Max Afinogenov had the goals and Ryan Miller stopped 34 of 35 shots in the Sabres 2-1 victory back then.

Friday, January 8, 2016

GM Tim Murray: Year-Two Trades and Transactions for the Buffalo Sabres

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On January 9, 2014 former Sabres President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine hired Tim Murray, then assistant general manager for the Ottawa Senators, as the new GM of the Buffalo Sabres.

A chronological listing of his trades and transactions from his first year as general manager can be found here.

Here is Year-Two:

January 5, 2016Mark Pysyk and Robin Lehner sent to Rochester for conditioning stints.

December 18, 2015:  Sabres send Cal O'Reilly to Rochester.

December 5, 2015Cal O'Reilly recalled from Rochester.

October 27, 2015Evander Kane injured, Sabres recall Tim Schaller.

October 23, 2015Nathan Lieuwen sent to Rochester, Linus Ullmark recalled.

October 13, 2015Brendan Guhle sent to Prince Albert.

October 12, 2015Jake McCabe recalled from Rochester.

October 10, 2015:  Goalie Nathan Lieuwen recalled from Rochester after Robin Lehner suffers injury in first game of the season.

October 10, 2015:  After being a healthy scratch for the season opener, Jake McCabe was sent to the Rochester Americans.

October 3, 2015Jason Akeson assigned to Rochester.

September 27, 2015:  Ten players sent to Rochester:   Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste, Jean Dupuy, William Carrier, Daniel Catenacci, Justin Kea, Jack Nevins, Andrey Makarov. Phil Varone and Jerry D'Amigo need to clear waivers. Matt Garbowsky and Matt Prapavessis were released from their tryouts and reported to Rochester.

September 24, 2015:  Training camp roster trimmed to 50. Colin Jacobs was loaned to Rochester and Eric Cornel was sent to his junior club, the Peterborough Petes. Josh Chapman, Spiro Goulakos, Keegan Asmundson and C.J. Motte were released

September 10, 2015:  Defenseman Cody Franson signs two-year deal with Buffalo.

July 28, 2015Randy Cunneyworth named head coach of the Rochester Americans.

July 27, 2015:  Buffalo signs D, Brendan Guhle to a three-year, entry-level contract.

July 27, 2015:  The Buffalo Sabres name Russ Brandon team president. Brandon had been with the Buffalo Bills since 1997 and was named team president in 2013. Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula' umbrella company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, now have one president for both of their major sports teams. The Sabres and former team president, Ted Black, who had been with the team since Terry Pegula bought the team, mutually agree to part ways.

July 23, 2015Jerry D'Amigo signs one-year, two-way deal.

July 21, 2015Johan Larsson signs one-year deal.

July 16, 2015Tim Schaller, Jerome Leduc and Nathan Lieuwen sign qualifying offers.

July 14, 2015:  Sabres sign Mark Pysyk to a two-way contract.

July 13, 2015Phil Varone signed to a one year, two-way contract.

July 10, 2015Andrew Allen is hired as goaltending coach.

July 6, 2015:  Buffalo adds assistant coach Dan Lambert to Dan Bylsma's coaching staff.

July 3, 2015:  Buffalo signs Cal O'Reilly, brother of Sabres center Ryan, to a two-year contract.

July 3, 2015:  Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo signs one-year contract.

July 3, 2015 Ryan O'Reilly signs seven year / $52.5M contract extension with Buffalo.

July 2, 2015:  Sabres sign veteran d-man Bobby Sanguinetti to one-year, two-way contract.

July 1, 2015Buffalo signs forward Jason Akeson and defenseman Matt Donovan to one-year contracts.

July 1, 2015Jack Eichel signs three-year, entry-level contract.

June 29, 2015:  Seven RFA's tendered offersJohan Larsson, Tim Schaller, Phil Varone, Jerome Leduc, Mark Pysyk, Nathan Lieuwen

June 27, 2015:  In rounds 2-7 of the 2015 NHL Draft, Buffalo selects D, Brendan Guhle (51st,) D, Will Borgen (92nd,) D, Devante Stephens (122nd,) C, Giorgio Estephan (152nd) and D, Ivan Chukarov (182nd.)

June 26, 2015:  Buffalo trades D, Nikita Zadorov, F, Mikhail Grigorenko, forward prospect JT Compher (2013, 35th overall) and the 31st pick of the 2015 NHL Draft to the Colorado Avalanche for Ryan O'Reilly (2009, 33rd) and Jamie McGinn (2006, 36th, SJS.) Colorado traded that pick to San Jose' who selected D, Jeremy Roy.

June 26, 2015:  Buffalo selects Boston University center Jack Eichel with the 2nd-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

June 26, 2015Buffalo trades the 21st pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to the Ottawa Senators, Tim Murray's former team, for goalie Robin Lehner and veteran forward David Legwand. The Sabres were reportedly in the market for a goalie since early June. The Sens would eventually use the pick on Colin White.

June 18, 2015Terry Murray and Dan Barr are hired as assistant coaches for the Buffalo Sabres

June 17, 2015:  Sabres announce the hiring of Adam Mair and Krys Barch as developmental coaches.

May 28, 2015Sabres announce the hiring of Dan Bylsma as the teams 17th head coach. The contract is reported as being five years at $3 million per year. TSN's Craig Button likes the choice.

April 22, 2015:  Buffalo signs Boston College free agent forward Evan Rodrigues to a two-year, entry-level contract. The Etobicoke, Ontario native is 5'11" 176 lbs. and was on Jack Eichel's wing last season when he scored 61 points (21+40) and finished his four-year career at BU with 121 points (42+79) in 146 games played for an 0.83 points-per-game average

April 12, 2015:  Head coach Ted Nolan and assistant coach Danny Flynn were fired. Assistant coaches Bryan Trottier and Tom Coolen did not have their contracts renewed.

April 9, 2015:  F, Sam Reinhart (2014, 2nd overall) signs ATO and is assigned to Rochester.

April 6, 2015:  F, Eric Cornel (2014, 44th overall) and D Brycen Martin (2014, 74th) sign ATO's with Rochester.

Between February 11th and March 2nd, seven 2014-15 roster players were traded away with three players coming back--Bogosian, Lindback and Johnson. (Kane was out for the year)

March 2, 2015: Trade deadline day. F, Brian Flynn traded to Montreal for a 2016 5th round pick. G, Michal Neuvirth traded to the NY Islanders for G, Chad Johnson (2006, 125th-overall) and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick (the higher of the Isles two 3rd-rounders, VAN.) F, Torrey Mitchell traded to Montreal for F, Jack Nevins (2013 free agent, MTL) and a 2016  7th round pick. F, Chris Stewart traded to the Minnesota Wild for a 2017 2nd round pick.

February 11, 2015:  Buffalo starting goaltender Jhonas Enroth (2006, 46th-overall) is traded to the Dallas Stars for backup goaltender Anders Lindback (NSH, 2008, 207th) and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2016. The condition of the pick:  should Enroth win four playoff games this post season while playing at least 30 minutes, the 3rd round pick will become a 2nd-rounder.

February 11, 2015:  A blockbuster trade sends D Tyler Myers (2008, 12th-overall,) RW Drew Stafford (2004, 13th,) RW Joel Armia (2011, 16th,) the rights to unsigned left-wing prospect Brendan Lemieux (2014, 31st) and the latest of Buffalo's three first-round draft picks in the 2015 draft to the Winnipeg Jets for LW Evander Kane (2009, 4th,) D Zach Bogosian (2008, 3rd) and unsigned goalie prospect Jason Kasdorf (2011, 157th, WPG.)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cats smoke Sabres, extend their winning streak and Buffalo's losing streak

Reprinted with permission from

Boom! Just like that, the Buffalo Sabres losing streak is at five games.

At this point in the season, with plenty of games to learn head coach Dan Bylsma's system, there are bound to be some wrinkles and some missed assignments that lead to goals. And with the goaltending situation the way it is--a career back-up as a starter and a 22 yr. old rookie between the pipes while designated starter Robin Lehner rehabs from injury--there are bound to letdowns in the crease.

We should all get that.

This is just about the half-way point of the season. The pre-Christmas grind is now long gone, as is the Sabres dramatic come-from-behind victory in Boston versus a Bruins club that's not playing as well as their record would indicate. Just the facts. Since that game the Buffalo Sabres have lost five in a row by a cumulative 18-7 score. They've been shut out once (at home) and scored one goal twice while managing games of two goals (NYI) and three goals (DET) in home losses.

Here's a rundown of who's contributing on offense during this five-game losing streak

Goals--Jack Eichel (2,) Ryan O'Reilly (2,) Brian Gionta (1,) Zemgus Girgensons (1,) Sam Reinhart (1)

Assists--Eichel (4,) Rasmus Ristolainen (2,) Girgensons (2,) Gionta (1,) Jamie McGinn (1)

Seven players of 20 skaters have contributed to seven goals in five games. Not good enough.

Where's Evander Kane been in all of this? Last night he was fed a no-look, back-hand pass to Florida's Alexsander Barkov in the offensive zone. Barkov promptly fed a streaking Jonathan Huberdeau, he went in on rookie goalie Linus Ullmark and made the kid look like an ECHL goalie.

Ullmark wasn't the only Sabres schooled by the 22 yr. old former third-overall pick (2011,) left Reinhart holding his jock at the Buffalo blueline on Florida's first goal. Boom. The puck went right between Reinhart's legs and Huberdeau flew by. Making matters worse on the play was Reinhart's slow reaction time to get back into the play. By the time Reinhart figured out where he was and what he had to do, 43 yr. old Jaromir Jagr had blown by him and proceeded to deposit a Huberdeau feed for the Panthers first goal.

Bylsma was asked about Ullmark in net last night his response to the gathered media was pretty blunt, "He gave up four goals, [there's] never going to be a good assessment." He then pointed to the Panthers' third goal, which he called a "forecheck goal," in particular. "The play happens from behind the net and he kind of makes a push out to the puck and ends up on his stomach. That was a big goal for their team. [I] didn't like that one."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The rebuilt (and division-leading) Florida Panthers hit Buffalo

Reprinted with permission from

Even with the 1-1 split of the season series thus far, the Buffalo Sabres have had a trouble with the Florida Panthers as of late. In their last 10 meetings Buffalo is 2-7-1 overall and just 3-6-1 at home. The Panthers come into First Niagara Center on a nine-game win streak.

Just a few years ago, before the Sabres pulled the plug on the Darcy Regier-era, Florida was in the midst of a complete rebuild. Three years later, the Sabres are now where the Panthers were--the "build" portion of the rebuild.

In 2010 Florida brought in GM Dale Tallon, the man who did most of the heavy-lifting for the Chicago Blackhawks juggernaut we see today, and he immediately began to tear down an inept franchise that hadn't been to the playoffs in 10 years. Tallon began the long haul upward with the 2010 NHL Draft where he selected three first rounders--D, Eric Gudbranson, F, Nick Bjugstad, F, Quinton Howden--all of whom are with the team.

From there he continued to build through the draft by adding more first rounders including three top-three picks--C, Jonathan Huberdeau (2011, 3rd-overall,) C, Alexsander Barkov (2013, 2nd,) and D, Aaron Ekblad (2014, 1st.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jack Eichel beginning to roll and how he and Gus are meshing

Reprinted with permission from

Make no mistake, Jack Eichel is a stud. Last night he took over the game when Buffalo was down 2-0 to the Detroit Red Wings and single-handedly evened things up. He's a 19 yr. rookie who has top-notch skill, off the charts hockey sense and an internal drive worthy of a kid from a small town just outside of Lowell, Massachusetts, home to brothers Dicky Eklund and Mickey Ward of the biopic, The Fighter.

Eichel had a decent start to his NHL career but nothing even close to the hype of a franchise center just this side of a generational player like Edmonton's Connor McDavid. In 35 games prior to the long Christmas break for the Sabres, the 6'1" 205 lb. Eichel had nine goals and seven assists. Within those 35 games was a nine-game stretch beginning in late November where he only had one goal and one assist while looking less than pedestrian. Actually he was looking a bit tired.

With two games left before the break, however, Eichel would begin to right the ship (two assists) and in his first appearance against his hometown favorite Boston Bruins right after the break, he proceeded to light up the TD Center ice with two goals and two assists in Buffalo's come from behind victory. It may have been the first time this season where Eichel felt that he could take over a game at the NHL level.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015-16 Individual Stats--December

Reprinted with permission from

"Just the facts, Ma'am," was a classic Joe Friday line from the 1950's TV crime series, Dragnet, and the cool part about doing these month by month stats, is that oft times our preconceived notions about a player and/or how he's been playing is either propped up or derailed by "just the stats."

Case in point No. 1--Evander Kane.

Nary a Sabres fan out there would disagree that Ryan O'Reilly is the MVP of the team right now as he leads Buffalo in goals (15) and points (33,) and is tied for the lead in assists (18) while leading all forwards in average time on ice. Nor would they argue that after hitting the rookie wall in December, Jack Eichel has begun to assert himself on the scoresheet with two goals and seven assists in his last six games. Both are extremely good players who don't rock the boat (O'Reilly's off-season escapade at Tim Hortons not withstanding.)

Kane, however, is cut from a different cloth. He's been vilified for a non-criminal (as of yet) off-ice issue that occurred last month while on the ice Sabres fans have been chastising his play to the point where some seem ready to tie a noose around GM Tim Murray's neck for making that trade with Winnipeg.

After a slow start upon his return from injury midway through the month of November (zero points in three games) he proceeded to end the month with three points (1+2) in three games. In December he would bump it up a notch to six goals in 14 games for the Sabres placing him second behind O'Reilly's seven.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015-16 Team Stats--December

Reprinted with permission from

After finishing the month of December with a 5-7-2 record, the Buffalo Sabres found themselves in a familiar spot near the bottom of the standings in 28th place. Yet contrary to the belief of some, this team isn't anywhere near the prior two Sabres clubs that would finish last in the league while challenging the modern mark for scoring futility.

With frustrations mounting as the team rests a mere three points better than last years club, some from the local media are already raising eyebrows asking if the last two seasons were worth it. "Good to see how the tank has produced the 28th place team. Lower than ANYONE predicted," tweeted one Buffalo media member.

Not really. This "Bobby Blogger" wrote of the upcoming season in his 2015-16 Sabres preview:

"Fans are smart enough to know that this edition of the Buffalo Sabres isn't a Stanley Cup team, nor will they vie for Eastern Conference or even Atlantic Division supremacy. They've also been reminded time and again that the Sabres finished in last place for the second consecutive season with a measly 54 points. That total was 45 points out of a playoff spot and in order for them to reach playoff contention, they'll need to add over 20 more wins this season.

"It's hard to see that happening...

"...there will be plenty of growing pains and we're looking at a team that might be able to add 20-25 points this season. A 74-79 point finish means bottom-10 with the possibility of being bottom-five."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Third Period collapse

Reprinted with permission from

Just what exactly happened to the Buffalo Sabres at the Verizon Center last night is unclear. They played two solid periods of tight hockey and entered the third period with a 2-1 lead over the Washington Capitals. It was nearly perfect road hockey. They absorbed what the Caps threw at them, including some strong hits directed at individuals, most notably Alexander Ovechkin going after Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen, and did not allow Washinton an overabundance of scoring opportunities. Granted, they did have a couple of prime opportunities, but goalie Chad Johnson was up to the task.

The only blemish through 40 minutes was a huge gaffe by Johnson as he was victimized by an intense forecheck and was offered no support by his teammates. Stuck behind the net with the puck on his stick and an attack coming from his left, he sent the puck to the other side, right on to the stick of Washington's Justin Williams who proceeded to take a stride and deposit it into the empty net. A gaffe like that could have been devastating as it tied the score at 1-1 with less than six minutes left in the second period.

Buffalo would bail Johnson out, however as Zemgus Girgensons put the Sabres back on top with 1:13 left in the period.

Twenty minutes to go and unfortunately for Buffalo they were playing the hottest team in the league with a bevy of snipers and skilled players, lead by Ovechkin.