Archive for the ‘Buffalo Sabres’ Category

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New York Islanders GM Garth Snow paid far too great a price to land Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. Giving up a first- and second-round pick in the draft is fine, but including Matt Moulson in the deal is evidence that Snow and the Islanders didn’t see the big picture.

Looking at their goal totals over the past four years, there’s not much difference between Vanek and Moulson. They are both the same age. They are both playing under a contract that will expire after the season. It’s fair to say Vanek is the more “skilled” player, but to portray Moulson as this garbage-collecting goal scorer whose numbers are entirely predicated on playing with John Tavares are exaggerated and unfair. Vanek and Moulson simply have different ways of putting the puck in the net, and both are really good at doing just that.

Sabres GM Darcy Regier has been arguably the worst GM in hockey over the past few years – the contracts of Tyler Myers and Ville Leino are evidence of that, along with extending Patrick Kaleta and adding John Scott in the pursuit of toughness that has submarined the team – but he deserves all of the credit here. It’s possible he’ll be able to flip Moulson for another first-round pick before the trade deadline. That’s a great haul for Vanek.

On just the face of the deal, that’s a lot to hand over to the Sabres for Vanek. There’s no guarantee Tavares and Vanek will work as well together as Tavares and Moulson have for four-plus seasons, and the least of the Islanders’ problems right now are goal scoring. They are among the worst defensive teams in the NHL, and Vanek isn’t contributing to that area.

But a deeper look shows the Islanders may have been bidding against themselves in what was a thin market for Vanek, only because of his hefty $7.1 million cap hit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bill Maher – yes, I’m opening a piece about why fighting does not need to exist in hockey by referencing something Bill Maher said, but bear with me – once was discussing what it would take to get equal rights in America for the gay community. He quoted a statistic that showed how people who are against gay marriage are very old while people who are for it are very young.

His hypothesis was that eventually gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states, but we would have to wait for all of the old voters and their long-held ignorant beliefs to die first. Once you get past the harshness of the idea, it makes sense. For change to occur, people in power need must be replaced by people who aren’t burdened by the notions of “that’s how it’s always been” in the world.

Before we get to hockey, let’s talk about the NFL. I know, but I assure you this all builds to a point.

On Sunday, the New York Giants were playing a football game against the Carolina Panthers. The Giants were thoroughly dismantled, 38-0, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The contest ceased to be in doubt by, at the latest if you’re an optimist, the middle of the third quarter. It was a woodshed beating in which Giants quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times.

There was a play that occurred earlier in the game before it got out of hand. Giants defensive back Ryan Mundy delivered a devastating – and legal, although a flag was thrown at first – hit to Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell that jarred the ball loose, resulting in an incomplete pass. LaFell was about as defenseless as it gets. It was an extremely violent collision in an extremely violent sport.

At the conclusion of the third-down play, no one on the Panthers ran over to Mundy to challenge him to a fight. Heck, no one on the Panthers had anything to say Mundy in the aftermath of the hit. No one on the Panthers felt the need to “stick up for a teammate” because of the hit. In a game that was over with about 20 minutes left, Panthers coach Ron Rivera did not send out his toughest player to fight Mundy or exact revenge by having a linebacker engage in a fight with a Giants wide receiver.

Suffering one of the more embarrassing losses in team history, no one on the Giants felt the need to “set the tone” for the following week’s game by fighting someone on the Panthers. No one on the Giants felt the need to “fire up the boys” while down 10-0 by starting a fight.

What’s the difference between the NFL and NHL, two extremely violent sports whose players pride themselves on toughness? Quite simply, fighting has always been part of the NHL culture while the NFL does not tolerate it. Fighting in hockey gets you five minutes in the penalty box and the admiration of your teammates and coach. Fighting in the NFL gets you a minimum fine of $26,250 for a first offense and is doubled for a second offense.

If the NHL adopted that policy, Brandon Prust would be filing for bankruptcy by January. Or, more likely, fighting in the NHL would eventually disappear and, after a while, no one would miss it. Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick Kaleta delivers a gentle love-tap to Brad Richards.

Patrick Kaleta delivers a gentle love-tap to Brad Richards.

Patrick Kaleta attempted to decapitate Brad Richards over the weekend with a shove from behind into the boards. Amazingly Richards didn’t die. He did lie on the ice for several minutes not moving his arms and wearing an agonized facial expression. While Kaleta apologists continue to insist this was a FIFA-style dive, anyone who’s ever had a stinger is offering up a hearty bird-flip at that suggestion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Buffalo Sabres v New York Rangers

Patrick Kaleta has a history of being a menace, and not in a delightful way like Mr. Wilson’s cartoon neighbour. He’s a menace in a different way, the kind of way that often leaves opponents writhing on the ice in pain (he’s been suspended by the NHL multiple times).

On Sunday night, Kaleta decided to cross the line yet again. This time his victim was New York Rangers’ centre Brad Richards.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Mike Stobe, Getty Images)

When the Buffalo Sabres traded away Derek Roy, they created a massive hole in their lineup. As maligned as he was in Buffalo, Roy was still the closest thing the Sabres had to a first-line centre. He was second in ice time among Buffalo forwards behind Jason Pominville and played in all situations. The issue was that he didn’t perform like a first-line centre during the 2011-12 season, finishing with the lowest point-per-game rate of his career since his rookie season.

With just 44 points to go along with previous disappointments, Roy didn’t leave many missing him in Buffalo. In some ways, he was seen as a symbol of the soft Sabres that did little in response to Milan Lucic running over Ryan Miller. That he was traded for Steve Ott, a rough-and-tumble forward known more for his physical play than his offensive prowess, shows the attempt at a culture shift for the Sabres.

While ostensibly a winger, Ott was the Stars’ best faceoff man, taking over 1000 draws in 2011-12. Where the Sabres failed with Ville Leino, they’ll be trying again with Ott. What he isn’t, however, is a first line centre.

The Sabres seem to be well-aware of this issue, turning to youth to fill the void. The Sabres drafted two talented centres in the first round of the 2012 draft in Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons, acquired Cody Hodgson from the Vancouver Canucks, and will look to Tyler Ennis to play a larger role. The first-line spot appears to be Hodgson’s to lose – The Hockey News, NHL.com, and various fan blogs all have Hodgson pencilled in already – but Ennis still has a shot, as does Grigorenko, who might make the team as an 18-year-old.

There is one young centre, however, who seems to have been forgotten: Luke Adam.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Pic from YellMagazine.com

Mud half-way up my calf. Rain soaked clothes. Legs filled with lactic acid from some ill-advised soccer-based sprinting the day before. Death metal ripping through a mild-hangover. Not a typical Sunday for this guy.  A typical Sunday is more like this: coffee, walk dog, watch TV, rinse, repeat.

However, when the opportunity to interview Buffalo Sabres Super Fans Rob and Paul from legendary metal band Cannibal Corpse came up, how could I say no? The last time Metal Blade Records lined me up with a music/sports interview, it ended up being the highlight of my (very) long and (moderately) illustrious reporting career – talking football with Oderus Urungus of GWAR.  (Parental Warning: fake schlong hits reporter in leg, hilarity ensues – watch here).

Here’s drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz and guitarist Rob Barrett on their muted expectations for the Sabres, the season and sticking it to Milan Lucic. Read the rest of this entry »

AP photo

The Buffalo Sabres are a team with very deep pockets, an owner willing to reach way into them, and obvious roster problems.

For one thing, they only scored 218 goals last season, 16th in the league, and were 18th in the league in terms of goals against at 230. Both are within just six goals of league average. Their power play was 17th at 17.05 percent. Their penalty kill was 19th at 81.71 percent.

So what that says, basically, is that the Sabres are a substandard team in many major aspects of the sport of hockey, which is troubling considering their salary commitments last season (nearly $65.5 million). They need help in all areas.

And this summer they’ve been able to shed a bunch of salary by letting Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht walk, they’ve seen their cap number fall to about $61.55 million, even as they took on a bit of commitment in offloading Derek Roy for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy (a net addition of about $950,000). And that’s after signing Kevin Porter on a two-way deal and John Scott on a one-way despite the fact that neither will necessarily add anything to the team. Read the rest of this entry »