Tag Archives: NHL

A New Season, A New Hope

The Buffalo Sabres open camp today with three sessions open to the public.  The Sabres site has your full details, but it feels too soon, strangely.  There’s been some turnover in players and coaches – Miller’s really gone? – and there’s a new hope in Sam Reinhart.  Despite all the change (and Darcy Regier being gone) many expect the Sabres to have another year of suffering, to get a shot at Connor McDavid.  Though presumptive captain Brian Gionta and other players say the right things about wanting to win and sneaking up on teams, but they are in an odd spot where many fans would be cool with it if they just didn’t.

For my part, I just want to watch fun hockey games.  I can see the draw of tanking for McDavid, but if this team gels and makes a playoff run, I’d be happy.  Here’s to fun, and a return to blogging activity this season.  Go Sabres.

An End to Suffering?

So the Sabres season is finally over.  It’s a relief, to be honest, even for someone like me who had tried to keep a lighter level of interest.  John Vogl’s column has the grim details – 2-16-2 through the last 20, 150 goals on the season, clear of the 29th place team by 14 points – but to hear the media tell it, it will never be so bad again.

Will that be true, though?  The turnover will be immense, especially if you count the moves going back to the deadline.  Captains, goaltenders, coaches, execs, nowhere has been immune to the tectonic shifts in the Sabres franchise.  That’s not a recipe for success.  Next season is going to involve a large number of new players which will need time to gel.  The main thing going for them is it would be nearly impossible to be this bad again.  You could just about accidently score more than 150 goals if you swap in a few players that actually shoot the puck.

What does that mean, though?  26th place next year?  A slight chance at a playoff spot?  It may not be suffering, but it isn’t exactly set up for a season of joy.  I’m curious to see how attendance works out next season, whether fans can get excited about seeing more of the young kids, or if there are any new surprising vets to watch.  We’ve got a non-Darcy offseason to look forward to – we don’t know much about Tim Murray and what’s going to happen, so this might just be the most interesting part of 2014 for the Sabres as a team and fans.  See you at the draft lottery.

Creeping Horror

The good seasons go by too fast, and the bad ones just lurch by in fits and starts.  New GM?  Someday.  Maybe.  Different coach?  Ehh, we’ll see.  The Sabres point out that ‘interim’ label on quite often.  That drain the team has been circling sucks them further down every game, with little to cling to for hope.

“Next season!” appears to be the rallying cry, with fans looking at draft position and prospects.  “All the cap space!” too.  But without someone in place that you trust to make those choices or sign the right players, how can you still be looking forward to all that?  It’s like getting excited for a new movie being announced, until you read that the same two idiots that ruined that other franchised you loved are writing it. 

I know things are going to be very different here next season.  The fact that there will be a new GM, possibly yet another coach, and a bunch of new players (especially if Miller and Moulson aren’t here) makes that true.  But moving 6th round picks for minor contributors is just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.  I’m patient, but you kind of need a GM in place to do the significant trades that will help the team be better in the NEAR future.  They could be significantly better next year, but right now it’s less likely with every day that passes and the Sabres just standing still.

Sabres Trade for Linus Omark; Famous Linuses Throughout History

As you no doubt heard by now, the Buffalo Sabres acquired Linus Omark in exchange for a conditional 6th round pick.  I presume the condition amounts to “Just keep doing what you’re doing, Sabres” but you know how legalese can get.  That, combined with the Charlie Brown Christmas show getting played, got me thinking about famous Linuses.

For the NHL, there’s only one other Linus on Hockey-Reference, Linus Klasen, who played all of 4 games with the Preds a few years ago.  The Sabres have a prospect named Linus Ullmark too.  Beyond that, pickings are slim, but there are a few:

Linus2St. Linus, who according to Wikipedia is considered the second Pope.  Nice hair.  My dad had that hair before he decided to buzz it down to Patrick Stewart levels.

 

L_PaulingLinus Pauling, chemist, peace activist, multiple Nobel Prize winner.  Here he looks like one of the early Doctors from Doctor Who.  The round things!

 

391px-Linus_Torvalds

Linus Torvalds, father of the Linux kernel. The Finnish software engineer was actually named after Linus Pauling.

 

 

benjamin-linusBen Linus.  He was LOST, I guess, but now he’s found.

 

 

There’s a Linus in Greek myth as well, a son of Apollo and one of the Muses.  Most notable thing about him is Heracles (Hercules to you) beat him to death with his own lyre.  Critics.

That about does it.  Are there any famous Linuses I missed?  Let me know!

 

Backup Goalies, Man

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins last night.  They scored FOUR goals, which is a ton for this team.  It helps that Chad Johnson was the goalie (not the football player), and let in a couple of butter-soft goals.  Of course, it seemed that Miller was going to match him with a rough patch of ‘tending, with two goals by Marchand but those were it for the night.

The goal-scoring came from a variety of sources, and included some hard work in front of the net.  Foligno took a Jamie McBain shot off the chest and tapped it in, for instance.  I like that Myers scored, even if it was a “hey, might as well try it – it went IN??” goal.  Stafford had the game-winner on a wraparound.  It was that sort of night for the B’s backup goalie.

Special recognition to Ville Leino for the dive of the week, drawing a tripping call on Milan Lucic.  On the downside, karmic retribution came on short-handed goal.  Marcus Foligno had the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Buffalo and Boston do it all again on Saturday, with 12:30 tussle in Beantown.  I imagine we’ll see Tuukka Rask this time.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

A lot has changed (finally) for the Sabres since last I posted.  Me, too.  I have new glasses for the first time in forever.  They, for their part, seem bound and determined to not be good or particularly entertaining.  Hey, at least the coach and GM are switched up (or going to be as soon as a new GM is found).  Ted Nolan might have them trending upwards, in general, but it hasn’t exactly been Dan Bylsma taking over the Penguins here.  Of course, Buffalo doesn’t have Malkin or Crosby either.

The problem I have is, I STILL don’t feel like there’s a direction here.  Are they going to try one of those quick rebuilds where you keep some vets, bring a few more in, and go for it in the next year or two?  Another three year plan?  Something else?  Maybe the new GM will be deciding, but until then it just feels like the team is in a holding pattern (or circling a drain, depending on your point of view).

I’m willing to be patient – living with Buffalo sports for 15 years requires it – but I just need to see the wheels turning.

Former Players

I’ll be honest here – I never quite felt right about “acknowledging” former players.  At least officially.  We all agree you can’t do it for all of them, so then it becomes a judgement call.  Did player X do ‘enough’ as a Sabre to be ‘recognized’?  Did they leave under dubious circumstances?  Do we just show them on the video board?  An intermission retrospective of their best plays?  Meh.  Never saw the point.  I wish Jason well, but I’d rather focus on (and worry about) the team that’s here.  I am more than capable of deciding on my own to clap for a guy I liked that left the team, I don’t need the jumbotron to tell me that.

This is not anything against Jason Pominville himself.  I loved him when he was here, he was a good soldier who played quite well despite getting saddled with a rough contract to live up to.  He’s the author of one of my (and probably your) favorite Sabres moments in recent memory, the overtime, short-handed Ottawa playoff killer.  I can still hear that idiot Bryan Murray say “It’sh Jashon Pominville” after being asked how a player could get in on goal like that.  Was it strange seeing him in a Minnesota sweater?  Yeah, but to lament it and clamor for “recognition” is to live in the past.  I know the present hasn’t been any fun yet, but it will be.

Sorry, Ville

Seriously, can this guy catch a break?  Er, bad choice of words.  The view from the press box probably isn’t helping him any, as his team struggles to find an identity (and their man in the defensive zone) managing only 1 point in the standings in four games.  Goaltending has been a bright spot, though they worked Miller so hard his groin kept him out of a game.  Jhonas Enroth ably filled in, but eventually, your team might have to chip in a goal or three.

I wish I could say things are going to get better soon, but really, a team filled with teenagers, head cases and only one real scoring threat is not one that shakes off a slump easily.  All the line-juggling and benchings in the world won’t help.  Time, practice and teaching will.  That can’t happen if a player is in a suit.  Neither can it happen if he’s toiling on the fourth line alongside John Scott or Cody McCormick.  Mistakes suck, and they are hard to watch.  I get that.  But they need to be made if they are to be learned from.  Or, pessimistically, we need to see if a player CAN learn from them.  So give me Grigorenko and Larsson, Girgensons and Ristolainen.  Foligno, Pysyk, Hodgson – let’s see what we have.  If we’re going to suffer, let’s suffer with a purpose.

Today’s lines at practice:

  • Vanek – Hodgson – Ott
  • Foligno – Ennis – Stafford
  • Girgensons – Larsson – Flynn
  • McCormick – Porter – Kaleta

On D:

  • Ehrhoff – Pysyk
  • Weber – Myers
  • McBain – Ristolainen

This is a problem.  Yeah, Grigorenko hasn’t been great.  But he’s not some 5 year veteran who needs to be shaken up by having to sit a few games.  He’s a KID whose best chance is to work on his game NOW.

Stafford and Leino – Time to Shine

The Buffalo Sabres roster is set, and judging from the lines at practice, there are two players in the top 6 that will have a ton of focus on them:  Drew Stafford and Ville Leino.  Stafford gets the first crack at being the other winger with Hodgson and Vanek, while Leino goes with Ott and Ennis.  There’s some possibility that changes when injured players come back (currently Armia, Zadorov, Foligno and Tropp are out) but Drew and Ville will both have a chance to make their case first.

Stafford has always been a frustrating case for most of us.  He’s a couple of seasons removed from scoring 31 goals in 62 games, and pulling down 20 in the season after.  However, last year went pretty bad for him, netting only 6 goals in the short season.  There’s reason for hope, though.  He’s got two legit threats with him, and last year saw his shooting percentage at less than half of his career level (5% versus 11.7%).  Stafford has always seemed like a ~25 goal type player, with a 30 goal plateau playing with the talent he’ll have – and on the first power play unit to boot.

Ville Leino should have a shot at improving as well.  He played only 8 games last season, scoring 2 goals and adding 4 assists.  His line has Steve Ott to bang bodies and be a nuisance, and Tyler Ennis to deal the puck.  Ennis is no Hodgson, but it’s still giving Ville a chance.  He was also seen on the second power play unit.  I thought Leino played well in his limited time last season, and there were flashes of that the year before.  He’s more of a long shot, but I’ve got a feeling a full, healthy season might be just what Leino needs to reach the potential he showed in Philly.

If anything works against these two, it’s the fact that there are so many young forwards eyeing their spots.  Girgensons and Grigorenko both sit on the third line as of now – but how much of one of Stafford’s slumps would it take for one of them to get a top-6 shot?  Armia and Larsson lurk as well.  Foligno’s return will give the team all the excuse they need to shake up lines if things don’t start well.  Me, I’m rooting for both guys.  I think Leino has been scapegoated pretty hard here, and Stafford has been a good soldier and could just need someone to believe in him.  Here’s hoping they seize the opportunity.  Go Sabres.