Published by hockeybuzz.com, 3-2-2017
Well, for those who took off work to be in on the action at the NHL's Trade Deadline Day, what a waste of time that was. A total of 10 trades were made yesterday by the 3 p.m. deadline and none involved the Buffalo Sabres.
The ta-do yesterday and today is, how could Buffalo GM Tim Murray not move any of his pending unrestricted free agents. Simply put there wasn't a big enough market for the likes of defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson, even though he kept things in perspective concerning the return. Murray stood at the podium yesterday evening talking about the non-event that was the TDL, looking somewhat disappointed and a bit miffed at not being able to get something done. According to Murray, he'd been in conversations with other GM's concerning Kulikov, but seemed to imply that injuries kept anything from getting done.
You can't blame any GM in the league for having reservations. Any scout that came to see Kulikov play had to leave with a poor impression as the veteran defenseman has struggled mightily all season.
The only other player in play was captain Brian Gionta, whom Murray said he had a call on. Murray contacted Gionta and the captain reiterated that he wanted to remain with the team and the GM respecting that.
With the trade deadline now come and gone and nothing happening in Buffalo, what we've seen on the roster is what we've got for the final 19 games of the regular season. The Sabres are at home tonight vs. the Arizona Coyotes and head coach Dan Bylsma looks intent upon shaking his team out of their present four-game winless streak by juggling the forward lines. Here were the lines at practice today (from Jourdon LaBarber, sabres.com):
Tyler Ennis-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo
Marcus Foligno-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane-Zemgus Girgensons-Brian Gionta
Matt Moulson-Evan Rodrigues-Justin Bailey
The "big" move is Bailey and Ennis switching spots. Bailey once again showed promise in a top-six role but it faded as he ended February with only a goal and two assists in 13 game, although he lead the team in plus/minus for the month with a plus-5.
Ennis has been relegated to fourth-line duty but managed to double Bailey's number by scoring two goals and adding four assists. He was second on the team with a plus-4.
Bylsma's obsession with Foligno continues as he gets another shot in the top-six while Kane, who lead the team with eight goals in February, drops back down to the third line. Gionta had a one-game stint in the top-six switching places with Reinhart, but he's back where he belong--on the third line--while Reinhart is where he belongs--on Eichel's wing.
Speaking of "Jack Flash," watching him and Kane fly up ice was a lot of fun. For most of the month the Kane and Eichel were together and although Eichel only had two goals in the month of February, he lead the team with 14 assists, eight being of the primary variety and he was in on six of Kane's eight goals.
On the downside, Kulikov was a minus-7 for the month while Kane was a minus-6.
With the team basically treading water during a 6-6-2 month of February, it's not surprising that we didn't see much movement statistically from the Sabres goaltenders although Robin Lehner did post his first two shutouts of the season.
It's the final month and a half of the season and the pressure is really off the team right now. There's just a glimmer of hope for a playoff spot and this is usually the time we see some players coming to the fore. But look over the past two months and see who the drivers were on this team. Those are the ones that welcomed the pressure and are ready for the next step--Eichel (27 pts,) Kane (14 goals,) O'Reilly (21 points) and Lehner. There are others who've played well but just haven't hit the scoresheet and there are rooks like Bailey and Rodrigues who are learning the ropes.\
This is the team we've been watching, and it will be the team we'll be watching for the rest of the season.
Buffalo Sabres 2016-17 Individual Stats leaders:
--October: Okposo, O'Reilly, Ristolainen, 7; Moulson, Brian Gionta, 5
--November: Okposo, Reinhart, 8; O'Reilly, 5
--December: Ristolainen, 15; Eichel, Kane, Reinhart, 10
--January: Kane, O'Reilly, 11; Eichel, Gionta, 10
--February: Eichel, 16; O'Reilly, Okposo, 10
--October: Okposo, Moulson 4; O'Reilly, Brian Gionta, 3
--November: Reinhart, 4; O'Reilly, Okposo, Moulson, Foligno, 3
--December: Kane, 8; Eichel, 6; Reinhart, Okposo, Gionta, Larsson, Ristolainen, 3
--January: Kane, 6; Eichel, Okposo, Gionta, 5
--February: Kane, 8; O'Reilly, Reinhart, Okposo, 4
--October: Moulson, 4; O'Reilly, 2; Okposo, Sam Reinhart, 1
--November: Moulson, Okposo, 2; Eichel, Reinhart, O'Reilly, Larsson, Franson, 1
--December: Okposo, 3; Reinhart, 2; Eichel, Kane, Moulson, Ristolainen, 1
--January: Eichel, 3; Reinhart, Okposo, 2
--February: Reinhart, 3; O'Reilly, 2; Eichel, Moulson, 1
--October: Ristolainen, 7; O'Reilly, 4; Reinhart, Okposo, Franson, 3
--November: Okposo, 5; Reinhart, Ristolainen, 4; Kane, Franson, 3
--December: Ristolainen, 12; Reinhart, 7; O'Reilly, Okposo, Moulson, Gionta, Foligno, 5
--January: O'Reilly, 9; Reinhart, 6; Kane, 5
--February: Eichel, 14; Ristolainen, 8; O'Reilly, Okposo, 6
--October: Ristolainen, 6; Okposo, 3; O'Reilly, Reinhart, 2
--November: Okposo, 4; O'Reilly, Reinhart, Ristolainen, 2
--December: Ristolainen, 5; O'Reilly, 3; Eichel, Moulson, 2
--January: O'Reilly, 4; Ristolainen, 3; Eichel, Kane, Reinhart, Okposo, 2
--February: Ristolainen, 5; Eichel, Okposo, 3
--October: O'Reilly, Reinhart, Ristolainen, 3; Gionta, Girgensons, 2
--November: Okposo, Kane, Reinhart, 3; Gionta, 2
--December: Ristolainen, 6; Reinhart, Okposo, 4;
--January: O'Reilly, 7; Reinhart, 6; Franson, 4
--February: Eichel, 8 Okposo, 5; Ristolainen, 4
--October: Gionta +3; Okposo, Franson +2
--November: Carrier +2; O'Reilly +1; Reinhart, Grant, Fedun, even
--December: Foligno +5; McCabe +3; Franson +2
--January: O'Reilly, +6; Kane, Girgensons, +4; Fedun Moulson, +3
--February: Bailey, +5; Ennis, +4; Moulson, +3
--October: Tyler Ennis -4; Deslauriers, Grant -3
--November: Kane, Gionta -5; Larsson, -4
--December: Kulikov, Bogosian -6; Kane -5
--January: Eichel, Foligno, C. O'Reilly, Bogosian, -5; Franson, -4
--February: Kulikov, -7; Kane, -6; Reinhart, Gionta, -4
--October: 2-2-1; 2.61 GAA; .913 Sv%; 0 shutouts
--November: 5-7-3; 2.40; .921; 0
--December: 8-12-5; 2.51; .921; 0
--January: 12-13-5; 2.64; .918; 0
--February: 17-18-7; 2.63; .922; 2
--October: 1-1-1; 1.96 GAA; .937 Sv%; 1 shutout
--November: 3-2-2; 2.20; .939; 1
--December: 5-3-3; 2.47; .925; 1
--January: 8-7-4: 2.60; .923; 1
--February: 9-8-4; 2.69; .921; 1