Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Happy 4th. Stuff to ponder while smashing your burger.

Published by, 7-4-2017

It was a frenetic two weeks for Sabres GM Jason Botterill and Co. between the time Buffalo needed to submit their finalized expansion protected list on June 17. From there he had to wait out the process as the Las Vegas Golden Knights decided what they would do and it left him only a few days to get ready for the NHL Entry Draft that weekend. A week later was the start of NHL Free Agency.

During that two-week span players came and players went and when all was said and done, the Sabres will be entering the 2017-18 season with Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen as their  who was drafted 14th-overall in 2012, as their longest-tenured Sabres player (by age and draft year.)

That fact was made possible by the departures of young vets Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno in a trade with Minnesota. On June 30, prior to the July opening of free agency, Botterill sent Ennis (2008, 26th-overall) and Foligno (2009, 104th) plus a third round pick to the Wild for defenseman Marco Scandella, former Sabre Jason Pominville (2001, 55th) and a fourth round pick.

Pominville was Buffalo's captain at the time of his trade to the Wild back on April 3, 2013 and with Ennis and Foligno gone, no one on that team is with the club any more. The Pominville trade to Minnesota (plus a fourth round pick) netted the Sabres Johan Larsson (who is still on the team,) Matt Hackett, a 2013 first round pick (Nikita Zadorov, 16th) and a 2014 second round pick (Vaclav Karabacek, 49th.)

As the roster stands right now, other than Girgensons, the Sabres have only four homegrown picks presently on it:

D, Jake McCabe (2012, 44th)
D, Rasmus Ristolainen (2013, 8th)
F, Sam Reinhart (2014, 2nd)
C, Jack Eichel, (2015, 2nd)

Barring any other moves, the overhaul of the Sabres in the Terry Pegula era is complete. It now spans three GM's (Darcy Regier, Tim Murray, Botterill,) five head coaches (Lindy Ruff, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma and Phil Housley, who was hired prior to the Ennis trade) plus one President of Hockey Operations in Pat LaFontaine.

Perhaps we jumped the gun a little bit thinking that the Sabres were well on their way at any point between the hiring of LaFontaine and shortly after the 2015 NHL Draft. Regardless of where anyone stood at any of those points, looking at what's left from Pominville's last game and his return the overall change is pretty stark.


Buffalo's draft situation over the course of the last five years represents a team that bottomed out, yet found itself still spinning it's wheels.

In 2013, as the deconstruction of Regier's "Core" gained steam with the trade of Pominville, the Sabres finished 23rd in the league and selected eighth-overall. The following two seasons were dedicated to bottoming out which resulted in 30th place finishes and consecutive second-overall picks thanks to unlucky lottery results. The Sabres began their climb back to respectability in 2015-16 by finishing 23rd again and drafted eighth overall once again.

Buffalo entered last season with expectations that they could build upon the positives from the prior one. A multitude of reasons had them take a step back and finish 26th overall and under a new lottery system, they'd once again fall prey to the unlucky bounce of the pingpong balls and drop from fifth in the draft to eighth.

Prior to the 2013 draft, the Sabres had never drafted eighth-overall, and now they've done so in three of the last five years.

Also of note, this stretch of five consecutive top-10 picks is the longest in franchise history. The Sabres drafted top-10 three times in a row from their inaugural draft in 1970 to 1972. After that they'd drafted top-10 in consecutive seasons only twice:  1982-83 and 1986-87.


Buffalo Sabres Development Camp begins this weekend with the schedule looking like this:

Sat., July 8: 2 to 3:30 p.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Sun., July 9: 10 to 11:15 a.m. and 2 to 3:15 p.m.
Mon., July 10: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. and1:45 to 3:00 p.m.
Tue., July 11: French Connection Tournament: 9:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Not on tap is the Blue and Gold Scrimmage, which was a fan favorite. Who can forger over 17,000 fans showing up on a Friday in July to watch Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Co. go at it back in 2015.

Perhaps it's more of a business-like approach this year. The French Connection Tournament is an intra-squad 3-on-3 tournament with multiple teams playing games in rapid-fire succession on half-sheets of ice. For fans it's not super exciting but the Sabres organization uses it as a tool to gauge where prospects and players are on their developmental curves.

All on-ice sessions will be held at HarborCenter and will be free and open to the public.

Have a Happy 4th, y'all. Keep it safe.

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