I turned on the World Junior Championship final game last night and watched overtime and the shootout, which had me on the edge of my seat. The USA managed to pull it out in the end, with Tyler Parsons stopping all 5 shots in the shootout, and Troy Terry was the hero again with the lone shootout score. Can’t wait for this tournament to come back to Buffalo next year!
The difficulty with being a Buffalo sports fan, is knowing when to be excited. And then when you DO get excited, something happens at the worst time to dampen your enthusiasm (Eichel gets injured, or your favorite football player mows down a pedestrian, or the Bills get put in a position to have their destiny in their hands and then eff it up). BUT, right now, it feels like a good time to flex those positive feelings about the Buffalo Sabres.
Since Eichel has returned from his injury, Buffalo has been building some momentum. They are 5-3-2 in the last 10, goals are actually being scored, and they are edging slowly up the standings. Perhaps the best part is the fact that they’ve won some games at home, which is a nice change from last season. That the Sabres can be 4 points away from a playoff spot while scoring the least number of goals in the Eastern conference is a great sign for their chances to actually make the playoffs. If they can stay top 10 in the league in goals allowed and keep improving in goal scoring (and a healthy Jack/ROR/Ennis will help with this), we should be in the race at the end of the year and not wondering whether or not we tanked hard enough.
Is there a chance things could still go wrong? Sure, this is Buffalo. There’s always another level of suck possible. The Sabres, at least seem less likely to go there than in the past few years, and that’s worth celebrating.
It sucks for Matt Moulson that because of the ending, nobody’s talking about him scoring twice.
The Sabres open their schedule tomorrow night, hosting Montreal, and announced their roster just before the deadline yesterday. Notable keeps are Derek Grant, Hudson Fasching and Casey Nelson, who have all had good camps. Though some of that may be the fact that both O’Reilly and Okposo are still hurting and questionable for tomorrow.
The other huge news of the day was Rasmus Ristolainen finally signing a new 6 year deal, with a $5.4 million cap hit. A very solid deal for a player who still has room to grow. I’d like to see him take a step defensively this year, while still managing 10+ goals/45+ points.
I’ve seen a bunch of talk about the Sabres being picked to finish last or nearly so in a few publications. I’m with the rest of you that it seems unlikely, but I can’t fault them too much. Most of our “FUCK YEAH PLAYOFFS” feelings come from the idea of all the young kids getting better and progressing at a steady rate. I’d like that to be true, but it just doesn’t happen. No one was more positive about Tyler Myers than me, starting out with 2 solid years, thinking he was going to keep progressing into superstar status. It hasn’t happened – he’s more Bouwmeester than Chara. I’m hyped, but I’m okay with people outside of Buffalo not buying in yet. Still, I kind of want to re-do Prediction Watch for this season so I can revisit it after the season.
(10/13 Update) Well THAT escalated quickly. I wrote this yesterday before Eichel’s high ankle sprain came to light. I don’t think it greatly affects the season, barring some weirdly lingering issue, but you have to laugh at the luck here. “Hey, at least we’ve got some great young players to watch!” “LOL NO sorry you don’t.”
It’s easy to dislike Team USA right now. John Tortorella is an opinionated dip, Patrick Kane’s on the team, all that. So it’s a good thing that Buffalo has an in with the actual fun team at the World Cup of Hockey: Team North America! Jack Eichel scored their first goal in a rout of Finland, on a too good to be true line of Eichel, McDavid and Auston Matthews. Who knows if they’ll struggle against stronger competition (they play Russia tonight) but they’re going to be fun to watch no matter what.
The Buffalo Sabres announced yesterday they have signed Zemgus Girgensons to a one-year deal.
Very excited to be back for another season with the Sabres! Thanks to everyone for all the… https://t.co/FqInstpOta
— Zemgus Girgensons (@zemgus94) September 1, 2016
The Sabres didn’t announce it, but it’s apparently worth $1.15 million this year. I’m happy to see him back, hopefully he can get back to the 15 goal mark again. I can definitely see Gears filling that Jochen Hecht role of just being a generally all-around good player that can be relied upon anywhere in the lineup. He’s still an RFA too, so there’s not a huge downside to giving the one-year deal in hopes that he plays his way into a long-term deal.
The Sabres announced they are implementing a “Dynamic Pricing” structure for their tickets, with a higher base price (quite a bit higher in some cases) but the ability for the pricing on games to be adjusted on the fly as demand dictates. Like airline seats, but I’m not sure that’s an association I’d want if I was a business.
As you can imagine, that went over like the proverbial lead balloon, especially with a fanbase that’s been suffering through some tough years to try and get better. I’m more curious than anything, as I can’t afford to spend big on tickets no matter what, but if this can get me in cheap on a non-marquee matchup, dynamic pricing might actually benefit me. The difficult aspect is not knowing what to budget to go. Is my ticket going to be $30, $50, more? I’m afraid that if the team is performing well the “dynamic pricing” will price us right out of the arena. There’s already plenty of reasons to stay home (more comfortable seats, my own food, no commute), and the Sabres don’t need another reason on top of that.
But I’m willing to see how it works here before I go out and set fire to my Sabres gear. How the pricing scheme is implemented is the key point, I just wish I had more more faith in the parameters that the people in charge in Buffalo will put in place.
Tim Murray has it exactly right. You trade for the rights to a player who played with your hot young player, Jack Eichel. You’ve successfully negotiated with his agent in the past, as he also reps Eichel. You had an abundance of picks in the third round, which only produce NHL players (50 games or more in a career, so a low bar at that) at about a 30% clip. GMTM takes a small risk that he and Jack Eichel will be more persuasive than David Poile. No matter what happens, it’s worth it to give it a spin. Something else that might help is using all of that cap room to snag one of he biggest trade targets/free agents coming up. Since the exclusive negotiating period extends after July 1, Vesey seeing Buffalo making more savvy moves at the draft or in free agency could be the tipping point in his decision, no matter what he says now.
The NHL draft is less than a week away, and the Buffalo Sabres have a number of picks, including the 8th overall. It’s no #2 like last year but it’s still a nice place to be. Now, I haven’t been watching Junior Hockey, so instead of waxing on at length about stride length or showing you the same video you’ve probably seen everywhere else, I’m going to judge these guys on the next most important thing – their answers to the dumb questions you get asked at pre-draft.
- Auston Matthews – Presumptive number one overall pick Auston had some solid answers, but negative 1000 points for “I dream of: winning the Stanley Cup”. Contrast that with…
- Patrick Laine – …who said he wants to be the best player in the world. He loves Ovechkin and is ‘afraid of nothing’. Can’t think of any alarm bells here!
- Jesse Puljujarvi – Puljujarvi is top 5 for 2016 draftees whose names will be misspelled on jerseys.
- Matthew Tkachuk – One of the possible targets for the Sabres, the son of Keith Tkachuk, Matt nevertheless gets negative one million points for having Tom Brady as his most admired athlete. It’s a good thing nobody can navigate the shitty NHL website and find this.
- Alexander Nylander – Another player following in his father’s footsteps, at the buffet, Alex goes for…sushi? If I saw a buffet that had sushi, I’m turning around and getting out of there. Regular buffet food is bad enough.
- Jakob Chychrun – Another legacy player, with a dad and uncle who made the show, Jakob at least showed some effort on his answers. His karaoke song is “Call me maybe”, I’m proud of him for admitting that.
- Charles McAvoy – The coolest person he’s ever met is…Auston Matthews? Boston U can’t find a celebrity to hit the locker room? Also, Charles McAvoy is definitely the name of a kid in witness protection who really loves the X-Men movies.
In general, I question kids today and their judgement of comedy. Too many list Adam Sandler as the celebrity that always makes them laugh. Sandler hasn’t been funny since most of these prospect were five years old.
Tanking is done. Suffering is out the window. Your Buffalo Sabres are now at peak ‘put up or shut up’. Eichel is here and seems to be exactly as advertised. While there are guys yet to sign, there is room to maneuver, with a GM willing to do it. The draft is approaching, and that’s the perfect time to stop coasting on the goodwill generated by drafting a possible generational talent, and to make the moves that will put this team back in the playoffs where they belong.
Am I back blogging the Sabres for good? That remains to be seen, but I want be able to be excited again this year.