Thursday, June 30, 2016

The many facets of the Dmitry Kulikov trade and the player himself

Reprinted with permission from

Recently acquired Buffalo Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was coming off of a strong playoff performance in a top-four, shutdown role for the Florida Panthers last year so he was a little surprised when he was traded to the Sabres. “When the draft came I thought that something might go down," said Kulikov on conference call yesterday. "I was comfortable in Florida. I didn't think that something like that was going to happen, but it did. It's part of the business."

He wasn't the only one that was surprised. Fans in Sabreland were accustomed to hearing names of defensemen like Anaheim's Cam Fowler, St. Louis' Kevin Shattenkirk and even Montreal's PK Subban being bantered about prior to the 2016 NHL Draft. Sabres GM Tim Murray had been talking about bringing in a top-four/top-two left-handed defenseman for months and the hockey world knew it, but Kulikov never entered into the conversation. At least here in Buffalo.

The Boston Bruins, who seem to be ready to do a significant overhaul on the back-end, were rumored to be in the market for Kulikov the week before the NHL Draft.'s Joe Haggerty reported that the B's were kicking the tires on the edgy Kulikov even though the Russian-born defenseman wasn't said to be on the block. There were some sticking points to the potential deal as well which included  his impending free agency and the cost as Haggerty's source had the Cats asking for which, according to Haggerty, was "something in the neighborhood of Boston’s 29th pick in the first round and a Frank Vatrano-level prospect."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sabres sorting out their FA list, qualify seven RFA's

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray went into the off season with a boatload of free agents both restricted and unrestricted. After re-signing Johan Larsson on April 29th, Buffalo was looking at 22 total free agents to make decisions on.

The Sabres announced yesterday that they've qualified seven RFA's:

D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe
D, Casey Nelson
F, Zemgus Girgensons
F, Marcus Foligno
F, Daniel Catenacci
G, Jason Kasdorf

Buffalo now has 15 unrestricted free agents headed towards July 1st.

From the roster:

C, David Legwand
D, Carlo Colaiacovo
G, Chad Johnson

In the system:

D, Bobby Sanguinetti
D, Matt Donovan
D, Chad Ruhwedel
D, Michael Sdao
C, Eric O'Dell
C, Colin Jacobs (not qualified)
RW, Jerry D'Amigo
C, Tim Schaller
F, Cole Schneider
LW, Alexander Guptill (not qualified)
LW, Jack Nevins (not qualified)
G, Nathan Lieuwen (not qualified)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

2016 Draft Weekend Recap--Picks, Trades and Stamkos

Reprinted with permission from

Before we get into a busy weekend at the First Niagara Center as the NHL descended upon the First Niagara Center for the Entry Draft, big props to the Pegula's and their charges at Pegula Sports and Entertainment. Simply put, they put on a good show.

The centerpiece of the rejuvenation of downtown Buffalo is HARBORCENTER, a $190 million multi-faceted building conceived of and built by Kim and Terry Pegula, owners of the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills. The original idea designed around building a dual-rink complex complete with parking garage as a magnet for hockey, but once Kim got her hands on it the idea turned into a mult-faceted building complete with a Marriott hotel, sports bar and other amenities that make it a downtown destination.

Details of how the Pegula's helped kick in the rejuvenation of downtown Buffalo can be found in a wonderful piece from Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronical. Kim Pegula states in the article how her husband wanted grass planted in the area that is now HARBORCENTER and the adjoining area known as Canalside. Maiorana aptly described it as "the depressingly unkempt space underneath the Skyway between the arena and the river." Terry was quoted by his wife at the time as saying of the area, "If they could just plant some grass. You know, at least make it look somewhat like you care," and thus it was born.

From grass to the NHL Draft and more to come.

I had the pleasure of striking up a conversation with a number of credentialed out-of-towners who were thoroughly impressed with everything in and around the F'N Center and HARBORCENTER, which is a good thing. Hopefully we won't be waiting another 18 years before the city of Buffalo hosts another NHL Draft but until then the Pegula's and Buffalo will be hosting their third consecutive NHL Combine in 2017 as well as the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Not bad for an idea that was as simple as planting grass. "We’re talking grass," said Kim in the article, "that’s all it was.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Fit. Alexander Nylander.

Reprinted with permission from

When it came time for the Buffalo Sabres to make their selection at the 2016 NHL Draft it could be assumed that two of the prospects GM Tim Murray and his scouting staff had ranked in the top three that would be there. By all pre-draft accounts, defenseman Olli Joulevi was at the top of the list of the players they expected to be available at No. 8 and when the Arizona Coyotes went slightly off the board to select center Clayton Keller, you'd have to believe that Murray was looking at a choice between the player they took, RW Alexander Nylander and the player they didn't in defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

With the pick in and microphones in front of him, Murray told the gathered media of the Nylander pick, “We were just going to go off our list. I’m not worried about position at all, best player available or best fit and the fit could be defense or it could be just like the player we took today."

Murray reiterated what many scouts had been saying about a player who many consider one of the most skilled in the draft. “Skill, skating, I mean he’s the whole package. I think after the Pittsburgh win you hear people talking about speed and that’s what we’ve been trying to do the past couple of years and we don’t have enough of it yet. We’ve made great strides and to get a guy like him that we think is a top six forward, just fit into our blueprint.”

So the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup had a bit to do with the selection. Although others might throw in another aspect.

It's widely perceived, at least amongst the fan-base, that Murray has an aversion to drafting Russians. And as of late, we could add 'keeping Russians' into the equation as Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov both were traded to the Colorado Avalanche. Another Russia, goalie prospect Andrey Makarov, will not be tendered an offer by the club and is headed home to the Motherland.

Sergachev would have fit well into one of the Sabres positions of need. He's a big, left-handed defenseman with strong skating skills and a nice pass out of the zone. An important tenet of breaking through the onslaught that was Pittsburgh's forecheck in the playoffs is having a defenseman who's skilled, but also cool under pressure. Kyle Woodlief and the boys at the Red Line Report say he has "zero panic to his game."

He's also perceived by many as the most NHL-ready of all the defensemen in the draft. And it showed. While Sabres Taco and I were discussing why he'd be an 18th round pick in Mrs. Taco's dude draft, the young prospects made their way in and around 716 and Sergachev stood out not only for his size, but he looked like a man amongst the many boyish faces we'd seen come through.

Right wing is pretty stacked in the Sabres system, so Nylander was a somewhat curious choice. There shouldn't be too much of a problem with the pick in Sabreland, however, as he's an extremely gifted player who, in my eyes, has plenty of chutzpah. There's one troubling aspect to his game is that he's perceived as a perimeter player. From today's Redline Report the boys said Nylander,  "has a knack for lurking on the edges, and then bursting through a small crack at just the right moment to emerge with a great scoring chance. Not as good a skater as older brother, but still very elusive with fine east-west moves and agility. We’d like to see more of a three-zone effort and commitment in the greasy areas — spends far too much time on the perimeter. Rarely initiates contact, and if he’s not scoring, he’s not helping. But he’s a gamebreaker; can be invisible for 57 minutes, then win the game.

It sounds like a combination of Tyler Ennis, who's on the roster in a top-six RW role and Joel Armia, a former first rounder whom Murray traded to Winnipeg. We need to keep in mind that these are 18 yr. old kids we're talking about so things can change and I believe Nylander has enough attitude to fulfill his highly-skilled promise.

As for the holes on defense, as mentioned before, Buffalo has shown the capacity to land quality defensemen outside the first round and I wouldn't be surprised if they began today by selecting one with their first pick in the second round.

And as for a truly NHL-ready defenseman, they may be plugging a hole with a likely trade for Florida's Dmitri Kulikov.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to steal some of Toronto's thunder at the 2016 NHL Draft?

Reprinted with permission from

Make some noise.

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray is not one to shy away from pulling the trigger on a trade he believes it makes his team better and as he's shown in the past, specifically at the 2015 draft, he always has irons in the fire. Last June in Florida he, got the morning started with the announcement of the trade for Robin Lehner and after doing the expected by drafting Jack Eichel second-overall, he Commish announced that the Buffalo Sabres had traded for Colorado center Ryan O'Reilly in a blockbuster that sent shockwaves all the way from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Niagara.

A year later, Murray finds himself with a much improved roster because of those moves but with less currency to work with in terms of high draft picks and highly touted prospects as well so dropping bombshells of that magnitude via trade scenarios is not likely. Yet, that doesn't mean he can't make some noise, especially with Leaf Nation headed south to Buffalo where this year's draft begins at 7:00 tonight.

This is home court for Buffalo--complete with a rejuvenated franchise and new-look downtown--and Murray, as always, is willing to do what it takes to make his team better. If it comes at the expense of the Toronto Maple Leafs and their projected selection of franchise center Auston Matthews first overall, so be it. If it comes at the expense of stealing the thunder from our neighbors to the north as they descend upon the First Niagara Center to celebrate the drafting of their own franchise center, all the better.

2016 NHL Mock Draft

Reprinted with permission from

1.  Toronto Maple Leafs--C, Auston Matthews. MLSE rejects lucrative deal for Ixtlan Peyote Company's "Join Us On the Journey" jersey patch. At a presser announcing the rejection, executives say Leaf  Nation is already deep in the throes of an alternate reality using the hallucinogenic trade-up proposals to both the 3rd and 4th spots in the draft, while also taking Matthews 1st overall, as prime examples. President Brendan Shanahan says the brain cramps have absolutely to do with head shots and provides a lengthy video explanation as to how they came to this conclusion.

2.  Winnipeg Jets--LW, Patrick Laine. Laine was said to have done an interview using face-time while lying in his bed. Some were taken aback by this casual approach to his career but it's no biggie for as Laine as he was simply expressing his individuality and it got a chuckle from most of the hockey world anyway. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was said to have rescinded an order for team-issued track suits after hearing of the interview and there's speculation that he has a call to immigration asking for a travel stipulation in Laine's visa. With a wisp of dejavu hanging over the Iceplex, Cheveldayoff doesn't want to take any chances and is doing everything in his power to keep Laine away from Las Vegas.

3.  Columbus Blue Jackets--RW, Jesse Puljujarvi. Despite not landing in a top-two draft slot, Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen is still giddy as he gets to add an elite talent--from his homeland, no-less--to a huge stockpile of forward prospects. Word is that during their Combine interview with Puljujarvi, Kekäläinen cranked up the Jackets' goal song--complete with cannon shot--and played it every time Puljujarvi nailed one of their questions. Reports have him screaming at the top of his lungs, "varten nuo kuka aikoo rock!!!"...*BOOM!!!*..."sinä tehdä kunniaa jklle teitä!!!" right along with the song.

4.  Edmonton Oilers--LW, Matthew Tkachuk. Edmonton picking in the top-five isn't even funny anymore.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Steal of the century?

Reprinted with permission from

Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald said of the trade by the Buffalo Sabres for the rights to forward Jimmy Vesey, "It would be the steal of the century if Buffalo can sign Vesey."

The 2016 Hobey Baker winner as college's top player was a 2012 draft pick of the Nashville Predators (66th overall) and opted not to join the playoff-bound club this spring even after Preds GM David Poile kept a spot open for him in the top-nine/six through the trade deadline. The hope was that the 6'2" 201 lb. winger would bring his 80 career NCAA goals and 144 points to Nashville for an extended playoff run. It didn't work out that way, however, as Vesey informed the team he would not sign with them and was looking towards August 15 when he would become an unrestricted free agent.

By trading for Vesey, the Sabres now have exclusive negotiating rights him.

It's been quite the soap opera lately when it comes to Vesey. His decision to spurn Nashville and opt for free agency has him being pulled in three different directions. There's the natural pull from Boston as the North Reading, MA native hunkered down in the area while playing college hockey at Harvard. His father Jim was drafted and played briefly in the NHL for Boston and is now a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs. And Vesey is also a "longtime buddy," according to Harris, of Sabres center and fellow Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel who grew up in North Chelmsford, MA (also in the Boston area) and was the second-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Buffalo fans should take the Cavaliers win to heart

Reprinted with permission from

I was in downtown Cleveland last night with my son, smack-dab in the middle of tens of thousands of people witnessing history as the hometown Cavaliers broke a 52-year championship drought. We stood between The Quicken Loans Arena and a parking garage watching two large screen TV's without audible sound. The fans were numerous, the fans were young and when Kyrie Irving schooled "Golden Boy" Steph Curry with a three to put the Cavs up by three, the fans went crazy sending a roar that shot to Baltimore, South Florida and Denver, three cities primarily responsible for the agony that has been Cleveland sports.

The Drought was over.

Most of the fans within my view were too young to witness Earnest Byner, "The Drive" and barely old enough to remember the Indians losing Game-7 of the World Series. They never felt the heartache of losing an entire franchise to another city, but they were out there howling as the last second ticked off.

I've been in Cleveland for just about 12 years now, a Western New Yorker who left the area in 1987, returned for a brief stint in 2002 only to arrive here in Northeast Ohio in 2004. Even though I was away from home, the sharp pangs of "Wide Right" and "No Goal" were no-less brutal and are still embedded deep within my psyche. I am a Bills and Sabres fan at heart but from 2004 to present I've lived in Cleveland enduring a double-dose of heartache as both cities' sports teams just couldn't get it right.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Oilers choices with No. 4 (hello Buffalo) and Girgensons rumors gone wild

Reprinted with permission from

If the Edmonton Oilers are looking to trade back in the draft to land one of the top-three defensemen in the league moving down to the eighth slot, where the Buffalo Sabres happen to be, is about as good a spot as any dependent upon how they view the top d-prospects.

Chances are that one of Olli Joulevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Jakob Chychrun will be there at No. 8. If all three are gone by then, one of Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois--the two best forwards outside the top-three, and two forwards they would probably have drafted at No. 4 anyway--will be there for the taking

But if they think they'll be getting kings ransom in a trade-down scenario, they might want to strongly consider a pilgrimage to Mount Maple Leaf where hallucinogenic trade proposals are part of the morning ritual. It begins with a blue and white robed Leaf Nation turned towards the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Cistercian Monks overdub pounds chants of hummmmmm...Shanahan, Babcock, Lou; hummmmmm...Shanahan, Babcock, Lou; hummmmmm...Shanahan, Babcock, Lou throughout the city.

2016 draft prospects--Fill the cupboard on defense

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres don't need to take a defenseman in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Many draftniks and fans see a weak prospect pool on defense, especially on the left side, and believe that GM Tim Murray will end up with one of the top three defensemen in the draft--all of whom who happen to be left-handed.

Yet the Sabres could also be looking to add prospect depth on the left side up-front as well, which is probably why there've been some that the Sabres are looking to trade up. The gist of it is that Murray, who isn't afraid to make a trade if there's a player he wants, will try to move up to No. 4 in a trade with Edmonton, then make one more jump to land in the three-spot which is presently where the Columbus Blue Jackets are. Left-wing Jesse Puljujarvi is the consenseus third-overall pick while either Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Duboois are considered at the top of the next tier on the left side.

The higher probability is that Buffalo will remain at No. 8 and there's also a strong possibility that  two--or even all three--d-men get chosen before they take the stage. If the best player available in their mind is a forward, Murray won't hesitate to make the pick. The least likely scenario is that Murray will trade down from No. 8 unless it's some sort of package to fill a roster hole.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Las Vegas Black Knights (?) may inflict a flesh wound on Sabres roster

Reprinted with permission from

We all know that Buffalo Sabres winger Evander Kane has thing for Las Vegas and even though he has a penthouse at the Cosmopolitan and seems to enjoy playing high-roller--"Money" Mayweather-style (hello, money phone)-- we're pretty sure he won't end up in Sin City after next year's expansion draft.

Money will be flying around now that Las Vegas has been granted an NHL franchise, so much so that owners will be able to build a money jet--equipped with a money seat in the cockpit for Gary Bettman--as there will be a $500 million infusion of cash for the owners. That's a huge price-tag, one that may have forced Quebec to wait on the sidelines for a team that will be relocated.

The immediate influx of cash is a bonanza for teams, but with expansion comes the expansion draft which the Las Vegas team will use to fill their roster. At that time they will be selecting one player from each team with a minimum of three goalies, nine defensemen and 14 forwards to be selected and because we live in a cap-world, they're required to reach at least 60% of the projected salary cap for the 2017-18 season.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

No need for Buffalo to reach for a d-man at No. 8

Reprinted with permission from

Conventional wisdom has the Buffalo Sabres coming out of the eighth slot in the 2016 NHL Draft with one of the top-three defenseman--Olli Joulevi, Jakob Chychrun or Mikhail Sergachev. All three are left-hand shots, which happens to be a right/left area of need in the system and all have offensive acumen based upon strong skating. Yet each bring a little something different to the table.

Most mock drafts have at least one of them there for the Sabres yet some believe that all three will be gone before Buffalo is on the clock at No. 8. The cool part about what the Sabres have been able to accomplish these last three drafts is that key roster positions look to have been filled, those being top-two centers (along with strength and depth down the middle) and a top-pairing defenseman. In 2014 they selected a top-six center in Sam Reinhart who was moved to the wing because of the 2015 Draft where they drafted Jack Eichel and traded for Ryan O'Reilly. In 2013 the Sabres drafted Rasmus Ristolainen with the 8th-overall pick and he anchored the Buffalo defense last season.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Notes on Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup victory, what it may mean for Buffalo

Reprinted with permission from

Congrats to Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, Conn Smythe-winner Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins on their Stanley Cup victory. It was the second time in seven years that the Pens won the Cup and it was also the second time that a mid-season coaching change got them to the promised land. The first time was in 2009 as the Penguins were struggling mightily under coach Michel Therrien. He was replaced by Dan Bylsma who is now the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

Sullivan was a grinder in the NHL for 10 seasons as a player scoring 54 goals and adding 82 assists in 709 regular season games. He had a NHL head coaching stint with the Boston Bruins in the seasons surrounding the 2005 lockout and has a first-round playoff loss on that part his resume. The Penguins brought him in for their AHL club this season then promoted him after only 23 games as head coach for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he was 18-5.

Sullivan's Penguins put on an awesome display of speed and tenacity in the playoffs that was unmatched by any other team. Although they had immense star-power in the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, Crosby was the playoff MVP without scoring a goal in the Finals. In post-game, on-ice interviews amidst the celebration, one player described Crosby as the ultimate grinder.

"Grinder?" Crosby? Yup. But that was just part of it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Buffalo's free agent list. Re-sign or not to re-sign? If so, how much? Pt.3

Reprinted with permission from

The final portion of the free agent list focuses upon the restricted free agents in the system. At this level most will be qualified with a minimum raise if the team wishes to retain their rights and most players sign the offer. Those who are not qualified by Buffalo become unrestricted free agents.

After going through Buffalo's UFA's and roster RFA's in the past two segments, only six players remain as free agents.

Once again, here' the list of Buffalo's remaining restricted free agents, their cap hit or salaries if on a two-way contract, an opinion as to whether or not Buffalo should re-sign said player and a gander as to how much they might be re-signed for if all sides put ink to paper. And we start with two goaltenders.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Buffalo's free agent list. Re-sign or not to re-sign? If so, how much? Pt.2

Reprinted with permission from

Yesterday we went through a large yet rather unimpressive group of unrestricted free agents whom the Buffalo Sabres will need to make decisions on. The nature of the beast at this stage of the rebuild showed a list of UFA's who were amongst the lower-ranked roster players, borderline NHL'ers, AHL'ers with a chance and career AHL'ers.

Today's list gets much more interesting as we go through the restricted free agents GM Tim Murray and AGM Mark Jakubowski will be negotiating with. These are "the youngins," with some regarded as foundational pieces, some organizational pieces with upside and some considered long-term projects.

Here's the list of Buffalo's restricted free agent roster players from the end of last season, their current cap-hit, an opinion as to whether or not Buffalo should re-sign said player and a gander as to how much they might be re-signed for if all sides put ink to paper.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Buffalo's free agent list. Re-sign or not re-sign? If so, how much?

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year, $950K contract extension on April 29th. Larsson hit career-highs in goals (10) and points (17) and centered the Sabres most consistent line in the latter half of last season.

Sabres GM Tim Murray and AGM Mark Jakubowski have their work cut out for them as they have 24 free agents to make decisions on, 23 if you discount goalie Andrey Makarov, who's back home in Mother Russia and was none too happy with what he perceived as grossly unfair treatment by the Sabres organization.

With that said here's the list of free agents, their current cap-hit, an opinion as to whether or not Buffalo should re-sign said player and a gander as to how much they might be re-signed for if all sides put ink to paper.

Today we begin with unrestricted free agents.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Buffalo Sabres top-three prospects by position--Right Wing

Reprinted with permission from

If there's one position that will keep the Buffalo Sabres prospect pool in the top-half of the league it's right wing. Trades and graduation, plus Jack Eichel's direct route to the NHL, were direct hits to the talent pool. Which is the way it should be when the big club starts to build in earnest.

Every position in the prospect pool took a hit as all of the Sabres right-wingers were in their proper developmental leagues making significant strides in their development. With that in mind, it's not surprising that Kris Baker of has six RW's in the top-15 of his April, 2016 rankings, three in the top-eight and two of them occupying spots directly behind highly regarded d-prospect, Brendan Guhle.

None were ready for the NHL, but one may be there right now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Buffalo Sabres top-three prospects by position--Left Wing

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres have five left-wingers on the roster as listed by their website. One of them, Johan Larsson, has played a ton of center in the system dating back to when he was with the Rochester Americans, was their third-line center for the better part of the season last year and there's no reason to think that he'll be moving to the wing in the near future either. The left side of the Buffalo lineup includes one top-six/top-line LW in Evander Kane, a bottom-six left-winger in Marcus Foligno, energy winger Nicolas Deslauriers who is clinging to a fourth-line role and an enigma on the left side in Matt Moulson.

In light of the poor year that Moulson had, the drop-off on the depth chart from Kane to Foligno is significant with center Zemgus Girgensons placed in a top-six role but producing very little. Yett the consensus at the foot of Washington St. seems to be that the Sabres will fill the wings with converted centers while they take time to find and develop natural wingers in the system. It's a sound philosophy that will be used even more should Buffalo be able to land center Steven Stamkos via free agency as there will be even more center-to-wing shuffling.

In looking at the system as it stands right now, the high water mark for left wingers consists of one bottom-six projection and a bunch of question marks. Good thing Buffalo has centers who can convert to the wing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Buffalo Sabres top-three prospects by position--Center

Reprinted with permission from

We had previously mentioned that the defense-corps had taken a huge hit over the past couple of seasons as GM Tim Murray traded depth on the blueline for quality up front. After trading away two NHL d-men and a top prospect on the back end, the Sabres pool on defense got mighty thin. Yet Murray was able to land Brendan Guhle in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft last year and as of right now he has at least top-four potential. Murray was also able to bolster the ranks with another 2015 pick in Will Borgen (92nd-overall) who's on track to hit the NHL, had possible top-sixer Brycen Martin (2014, 74th) in the stable and added Casey Nelson in the fold as a free agent out of the NCAA.

Did they replace the ones that left? Only time will tell, but it sure looks like they're not too far away from doing so.

The center positon is way different as the prospect pool took a different kind of hit yet it's also an area that they won't need to tap into for years to come. For a bit of perspective we go back to the Darcy Regier regime.

After a quality top-two center tandem of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, the Sabres had both of them walk out the door in 2007. Their spots were filled by Tim Connolly and Derek Roy and despite the fact that Regier touted them as two of the top-20 centers in the league back in 2010, they weren't close and even worse, the pipeline didn't have much in it either. After Connolly was allowed to leave the Sabres had one center in Roy then tried to fill the other top-two spot with converted winger, Ville Lieno, which really didn't work out all that well.

Buffalo began addressing the extremely weak center position at the 2012 NHL Draft when they selected Mikhail Grigorenko (12th) and Girgensons (14th) then really added quality when they tabbed Reinhart with the second-overall pick in the 2014 draft. In 2015 they used the second-overall pick to take an American-born phenom in Eichel then quickly announced that they'd just traded for O'Reilly minutes after the Eichel selection.

Boom! Within minutes at the 2015 draft the Sabres had themselves their top-two centers while Reinhart, Girgensons, and Johan Larsson (who was acquired from Minnesota in 2013)
represented young players who could hold down a third line center spot at the very least. Or they could be moved to the wing.

Monday, June 6, 2016

My Ol' friend Don. Ali, ratings, basketball vs. hockey and stars

Reprinted with permission from

Edmonton tough-guy Dave Semenko once fought Muhammed Ali in a three-round exhibition fight back in 1983. That the little sport of hockey could be on display with a legend like Ali is pretty much all that needs to be said about "The Greatest."

On Friday the sports world lost a legend in Muhammed Ali. As a kid growing up, while he was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee near the end of his prime, our small gang of friends were caught up in everything the world of sports had to offer from "The Greatest" to Secretariat to the Big Red Machine to OJ, the Sabres and the Buffalo Braves.

At the time we were fierce competitors when we played any sport, with every game played as if it were for the championship of the world. There was no slacking and no time for injuries, unless you took a baseball to the nose on a wild hop at 2nd, an elbow to the nose taking it to the hole, an errant kick to the groin on a kickoff return or slash to the shin on a two-on-one break playing street hockey. And gloating? Any of the young ones like myself knew the price of excessive celebration was a beat down from the older kids.

My Ol' Friend Don and I grew up together as friends and foes playing sports and I hadn't talked with him in a while. Don can be cantankerous at times, a probable offshoot of a tough childhood that saw him at constant odds with his parents and his brother. But what he lacked in diplomacy he always more than made up for with some pretty good insight.

We had a pretty good chat and it started with Muhammad Ali.

MP:  What did you think of the passing of Ali?
OFD:  I really hated his act growing up but in hindsight he was a really incredible figure.

MP:  I think he may have liked you.
OFD:  Why's that?

MP:  Because you may have grown a bit in your world-view as you've aged. Ali once said, "The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life." In chatting with you now, you've mellowed a bit.
OFD:  Yeah. Well.  Screw you. There are still a lot of things wrong with the world and I'll bitch when it's necessary. But now is not a time to bitch about the things I hated about Ali growing up.

MP:  Which was?
OFD:  It's nothing really.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Off the top of my head--thoughts on various headlines

Reprinted with permission from

Central Scouting has taken a liking to Buffalo as a home for the Combine

Word on the street is that the NHL and the Buffalo Sabres are in talks for the city to hold next year's NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo for the third straight year. Buffalo showcased its wares to the league in 2015 and 2016 featuring HARBORCENTER, a two ring practice facility complete with seating capacity for 1,800+ at the main rink. Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, told the gathered media yesterday, "Right now we're talking with Buffalo for 2017. A couple other NHL cities have expressed interest, but the facilities here all under one roof, it's a very nice fit."

--It's not a very nice fit. It's a great fit. In addition to the space, training facilities and ample locker room space, there are three NHL-size rinks right there if the NHL wishes to start on-ice testing. Which they should do. Equally as important is hotel rooms in the area as two recently opened Marriott hotels are right on HARBORCENTER's doorstep offering over 300 rooms.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Buffalo Sabres top-three prospects by position--Defensemen

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When GM Tim Murray was hired by the Buffalo Sabres one of the first things he started working on was shoring up the forward ranks. In the Ryan Miller trade with St. Louis he acquired two "heavies" in Chris Stewart and prospect William Carrier, but it wasn't until his trade with the Los Angeles Kings did he start shifting some of the defensive depth he had on hand for more forwards.

That began two weeks later when Murray traded defenseman Brayden McNabb plus other pieces to Los Angeles for two more heavies in forward prospects Nic Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching. Although McNabb was generally rated as fifth-best defensive prospect in the system at the time, he's proven that he can not only stick at the NHL-level, but also handle some heavy minutes in the top-four with the proper d-partner. It was a minor blow to the defense corps but yet was still significant as McNabb was a lefty. That move grew in importance when coupled with a major move by Murray 11 months later. Murray jumped at the opportunity to land forward Evander Kane but it took a number of quality pieces including the Sabres top defenseman, former Calder Trophy winner, Tyler Myers.

Myers was at the top of the food chain at the time and with his exit, the Sabres had holes to fill on defense up and down the blueline. Defenseman Zach Bogosian also came over in the trade with Winnipeg but was second on the righty depth-chart to Rasmus Ristolainen and although he could have played the left side last season, head coach Dan Bylsma had him on the second paring.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Buffalo Sabres top-three prospects by position--Goaltenders

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With the Buffalo Sabres firmly in build-mode as they look to distance themselves even further from the ignominy of the 2014 and 2015 basement seasons, the solid foundation they laid using a huge return for "the core" moved the team towards respectability as they finished last season 23rd in the league with a 12-win/27-point year-over-year improvement . It took a coaching overhaul, two consecutive second-overall picks and a number of big moves involving many parts, but GM Tim Murray--who was also a part of a huge transition for the club when he was hired just over two years ago--got the things moving rather quickly as he added young-vets to the roster to hasten the rebuild.

Unfortunately, those players don't grow on trees and in order to acquire said vets, a bevy of draft picks and prospects were sent the other way to consummate the deals and because of it the prospect pool taking pretty good hit. But opportunity knocked and Murray answered with open arms.

He still has holes to fill on the big club and he also had a Rochester affiliate that finished near the bottom of the league, a direct indication as to how much of a hit the prospect pool took, but the cavalry will be headed to Rochester over the next couple of seasons and the Sabres are slated to have 21 draft picks in the next two years.

Today we begin to look at the remnants of a prospect pool that was ranked No. 1 overall by Hockey'sFuture a little over a year ago. And we begin in net with the top three goaltending prospects.