Sunday, March 31, 2019

Five games left and this is the expected effort from most of the Sabres tonight

Published by, 3-30-2019

The Buffalo Sabres, fifth-worst in the NHL, face off against the NY Islanders, who are all but assured of a playoff spot, tonight at 7 pm. Here's Buffalo's projected lineup from those at the Nassau Coliseum rink for their morning skate:


Scandella-Nelson Good luck to: --Victor Olofsso, get that first NHL goal
--Alexander Nylander, keep the pattern going--3 straight w/o a point, points in 3 straight (2+2), 3 straight w/o a point...
--Will Borgen, keep up the good work

Thank you.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Think of the youngins

Published by, 3-29-2019

The odds of head coach Phil Housley returning to the Sabres bench next season get longer with each loss. At present his Buffalo squad is five losses away (with five games remaining) from having the dubious distinction of being the first team in NHL history to have a 10-game winning streak and a 10-game losing streak in the same season, something that's not exactly a ringing endorsement for his return.

That the latter two-thirds of this season has been a disaster is an understatement and in a results-based business is cause in and of itself for his dismissal. The only saving grace Housley might have had is a team that's giving it's all but coming up short, similar to how much of the season played out last year save for some rough patches. However,  many of Housley's players checked out on him weeks ago and with each passing game more seem to be headed that way, hence the 2-10-2 record in March.  Although this may not be Housley's fault in totality, keeping him on board this season with his team deaf to what he's preaching is making matters worse and only seems to perpetuates the Sabres losing culture.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Sabres/Bills team president Kim Pegula, "I'm still learning." Sabres still sinking.

While Buffalo Sabres and Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula were in Arizona at the NFL owners meetings yesterday evening, their hockey team was busy getting embarrassed and shut out by the Ottawa Senators, the worst team in the NHL. Although Kim's thought-process while facing the Buffalo media in Arizona may have centered around being team president of the Bills, she's also team president of the Sabres.

Regardless of which professional team her thoughts were ultimately emanating from, Kim Pegula, who had no team president experience when she took over the mantle of both professional clubs, admitted to learning on the job. Which is great for her. But while she's busy "learning" about being a team president, her hockey team is busy cementing their place in the annals of NHL ignominy for having one of the worst falls in league history--from first-overall to bottom-five in a span of 51 games.

"It takes a while to just understand the organization and people behind it and how we want things to be done, how we want things to be structured," she told the Buffalo media. "I've been talking to a lot of other clubs around the league, 'how are you doing things?' And so for me it was part of the learning process….and it's just part of the whole progression of how we want things to be and how we want to make our own mark."

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Defenseman Will Borgen gets the call. Sabres visit last place Ottawa

Published by, 3-26-2019

With the Buffalo Sabres out of the playoffs and their AHL affiliate off until tomorrow, why not bring up another youngin from Rochester? And so they did. Amerks defenseman Will Borgen got the call to Buffalo and could appear in his first NHL game tonight against the Ottawa Senators.

Borgen was selected by Buffalo in the fourth round (92nd-overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft and signed a three-year entry-level deal last year after leaving St. Cloud State as a junior. The 6'2" 188 lb. defenseman had a solid collegiate career and was one of only four college players to make the trip to Pyeong Chang, South Korea with the U.S. Men's Hockey team in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In his first full pro season Borgen has appeared in 66 games for Rochester scoring two goals and adding seven assists to go along with a plus-7 rating but what has really stood out is his solid defensive play and the sandpaper with which he plays the game. It's something he emphasized when he came to Rochester after leaving St. Cloud State to play eight games for the Amerks at the end of last season. "I'm a physical defenseman," he told the gathered media back then. "I like to just play my role, play defense and get the pucks to the forwards and let them do the offense."

However, as he became more acclimated to the pro game and more comfortable with his place in it, he began working on the offensive aspects of the game. Keith Wozniak of talked with Amerks head coach Chris Taylor and assistant coach Gord Dineen about Borgen's progress with Dineen pointing out he "didn't look out of place at all playing with (2018 first-overall pick) Rasmus Dahlin in the rookie tournament (last summer) and it carried over into the regular season."

"He's come a long way," continued Dineen, "but I will say he was further ahead at the start of the season than I expected him to be."

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Sabres in New Jersey tonight to face off against a s

Published by, 3-25-2019

For one brief season, the New Jersey Devils were able to break out of the waning Martin Brodeur-era with a playoff appearance. The Devils were one of the darlings of the NHL last season as they rode an Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall trade with the Edmonton Oilers to the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and their first playoff appearance five seasons.

Brodeur, of course, led New Jersey to three Stanley Cups during his 21 seasons with the Devils and almost tacked on a fourth one in 2012 before he, backup Johan Hedberg and New Jersey fell 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals. As the luster was wearing off the first-ballot Hall of Famer's career, the Devils found themselves in a difficult period of transition while trying to find Brodeur's replacement. Eventually they traded a 2013 first round pick (9th-overall, Bo Horvat) to the Vancouver Canucks for goalie Corey Schneider. Although Schneider was no Brodeur by any means, third-year Devils head coach John Hynes used his up-tempo style to get the offense clicking enough last season and made the playoffs led by Hall's 93 points (39+54.) However they didn't have nearly enough in as they lost to the top seed in the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1 in the first round.

For as much grief as the Buffalo Sabres have gotten, and they deserve every bit of it, the Devils are at the bottom end of a group that's just above the dregs of the league since 2011-12 even with that playoff appearance. The Sabres are by far the worst team during that stretch with a measly .419 win-percentage while the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes and Oilers come in at .462 and .468, respectively. New Jersey is the only other team with a winning percentage below .500 as they come in at .496. The Devils, long known to rely upon Brodeur in net to win low-scoring games, haven't fared all that well in the goal-scoring department either during that span. Buffalo, of course, is at the bottom averaging 2.29 goals/game while New Jersey is next to last at 2.42, just a smidgeon below the Coyotes (2.43.)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sabres headed to Sweden as part of 2019 NHL Global Series (very interesting)

The Buffalo Sabres are headed to Sweden next season as a part of the NHL's 2019 Global Series according to the League. Buffalo will face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, Nov 8 and Saturday, Nov. 9 at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden. It makes for a very interesting connect-the-dots situation when it comes to their head coaching situation.

Phil Housley is still the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and will likely be so until the end of the season. However, general manager Jason Botterill, along with possible input from owners Terry and Kim Pegula, will need to decide Housley's fate as this season turned south in December and there were no signs that Housley could, or even knew how to, pull this team out of the muck.

And it continued last night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs swept the season series with a 4-2 win last night, have now won five in a row against the Sabres and according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, the Leafs have now won three in a row at Buffalo for the first time since 1972. Housley's team got run over last night and only Carter Hutton kept this from being a laugher on the scoreboard.

The Sabres are hitting marks that don't bode well for Housley's future in Buffalo. The Sabres were coming off of a solid win vs. the St. Louis Blues on Sunday and were looking to make it two in a row for the first time since Dec. 11-13. That in and of itself should tell you the struggles this team has been having and that stretch is also the reason that the Buffalo Sabres will be only the second team in NHL history to have a 10-game winning streak and miss the playoffs in the same season.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Redemption is right around the corner in a matchup vs. Toronto

Published by, 3-20-2019

The Sabres are heading into tonight's matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs having played one of their best games of the season. Buffalo welcomed former Sabre Ryan O'Reilly and his St. Louis Blues to KeyBank Center on Sunday and came away with the 4-3 shootout win. The Blues cut a 3-1 second period deficit on a play that saw Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen break his stick (surprise) on a one-timer in the late stages of a powerplay only to have the Blues turn that miscue up-ice and have the penalized player, David Perron, score off of the ensuing rush. St. Louis would tack on another goal on a play that turned in the Blues zone as a crossbar hit by Buffalo's Conor Sheary went back up ice leading to a shot on goalie Carter Hutton and a wrap-around goal by St. Louis forward Brayden Schenn. A couple of miscues, and a mild Keystone Cops moment allowed for Schenn to pot that backhander into a gaping net to tie the score at 3-3.

Buffalo's Sam Reinhart would win the game in the shootout for the Sabres.

The win by the Sabres broke a season-high seven-game losing streak and ended their shot at NHL ignominy. Losing that game against St. Louis would have put them within two losses of a 10-game losing streak which would have been an NHL-first for a team that had a 10-game winning streak in the same season.

As we into the final stretch of the season Buffalo is outside of the playoffs playing the role of spoiler and although tonight's game against the Leafs won't spoil too much for Toronto as they're pretty much locked into third place in the Atlantic Division, beating the Leafs is always a good thing. It's also something the Sabres haven't done this season. Buffalo is 0-2-1 against Toronto with their best showing coming at home in early December when they lost an intense back-and-forth contest in overtime as Leafs center Auston Matthews scored the game-winner with less than three seconds left on the clock.

The other two matchups in Toronto were lopsided wins for the Leafs as they beat Buffalo by scores of 5-3 and 5-2.

Sabres PR points out that this rivalry has been dominated by the home team with the hosts winning 28 of the last 37 games. Despite Buffalo's struggles and the Leafs resurgence, the Sabres are 6-3-1 vs. Toronto at KeyBank Center, 19-4-2 in their last 25 home games against the Maple Leafs. 

Thanks to proximity and economics a Sabres home game against the Leafs is usually a raucous affair. With staggering ticket prices in Toronto making it difficult for your average-Wayne Leafs fans to attend games, a 100-mile trek to Buffalo for the opportunity to rep the Blue and White is a trip worth taking. The Sabres have some of the lowest ticket prices in the league and there are many season ticket holders who will sell their tickets for top-dollar to a hockey-crazed Leafs fan. 

Many Sabres ticket holders see Toronto games as an opportunity to recoup some of the cost and often times it creates a mix close to 50/50 for each fan base. While it's still a home game for Buffalo, as the Sabres continue to struggle, Toronto fans amp up their braggadocio to the point where it sounds like they're the home team when they score a goal. 

Buffalo captain Jack Eichel seems to revel in the odd environment created when Leafs Nation invades KeyBank Center. The 22 yr. old has totaled seven points (5+2) in seven home games and simply loves trolling Leafs fans in the lower bowl after a goal. Reinhart is another Sabre who seems to like playing against Toronto. He has 15 points (6+9) in his last 15 meetings against them.

Leaf Nation is somewhat troubled these days as the team is in a rut and they're not sure whether it's just that or a case of Toronto being exposed. No doubt the Leafs have firepower up-front but their defense is suspect and their goaltending has been atrocious as of late. Toronto has lost two in a row and four of their last five while being outscored 26-13 in the process and because of that tumble, any hope of overtaking the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division has pretty much vanished. The Leafs are six points behind the Bruins in the standings and eight points ahead of the fourth place Montreal Canadiens and because of the NHL's screwy playoff format, Toronto and Boston will meet in the first round of the playoffs if they maintain their holds on second and third place in the division.

While the Leafs are gearing up for the playoffs, the Sabres are nearing the end of another year outside the playoffs. Buffalo is all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season and will have it's playoff drought extended to eight years. The Carolina Hurricanes presently have the longest playoff drought and are in a wild card spot right now, four points ahead of the Canadiens who are on the outside looking in.

After looking like they'd snap their playoff drought during their early 10-game winning streak, Buffalo fell from grace and are left to play out the string. Their precipitous drop from No. 1 in the league to their present status as forgotten leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the faithful in Sabreland but redemption is always around the corner in a matchup against Toronto. There's always that rivalry, and in Buffalo, always a mix in the stands that creates a raucous, playoff-like environment. With the season lost and not much to play for, getting up for a game like this shouldn't be too difficult and in addition, the Sabres have the opportunity to do something they haven't done since December 13--win two games in a row.

Just a little added incentive.


The Sabres had an optional skate this morning and based upon yesterday's practice, head coach Phil Housley won't change a winning formula:



Goalie Carter Hutton started and won on Sunday so he'll probably get the start in net.


One final note, forward Matej Pekar was reassigned to the Rochester Americans yesterday after his Barrie Colts (OHL) season ended. The 2018 fourth-rounder (94th-overall) spent the latter half of his Colts season injured but managed 36 points (14+22) in 33 games for Barrie including nine multi-point games and five three-point games.

Pekar is an agitating forward who became a fan favorite at Sabres Development Camp this summer when he proved he could dish out a good hit and take one as well. The Czech native leveled Buffalo first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin during camp and when Dahlin returned the favor, both took it as just a part of the game. Pekar has an engaging personality and a fun-loving nature that is the opposite of how he plays the game. He said at camp that noted Bruins pest, and Sabre-killer, Brad Marchand was a player he models his game after and who wouldn't want a player like that on their team.

The Amerks are driving towards the post season with a roster that's quite full right now. How Pekar fits into their plans, especially with Alexander Nylander and Tage Thompson on the playoff-roster but yet to be sent down, is yet to be seen, but you can bet that he'll make his mark somewhere along the line and get noticed.

Here's a two-part profile on Pekar from last summer:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Published by, 3-18-2019

The losing streak is over

Buffalo's shootout win over the St. Louis Blues yesterday ended a 0-6-1 losing streak. With the win, the Sabres may have averted NHL ignominy as they were on track to be the first team in the history of the league to have both a 10-game winning streak and a 10-game losing streak in the same season. Although they still have 10 games to play, if they put an effort like they did against the Blues, the odds of them losing their final 10 games are long.

Of course...

Despite saving themselves from the NHL-first mentioned above, this Buffalo team was the first team since 1929 to get shut out three games in a row in two consecutive seasons and they will be the second team in NHL history to have a 10-game winning streak and miss the playoffs. The Philadelphia Flyers were the first team to do so back in the 2016-17 season. Philadelphia took a 9-10-3 a record into late November then proceeded to reel off 10 in a row. From thence their fall was marked by wild swings winning streaks of four and three games, along with a three-game point-streak balanced by a five-game losing streak and three, three-game losing streaks. This edition of the Sabres had no such bi-polar streaks as they haven't won two in row since Dec. 11. Buffalo had managed to throw in a win to break up losses and totaled three, three-game losing streaks prior to the seven-gamer they just ended.

What does this say for head coach Phil Housley?

If Housley's team could have played the way they played last night for through the better part of those post winning streak doldrums, this conversation wouldn't even have come up as they'd probably be pretty close to the playoff bubble. This group of Sabres seemed to lose interest on many occasions and couldn't overcome negative puck-luck when they really needed to. There are many calling for his head with some, like this blogger, who thought pulling the plug on the Housley-era should have been done during the losing streak. Then again, who knows what owners Terry and Kim Pegula along with GM Jason Botterill are thinking. Regardless of a difficult transition between the on-ice philosophy of Botterill and his predecessor and despite Housley getting shorted on the personnel he had to work with, the above embarrassments don't bode well for the second year coach.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Two streaks down, one still going. Plus, Ryan O'Reilly's return to Buffalo

Published by, 3-17-2019

In one fell swoop, Jeff Skinner's goal just over two minutes into the first period at Carolina last night ended his personal goal-drought of 13 games and simultaneously ended Buffalo's three-game goal-drought. The Sabres hadn't lit the lamp since the 7:20 mark of the third period in Chicago on March 7 and were shutout three consecutive games--a total of 199 minutes 58 seconds--before Skinner's goal against his former Hurricanes team.

It was the second consecutive season that Buffalo was shut out three games in a row and as Mike Harrington of the Buffalo news pointed out, the Sabres were the first team since 1929 to have that dubious distinction. How that sits with ownership is yet to be determined but they can't be very happy with that in terms of head coach Phil Housley.

The Sabres are pretty easy to chart these days as most games go like this:

--come out with some energy and put shots on net, sometimes they, score other times they don't
--get on their heels as the opposition amps up the pressure
--fall behind
--ramp up the energy, put some shots on net, sometimes they, score other times they don't
--fall behind enough to where the opposition begins locking things down
--a late third-period push has them bringing intense pressure, sometimes they score, other times they don't

Sunday, March 17, 2019

If the Sarbes are going to fire coach Phil Housley, might as well do it now

Published by, 3-15-2019

Can the Buffalo Sabres rifle through three head coaches in less than four seasons?

Sure. Why not? If it isn't working, it isn't working.

Clearly it's not working for present coach Phil Housley and it looks like he might be the third coach owners Terry and Kim Pegula have gone through since the 2015 off-season. Ted Nolan was brought in for his second tour or duty as Buffalo's head coach on in November, 2013. Nolan was hired by former Hockey Ops President Pat LaFontaine who hired GM Tim Murray a couple months later. After Buffalo's tank seasons of 2013-15, Nolan was canned on April 12, 2015. Murray replaced him with a Stanley Cup winning coach in Dan Bylsma after the team missed out on landing Mike Babcock. Bylsma had a solid first season but lost the room half-way through his second season and was fired, along with Murray on April 20, 2017.

The Sabres brought in Jason Botterill who was a rookie GM in May, 2017 and he in turn hired a rookie head coach in Phil Housley. Buffalo's fortunes took a dramatic tumble as they went from 78 points in Bylsma's last season to 62 points and a last place finish in 2017-18 despite having two players who were results of their tank seasons--second-overall picks Sam Reinhart (2014) and Jack Eichel (2015.) The Sabres added to that haul with 2018 first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin and after a promising first two months of this season, it looks as if they'll finish only marginally better than last season in the standings.

Friday, March 15, 2019

It's our favorite time of year in Sabreland plus, BUF 2-0 vs. PIT

Published by, 3-14-2019

It seems to be our favorite time of year in Sabreland as the NHL announced that their annual draft lottery will take place on April 9. The hourlong event to determine the top three picks in the 2019 NHL Draft will take place in Toronto, Ontario with all 15 non-playoff teams, or the clubs who own the pick of a non-playoff team, will be in the drawing for a top-three draft pick.

Here are the odds for landing one of the top three picks in the draft this year (odds are recalculated after each draw):

31st place--18.5%  16.5  14.4
30th--13.5  13.0  12.4
29th--11.5  11.3  11.1
28th--9.5  9.6  9.7
27th--8.5  8.7  8.9
26th--7.5  7.8  8.0
25th--6.5  6.8  7.1
24th--6.0  6.3  6.7
23rd--5.0  5.3  5.7
22nd--3.5  3.8  4.1
21st--3.0  3.3  3.6
20th--2.5  2.7  3.0
19th--2.0  2.0  2.4
18th--1.5  1.7  1.5
17th--1.0  1.1  1.2

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Does Casey Nelson deserve to get benched?

Published by, 3-12-2019

A flood of Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller memories came back to haunt Sabreland  on Saturday as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov took a run at Eichel with a late hit along the boards that many felt was a cheap shot. In case you had somehow forgotten about the Lucic/Miller incident that occurred in Boston over seven years ago, here's a quick rundown of what transpired:

--Boston Bruins Cro-Magnon winger Milan Lucic bowled over Sabres franchise goalie Ryan Miller as the two were going after a puck at the right faceoff dot without trying to avoid him
--Miller was knocked a little silly and the Sabres players on the ice half-heartedly, at best, tried to show that the were coming to Miller's defense, which is customary when the opposition violates a team mate
--the Sabres on the ice back in November, 2011 were captain Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad, Andrej Sekera and Tyler Myers
--all of the aforementioned Buffalo players were known more for their skills than their physicality, save for Gaustad and all feigned anger in response to the hit
--nothing happened, Lucic got his minor penalty and the Bruins went on to defeat the Sabres 6-2.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Eichel gets a two-game suspension. Nylander on the call from Rochester

Published by, 3-11-2019

I must admit, a month or two ago I was ready to write off Sabres wing-prospect Alexander Nylander. His professional career seemed to be stuck in a rut and although tough to do, moving on from an eighth-overall pick in a "change of scenery" trade seemed to be where his future was destined. However, what a pleasant surprise he's been lately over in Rochester.

Nylander, who just turned 21 yrs. old, had been plugging along with the Americans in the two-plus years since he was drafted by the Sabres in 2016. He started out his junior season in Rochester at a point/game with four goals and five assists in his first nine games of the season then got into a pretty good funk. The worst of it started in December as he went on a 19-game stretch from mid-December through February where he scored only scored five points (1+4) including a 13-game stretch where he went without a goal.

Then his 21st birthday hit on March 3. Nylander celebrated the moment in Syracuse with a goal and an assist along with a +3 rating as the Amerks came out on top in a clash of the top two teams in the North Division. The 5-3 win over the Crunch (TBL) put Rochester back on top in the division. Nylander's tally would spark a four-game goal-streak for the winger and his reward was a recall to Buffalo yesterday.

Sabres take their horrific road-show to Colorado

Published by, 3-9-2019

No one in Sabreland should have been surprised the Buffalo Sabres lost 5-4 in Chicago. That it happened in the shootout maybe, but the real surprise was the names on the score sheet for Buffalo. Vladimir Sobotka, Zach Bogosian and Kyle Okposo, three players mentioned in the last blog as being "miscast and/or overpriced vets" all scored for the Sabres against the Blackhawks. Newcomer Brandon Montour, who was acquired at the NHL trade deadline nearly two weeks ago, scored his second goal in the Blue and Gold but the Sabres blew a third period lead and lost in the shootout as goalie Carter Hutton was unable to stop any of the three Chicago shooters that came his way.

What a waste of a night, but it's par for the course for Buffalo as of late and especially on the road. The Sabres woes in the Windy City continued as they haven't won in Chicago since January 10, 2007 (0-6-3) and they presently have the NHL's second-worst road record of 11-18-5. Since the end of the Sabres 10-game winning streak in November, the club is only 3-14-4. Post All-Star break when it's time to play for keeps in a playoff push, the Sabres are 1-6-2 with their only win coming in Columbus the day after the break ended.

Buffalo's home record post-break of 5-4-1 isn't great but it's fairly respectable and had they been able to move the needled on the road from abysmal to meh with a couple of wins, their playoff deficit wouldn't have ballooned from two points on January 30 to 10 points today.

Such is the season.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Sabres singing the blues vs. Chicago

Published by, 3-7-2019

A lot is being made of the Buffalo Sabres recent record in Chicago, as well it should. The Sabres haven't beaten the Blackhawks on the road in over 12 years and are only 2-6-2 in their last 10 games at United Center dating back to the pre-lockout 2003-04 season. Buffalo beat the 'Hawks 3-2 on December 3, 2003 then followed it up with another win (2-1) on January 10, 2007 in two seasons where Chicago finished 29th and 26th in the NHL, respectively. After that, it was all downhill for the Sabres.

The Blackhawks at the time were in the midst of a brutal transition beginning in 1997-98 where they finished third or worst in the division in 10 straight seasons and missed the playoffs in all but one of them. However, during those losing times they were able to build a future with a nucleus of Duncan Keith (2002, 54th-overall,) Jonathan Toews (2006, 3rd) and South Buffalo, NY native Patrick Kane (2007, 1st.) That trio would eventually lead Chicago to three Stanley Cup titles in six seasons (2010, 2013, 2015) with the first one breaking Cup-drought dating back to 1961.

Buffalo won two of three meetings from 2007-10 but since the Blackhawks broke their Cup-drought the Sabres have a 1-9-3 record, which includes a 12-game losing streak (0-9-3) from October, 2010 to December, 2017. In light of that record, which includes seven regulation losses in a row, the Sabres have tried to stem the tide of losing to Blackhawks in the post-tank/Jack Eichel era. Buffalo finally managed to get into the win column last March and have 1-3-3 record over the past seven meetings.  A win tonight would mean a series split for the second season in a row and although it might not look like much, its a start.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Get those fingers warmed up and start pointing

Published by, 3-6-2019

The finger-pointing portion of the 2018-19 Buffalo Sabres schedule is upon us as the team is almost certainly destined for a playoff-less Spring. Where once they were the toast of the town, this group of Sabres has dropped below also-ran status and are once again destined to miss the playoffs.

It's been eight years since Buffalo dropped a seven-game series to the Philadelphia Flyers under new owner Terry Pegula and since then there have been a ton of changes beginning in the upper reaches of the front office. Gone is team president Ted Black, the author of the phrase "Hockey Heaven" which he used to describe the organization they wanted to build. Black was a part of Pegula's inner circle when he first bought the team and one of the architects of the tank years but he was ousted in July, 2015 and replaced by Russ Brandon, who'd been team president of the Buffalo Bills, also owned by the Pegula family. Brandon resigned in May, 2018 after "internal investigations" and the position of team president was filled by Kim Pegula, Terry's wife.

In between there was the short-lived tenure of Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, who was President of Hockey Operations from November, 2013 to March, 2014.  LaFontaine left the organization after presumably butting heads over the direction of the team.

The Sabres are on their third general manager and fifth head coach since Pegula bought the team in February, 2011 and outside of the 2013-15 tank years, they've been searching for a true identity that can produce a playoff season.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Fork meet Sabres

Published by, 3-5-2019

You just can't do that. When you're up 3-1 and in control of the game, you just can't allow three unanswered goals in three-minute span at the end of a period and leave the ice down 4-3. It's a serious no Bueno.

Apparently the Buffalo Sabres never got one of the many memos on that topic as things like that have been happening since their 10-game winning streak ended.

The team we saw last night, and the one we've seen on many occasions this season when it really counted, is so reminiscent of the pre-tank Sabres. Sure, unlike those prior Buffalo teams this one has a sure-fire top-line center in Jack Eichel, who scored two of the three goals last night, and they have 18 yr. old defenseman Rasmus Dahlin who looks poised to do some incredible things down the road, but at the core of this team lies an ugly characteristic that stretches back to the post-Chris Drury/Daniel Briere days. When things are going great, like when they went on their November winning streak, they're world-beaters, but when the pressure's cranked up, they crumble.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Save for one season, McEchiel era has been a dud for both Edmonton and Buffalo

Published by, 3-4-2019

Had we been shown the scheduled date of tonight's matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres four years ago, we' have perceived it in a different light. Two franchise centers were atop the 2015 NHL Draft that season and it set off a mad scramble between two teams to finish in last place to secure at least one of them as lottery system guaranteed that the last place team could drop no further than one spot.

The Sabres did finish in last place but were jumped by the Oilers via the draft lottery. Edmonton selected a transformative player in Connor McDavid with the first pick in the draft while Buffalo walked away with the "consolation prize" of franchise center Jack Eichel, who was taken second-overall. The two players will be forever linked far beyond the "McEichel" moniker placed upon that draft and are still linked in that both their organizations have floundered since selecting them.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Sabres/Leafs Part III

Published by, 3-2-2019

The Toronto Maple Leafs took a George Forman right to the jaw Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum  as John Tavares' return to the place where he spent his first nine seasons couldn't have gone any worse. Fans on Long Island felt a LeBron James-worthy jilt as the former first overall pick in 2009 took his talents, and his Maple Leafs jammies to the "Center of the Hockey Universe" last summer.

Islanders fans thought they were played by Tavares and they let him known it. They "welcomed" him back with  boos, jeers and chants of "where's your jammies," hurled objects at him inside the arena while outside there were the usual insults to his No. 91 sweater from the jersey-buying public. His former team laid a 6-1 thumping on his Maple Leafs, the team he'd dreamed of playing for since he was a kid.

Toronto went into an extremely hostile environment with a playoff atmosphere ratcheted up to 11 and got smoked. How they react is the next page of the story and the Buffalo Sabres are front and center. This will be the second meeting this week between the two clubs. The Sabres jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Monday before the Leafs blitzed them for four unanswered goals in the second period. Buffalo scored a late goal in that frame, came out in the third with a goal nine seconds in and almost tied the game before surrendering a Toronto empty-netter.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 Team Stats--February

Published by, 3-1-2019

Next season, the Buffalo Sabres should take a page out of former co-captain Chris Drury's book. Back in the 2005-07 seasons Drury suggested they have the standings posted on the entrance to the dressing room so everyone on the team could see where they stood. Posting something like this during the tank years of 2013-15 as well as last season it might have been counterproductive but during the other seasons it may have added a little emphasis to their drive to respectability and beyond.

The Sabres downward spiral continued last month as they were only able to put together enough to win four games. Their 4-7-2 overall record for February moved them even further from a playoff spot as it dropped them to sixth in the Atlantic Division,  12th in the Eastern Conference and 22nd in the League. Buffalo is eight points out a playoff spot with three teams to jump and we may as well add another point to their deficit as they're well behind when it comes to the first tie-breaker--regulation/overtime wins. The Sabres have 25 ROW while the least number by those presently in a wild card spot is 32.

It's going to take a miracle for them to make the playoffs. Hell, it might take a minor miracle for them to win two games in a row, something they haven't done since December 11-13.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 Individual Stats Leaders--February

Published by, 2-28-2019

The Sabres had a 13-game month of February where they had an opportunity to stay in the playoff picture with even a decent month. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way as their four wins (4-7-2) would attest to and the underlying individual numbers certainly back that up.

For the most part individual plus/minus ratings are detested in the analytics community as many factors might be involved in the rating such as a player change seconds before a goal with neither player having anything to do with the goal being scored. However, there are occasions when it becomes noteworthy, most notably when those using that stat feel the need to highlight an individual players negative contribution to the team. The most familiar name in that realm is defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

Ristolainen has been a negative player his entire six-year NHL career with his best season in that department being a minus-9. His minus-130 overall is amongst some of the worst since the NHL started tracking the stat in 1967-68. Their are mitigating factors in the stat and in Ristolainen's case the Buffalo's two tank years and six years of overall team instability haven't helped matters. Regardless of that as of today he has a league worst minus-28 rating that was doubled by a minus-14 month of February.