Thus Ended

The Sabres can no longer make the playoffs, and have one more meaningless game.  In the short term, I was ticked about it last night, but today, not so much.  It was a very difficult season in many ways, with injuries, underachievement, and media sniping.  The highs were really high, and the lows were rock-bottom.  We saw veterans and prospects leave (Gaustad, Gragnani, Kassian) and got a few new contributors (Hodgson, Sulzer).

How do I feel about this season?  I’m disappointed that it won’t be going on to the playoffs, for sure.  There is talent here – and I think the deadline improved that overall – but injuries and some questionable play overrode that.  Next year’s roster won’t be that different, barring trades, as there are already 20 players under contract.  Hecht, Boyes, and the surprising Sulzer are UFAs, with TJ Brennan, Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta as RFAs.  I can’t imagine either Hecht or Boyes being back.  Sulzer is interesting, though.  I’d love to keep him, as he showed some decent skills and kind of took that 6/7 D spot from Weber.  Ennis is a no-brainer, and I imagine Kaleta gets a deal.  That’s 13 forwards, including Marcus Foligno and Corey Tropp.  If Brennan and McNabb start with Rochester, that leaves Regehr, Ehrhoff, Myers, Leopold, Sekera, and Weber as the D pending something with Sulzer.  Of course, Miller/Enroth in the net.

Do I think that’s where we end up?  I do not.  The Pegula era Sabres have already shown they are willing to deal guys to get guys, and we have parts and pieces other teams would covet.  July 1 is going to be interesting.  Buffalo will be a player again, a destination for players who hopefully see the improvements and potential here.

I might post about the draft, and July 1, but expect this space to be fairly quiet in the offseason.  I’m planning on blog maintenance, such as trying different themes, stuff like that.  Might post up about the playoffs if the mood strikes, too.  I’ll still be on Twitter, and please check out my non-hockey gadget/movie/TV/book talk at Honk if you Love Justice.

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.

Feeling Relevant

These were my thoughts as the NHL Trade Deadline coverage got rolling this morning.  Gaustad and Roy had both been involved in the rumors, so no huge surprise when that broke.  The return was surprising, even with the 4th rounder going the other way, but still, we knew he was the sort of guy playoff teams love to add at the deadline.  You know, that intangible-laden 3rd-liner, to win face-offs and ‘battles’ and all that other stuff pundits like to say.  When the official deadline was passing, though, people were disappointed.  “That’s it?” you heard.  Then you started to hear “Vancouver has another deal yet to come”, and then “They’re getting Kassian”.  We all sat up and took notice, and then when we heard Cody Hodgson was the guy coming back…wow.  That’s a great return, giving up Kassian and Gragnani, and getting Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer.  I love these deals.

As I was thinking about these since they went down, I decided this is basically a win-win-win for the teams involved.  Buffalo is a win both for now – Hodgson has more offensive upside than Goose, and is a lot younger – and in the future, getting Nashville’s first rounder next year in addition to the players from Vancouver.  Nashville gets the vet C that teams love for the playoffs, and Vancouver gets a couple of guys that might fit better on their team than ours.  Kassian needs to prove himself in the NHL, and Gragnani might work best for the Canucks where he can just be a power play QB and get the softest minutes otherwise.

I’m genuinely interested in seeing what Hodgson can do for Buffalo.  I’m sorry to see Gaustad go, as I had hopes for him…but it was pretty obvious that what he is now, is all he’ll ever be.  And if you turn Goose and a 4th into a 1st, you do it.  Gragnani was expendable…McNabb, and soon, other D-men in Rochester were pushing him from below, but he couldn’t move up any higher than 7th on the depth chart when everyone is healthy.  And all of this happened without crippling the Sabres’ cap situation any more than it already is.  Good job, Darcy.  Is it Wednesday yet?

Which is it?

Are the Sabres really as good as they looked last night?  Did getting two NHL players back in the lineup (even ones derided as much as Boyes) make that much of a difference?  Or were the Capitals really playing that poorly?  I’m inclined to think the latter, and I only heard the first period on the radio and watched the other two.  There was a lot of cruising around by Caps players, and Buffalo could consistenly break out of their zone and gain entrance on the offensive side.  For any of us that have watched Sabres games this year, you know it hasn’t been THAT hard to stop ’em from doing that.

Christian Ehrhoff did some great work last night.  Scored what turned out to be the game winner, blocked four shots, had some other solid defensive plays.  Robyn Regehr frustrated Ovechkin quite a bit, including that hard hit behind the net.  Though my favorite ‘hit’ on Ovi is when he ran into Kassian and went flying backwards right along with him.  I’d like to give a shout out to Roy also, 21 minutes of ice time, had a point, won 65% of his faceoffs.

Michal Neuvirth deserves ‘special’ recognition for being terrible, letting in 3 goals on 6 shots, none of which was some amazing, unstoppable shot.  He had nothing last night, not sure if it could be fatigue since there was that whole Christmas break thing.  On the other hand, it was Miller’s sixth straight start, and it was his best in that stretch, with both goals scored on him due to a screen in front.  The first might’ve even been goalie interference.

The rest of the week is busy for Buffalo, as they play the Devils tomorrow in Jersey, then go to Washington for these same Caps for Friday.  Saturday (Tux and Pucks) they return home for the Senators.  Enroth one of those games if Lindy still has ‘The Schedule’ going.  Might try for a press pass for Saturday depending on what ends up happening for New Year’s Eve.  We don’t usually go out.

Pain and Suffering

I’ll admit it, I quit watching this game after the second period, listening to it in the background.  I picked it back up partway through the third, just in time to see Stafford tie it.  This game went from an easy win for Buffalo after the first, even if they give up that late goal, to a performance so bad that I don’t even think they deserve the loser point.  I mean, Leino, Kassian and Vanek scoring in one period is basically a fan’s dream.

Ryan Miller.  He’s got all the eyes on him still, after all the hits he’s taken (a few more last night, including the puck when his helmet came off), and to see 5 goals given up might give you pause.  Shitty defense is to blame here, though, and not Miller.  Maybe he could’ve saved a goal here or there, but when your D is giving up odd man rushes and breakaways with wild abandon, not to mention passing the puck straight to the Flyers’ best players (Gragnani to Giroux), there’s only so much he could do.

Were there positives?  Zack Kassian seems legit, both with the sick passing with Adam on the Leino goal to start things, and his own snipe.  Corey Tropp handled Rinaldo (I’m reading that they have a history, have to check that out).  The boys sticking up for Ennis and Gerbe was great, I don’t think we have to worry about that anymore.  That’s about it, though.

I was impressed with Jaromir Jagr, that was the first time I had really seen him play since coming back.

If there’s one person I’ll feel bad for today, it’s Brendan Shanahan.  He’ll be forced to watch swaths of this game to look at the hit on Gerbe and the elbow by Leino, and hopefully whoever hit Ennis in the head.  The Sabres host Florida tomorrow, let’s hope they play like the first period for oh, say, the whole game.

Sabres Win; Miller Gets Tootoo’d

What a wild affair in Nashville, as the Sabres beat the Predators 3-2.  Luke Adam, Zack Kassian and Tyler Ennis scored, but the real story will again be Miller getting flattened.  This time, the team came to his aid like he owed them money, though Ryan tried to fight his own battle by punching whoever came near.  Jordin Tootoo was the culprit, and though he was being gently touched by Ehrhoff at the time, he practically leaped into Miller’s chest like a linebacker making a tackle.  Gaustad dove in to take care of business and it basically seemed like exactly what we should see when that happens.

Kassian’s goal was sweet, there was some hard work, but the team was severely outshot.  Miller made some huge saves, before and after getting mauled.  We all now wait to hear what Tootoo will get for a suspension, if any.  He’s no boy scout though I don’t know how much of that would count for Shanny’s repeat offender status.  Lindy Ruff was outraged after the game, and this might be the first time I would wish we could play Nashville again in a season.

You Gotta Wear Shades

As in, the future is bright, man.  I watched a good portion of the Traverse City Tournament championship game that the Sabres prospects played in last night, which they won 5-2.  The most amazing thing to me, despite the Rangers-centric broadcast, is how much praise the Sabres were getting.  Our boys were being treated like the class of the tournament, the team the others were benchmarking themselves by.  It might even be right to do that, as they won several games in fairly resounding fashion (6-3, 6-3, 5-2).  There was one loss sandwiched in there but overall they were the class of the tourney.  Fun to watch.

The other fun story from yesterday was the Season Ticket delivery.  Buffalo invited several of my fellow bloggers along for the ride, and you can read about Kate and Heather’s takes on it at their sites.  I need to ensure my email address ends up in Ted Black’s hands.  I want in next time!  I have very cute kids who could accompany me!  Seriously though, what an amazing adventure they had, and it’s great publicity for the Sabres to boot.  Good job, guys!

May You Live In Interesting Times

Well, this had to be one of the most interesting Sabres seasons in recent memory.  Buffalo started the season with a whimper, losing at a pace that had more of us thinking draft lottery than playoffs.  The first hints of Terry Pegula gave a vague hope for the future, but we didn’t know anything about him yet, so it was only a small distraction.  November was better than October, but not by much.

December finally had a good game or two for Ryan Miller, and the Terry Pegula rumors picked up steam.  The Sabres’ best offensive player at the time, Derek Roy, went down with an injury and only just now was able to return.  After that, many of us (myself included) counted Buffalo out.  They’d only gotten 30 points in the first 33 games, Miller was not the Vezina Miller, and Myers was looking more like a rookie this year than last.

January, things got VERY interesting there.  You’ll remember that’s when Stafford-mania began, as Buffalo came home for a game in the middle of the WJC road trip and beat the Bruins 7-6, on the back of a Staffy hat trick.  The beginnings of the upward swing were showing, with the Sabres going 4-0-1 after a sort of bottoming out loss to CalgaryNathan Gerbe suddenly found his way, earning his spot in the lineup and coming up huge (er, sort of) as the team inched their way back up the standings.  The month ended with the long all-star break, but the real story was still Terry Pegula, who kept appearing in all the right places as the team sale picked up steam.

February, yeah, February was kind of fun.  Terry Pegula really did buy the team, Thomas Vanek was in Atlas mode, Twitter met the Pegula daughters, and Tyler Myers was an OT hero.  Pegula day was AWESOME, and the team was rolling.  March was much of the same, with Buffalo in the playoffs and controlling their own destiny.  Even their deadline day acquisition contributed for more than one game.  We fell in love with these guys, and never wanted the ride to end.  The Sabres won a bunch of games to end the regular season, looking primed to upset some dudes in the playoffs.

Well, we all know what happened there.  They took the Flyers to 7, but couldn’t get it done.  Injuries to key guys didn’t help, but in the end, it was a 2 seed over a 7 seed.  So what now?  It’s hard to say.  This is Terry Pegula’s first off-season, and the team has ‘no financial mandates’.  Buffalo will have a lot of cap room (as high as $21 million thanks to the new TV deal) but also a lot of spots up for grabs.  Defense in particular could look very different, with only 3 guys under contract (one of them Shaone Morrisonn).  Will they make a big trade?  Go hard after the biggest names?  Fill spots with guys from Portland that should get a shot?  Do Kassian and Foligno figure in?  What do they do with Enroth (RFA)?  The ride will continue, and I can’t help but think the outlook continues to be bright.

What will happen here?  Locker cleanout usually has some interesting bits, where we find out who was injured, especially.  I may comment on the other games and series, and then it’s off-season mode.  Future posts will look at the roster, the spots and free agents.  Thank you Sabres.


I freely admit I dozed off last night, when Canada was up 3-0 and looked to be in complete control.  I stirred for a few minutes, saw them still leading 3-2, and went back to sleep.  My wife came home from work and changed the channel to Top Chef (BARF) so imagine my surprise when I check twitter later and see that Russia kept right on scoring and WON.  Was it a comeback or a chokejob?  Probably depends on your allegiance, really, how you look at it.  After winning 5 straight golds, that’s two straight silvers for Team Canada, and as I stated before, it’s great for the tournament.  Congratulations to the Russian team (who apparently got so schnockered they got kicked off the plane home), my condolences to Zack Kassian, Marcus Foligno and the rest of Team Canada, and see you in Calgary next year.

Should the Sabres play for next year?

No, this is not a panic button post, but more the other team in town getting me thinking:  Should Buffalo target next year as the year to make a cup run?  There are some good reasons why they should:

  • Connolly, Niedermayer, Grier, and McCormick off the books – should open some top 6 minutes for Gerbe and Ennis, and possibly an FA center who is more consistent.
  • Next year could mean Luke Adam or Zack Kassian (or both) making the team, upping the size and tenacity of the team.
  • Seriously, read this about Kassian (h/t to Sabres Prospects):

At the Memorial Cup (in Brandon), neither one of the western teams wanted any part of him. They wouldn’t look him in the eyes.

  • I can’t imagine Jhonas Enroth not being the backup here next year.  Either that or trade the guy.  Tomorrow’s game might be a big factor in that.  If he starts again, I’m seeing the writing on the wall for Lalime, no matter how much Miller and the rest of the guys love him.
  • The biggest question for me is what to do with the defense.  Hopefully a partner for Myers is settled by the end of the year, so whoever that is has to be kept (if it’s not Morrisonn).  Montador and Rivet are UFAs, while Weber, Sekera and Butler are all RFAs.  Someone (or preferably two of them) need to take the next step this year.

So there you have it.  What does that change about this year?  I’d be hesitant to trade for a ‘rental’ player at the deadline, especially if there is a prospect moving out.  I like our prospects a lot more than I do most of the guys Darcy has brought in at the deadline recently (though a lot of that is hindsight).  I might change my view on that as the season wears on, though.  I do think this team can still make the playoffs, but I can’t imagine a true cup run.