Free Agent Frenzy Not Likely In Buffalo

GoodbyeGerbeThe Buffalo Sabres are rebuilding.  Danny Briere isn’t walking in that door (he finally went to Montreal, where he’s been rumored to go for years).  Nathan Gerbe is going out the door.  I’m sad to see Gerbe go, but he wasn’t scoring enough to justify being top 6, and as tough as he is, just wasn’t suited long-term for a checking line role.  I hope he ends up in a great spot for him.  Whatever city he ends up in is getting a great person.

When you’re rebuilding, your free agent pick ups are usually pretty limited.  You’re not getting the older big name guys (Iginla, as an example) as they want to win this year.  You don’t want the lower-tier guys for the most part, as the idea should be to see how your young players do with an increased role.  Certainly, if Grigorenko is here all year as was stated, I don’t want him in the press box or toiling away 9 minutes a night.

Andy Boron at Die by the Blade covers some potential targets, but the Mikhail Grabovski situation intrigues me.  He’s a player young enough that you may be able to sell him on a rebuild, and if he wants to stick it to the Leafs, that works too.  He won’t come cheap, but the Sabres have cap space to spare with only Cody Hodgson left as a significant RFA left to sign (Sorry, Flynn).  More so, if Miller gets traded.  I’d want them to keep Vanek if they bring in Grabbo, but if a deal came along…well, make it work.

The idea of a Miller/Vanek trade intrigues me.  Is the deal for a player?  Who still needs a goalie?  Beyond watching for that, my only other prediction is Darcy makes a good, solid move that no one was expecting, because he’s a black hole of information and we never know what’s cooking here.  Go Sabres.

Gameday 2013 – Flyers at Sabres

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!

Five Sabres I’m Watching

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Things to Remember

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!

Big McLargeHuge

Tonight’s game is the biggest game of the Sabres’ season, since the last one.  And until the next one.  I actually started writing this last week, but never finished it, yet it still can be considered correct.  One new positive is that the Sabres can now narrow their focus down to two teams, as they are 6+ points clear of every club below them.  It’s all about Washington (tonight’s opponent) and Ottawa (4 points ahead, Buffalo with a game in hand).

Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta are both cleared to play tonight, though it remains to be seen if either gets back in tonight.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume Marcus Foligno is going nowhere, so some combo of Tropp, Turnbull or McCormick would be sitting or sent back to Rochester.  Barring any oddities like sitting Boyes or whatever.

7pm tonight, appointment television.  Recording it, kicking the wife off the big TV, the whole nine yards.  I’m finally feeling some excitement.  Let’s do this.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Canadiens at Sabres

We all know what’s at stake for the Buffalo Sabres right now.  Every point is important, being 2 back of Washington (also playing tonight).  The improbable run Buffalo’s on (slightly more improbable than last year) is coming to a close, with only 8 more games left after tonight.  The Sabres have gotten a lot of help – the other contenders for the 8th spot have been doing a LOT of losing, so that even when Buffalo only picked up 1 point in a few games recently, it didn’t hurt.  They weathered Tyler Myers being out, and get him back tonight.

So why isn’t there more buzz about this team?  Well, for me, I’m just enjoying the ride.  Trying not to get too wound up in case they falter.  Even if they make the playoffs, there are some juggernauts they might end up facing (Penguins look deadly right now).  Much like Gerbe’s second-half last year, I’ve loved watching Tyler Ennis develop.  I want to see more of this rough and tumble Tyler Myers.  I’m very much enjoying the success of the young guns on their call-ups, with Foligno in particular showing why we were okay with trading away Zack Kassian.

I might just get to watch tonight, and while I’m not jumping-up-and-down excited like some people seem to be expecting, I’m happy.  Take it or leave it.

Woo, I guess

Seems like the Sabres won last night.  They even got some secondary scoring from Gerbe and Stafford.  Huh.  Wish I had seen it.  In the battle of two banged-up teams, the one that hadn’t travelled from Long Island to Chicago to Buffalo for 3 in 4 won.  Amazing.  It would be just like this team to start winning during a stretch where a good portion of people can’t easily see them.

Bright spots would be Stafford (1G 2A), Gerbe (1G 1A) as above, and I’d toss in Brayden McNabb who picked up two assists.  Buffalo is 4 points out of 7th in the East with that win.

By the way, the Edmonton media is a bunch of whiny annoying bitches.  Whether declaring that Kaleta is worse than Matt Cooke, or lamenting a quiet arena on a weekday for an underachieving team with a Western opponent, they all came off as super lame last night.  Cover the game, man.

The New Boss

The Sabres won last night, though it still wasn’t pretty and took overtime and stupid penalties by the Thrasherjets to do it.  So it pretty much ‘solves’ nothing about the Miller/Enroth debate.  As I was watching the game last night, I think I came up with a good analogy for what is happening.  It’s like when your boss retires, and some new guy comes in from another department to take over.  You stop surfing the net, or goofing with your phone, or flirting with the hottie that sits a few cubes behind you.  Look at ME, you are saying, this company is my LIFE.

But after a few weeks, you ease the throttle back a notch.  Your work’s getting done, so there’s no harm in checking those NFL injury reports.  You find yourself standing next to the hottie’s desk chatting away after you get coffee.  It happens, you’re human.  That’s where the Sabres are with Enroth, though.  It’s still New Boss Mode.  They sit up straight and pay attention for Jhonas in a way they don’t for Miller right now, and make no mistake, Miller needs the D to do just that.  He needs to find his game, so they need to quit cheating, making bad passes, and generally expecting Miller to make the save.  He isn’t right now, so they need to put their phones away, leave the hottie alone (she’s got a boyfriend anyway guys) and get to work.  In the long run it’ll make them a better team when Ryan does get his game back on track.

Cody damaged Glass's hand WITH HIS FACE

As for the game last night, I missed the first period, and when I saw the score I thought “darn, I missed all the fun”.  Yeah, not so much.  Thomas Vanek scored twice (although the second one was ricocheting a goal in off him in his office), and Roy had two goals, including the one that tied the game late to send it to overtime.  It was a penalty-filled affair, with the Jets taking some dumb penalties in particular.  I thought Gerbe embellished to get the penalty in the OT.  Pominville played half the game.  A special nod to Gaustad for the super-sweet pass, and Cody McCormick for the epic bout with Tanner Glass.  Commander Cody got cut, possibly by Glass hitting his helmet as Tanner had to ice his hand in the penalty box afterwards.  Oh, and congratulations to Corey Tropp for his first NHL goal.

See you Friday when the Sens come to town.  May be in the pressbox for that one.

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…

Bolt It Down

Despite the quick start, last night’s tilt against the Lightning turned into the typical tough loss.  A couple of goals against off your own defenseman’s skate, a couple of other guys have a rough outing, and the end result is a 4-3 loss.  Vanek and Boyes opened the scoring early, and Gerbe made it interesting late, but ultimately Mathieu Garon got another win against the Sabres.  You can bet we’ll be seeing him in the other two games against the Lightning.

You hate to lose two in a row to the same team, but I scratch my head a bit at some folks out there.  They seem to forget that Tampa was a playoff team last year, taking eventual champ Boston to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.  But hey, if it makes you feel better to panic a few games into the season, go ahead.  I’ll just be over here, enjoying the action.  Next up, the Blue Jackets come for a visit tomorrow night.