Thursday, May 31, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--G, Linus Ullmark

Published by, 5-29-2018

Goalie--Linus Ullmark
DOB:  July 31, 1993 (Age, 24)
Draft:  2012, sixth round (163rd overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  June 13, 2017, 2yrs./$1.5 million
Final year of contract: 2018-19

2017-18 Stats:  5 games played | 3 starts | 1-2-0 record | 2.00 GAA | .935 Sv% | 0 shutouts

Buffalo Career Stats:  26 games | 24 starts | 9-13-2 record | 2.25 GAA | .917 Sv% | 0 shutouts

What we wrote preseason:  Ullmark got peppered last season in net for the Amerks but he weathered it rather nicely. One of the cool things about bringing in Johnson was that Ullmark can spend another season in Rochester fine-tuning his pro game while being the No. 1 and in a year or two, if he develops properly, we could be looking at the Sabres next starting goalie.

What we wrote mid-season:  N/A

Impressions on his play this year:  Ullmark was nothing short of brilliant in his first Buffalo start this season turning away 44 of 45 Columbus Blue Jackets shots as the Sabres stopped a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) back on January 11. It was Buffalo's last game before their bye-week and Ullmark got the call.

The 6'4" 221 lb. Ludnvik, Sweden native has been developing nicely ever since coming to North America and that includes being thrown into the fire very early in the 2015-16 season when an injury felled Buffalo's starter, Robin Lehner. While in Rochester the last two seasons Ullmark has been facing a ton of rubber and he's learned that he cannot stop everything and that there are many times when a crucial save can help produce a positive outcome in a high-scoring game.

Ullmark was called up mid-March and was pegged for plenty of starts to finish the Sabres season. However, he suffered a concussion at practice on March 30. He rejoined the Amerks playing in two of the final three regular season games and started all three playoff losses to the Syracuse Crunch. His numbers for that series had him with a 5.50 GAA and .800 Sv%.

Questions moving forward:  What happened in the playoffs? Was it the team? Or was it lingering concussion issues? How will he fare as a starter or 1A/B in his first full NHL season? Do teams have enough tape to figure him out? Can he maintain his child-like joy of playing the game of hockey?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Josh Gorges

Published by, 5-28-2018

Defenseman--Josh Gorges
DOB:  August 14, 1984 (Age, 33)
Draft:  Undrafted
How acquired:  FA
Last contract signed:  January 1, 2014, 6yrs./$23.4 million 
Final year of contract: 2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  34 games played | 0 goals | 2 assists | 2 points | -4 | 14:56 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  223 games | 3 goals | 23 assists | 26 points | -42 | 19:25 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Gorges was part of a veteran trio that Murray brought in on July 1, 2014 to help guide the youngins through what was about to become a very difficult transition.

As a defensive defenseman with some sandpaper to his game, Gorges was a good compliment to young defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen through those years. Although he struggled to keep pace with the best the opposition had to offer as a top-pairing defenseman, he held his own and was especially adept on the penalty kill. In Buffalo's first season out of the basement, the Sabres finished ninth in the league on the kill with a 82.6% success rate.

Gorges slowly moved down the depth-chart last season, and rightfully so, as the speed of the game began to pass him by. At 33 yrs. old and with a lot of wear and tear on his body after playing years as a rugged defenseman, playing on the third-pairing while also playing key minutes short-handed was an ideal situation for him. He's always been dependable but the game has changed and with Botterill bringing in three mobile defenseman who are more to what Housley is looking for, Gorges looks to be the odd man out.

What we wrote mid-season:  At one point during an extremely rough stretch, the Sabres needed a solid, defensive-defenseman like Gorges just to settle down the entire d-corps. It started in San Jose' as the Sabres were coming off back-to-back drubbings only three games into the season and Gorges got the job done. Of all the players who've played 15 games or more this season, he's is the only player on the positive side of the plus/minus rating (plus-1.) Gorges the consummate good soldier and will probably be acquired by a playoff team for depth. It would be great to see him hoist the Stanley Cup.

Impressions on his play this year:  He never got traded and probably will never be on a Stanley Cup-winning team, but were he to hang up his skates this year, Gorges will be able to look back on a long career of 783 regular season and 68 playoff games. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.

Gorges is a free agent once again and for many in Buffalo, the end of his contract couldn't have come soon enough. It was a difficult season for him and an extremely difficult four seasons since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2014. At locker cleanout he told the gathered media. "Throughout the course of this year, especially, it was get to the end of the year, and then when that's done, get away from everything hockey," he said with a smile, "spend some time with my family, get back home and try not to think about hockey at all."

Despite the difficult season for him where he was used very little on a last place team, Gorges remained the consummate professional and still held true to what he was told years ago. "To play in this league is a privilege," he said, "it's not a right, you don't deserve to play here, it's a privilege. Take every day because you don't know when it could be your last."

Questions moving forward:  Will an NHL team find a spot for him?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Gorges locker cleanout video via

Monday, May 28, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Justin Falk

Published by, 5-27-2018

Defenseman--Justin Falk
DOB:  October 11, 1988 (Age, 29)
Draft:  2007, 4th round (110th-overall,) MIN
How acquired:  FA
Last contract signed:  February 5, 2017, 1yr./$650,000
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  46 games played | 1 goal | 1 assist | 2 points | -16 | 16:05 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  98 games | 1 goal | 9 assists | 10 points | -19 | 14:49 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Lost in the need to upgrade the defense was the really solid play of Falk last season. The stay-at-home d-man with decent wheels will more than likely be anchoring the defense in Rochester to help steady a group that will have many new faces.

What we wrote mid-season:  Falk, like Gorges, is more of a defensive defenseman and props to him for earning a spot on the Sabres roster. Prior to signing in Buffalo the 6'5" 223 lb. Falk had bounced from team to team and from league to league, but last year an opportunity came and he impressed. He continued on with a strong training camp but was injured and in 17 games since his return, Falk has done yeoman's work in a third-pairing role. Not sure what the future holds for him as the Sabres (hopefully) add more speed and skill to the back-end, but he'll always be reliable in his own zone.

Impressions on his play this year:  Lo and behold, Falk did not see Rochester this season. As mentioned above he had a good camp, was injured and when he came back forged himself a spot on the third pairing. Despite what looks like a horrid minus-16 plus/minus, Falk had his moments which of a run-in with Evander Kane at practice as the Sabres were  falling fast towards last place in the league.

"Shut the [expletive] up, you selfish [expletive],” yelled Falk at Kane after the star left-winger reportedly told Falk to watch his stick during a drill. Although it may be akin to former Sabres forward Paul Gaustad yelling at reporters not to step on the Sabres logo in the dressing room, a little anger and fight on a rather droll Sabres team was a welcome sight.

In another era Falk's size and willingness to physically clash with anyone on the opposition would be a be a welcome addition in a third-pairing/reserve role and he does skate rather well for a big player. However, with all due respect to him and his gritty, clear-the-crease-type game, if he's on Buffalo's third pairing this coming season the defense isn't anywhere near where it needs to be.

Questions moving forward:  Can he continue to forge out an NHL career or will he be a tweener who can mentor the youngins on defense at the AHL level? Is another one-year, $650,000 contract in Buffalo on the horizon? Or will it be somewhere else?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Seth Griffith

Published by, 5-26-2018

Forward--Seth Griffith
DOB:  January 4, 1993 (Age, 25)
Draft:  2012 fifth-round (131st,) BOS
How acquired:  FA
Last contract signed: July 1, 2017, 1yr./$650,000 
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  21 games played | 2 goals | 1 assist | 3 points | -6 | 10:34 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  21 games | 2 goals | 1 assist | 3 points | -6 | 10:34 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Another player signed by Botterill to bolster the Amerks. Griffith as proven he can score at the AHL-level with 202 points (66+136) in 203 games but that prowess hasn't transferred to the NHL yet (six goals, 10 assists in 56 games.)

What we wrote mid-season:  Perhaps he was mislabeled when fans (myself included) called him this year's Derek Grant. Griffith scored two goals in 18 games for the Sabres this year while Grant had zero in 40 games for Buffalo last year (we won't talk about his seven goals and 15 points for Anaheim this year.) Griffith was originally signed for Rochester but injuries gave him an opening. He played as well as could be expected in a role that was beyond his talents. He was sent to Rochester after clearing waivers and is a great addition to the Amerks.

Impressions on his play this year:  As an AHL/NHL tweener, Griffith played about as expected for both the Amerks and the Sabres. In Rochester he finished fifth on the team in scoring (15 goals 26 assists) despite playing anywhere from 11-20 fewer games than those in front of him.  Griffith plays a good all around game but just doesn't seem to have enough speed or NHL skill to get him over the hump and into a steady job with the big club. That said, it's never a bad idea to have a player (or multiple players) like him in the system getting the job done in Rochester while filling in at the NHL-level.

Questions moving forward:  Are the Sabres interested in re-signing him for that two-way, AHL/NHL tweener role? With a parade of homegrown youth ready for a shot at the big club, does he feel he'll have an adequate opportunity for NHL playing time in Buffalo? If he's offered a one-way, $650,000 salary, how much does that matter?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--C, Jacob Josefson

Published by, 5-25-2018

Center--Jacob Josefson
DOB:  March 2, 1991 (Age, 27)
Draft:  2009, 1st round (20th-overall,) NJD
How acquired:  FA
Last contract signed:  July 1, 2017, 1yr./$700,000 
Final year of contract: 2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  39 games played | 2 goals | 2 assists | 4 points | -4 | 11:23 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  39 games | 2 goals | 2 assists | 4 points | -4 | 11:23 ATOI

What we wrote preseasonA Reinhart move back to center will directly affect Jacob Josefson as it means he's probably in the pressbox.

Josefson was signed by the Sabres in the off season as a depth move by GM Jason Botterill and we're not sure what we have yet in him. The 26 yr. old center was labeled "an enigma" by Amanda Rosko of The Hockey Writers back in November, 2015. She also wrote that he "exhibits a solid skill-set" but lacks "physicality and finish" and Rosko goes on to perpetuate the curious case of Jacob Josefson when she writes, "the mystery continues when a person examines Josefson’s shootout record and ability. When number 16 takes the ice for the Devils, it is almost automatically assumed that he will beat the oppositional goaltender regardless of whom it is when the game goes beyond 65-minutes. He excels and stands out in the skills competition."

The past five seasons Josefson has gone 11/20 (55%) in the shootout and is tops in the league over that period for players with 20 or more shootout attempts. The Sabres were 25th in the league scoring at a 22% rate (6/27) last season.

What we wrote mid-season:  He was playing extremely well before being felled by an injury. Things haven't gone as expected for Josefson since being drafted by the New Jersey Devils 20th-overall in 2009 but it looks as if he'll manage to scrap out a long career in a journeyman's role, much like David Legwand did. Josefson was skating with the team last week and Housley listed him as week-to-week but liked what he saw. When he comes back, Josefson will more than likely be the team's fourth-line center.

Impressions on his play this year:  The "enigma" moniker stuck with Josefson this season. When he wasn't injured he played well, although not as well as Legwand did, which isn't saying a whole helluva lot. And, true to form, Josefson was on-point in the shootout going 2/3. In all, however, he was overpaid at $700K and his fourth-line/reserve center role will be taken up by a young player this season without losing anything, except in the shootout.

Questions moving forward:  None as the Stokholm, Sweden native is reported to be returning home on a four-year deal to play for Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Friday, May 25, 2018

On Evander Kane and 'Canes left-winger, Jeff Skinner

Published by, 5-23-2018

Word coming out of San Jose is that former Sabres winger Evander Kane is about to sign a contract extension with the Sharks. The former 4th-overall pick in 2009 (Atlanta Thrashers) was traded by Buffalo to San Jose at the 2018 NHL traded deadline as the Sharks were bolstering their team for a playoff run.

The 26 yr. old Kane spent eight seasons in the NHL with Atlanta/Winnipeg Jets franchise and the Sabres but never appeared in a playoff game. However he hit the ice flying this post season scoring two goals in his first playoff appearance while helping the Sharks sweep the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. San Jose would run into the buzzsaw that is the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in round two as the Sharks lost the series in six games. He finished his first-ever playoffs with four goals and one assist in nine games.

At 6'2" 212 lbs. Kane has NHL size and he also has great north/south speed making for an intriguing powerforward package. He scored a career-high 30 goals for Atlanta in the 2011-12 season and hit the 20-goal mark all three seasons he played in Buffalo while leading the team with 28 goals in 2016-17.

Former Sabres GM Tim Murray traded for Kane back in February, 2015 in the first of two blockbuster deals that year. Murray sent defenseman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux plus a 2015 first round pick which turned into Jack Roslovic (25th-oveall) to Winnipeg for Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and goalie prospect Jason Kasdorf.

Kane had been on Murray's radar ever since he was a scout and when the opportunity came to trade for him, Murray pulled the trigger. When the trade was consummated Murray told the gathered media,  "He's gonna be a big part of any success we have here, I believe. You watch him play on the ice, he plays hard, he plays in traffic, he doesn't play a perimeter game, he plays a heavy game, he scores goals from around the net, he plays the game right.

"He finishes checks, he's a good fighter. That's his character on the ice."

Those last three words, "on the ice," would represent a huge qualifier.

Kane had problems in Winnipeg away from the ice something which Murray also addressed during the same presser. "[Sabres owner Terry Pegula] asked questions and I answered them truthfully and to the best of my ability. It wasn't all unicorns and rainbows and juju's," Murray said of Kane's issues. "it never is with any player. Players have warts. The best players have warts and I can tell you the best of the very best of players had warts. It's just what it is. [Pegula] listened, asked questions, he wants to be informed and then he told me to do what I felt was best.

"I made a trade for Kane so I'm not worried about his character."

That would come back to bite Murray as Kane had three off-ice incidents in a seven month span during his first full season in Buffalo. Those incidents included a sexual assault accusation (December 27, 2015) and an unexcused missed practice after hanging with the NBA All-Stars in Toronto on February 15, 2016 and the big one, on June, 2016 while Buffalo was hosting the NHL Draft. Kane got into an early-morning bar encounter and eventually turned himself into police. He faced criminal charges and was booked on one count of misdemeanor trespassing and other charges for which he was eventually sentence to six months probation.

That apparently was enough for the Pegulas as they were said to want no part of Kane when his contract was up this year.

Such was the situation new Sabres GM Jason Botterill walked into this season with Kane. Word came early that the powerfoward was on the block and Botterill eventually traded Kane to the Sharks. There were rumors that Botterill could have pulled the trigger in December for better return than he got but he ended up waiting it out and got bit. At the 2018 trade deadline Botterill traded Kane to the Sharks for conditional second and fourth round picks in 2019 as it was said that San Jose was the only suitor.

That second round pick would convert to a first-rounder if either the Sharks won the Stanley Cup this season or Kane signed a contract extension with the Sharks, which is where we stand right now. If the rumors of Kane re-signing in San Jose are true, that second-rounder converts to a first.

Even with the probable signing there are still conditions with both picks. That 2019 first rounder is lottery protected and would be pushed to 2020 should the Sharks miss the playoffs next season. San Jose also has the option to push the 2019 fourth-rounder back a year in which case Buffalo would receive a 2020 third round pick.

If all this rings true, it will essentially close the book on the Buffalo portion of Kane's career. It's too bad that things didn't work out for him in Buffalo as his departure left a gaping hole on the left side something that Botterill needs to address this off season.


With Buffalo's lefts side bereft of top-six talent, many feel that the Sabres should make a trade from a position of strength down the middle for a top-six winger. Buffalo's depth down the middle begins with Jack Eichel and flows to Ryan O'Reilly, prospect Casey Mittelstadt, Evan Rodrigues and a number of players like prospects Sean Malone and Rasmus Asplund who are looked at as bottom-six centers.

The ascension of Mittelstadt to a probable top-six center only a year removed from the NCAA, puts Buffalo in a favorable position at center and dependent upon what they want to do with the forward group, one of them, including Mittelstadt and Rodrigues, could be moved to left wing in the top-six. Botterill and Sabres head coach Phil Housley could also move O'Reilly to the left side, a spot he played before in Colorado or they could use the top-two center as a major piece in landing a bona fide left-winger.

Top-two centers are hard to come by in the NHL and if any fanbase knows it, those of us in Sabreland certainly do. A few years back the Sabres were so desperate for a top-two center that they signed Ville Leino to a very lucrative long-term deal thinking he could fill that role. It was an unmitigated disaster that the team is still paying for Leino as his 2014 compliance buyout has him collecting $1.2 million until 2019-20 not to play for Buffalo.

The Sabres did some major focusing on centers during the last six drafts selecting two in the first round in 2012 (Mikhail Grigorenko, 12th-overall and Zemgus Girgensons, 14th,) while landing Sam Reinhart second overall in 2014 and Eichel second-overall in 2015. Murray also bolstered the position at the 2015 NHL Draft when he traded for O'Reilly (in another blockbuster deal) and Botterill pulled off a relative coup in snagging Mittelstadt with the eighth-overall pick last year.

We're not sure whether a player like O'Reilly is even available but for all intents and purposes we're going off the assumption that there are only a few untouchables right now--Eichel, the 2018 first-overall pick and probably Mittelstadt.

We're also not sure what's available from other teams but word on the street is that two teams are looking hard at centers and both may have left-wingers available in a trade. The Montreal Canadians are said to be in that group as are the Carolina Hurricanes.

Chip Alexander of the News and Observer in Carolina came out today and asked the question, "Has Jeff Skinner played his last game for the Carolina Hurricanes?"

Skinner was drafted seventh-overall in 2010 by the Hurricanes and won the Calder Trophy (over San Jose's Logan Couture) as rookie of the year that season. The 5'11" 200 lb. left-shooting winger has played in 579 games for Carolina scoring 204 goals and 379 points. He's in the final year of a 6yr./$34.350 million contract signed on August 8, 2012 which also, according to, contains a no-movement clause.

Alexander writes "speculation continues to grow that Skinner, the Canes’ most consistent goal-scorer the past eight seasons, could be traded by the team" and he also points out that the 26 yr. old native of Toronto, Ontario just switched agents from Rick Curran of the Orr Hockey Group and hired Don Meehan of Newport Sports Management. According to Alexander, Meehan has not had any discussions with new 'Canes GM Don Waddell concerning Skinner and says that two will meet in Buffalo during the NHL Combine which begins on Sunday.

Which is rather convenient for the Sabres. Not only will those two be hashing things out in Buffalo with Botterill and Buffalo hosting the event, but Meehan is also O'Reilly's agent as well. This is not to say that something will occur but it provides fertile ground for a potential trade to grow and the opportunity for every side to get a feel for what everyone else is thinking.

One of the things Botterill said at his end of season presser was that the team was looking for speed on the wing and Skinner has that, plus he has the smarts and sniping ability to hang with and flourish next to a player like Eichel.

If Skinner were available any speculation would be mute if he were to put Buffalo on his no-trade list and even if a trade were consummated a contract extension would need to be reached possibly beforehand to assure he remained in the fold.

Alexander quotes Skinner as saying after the season,“I like it here, I want to win here,” but "you have to be open-minded to everything. That’s why you have agents and advisers.”

We've heard quotes like that before with the player eventually getting moved. A trade between Carolina and Buffalo with Skinner and O'Reilly as the primary pieces makes a lot of sense for both clubs. But does it make sense to Waddell and Botterill?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Justin Bailey

Published by, 5-22-2018

Forward--Justin Bailey
DOB:  July 1, 1995 (Age, 22)
Draft:  2013, 2nd round (52nd-overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  November 2, 2014, 3yrs./$2,682,500 (1 yr. entry-level slide)
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  12 games played | 3 goals | 1 assist | 4 points | -2 | 11:17 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  52 games | 5 goals | 3 assists | 8 points | -4 | 10:56 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Although only 22 yrs. old, the big powerforward with impressive skating ability he seems to have learned about all he can from the minors with 81 points (43+38) in 122 AHL games.

[Bailey] made an impression on the penalty kill during preseason which is something that helped separate him from other roster-bubble players. It's a change in philosophy short-handed that may have given him an in to the Sabres roster. According to Bailey, the coaches want more aggressiveness on the kill. "I'm a big guy and I have a long reach with my stick," he told the gathered media this weekend, "and one of my best assets is my legs, so whether it's a loose puck or a rebound or anything like that they want us to be going hard and physical at the guy."

He's smart enough to realize that if the PK is his ticket to the big club, than so be it.

What we wrote mid-season:  Bailey impressed early in his call-up but faded. He has all the tools which includes size and speed, and he's shown he can score at the AHL-level, but he hasn't been able to do it consistently at the NHL-level. The 22-yr. old Bailey will probably have outgrown the AHL come next season and it's time for him to put up or shut up. Would make for a very interesting addition in a trade for an upper-level player.

Impressions on his play this year:  Bailey was drafted as a right winger out of Kitchener in the OHL but was eventually moved to the left side as the Sabres organization found themselves bereft of left wingers. He was also looked at as a potential top-six/top-nine powerforward but as he's plied his trade at the pro level, expectations have been pared back for him as his production-level hasn't hit those parameters.

Bailey has mad speed and at 6'3" 210 lbs. has intimidating size that he uses, somewhat. And there's the rub. He, like Hudson Fasching and Nicholas Baptiste, among others, has the tendency to come on strong when called up but fade a couple games later as they depart from the qualities they were drafted for. Why that's been happening frequently with Sabres players is hard to say. Players have the tendency to show their strengths when called up as they're full of adrenaline, but perhaps it's not all their fault for the drop off. The Sabres of the past five seasons have struggled even when they weren't tanking and perhaps the atmosphere isn't conducive to bringing out the best in their prospects on a consistent basis.

Regardless of the possible reasons above, Bailey needs to get the job done this season. It's assumed that Buffalo will offer him a bridge deal of one maybe two years and direct Bailey's focus in a bottom-six/fourth line defense/penalty kill role. His days as a scoring prospect are waning and he'll need to do something with the big club as he's out of waiver options. That said, he still has a solid set of skills and that speed/quickness will get him to open areas but in order to move up from what looks like a designated defensive role, Bailey will need to produce, something he hasn't done to the fullest as of yet.

Questions moving forward:  What kind of term are we looking at? How much will he embrace that defensive role? Can he contribute offensively in that role, say 10 goals 10 assists? Will he use his speed and strength more often? Who's going to guide him at the NHL-level?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On the Vegas Golden Knights

Published by, 5-21-2018

The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL for the 1970-71 season in a league that had just recently expanded from the Original Six NHL teams to twelve. Buffalo won two spins of the wheel that year as they won the rights to select first in the expansion draft and to select first -overall in the NHL Entry Draft where they selected Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault.

Five years later the Sabres were in the Stanley Cup Final, eventually losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in a series dominated by Flyers goalie Bernie Parent, who, by the way, was selected second overall by Philadelphia from the Boston Bruins in the '67 Expansion Draft.

Buffalo has been to the Finals only one more time since 1975, losing to the Dallas Stars in 1999.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights just punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals yesterday when they eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in five games. They also took down the Los Angeles Kings in the first round and San Jose Sharks in the second. Oh, and did I mention that Vegas is an expansion team?

It's an unprecedented run in the four major North American sports and not many people know what to think of it. Even with favorable expansion draft rules no one could have seen this coming for a team filled mostly with bottom-half talent. But from the beginning the Golden Knights started proving everybody wrong as they shot out of the gate to an 8-1 record. They never lost momentum throughout the season and into the playoffs and now they're four wins away from capturing the Stanley Cup, a trophy that's widely regarded has the hardest to win in sports.

Do they deserve to be in this position?

Hell yeah they do.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Brendan Guhle

Published by, 5-20-2018

Defenseman--Brendan Guhle
DOB:  July 29, 1997 (Age, 20)
Draft:  2015, second round (51st overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  July 27, 2015, 3yr./$2.775 million (2yr. Entry-level slide)
Final year of contract: 2019-20

2017-18 Stats:  18 games played | 0 goals | 5 assists | 5 points | -6 | 18:06 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  21 games | 0 goals | 5 assists | 5 points | -5 | 17:51 ATOI

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Casey Mittelstadt

Published by, 5-18-2018

Forward--Casey Mittelstadt
DOB:  November 22, 1998 (Age, 19)
Draft:  2017, 8th overall
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  March 26, 2018, 3yr./$4.475 million
Final year of contract: 2019-20

2017-18 Stats:  6 games played | 1 goal | 4 assists | 5 points | +1 | 14:01 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  6 games | 1 goal | 4 assists | 5 points | +1 | 14:01 ATOI

Friday, May 18, 2018

Fun with 2020-21 Sabres cap numbers: The John Tavares edition

Published by, 5-17-2018

Who wouldn’t want John Tavares, right? The 27 yr. old is a leader, a producer and makes players around him better, just ask those in Buffalo who’ve been watching the careers of Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo. Both players put up strong numbers on Long Island playing next to Taveres for the NY Islanders and both have slipped since coming to the Sabres. One of them, Moulson, has slipped right down to the NHL.

Tavares is set to become a free agent on July 1 and only dreamers thought a signing in Buffalo would be possible. Although it’s still seems like a pipe dream, TSN broadcaster Gord Miller raised some eyebrows when he said that Buffalo could be looked at as a destination for NHL players these days.

Miller, who is in Denmark covering the IIHF World Hockey Championships, was on Montreal 690 radio yesterday and said that the Buffalo Sabres winning the NHL Draft Lottery was a game changer for the franchise. “The on thing that’s come out of this, the consensus [here],” said Miller to the hosts, “and I’ve started talking to NHL people since the lottery, I think this makes Buffalo a legitimate contender to get John Tavares.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Victor Antipin out, Lawrence Pilut officially in for Sabres

Published by, 5-16-2018

KHL defenseman Victor Antipin was a coveted free agent last season. Former Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray started the process of landing Antipin before he was fired and his successor, Jason Botterill, finished the job by signing him to a 1 yr. contract with a base salary of $925K. Also involved was a reported stipulation that Antipin play in the NHL with Buffalo or he could return to Russia.

Antipin got his contract and his wish and played the 2017-18 season for the Sabres. Unfortunately for him, things did not go all that well. Buffalo was  disaster from the get-go and Antipin found out just how difficult the NHL could be, especially on a last place team that was a train wreck. In all the 5'11" 175 lb. mobile defenseman played in 47 games scattered throughout the season with zero goals and 10 assists. He also got plastered into the boards by Nashville Predators forward Scotty Hartnell in an unpenalized boarding and left the ice on a stretcher which is how his season and NHL career ended.

He was asked about that hit at locker cleanout and said "he didn't remember." Antipin was also asked what he thought of his first NHL season to which he replied, "it was tough." In the measured English of a person just learning the language, Antipin said, "sometimes good play, sometimes no good, but it was a good experience."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--RW, Nicholas Baptiste

Published by, 5-15-2018

Right Wing--Nicholas Baptiste
DOB:  August 4, 1995 (Age, 22)
Draft:  2013, 3d round (69th-overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo 
Last contract signed:  June 5, 2014 (ELC w/slide,) 3yr./$2.725
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  33 games played | 4 goals | 2 assists | 6 points | -4 | 9:58 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  47 games | 7 goals | 3 assists | 10 points | -3 | 9:45 ATOI

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

O'Reilly's World. A brief history and the parallels between Colorado and Buffalo

Published by, 5-14-2018

Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly has not had a quiet career, per se. It seems to have started in Colorado after the Avalanche named 19 yr. old winger Gabriel Landeskog team captain over him in September, 2012. Although being passed up didn't yield any outright consternation on O'Reilly's part, it was rumored that the slight gnawed at him and ever since, it seemed as if he was skating on borrowed time.

Half that 2012-13 NHL season was lost to an owners lockout and O'Reilly, like many other NHL players, came back from playing overseas ready to play a 48 game schedule, but was without a contract. He remained in a contract dispute until February 28 when Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster sent an ill-advised offer sheet O'Reilly's way which he promptly signed. The 2 yr./$10 million deal which was well above what the Avalanche were prepared to pay and it forced them into a "shotgun marriage," as Adrian Dater of the Denver Post put it..

Because of that offer sheet, in two years Colorado would be looking at a qualifying offer for their restricted free agent of at least $6.5 million (his salary in 2013-14) to retain his rights. At the end of that contract, with trade winds swirling, the Avalanche took O'Reilly to arbitration, something uncommon for a team to do, and the two sides settled on a 2yr./$12 million deal. At the end of the deal O'Reilly was slated for unrestricted free agency.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Casey Nelson

Published by, 5-13-2018

Defenseman--Casey Nelson
DOB:  July 18, 1992 (Age, 25)
Draft:  Undrafted
How acquired:  College Free Agent (Minnesota State) 
Last contract signed:  May 2, 2018 (2yr./$1.625 million)
Final year of contract: 2019-20

2017-18 Stats:  37 games played | 3 goals | 5 assists | 8 points | -14 | 18:47 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  55 games | 3 goals | 9 assists | 12 points | -16 | 17:02 ATOI

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Jordan Nolan

Forward--Jordan Nolan
DOB:  June 23, 1989 (Age, 29)
Draft:  2009, 7th round (186th), LAK
How acquired:  Wavier claim, September 27, 2017
Last contract signed:  February 24, 2015, 3yr./$2.85 million
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  69 games played | 4 goals | 4 assists | 8 points | -13 | 9:48 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  69 games | 4 goals | 4 assists | 8 points | -13 | 9:48 ATOI

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A look back at Jason Botterill's first year as GM on his one-year anniversary

Published by, 5-11-2018

The search for Tim Murray's replacement as Buffalo Sabres GM took about a month. Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma were fired on April 10th and owners Terry and Kim Pegula's coaching search lead to the hiring of Jason Botterill, a former Rochester Americans and Buffalo Sabres player, who came from the Pittsburgh Penguins front office.

This would mark Botterill's first shot at running his own team and it was out of the frying pan and into the fire for him.

Overall, the team he was taking over had just finished an underachieving 26th place season and amongst the troubles Botterill faces was talent deficiencies and a dressing room divided. Being hired at this time a year ago also meant that the NHL Entry Draft was just around the corner and free agency immediately after that. If that wasn't bad enough, the Las Vegas Golden Knights would be starting their first season in 2017-18 and the expansion draft was set for the week before the NHL Entry Draft.

Friday, May 11, 2018

HV71 coach Johan Lindbom talks d-man Lawrence Pilut

Published by, 5-9-2018

The Buffalo Sabres are about to bring two Swedish defensemen into the fold soon. Anyone who's been following the upcoming NHL Draft knows the name Rasmus Dahlin and there probably isn't a soul in the hockey world that would bet against Buffalo drafting him with the first overall pick. The 18 yr. old Frolunda defensemen is manna from heaven for a distressed Sabres blueline that's was in need of an influx of top-notch talent.

And Dahlin certainly has those talents.

But there's another defenseman who played in the same league as Dahlin that should be headed Buffalo's way as well. HV71 defenseman Lawrence Pilut of the Swedish Hockey League is said to have reached a deal with the Sabres and will likely be headed to Buffalo after the World Championships in Denmark conclude.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--G, Chad Johnson

Published by, 5-7-2018

Goalie--Chad Johnson
DOB:  June 10, 1986 (Age, 31)
Draft:  2006, 5th round (125th-overall) PIT
How acquired:  FA
Last contract signed:  July 1, 2017, 1yr./$2.5 million
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  36 games played | 10-16-3 record | 3.55 GAA | .891 Sv % | 0 shutouts

Buffalo Career Stats:  81 games | 32-32-7 record | 2.85 GAA |  .907 Sv% | 7 shutouts

Monday, May 7, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Nathan Beaulieu

Published by, 5-6-2018

Defenseman--Nathan Beaulieu
DOB:  December 5, 1992 (Age, 25)
Draft:  2011, 17th-overall, MTL
How acquired:  Trade with Montreal, June 17, 2017
Last contract signed:  July 31, 2017, 2yrs./$4.8 million
Final year of contract:  2018-19

2017-18 Stats:  59 games played | 1 goal | 8 assists | 9 points | -19 | 15:57 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  59 games | 1 goal | 8 assists | 9 points | -19 | 15:57 ATOI

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Victor Antipin

Published by, 5-5-2018

Defenseman--Victor Antipin
DOB:  December 9,1992 (Age, 25)
Draft:  N/A
How acquired:  FA, May 25, 2017
Last contract signed: May 25, 2017, 1 yr./$1.775 million
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2017-18 Stats:  47 games played | 0 goals | 10 assists | -9 | 15:17 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  47 games | 0 goals | 10 assists | -9 | 15:17 ATOI

Friday, May 4, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Jake McCabe

Published by, 5-3-2018

Defenseman--Jake McCabe
DOB:  October 12, 1993 (Age, 24)
Draft:  2012, second round (44th-overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  June 30, 2016
Final year of contract:  2018-19

2017-18 Stats:  53 games played | 3 goals | 9 assists | 12 points | -11 | 19:30 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  215 games | 10 goals | 37 assists | 47 points |-15 | 19:34 ATOI

Does Rasmus Dahlin change the Sabres' off-season equation?

Published by 5-4-2018

Heading into last week's NHL Draft Lottery, hockey insider Elliotte Friedman had a definitive take on what the last place Buffalo Sabres would be doing this off season. Prior to the pingpong balls falling Buffalo's way, it was expected that second-year GM Jason Botterill would overhaul his roster and here's what Friedman had to say, “I think they’re looking at tearing that team down right to the studs. And you know what? If they get Dahlin that makes it easier for them to do.”

Unlike the previous off season when he overhauled mostly the bottom portion of the lineup to the tune of nine different faces in the opening night lineup, an angry Botterill indicated that a continued overhaul may include some core players. "When you finish where we were," he said to the gathered media at his end of season presser, "you have to look at everything. That means looking at even changing up some of our core players."

Speculation as to who he meant immediately began swirling around Sabreland with those waves rippling through much of the NHL.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Scott Wilson

Published by, 5-2-2018

Forward--Scott Wilson
DOB:  April 24, 1992 (Age, 26)
Draft:  2011 seventh round (209th-overall,) PIT
How acquired:  Trade with Detroit, December 4, 2017
Last contract signed:  March 13, 2016, 2yr./$1.25 million
Final year of contract:  2017-18, RFA

2017-18 Stats:  49 games played | 6 goals | 8 assists | 14 points | -17 | 13:58 ATOI

Buffalo Career Stats:  49 games | 6 goals | 8 assists | 14 points | -17 | 13:58 ATOI

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Zemgus Girgensons

Published by, 5-1-2018

Forward--Zemgus Girgensons
DOB:  January 5, 1994
Draft:  2012 1st round (14th-overall)
How acquired:  Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed:  August 17, 2017, 2yr./$3.2 million
Final year of contract:  2018-19

2017-18 Stats:  71 games | 7 goals | 8 assists | 15 points | -12 | 13:43 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats:  348 games | 44 goals | 57 assists | 101 points | -41 | 15:08 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  Housley has given Girgensons first crack at landing a spot in the top-six on a wing with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo. Girgensons' trials and tribulations under former head coach Dan Bylsma have been well documented as had been his 15-goal season prior to Bylsma coming to Buffalo.

Girgensons has the will and desire to make a difference in the top-six, but any offensive acumen he may have had seemed to get lost under Bylsma. A golden opportunity is right in front of him, and the only question is, does he have enough offensive acumen to stick in that top-six role?

What we wrote mid-season:  Normally a player with only one goal and three assists in 28 games would be way down the list, but after being a healthy scratch, Housley gave Girgensons a shot in the top six and he's doing his part. The points still aren't there, and they may never be, but he's working the corners and is the net-front presence Housley wants him to be. The O'Reilly/Okposo/Girgensons line represents some big bodies that can skate pretty well and they have some chemistry, at least for now. Perhaps the bubble will burst and Girgensons will be in the bottom-six again, but for now his work up-top is one of the reasons Housley's able to roll three lines.

Impressions on his play this year:  Who knows what will happen with the "Latvian Locomotive" this off season. Girgensons had one good season of 15 goals and 15 assists in 61 games but has proven to be a single-digit goal-scorer who will take over 100 shots and hit on around 6.2%. It's been that way for the past three seasons.

Yet "Gus" is loved by many Buffalo fans. What he lacks in skill he brings in honest, hard-working play on a daily basis which is the antithesis of what we've seen from Sabres players who are far more talented. Girgensons and Larsson are almost interchangeable save that the latter spent nearly all of his time at center. Both are signed for one more season and this team really shouldn't be looking to keep both if they want to upgrade their bottom-six. One would be OK and of the two, Girgensons would probably be tradeable at this point for a mid-lower round pick for the right team.

Questions moving forward:  Will his reign as the longest continuously tenured Sabre remain intact this off season? Will his skill catch up enough with his will to get him into double-digit goals for the first time in four years? Is there a team another team that can use his grit and hard work moreso than Buffalo?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Dahlineation of Buffalo's near-term defense

Published by, 4-30-2018

As he did at the NHL Draft Lottery, Buffalo GM Jason Botterill will use plurals when talking about whom the Buffalo Sabres might select first-overall between now and the upcoming 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Botterill had a grin after winning the lottery on Saturday which comes from knowing exactly who the Sabres walk to the podium on June 22 in Dallas, Texas but one would have to thing that he was doing cartwheels inside. Make no mistake, though Botterill may generally mention other players when talking about that top pick in the draft, this draft lottery was all about the opportunity to draft a franchise defenseman named Rasmus Dahlin.

The 6'2" 183 lb. Dahlin has often been compared to the likes of Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and Detroit Red Wings Hall of Fame defenseman Niklas Lidstrom while some have even gone as far to say that he's the blueline version of Connor McDavid. All those lofty comparisons may or may not come to fruition, but anyone who thinks, writes or talks about Buffalo trading the pick or selecting another player at the draft has a wild imagination.

Red Wings director of European Scouting Hakan Andersson told the Detroit Free Press prior to the lottery. “I’ve seen him lots over the years. I know how dedicated [Dahlin] is. I know how hard he works. 
“He has no weaknesses.”