With the deadline tomorrow, and the deals already made, I’ve been talking to my friends about the Sabres more – who should go, who should stay to build around, that sort of thing.  One thing that keeps coming up for a few of them is how Buffalo is not hard enough to play against – they need to be the Flyers or the Bruins! – but it rings hollow to me.

A year or two ago, the goal was ‘Team Toughness™’ and it involved moving out guys like Derek Roy and Chris Butler, and bringing in Steve Ott and Robyn Regehr.  It sounded great to use, and let’s face it, we love tough, physical hockey in these parts.  Does that actually mean tough to play against, though?  Looking at the Cup winners since the deadline, who is ‘tough’ to you?

  1. Kings
  2. Bruins
  3. Blackhawks
  4. Penguins
  5. Red Wings
  6. Ducks
  7. Hurricanes

How many of those were physically brutal teams to play?  Two?  If you expand the list to the losing teams, you really only add Philly to the list.  The thing is, you can be tough to play against without being punishing.  I’d much rather model the Sabres on Detroit (before this year) or Chicago.  When the Red Wings were playing the Penguins for the Cup, they weren’t bashing everybody through the end boards, they were outscoring them (1st in Goals for in 08-09, 3rd in 07-08).  “Get me Eric Lindros in his prime!” he says, well I counter with Patrick Kane in his prime.  Or Teemu.  Get me someone who will make a difference, and might avoid the worst of the physical damage.  Get me someone who can possess the puck and put it on net.  Those guys come in all shapes and sizes.

Doesn’t anyone remember how fun 05-07 was?

Shifts in Strategy

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.

I Admit It

I didn’t see the comeback.  The last one, I mean.  When it went 5-3, I let my wife turn the game off.  In my defense, my daughter was up sick with a horrible stuffy/snotty head so snuggling her was a bigger priority.  So imagine my surprise when Jen switched the game back on for a minute and we saw it was tied!  One of the goals was a smidge controversial, but whatever – they completed the comeback with a dynamite snipe from Derek Roy in OT.

After the trade deadline, I was sparring on Twitter with Jimmy Murphy,’s Bruins wonk.  He was perplexed as to why Buffalo would trade away our ‘answer to Lucic’.  Seeing as how no one currently on the team had ever really ‘answered’ Lucic, I was perplexed.  He said that came from a ‘Bruins source’.  Ha.  I replied that Marcus Foligno already played a ‘bigger’ game than Kassian had done in his time as a Sabre, so trading BZK was a non-issue.  Murphy went on to show his ignorance when he assumed I meant Nick Foligno.  I hope that after the past month, he’s figured out there’s another Foligno brother he might have to account for. 6G 7A +8, only 3 games in that stretch without a point.  And then there’s this:

A “Hornet’s Nest”, indeed.

Sabres at Ducks and Derek Roy

A west coast swing with late start times, just when we get a new toy to play with??  UGH.  I can’t wait to see how Cody Hodgson does tonight, even if I might fall asleep by the third period.  The first game with a new player is always fun, even if it sometimes goes downhill after that (*cough*Bernier*cough).  Hodgson will start out on a line with Ennis and Stafford, but we’ll see how that goes as the game wears on.

On the Miller comments.  Sounds like a guy tired of being asked about personnel decisions he has no say in.  Mountain out of a molehill, indeed.  Kind of wish Miller was Russian so he could only give quotes when a Russian reporter rolls through town.

Speaking of the Buffalo News…I read a comment there again.  STUPID.  It’s this:

I have been silent for awhile. I can’t believe I am reading the comments by Lindy. He stated Roy will now be his last minute center. Roy is the WORST defensive center in the league.

*facepalm*  I know there are those of you not happy that Roy is still here, but let’s see if this is actually true.  Of players that Behind the Net registers as centers, with more than 40 games played, Roy is 36th as far as Quality of Competition (Sami Pahlsson, another C coveted at the deadline, is right below him).  That’s out of 148, by the way.  He’s not getting nutty zone starts either, with offensive zone starts about 51% of the time.  That’s on par with Henrik Zetterberg and Brad Richards.  To contrast, Henrik Sedin starts in the offensive zone a staggering 77.5% of the time!  It’s obvious that Buffalo doesn’t ‘optimize’ zone starts the way some teams do.   Looking pretty good for Roy, whose stats are colored by his low offensive output this year (possibly still recovering from his injury early).

As I look at the stats, it’s clear that Roy has grown into being at least a solid defensive player, middle of the road to a bit better in most areas.  You may not like him as a person, or just think ‘he sucks’, but it’s really not true.

What constitutes a ‘Blockbuster’ trade?

What IS a blockbuster trade?

  • Two of those players (70%, 7 Votes)
  • One upper echelon player from your team (top 6 F, top 4 D, starting G) (20%, 2 Votes)
  • Three or more (10%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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Just what it says.  Would you consider it a ‘blockbuster’ deal if, say, Roy and a pick went to Anaheim for one of the big three names bandied about?  Would that be enough to shake up the team, in your mind?  Or do multiple core guys need to go?  Not sure where I am on this scale.

Winning Weekend Fans The Goalie ‘Controversy’ Flames

Buffalo played Jhonas Enroth in both back to back games this weekend, and won both by one goal.  It certainly won’t mute the vocal minority who are now thinking that maybe Enroth should be the one to get 50-60 games this year.  I don’t think that’s what is happening here, Ruff is giving Ryan Miller some time to clear that horrible Flyers game out of his head, get the work in at practice, and come back with a vengeance.

As for the games, the one on Friday against the Flames was about as perfect a game as Buffalo could play.  They peppered Calgary’s backup goalie with shots, with Stafford and Gerbe scoring in the 2-1 win.  It was night and day from the difficult to watch team that couldn’t seem to buy a good scoring chance, when they weren’t too busy giving the puck away.  Last night’s game against the Senators was more even and not quite as dominant, but still showed a lot of positive signs.  Robyn Regehr was wrecking dudes, Boyes and Leino both played very solidly, and Nathan Gerbe was a stud on the Leopold goal.  Derek Roy scored the other Buffalo goal, and also had the decider in the shootout.  Vanek and Boyes both contributed in the shootout as well to keep Buffalo alive.  These two games really seem like what we were expecting from the start of the season, the right guys contributing…save for the goalie.  REALLY interested to see how Enroth gets used in the up coming week, with a Tuesday home game against Winnipeg, another Friday/Saturday combo with a rematch against Ottawa and a trip to Boston, then a Monday game in Montreal.  Is he back to one game on the weekend?  Two?  I think if Miller plays well against Winnipeg, assuming he goes in for that one, we are back to the ‘schedule’ for Jhonas.  But if he plays against the Jets…

Calder Watch – Luke Adam to the Second Line

It happened even faster than I figured, but Leino has taken over the top C spot with Pominville and Vanek, while Luke Adam gets put on the wing with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford.  Still, it’s not a bad place to be, as Derek Roy is a point per game guy when healthy, and Stafford can be a solid goal scorer.  But it’s still not the same as being between two guys in the top 10 for scoring in the entire league.  This could be a short-lived experiment if Vanek and Pominville look lost with Leino out there, but Lindy’s thinking is to get both lines going.  I can’t fault him for that.  Roy is an important player who hasn’t gotten going yet (1G 3A) and it’ll be interesting to see if Adam can help with that.  It’s a good test to see if he’s really a benefit to his linemates, or he was simply the beneficiary of sitting between two of the best point producers on the Sabres.

First Niagara Center? Ok.

I still think a ‘Center’ sounds like a place to shop, whereas an Arena is for battle, but hey, you could see the writing on the wall with HSBC pulling away from the regular person banking business.  Not sure how long it’s going to take for me to break out of the ‘heading down to the Arena’ habit.

Anyone else kind of hoping there’s a Derek Roy bachelor pad hidden in the renovation plans?  Years after he retires, they find a door that no one is sure where it leads.  They open it to find a room filled with mattresses, empty wine coolers and an all-glass shower in the middle.

Mystery Players, Center Edition

Let’s play a game.  I’ll give you the stats for several centers in the league, and you tell me which ones are ‘number one’ centers.  Ready, GO:

  • Player A:  28G, 49A for 77 points, 1.07 points/game in 2010/2011.  24G, 57A for 91 points, 1.14 P/G in 2009/2010.
  • Player B:  24G, 58A for 82 points, 1 P/G for 2010/2011.  26G, 43A for 69 points, .86 P/G for 2009/2010.
  • Player C:  32G, 44A for 76 points, .95 P/G for 2010/2011.  25G, 43A for 68 points, .89 P/g for 2009/2010.
  • Player D:  19G, 57A for 76 points, 1.13 P/G for 2010/2011.  19G, 50A for 69 points, 1.05 P/G for 2009/2010.
  • Player E:  21G, 36A for 57 points, .92 P/G for 2010/2011.  23G, 34A for 57 points, .95 P/G for 2009/2010.

So who are they?  Drum roll, please!

A:  Brad Richards
B:  Derek Roy (10/11 numbers extrapolated to a full season)
C:  Jonathan Toews
D:  Ryan Getzlaf
E:  Jason Spezza

A couple of those guys missed 10-15 games in a season (Spezza and Getzlaf especially), but the numbers are still close, aren’t they?  And yet, some folks around town scoff at Roy as a top-flight center.  There’s usually one or two centers who outperform the crowd (Sedin or Crosby for example) but beyond that, this is what you get as a number one C.  I was curious about these numbers, and I hope this gives you another perspective on the center pursuit by the Sabres.

2011 Sabres Untouchables

With a little distance from the Sabres’ playoff elimination, it’s time to look at what players are must-keep for next year, and who can go.  Things are changed, with the Pegula era entering it’s first offseason.  We don’t know how trades are going to go, if he wants an RFA, whether he truly likes Derek Roy or not, and so on.

The Buffalo Sabres currently only have 12 players under contract for next year (not counting AHLers and draft picks).  8 forwards, 3 D, 1 goalie.  Stafford, Gerbe, Sekera, Butler, Weber, Gragnani, and Enroth are all RFAs.  Normally, I’d imagine all would at least be qualified but a move to clear out a D or two for a veteran wouldn’t be out of the question.  Anyway, I’m including these guys in my list as far as potential untouchables go:

  1. Ryan Miller – You can win several different ways, as the playoffs are showing.  You can have a franchise goalie (Vancouver), or a cast of thousands (Philly).  You can lose both ways too.  Miller gives stability, and the return of Enroth would finally give us a tandem to feel comfortable about going into next season.
  2. Tyler Myers – Big, scoring defensemen who can defend are rare, so keeping the Big Easy is a no-brainer.  If the physical play he had for the playoffs continues to play out next year, watch out.  Now lets get him a partner.
  3. Thomas Vanek – Still the best scorer the Sabres have, Vanek has shown more and more leadership potential each year.  A far cry from the guy getting sat down in his first playoffs.  His serious demeanor on and off the ice just seems to keep the team at an even keel.  Needs a center.

There are a whole mess of guys on the next tier, guys I want to keep, but I’d let them go if there was a deal to be made.  You’ve got to give talent to get talent.  Is there anyone else who HAS to stay?