See You In December

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.

No Financial Mandates

Well, the press conference is over, tears have falled, but no axes – yet.  Darcy Regier has free reign to improve the team with ‘no financial mandates’ in place.  This is his trial run.  Can he improve the team?  Will he part with players he drafted to do it?  Draft picks?  There are no more excuses, that’s for sure.  More scouts, better player development budget.

The presser hit the right notes for locals – Pegula came off as a funny family man, sitting near his hero Gilbert Perreault, firmly taking the helm while looking a bit uncomfortable on camera.  He joked with Ed Kilgore, jokingly deferred to his wife about the carpet and arena upgrades in the arena, and called his two twitter celeb daughters his ‘tweety-birds’.  He has our full attention, now he and Regier have to knock the trade deadline and this first off-season out of the park.  No pressure.

Pegula Eve

I guess if the Sabres are going to lose 3 straight, the best time to lose them is when other teams are losing too and you can stay 4 points back of the playoffs.  Buffalo wasted a dominant performance by Miller, who did his best to bail the team out but he can’t score goals.  At least, not without a lead and an empty net at the other end.

With the Sabres not playing until Wednesday, the focus will shift to tomorrow’s press conference, where Terry Pegula offically ‘takes over’ the ownership from Tom Golisano and gives his first press conference.  We are all waiting to see what he has to say, and more importantly what he and the team does going forward.  The first mile-marker for Pegula is the trade deadline.  Will his ownership change what Darcy Regier does?  It seems like it should, but how much of the recent moves (and non-moves) are Darcy, and how much are Larry and Tom?  We’ll see.

On The New Celebrities

It was an interesting experience the other night, during the Penguins game.  With the fanbase giddy from the outgoing ownership presser, another discovery was made – Terry Pegula’s daughters were on Twitter.  My first reaction was ‘cool’.  I didn’t think much would come of it, but then they (especially Jessie) began to engage with us.  It’s a pretty unique situation – I can’t recall ever having the children of a team owner being this publicly available (other than the grown-up ones that get VP titles).  We’re kind of in uncharted territory here.

I laughed a bit at first at some of the concerned noises coming from the media regarding them, but honestly there are some things they should watch out for – and some things WE as fans need to keep in mind as well.  First, I’d like to apologize in advance for the morons on Twitter that will be rude, vulgar and disgusting to them, especially after the first decision their dad makes which is unpopular.  Block early and often, and don’t feel bad about it.  On the flip side, the rest of us need to remember that they will probably not be involved in running the team now, or heck, maybe ever.  I can imagine that even joking “haha, put a good word in with your dad for x player” comments will get old quick.

Actually, on that – I was listening to WGR the other day, and one of the hosts (can’t remember if it was Jeremy or Schopp) was worried that Terry wouldn’t want to trade Roy as an example, since Derek Roy is Jessie’s favorite player.  Uh, really?  I think the billionaire businessman might be able to make a hard decision or two.  This isn’t Veruca Salt, “but I want a first line center NOOOOW!”.  Puh-leeze.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, they are fans, like us.  They tweet, they blog, but they themselves don’t own anything.  Behave yourselves, and show them what the City of Good Neighbors really means.

Pegula, Vanek, and Golisano

On a day where almost every other team played (minus one game cancelled due to the ‘storm’), several Sabres related stories dominated our discussions yesterday.  First, Terry Pegula really is buying the Sabres.  And yes, even Larry Quinn is no longer denying it.  Tom Luongo and Katebits of The Willful Caboose both say thanks to Mr. Golisano, and I’d like to pass mine along as well.  When I first moved up here, as a hockey fan but not specifically a fan of a team hardcore (I followed the Blackhawks mostly because they were good in my old EA NHL games on SNES), I attended a few games pre-lockout in a half-empty arena thanks to handouts given to my Adelphia employee buddy.  I enjoyed going, but it was tough to buy in when words like contraction, bankruptcy, and Mark Hammister were being thrown around.  I had no illusions that a Rochester businessman with political aspirations buying the team meant he would become the next Mark Cuban, but the team stayed, got some steals in trade and FA that helped the team compete, and lowered ticket prices and increased attendance.  All of which improved the in-arena experience and franchise viability, but more importantly made going to the games FUN.  While it’s been a bumpy ride more recently, we should definitely remember how far down they were back in 2003 and how far Tom has brought them.  Thanks, Mr. Golisano.

Amidst the fist-pumping over the ‘official’ sale of the team (press conference tomorrow at noon BTW), was the more puzzling news that Darcy Regier was extended through the 2012-2013 season…and Lindy Ruff turned his extension down but wants to remain with the team.  Curious timing, as this would’ve gone down the first time (?) Pegula tried to buy the team in the fall.  I’m not sure what to make of Regier, though I’ve always felt he wants to be more of a wheeler-dealer but was being held back by those above him.  Perhaps we’ll see that at the deadline this year, and if Pegula is pleased, he can stay.  Ruff, I think, knows he has options after this year if he doesn’t like where the Sabres go after the sale but I agree with the sentiment that he’s more likely to stick around.

We also learned that Thomas Vanek has been battling a bruised finger (as well as missing practice with the flu).  Considering he had 5 goals and 11 assists in his last 12 games, along with plenty of rest time leading up to Friday’s game, I’m not concerned.

Tradeable Assets

Yes, I think it’s time to look at who has value to ‘sell’, after that effort this weekend.  There is still time to recover, but it’s growing short.  49 games left, but only 30 points in the standings in the first 33.  It took 88 to make 8th last year in the East, but that was unusually low.  It will probably take a few more than that, which seems problematic for this current cast of characters.  So that means changes, and the decision to be a buyer or a seller.

For the purposes of this post, we are looking at ‘selling’.  I covered ‘untouchable‘ players before the year, thought I am taking Goose off the list.  I might even put Leopold and Roy on, considering their performances so far.  Either way, here’s what i’m looking at for tradeable assets:

  1. Tim Connolly – He’s always going to top the list for a lot of people, and it’s understandable.  We are tired of the injuries, the streaks, potential that never gets realized.  He would have value, maybe, and his contract isn’t terrible closer to the deadline.  He has to be healthy to move though, which is the biggest problem.  By the way, shouldn’t they be putting in a steel honker for Timmy?  Anyway, I don’t know anyone that would complain about him being gone, and most would be happy for whatever they get for him.
  2. Drew Stafford – This would be a case of selling high, as Angry Eyebrows is on a very favorable contract ($1.9mil expiring this year, RFA) for his production so far.  Trading Drew would potentially open a wing spot for Zack Kassian next year while getting some return for another guy who has shown potential here but never really put it all together for any length of time.
  3. Craig Rivet – It honestly makes more sense for him then the team, you know he wants to play but just doesn’t seem likely to get back in barring a run of injuries.  $3.5mil prorated would still be tough for a team to swallow for a d-man in the twilight of his career (who’s not cracking THIS lineup).
  4. Jochen Hecht – Has the complicating factor of another year left on a fairly hefty deal for a two-way forward who is underperforming.  Seems more likely to go if the Sabres are trading for a player with salary coming back.
  5. Chris Butler – Sekera has to be safe, in my mind, as Myers’s new partner.  I get the feeling Butler is on borrowed time, if there was someone that was trusted more to slide into his spot (which is not Rivet).

I’m honestly not sure what to do about Enroth, as no one would want Lalime, and anyone else that left would be a spare part for spare part deal, not any sort of change that would fix the culture/shake up the incumbents.  Same thing for trading prospects – there may be fantastic deals to be made, but that doesn’t fix the team next year.  All of this also assumes the long-term deal guys stay, which I find extremely likely (Miller, Vanek, Pominville, and probably Myers after this year).

There are two things that could shift the focus from selling players for picks/prospects.  One would be the Sabres going on a big-time winning streak…and the other is Terry Pegula.  He is the wild card, no doubt about it.  He could complete the sale and decide to set a bomb off in the locker room, wiping out coaches, GMs, players, the whole nine yards.  I know some of you are hoping for that, and to be honest I wouldn’t get upset if it happened.  What that would mean, though is giving up on this year AND next, unless you think the young players and newly acquired talent would mesh immediately with a potential new coach.

I still have hope that this team figures it out and makes these rambling thoughts moot.  The rational part of me has serious doubts.

Waiting Game

Interesting, really, that the whole Pegula business drops when the team has it’s longest layoff (barring holiday/all-star type breaks).  This story would’ve dominated the sports media here completely, were it not for the death of Jim Kelley.  There are a TON of tributes to him from writers all over North America, with perhaps one of the best by Jerry Sullivan.  Not having grown up here, I missed most of his era, but it’s obvious even to me how much a part of the sports experience here he was.

On the Pegula story, it seems that the price is $175 million, a price Mr. Pegula is willing to pay as the rumors go.  Bucky Gleason has been doing some good work on this story, so he needs to be recognized for that so we don’t forget it after he brings up Drury and Briere again next week.

Billionaire Pegula Buying Sabres?

It looks that way according to Ken Campbell at The Hockey News.  How quick did THAT story develop?  Rumors (deflected) yesterday, to letter of intent today.  The price of $150 million is quite jump from the $92 million Billionaire Tom Golisano paid for the team.  BTG has never denied the possibility of a sale, but wanted to ensure the team stays here.  Considering Terry Pegula’s ties here, that seems certain.  I have one question for Mr. Pegula – does he have any interest in a pro football team?