I’m certainly not going to tell you not to react poorly when your favorite team plays poorly – it’s an understandable reaction. The short season makes every game feel important right from the get-go, so losing points hurts. Still, it’s worth looking at the big picture here. This season is one tenth over – that means NINE tenths are yet to be played. The problems are many, but fixable. The D has been a train wreck at times, that won’t last. The Sabres finally scored some goals without Vanek on the ice, though of course that was because he couldn’t play due to an injury. So while I tossed down the remote in disgust at the end of the game today, I also know there’s time yet to pick things up.
In other news, I hope Grigorenko sticks around. He hasn’t gone all Tarasenko on us, but he hasn’t looked out of place. If Lindy is willing to play him as much as he did today, there’s no reason not to kick one of the scrubs to the press box and keep him in the lineup. I like Foligno’s game today, and Kaleta as well. Saw a few good plays by Myers so I’m hoping he gets things rolling in the right direction. See everyone on Tuesday.
It’s been a whirlwind to start the season, with games packed in together right from the start after a very short camp. It went well for the Sabres, though, with two wins in two tries, and some worries relieved about the situation at center. Buffalo had a day off yesterday, so too should we sit back, take a few deep breaths, and make sure we don’t get too amped up juuuuuust yet.
Now, I’m not saying go all doom and gloom like your typical WGR caller (or anchor). I’ll never get tired of seeing Vanek do his thing, and having the good Ryan Miller to start the season is pretty awesome too. But the downside of Vanek having been on the ice for every Sabres goal is that means other lines aren’t scoring at even strength. They still haven’t played a whole game at their highest level.
But you know, that can go both ways. They have plenty of time to get better at faceoffs, as an example. Might even see a second or third line goal. John Scott will win a fight (I kid, I kid, please don’t kill me). Miller might have an ordinary game. Vanek will go a few games without a point. I know everybody had been saying “it’s a sprint!” this year, poking fun at the normal “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” proverb, but really, it’s a half-marathon. Buffalo still has 46 more games. It doesn’t take a whole mess of games to get behind – and you don’t have as many to recover if you do – but nobody is toast after 2 games, nor is anyone a slam-dunk to make the playoffs. Should you like what you see so far? I do. It’s been a ton of fun, and hey, two wins after two games is right where you want to be. Enjoy it, and don’t jump off a bridge, or write poorly spelled twitter/blog diatribes, if they lose a game or two.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buffalo Sabres pulled away from the Philadelphia Flyers and won 5-2 today at First Niagara Center. Thomas Vanek was in on every goal, scoring 2 of them, and Steve Ott scored in his first game. Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson had the other tallies.
It felt like Buffalo came to play in the first, always close to the puck and pushing play up the ice. They fell away from that early in the second period, however, and that’s when the Flyers took over and got their 2 goals. Vanek tied it later though, and the Flyers’ dead legs didn’t do them any favors in the third.
Who I liked: Vanek, of course, and Cody Hodgson came on as the game went on, too. Drew Stafford attempted to fight Scott Hartnell the second time the stupidest Flyer tried to ram a Sabre into the boards from behind. Miller was very solid in the net, with both goals being deflected or screened. He wasn’t grabbing as many pucks and freezing it as often as he usually does, but that may be the rust. Ennis won 64% of his faceoffs, and Hodgson and Grigorenko were both positive as well.
What I didn’t like: John Scott was on the ice for 3 shifts totaling 2:10. Why? I realize Gerbe and Leino are both out but if you don’t trust him to play, dress someone else.
Things I still don’t believe: Vanek played 19 minutes, and took 9 shots. NINE. SHOTS. I dream of games like that from him.
I’ll see you again tomorrow night, as Buffalo is heading to Toronto to face the Leafs.
It sure was fun to type that title, and it’ll be even better to watch the game. Let’s put the lockout in the rear view and enjoy the Sabres being back on the ice. I won’t be at the game, though I will still be trying to get into the press box several times this year.
Ville Leino may not be able to play today, with a nagging injury. Nathan Gerbe is hurt but should be back soon. We get to see the first game for Mikhail Grigorenko, as well as Steve Ott. And John Scott I guess. With so little camp action, and no pre-season games, I don’t have much more to put here, other than I’ll be recording the game and will have some thoughts on real, actual Sabres hockey afterwards. Let’s go!
The extremely short training camp is on for your Buffalo Sabres, and as it begins, there are five players I’m going to be watching with interest:
- Mikhail Grigorenko – We may not see for more than a few games this season, thanks to junior eligibility, but he’s a big-time player at a position of desperate need for the Buffalo Sabres. I mean, Hodgson, Ennis, and Hecht (newly signed) are your other Cs. While Hodgson and Ennis have potential to be very good for a long time, I’d like to see Grigorenko push to stay. Or at the very least make us want it.
- Ville Leino – Number one with a bullet, as soon as the words “Compliance Buyout” became a think at the endgame of the lockout. I may be a softy, but I’d love to see him show his haters up. Maybe a short, compressed schedule will help him get on a roll.
- Jhonas Enroth – Should probably list this as Miller/Enroth, but I’m not cheating. The schedule is tight, with a ton of back to backs. Enroth HAS to play, and play well.
- Nathan Gerbe – The small man is a fan favorite for his willingness to take on anyone, no matter the size, but eventually he has to rack up some points. He had 16 goals 2 seasons ago. He needs to exceed that pace to take the heat off Vanek and Pominville.
- Jochen Hecht – Many of us thought he would retire, but he got healthy and has been playing well in Germany according to Pominville. He’s a great utility player, able to slot in pretty much wherever you need him. But he has to stay healthy. Buffalo has been a better team with Hecht in the lineup. Can Lindy lean on him while protecting a lead?
One more thing that’s interesting is what to do with the defense. They’ve got too many at this point, and TJ Brennan would have to pass through waivers to go to stay with the Amerks. Considering he’s scored 14 goals in 36 games in Rochester that ain’t all that likely. I believe the hashtag for that is #dosomethingdarcy.
If you’re like me, and you tuned out the NHL a bit since the end of last year thanks to lockout shenanigans, you may be a bit fuzzy on some of the details surrounding the Sabres as they currently stand. Here’s a handy list you can refer to, to help with your water cooler conversations.
- Steve Ott, Adam Pardy, and John Scott are all Sabres. Yes, Scott counts, even if he’ll be warming a press box seat. (please don’t kill me John Scott)
- Ville Leino is still a Sabre, too. Sorry jerks, compliance buyouts start AFTER this season.
- It is still funny when Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Myers stand next to each other.
- Terry Pegula added a pit trap underneath the Sabres logo in the dressing room, so REALLY don’t walk on it, Harrington! There’s no spikes at the bottom, but that IS where Harry Neale will be sitting, ready to regale you with the same stories about coaching in the WHA that you’ve heard thirty times.
- Rob Ray will be in the booth next to RJ, so you can marvel at the way he makes ‘at all’ sound like ‘a tall’ even more. Rayzor is thrilled, as Pierre McGuire was really starting to creep him out when sharing the space between the benches.
- The Winnipeg Jets are a team again, in case you forgot. They have not yet moved to the Western Conference, either.
- Toronto fans will still be crossing the border to see their beloved Maple Leafs, until they take a look at the roster and decide shoving the money they’d be spending in the fireplace for heat would be a better use for it.
- Tim Thomas is still crazy.
- Milan Lucic was denied by the competition committee when he asked if he could use “one of those mart carts” on the ice. He left the conference room dejectedly, though he did have to take a knee once to catch his breath.
- Scott Gomez is still a Canadien.
I hope that helps you get ready for training camp. Go Sabres!
You know, I didn’t sleep well last night, as you can tell by my 3am tweet on my non-hockey Twitter account about the movie Sahara. I considered staying up for a while to see if anything was truly going to happen with CBA negotiations. Nah, I thought – it might get done within the next few days, but not tonight. Well, I guess it was technically this morning, but we’ll have a hockey season again! I’m excited!
What’s that? Why am I not raging at them for taking so long? Or declaring they’ll never get my money again, or any of the other hyperbolic statements you’ve been hearing (or making)? I’ve had my moments, especially after some of the really stupid statements have come out, but I knew I’d come back. When the league is good, it’s the best hockey played by the best players in the world. It’s FUN. So why not watch it? So you can sound like you are making some grand statement? Will you enjoy that more than a Vanek snipe, or RJ call of Miller robbing a dude? Have fun, I guess. I’ll be over here, waking my kids again when Pomiville scores an OT winner.
I’ll have to reacquaint myself with the roster again – I did say I wouldn’t be checking in until things were done, and I mostly kept to that. I know some other folks (especially ones that live in Rochester) have been doing solid work tracking the Amerks and our boys overseas, but I didn’t have the time to cover all of those different leagues. I’ll be looking forward to talking real actual Sabres hockey with all of you again, and hey, maybe I’ll see you again in the press box. (might have to get some well-read posts here, or my stats will look pathetic when I submit them!)
So, yeah, lockout. I find myself particularly unmoved by either side of the equation this time around. I can never understand how the negotiations move so slowly, always start later than seems logical, involve only a few actual meetings, and seem to treat an actual deadline as something of a suggestion. Both can say they are all about the fans, but we’re being condescended to. The only honest one out there so far (that I’ve seen) is Paul Bissonette. He pointed out that the players are trying to protect their futures, which I get. Especially for a plug like BizNasty, who will likely never make big bucks (for a pro athlete), and may have a short career thanks to a major part of his job is being pummeled in the head. The owners, of course, have every right to want to make as much money as possible. I do have some trouble believing their accounting on some of this, but the fact is, it is a business for them, even if they are fans too. I could imagine that Terry Pegula’s “if I want to make money, I’ll drill another well” probably went over well with Jeremy Jacobs and his ilk.
Anyway, now that the lockout is on, and the owners pulled the “this deal is only valid until tomorrow!” card out of the deck, I don’t expect much of anything to happen for a couple of months. I can’t think the league will want to lose the Winter Classic, though that would be hilarious since Toronto’s involved. But with little actual negotiating happening week to week, who knows at this point. My interest wanes with every passing day, and football season is here for now. I’ll see what’s up after Thanksgiving, or when the Bills are eliminated from playoff contention, whichever comes first.
Hey, this thing is still here! I’ve been quiet on the Sabres blogging front here, because aside from the Dev Camp scrimmage, little of interest has been happening in these parts. And looming over everything is the potential lockout. I started out fairly positive that things would be resolved mostly on time. The words being said about the process were positive, and not so excessive that it seemed one side was fighting the other in the media. Progress from the last time around! But it’s still dragging, and the numbers being thrown around are still in the “I’m going to ask for whatever the expert said it’s worth” phase on Pawn Stars.
The last lockout was particularly painful for me. I started watching hockey as a kid, but grew away from it as the game bogged down and got boring. I went to a few games once I moved here, thanks to Adelphia giving away free tickets to it’s employees (my friends) like candy on Halloween. I really got back into things in the playoff run leading up to the lockout, though. I loved watching the Flames and the Lightning, and I was ready to be a full-fledged fan again…and then I got gut-punched. I toughed it out, past the ridiculous posturing, stupid rumor bloggers and basketball.
What’s coming up next, though? It looks more and more like this season doesn’t start on time. I was quite enjoying the pressbox on the rare occasions I could get in there and was looking forward to seeing the progression of that this season. It’s also pretty hard to build up my kids as fans when the game randomly disappears for months (or a whole year) at a time. I’m not one to blog about the ‘negotiations’ between the NHL and NHLPA so this space will probably be somewhat dark barring major player movement or something similar.
The Sabres have made some moves. They usually do this time of year, especially since Pegula bought the team. The theme so far has been to get tougher. John Scott, a feared fighter (murdersaurus!) who will probably see limited action, was the first signing of FA for Buffalo. More intriguing is the trade, sending Derek Roy out to Dallas, and getting Steve Ott and Adam Pardy in return. Pardy is probably just a spare part that had to be tossed into the deal, and at $2 million, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the Shaone Morrisonn treatment in Rochester. Buffalo has too many D to find a spot for him here. I mean, I’d rather have Sulzer as the seventh guy at $725,000.
No, the interesting part of the swap is Roy/Ott. I’ve defended Roy in the past, but it seems clear his welcome had worn thin with many people. The team trades away offensive production for ‘grit’ and penalties. Ott will not be a top 2 center, which leaves a hole to fill if you assume Hodgson is the number 2. Ennis showed some skills as a C late last year, but it’d be risky to run him out there without a larger sample size to judge him on. That leaves another trade as an option, and while I know Darcy can find guys that we think aren’t available and make it happen, I just can’t see who it is who is going to fill that role that Roy leaves empty.
The X factor in this is Bobby Ryan. Not a C, but if you want to replace Roy’s scoring potential, there you go. Perennially over the 30 goal mark, Ryan could add some punch on the right side, where Stafford has failed to find consistency. Unfortunately, Derek Roy had been one of the guys mentioned going back as a return, so now you’d be left with figuring out who Anaheim wants in return. Ennis? McNabb? I don’t think we’d be getting off easy here, and many of us fans wouldn’t like what we’d lose. Alexander Semin? Somehow I don’t think he would get along with Lindy Ruff, but I wouldn’t fault the team for trying it out, if the cap hit can be managed.
Buffalo is in an interesting spot here. The old ‘core’ is getting slowly replaced by new guys, with Roy, Campbell, Goose and others out of town. Can the young guns like Ennis, Gerbe, McNabb and the like step up? Will there be a stud center on the team due to a trade out of left field? The Sabres aren’t far out of the playoffs, but there hasn’t yet been a move that says “Yep, they just got closer”. Big time right now for both Darcy and Lindy.