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Peguladay: my top five thoughts February 23, 2011

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So February 22, 2011 was declared “Peguladay” in the greater Western New York area, and I think that’s great. Anytime my favorite team can generate positive buzz makes me happy. I decided the best way for me to express my overall thoughts on the Pegula Era, however, was in a Top 5 list. I do like lists…

  1. Terry Pegula seems like a very nice man. His kids and wife obviously love him and vice versa. However, don’t think he’s a pushover who will bow to fan pressure. You don’t become a billionaire by acquiescing to those around you, and that’s fine with me. It’s his team and I’m sure he’ll do the best he can.
  2. The two other guys he brought in are solid hockey minds. Neither one of them is going to be wowed by the current roster, which I also think is a good thing. If the Sabres are pure sellers at the trade deadline, that’s fine with me. Get rid of the dead weight and then actually sign some impact players in July. I’m on board if that’s the plan.
  3. Keeping Darcy Regier is a calculated risk which by itself dims the luster of this occasion in the eyes of many fans. But let’s look at it this way – first, Pegula won’t give him unlimited time to turn the ship around; and second, give him a chance to work without financial constraints and see what he’s able to do.
  4. Making Buffalo a premier place to play hockey sounds like a splendid idea. But short of paying players lots of money, how do they plan to do that? I heard nothing today that sounded like an actionable step beyond spending more on player salaries and refurb-ing what looks like a pretty nice locker room already. Oh, and a vague thing about more development coaches. Do we really need more of those?
  5. None of this will mean a thing if the players don’t show up with some “give a damn” this week and next. Buffalo fans are fickle creatures and the shine will wear off quite quickly if the team is still losing at home and no “significant” moves are made at the deadline.

So there you have it. It’s almost 1am and I’ve had a migraine since 4pm, so this is the most coherent this post is going to get. Sabres play Atlanta tomorrow (well, actually, later today) – kicking them all over the ice would be a good step, just so you know, guys.

Sabres vs. Leafs 11/26/10 Postmortem November 26, 2010

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I love when the Sabres play the Leafs, as long as I’m not there. Don’t get me wrong – when I was younger I loved going to the games, but now I’d rather not scream at obnoxious Leafs fans while ducking the beer that they’re trying to throw on me. By all indications this should be a confidence boost for the guys. I’m hoping they’re getting sick of Angry Lindy.

Liked:

  • Kaleta lambasts Kulemin, and then Schenn decides to defend his teammate in a touching display of bravado. Great fight!
  • Orr goes after Gaustad and gets a triple minor penalty. Wha?!? Well, I’ll take the interminable power play!
  • Aaannnndddd they score! This Jordan Leopold fellow is all right.
  • Aaannnnddddddddd they score again! Thomas Vanek just stands there with the puck in front of him, has a scotch and enjoys the newspaper while he waits for a good time to take a shot, and then slams one home. Well played, Thomas. Well played.
  • I see that Kaleta stood up in the penalty box and applauded Orr for going after Gaustad. NICE.
  • Kessel gets a breakaway and doesn’t even get a shot off. Hee.
  • Sekera makes two nice plays on one shift to keep the puck in the offensive zone. I’m really liking his game lately.
  • Is Clarke MacArthur dressed tonight? Ohhhhhhh, THERE he is. On the bench. Huh. Nice enough kid, but I’m glad we got rid of him.
  • Kessel has been totally ineffective halfway through this game.
  • Hey, look – even the “Portland Pirates line” is dominating the Leafs.
  • Random note: You’d have to think Enroth is feeling pretty good about his game after holding Crosby & Co. to one goal the other night.
  • RJ just encouraged Harry Neale and Rob Ray to jump in and comment. He obviously wants to go refresh his whiskey, guys. Wake up!
  • Thanks to the Sabres Edge blog and Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington on Twitter, for those of you who dare to wade into that cesspool of feces, H/T to John Vogl), I know that the Leafs haven’t scored on a power play against the Sabres since March 27, 2009. *snort*
  • Luke Adam looks at home here in the NHL, I’ve gotta say. No matter what your opinion of Darcy Regier is, you have to admit he’s got a very good track record with his draft picks. Credit Kevin Dineen, Randy Cunneyworth et al for developing the talent too.
  • I knew the answer to the Cellino & Barnes trivia question pretty quickly, and I still remember a song that either WGR or WNSA (can’t remember which) did about Jason Wooley. “Jason Wooley, he’s no bully, Jason Wooley…”. Does anyone else remember that song?
  • Gaustad’s eyes were like saucers when the puck went past Kessel during that penalty kill. “MINE! MINE!” Kaleta finishes it off for the Sabres first shortie of the season.
  • The Sabres have nine takeaways. The Leafs have two. I think that’s a pretty telling stat of how the game has gone. I’d like to see zone time, but I’m not sure where to find that on the Interwebz.
  • Gaustad has won 64% of his faceoffs. Derek Roy has won 58% of his. (Jochen Hecht hasn’t fared so well at 41%.)

Didn’t like:

  • Gaustad takes a dumb penalty with a hit on Kessel. That’s how people get hurt, dude. No hitting from behind!
  • Poor Pominville can’t buy a goal. As someone said on Twitter, there are no red lights in Pominville. So sad. Update: In the first period, Pominville had five shots. The Leafs had five shots too. I find this sad for Pominville, hilarious for the Leafs.
  • Apparently Weber admires Gaustad, as he hits a guy from behind too. Bad Weber, bad! UPDATE: Weber takes another penalty. Kid’s got to calm down a little.
  • Um, Mike Grier? What’s with the penalties you’re taking lately? It’s more than just tonight. Let me give you a hint. That’s not “leadership”.
  • Now, I know they’re up, but they should really keep shooting.

On to Montreal tomorrow night. Let’s take some momentum with us on the plane, fellas!

Sabres vs. Flyers 10/26/10 Postmortem October 27, 2010

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I can’t do a Liked/Didn’t Like post for this because I fast-forwarded through parts of the game in disgust (it was on DVR since I wasn’t home when it started) when it became obvious the Sabres were melting down faster than the snowman some energy drink company built in Niagara Square this morning. Memo to companies who come to Buffalo thinking it’s a shoo-in to be cold: it’s not.

So the Sabres had a bad call go against them and a goal counted that shouldn’t have. Last night wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time this will happen. It worries me that the team STILL seems so mentally fragile that something like that makes them completely lose their cool and blow a game. Didn’t Darcy Regier go out and get guys like Leopold, Niedermayer, Grier, etc so this WOULDN’T happen?

Where was the veteran leadership when the young guys were taking stupid penalties in the second period (or even in the first)? I know where Craig Rivet was – he was taking a stupid penalty himself for cross-checking Danny Briere that led to a Philly goal on the power play in the beginning of the third period.

For that matter, where has the veteran leadership been all month? I’ll excuse Leopold from this discussion because I think he’s playing pretty well but Rivet, Grier and Niedermayer have been total wastes of roster spots so far from what I can see.

It drives me crazy that this team has no mental fortitude, and even more so that I can’t figure WHY they don’t. As a team they’ve had a lot of success over their professional careers, so why are their little egos so fragile? Buck it up, buttercups.

What should we expect? September 21, 2010

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I’ve been reading a lot of preseason predictions, both from other bloggers and from the mainstream media. Some prognosticators, particularly amongst the bloggers, are angry the Sabres didn’t make more moves to improve the team (and they have every right to be), and don’t think the Sabres will be much better than they were last year. Much of the mainstream media is picking the Sabres to finish around sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Where does that leave us? Here are my thoughts:

  • If the Sabres are “no better” than last year, that’s not such a bad thing. They finished third in the conference, and were – what – one point out of second? Yes, some other teams in the conference have gotten stronger in terms of personnel, but others have gotten weaker – that’s the nature of the game. So if the Sabres aren’t better – and I don’t think they’re worse – that doesn’t seem like a tragedy to me.
  • Finishing sixth in the conference is pretty respectable. It’s not home ice advantage, but did that help us last year? Did not having it hinder the teams who finished in seventh and eighth last year? No.
  • Preseason predictions are just that – preseason predictions. Before everyone gets all upset and throws Darcy and Co under the bus, let’s see what the team can do. There’s a fair amount of new personnel on this team, and you have to admit a few things:
    • They appear to have addressed the softness issue. People have been bitching for years about how the Sabres could get pushed around. With the addition of guys like McCormick and Morrisonn that hopefully shouldn’t be a problem.
    • They did go out and get some guys in free agency. That’s been another sore spot for fans. No, they didn’t run out and sign Ilya Kovalchuk, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. What they did do is sign three very capable veteran players. All three should help the team. None are flashy, and yes, none are 50-goal scorers, but the team finished eighth in scoring last season. Scoring wasn’t the problem.

So if I say scoring wasn’t the problem and that the Sabres didn’t pick up a scoring winger and I think that’s ok, what do I think the problem was? Competitive spirit – IN THE PLAYOFFS (in the regular season I think it was fine, otherwise they would’ve lost more 2-1 games). And no, I don’t think it’s something that left with Drury and Briere. Truth be told, I don’t think it was there even with those guy in their last year. Before that, yes, but in the last year, especially during the playoffs, no.

Can that problem be fixed? I don’t know. Will these three new guys help? I don’t know. But having three more veterans in the locker room can’t hurt. These guys have all gone through playoff runs and played for successful teams – they all know what it takes to win. Maybe their attitude will rub off on the other guys who’ve been here for longer, maybe it won’t, but again, it can’t hurt.

My conclusion? I’m willing to see what the team can do. I haven’t seen even a minute of camp. I’ve read a few articles and listened to a few interviews, so I can’t say that the attitude has changed. Besides that, talk is cheap. But let’s give them a chance.

Sabres Preview #1 – The Defensemen September 3, 2010

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I’m starting my Sabres season preview with the defensemen. Why? Because I like defensemen. I’ve just taken a look at the roster posted at Sabres.com, and there are a million names on it. I won’t cover all of them, because, frankly, I’m not familiar with all of them since some are still prospects. Without further ado, here are the others:

TJ Brennan: I went to prospect camp for about 20 minutes this summer. Don’t ask why it was only 20 minutes. Anyway, what I saw of Brennan in that 20 minutes looked pretty good to me, and I heard he did well. I’ve got high hopes for him but he will need more seasoning. Maybe one more year will serve him well and he’ll be ready for prime time.

Chris Butler: Butler was much-maligned last year, and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure why. Craig Rivet struggled for much of the season, and Butler was his partner for most of it, so was he covering for Rivet’s mistakes? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Remember, folks, he’s still only turning 24 this fall – plenty of time to mature as a defenseman.

Jordan Leopold: I’ve been watching Leopold’s career from afar and I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. I’m curious to see what he can do within “The System”. I’ve heard they may pair him with Myers, which would be interesting. I’m not sure who shoots right and who shoots left, so I don’t know who else they could pair him with, but considering Rivet’s going to be out for a while w/ the shoulder surgery, why not try him w/Butler or Sekera? After all, he’s a veteran. Give him a chance to mentor one of the younger guys. Let me clarify that: let him mentor one of the younger guys who may be struggling more than Myers is.

Steve Montador: I’ve been a Steve Montador fan for years. No, he’s not a great d-man, but he’s a WYSIWYG, and that’s fine with me. The other day I caught wind of a potential Shaone Morrisonn/Montador d-man pairing and all I could think was “It’ll be like bowling out there! Opponents will be flying off the ice like pins! It’ll be great!” It was the most excited I’ve been about hockey in weeks.

Shaone Morrisonn: Now that I’ve got the spelling and pronunciation of his name right (I think), let’s get down to brass tacks: any d-man who can make Mike Green look AT ALL COMPETENT deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. I am not worried about Morrisonn’s defensive skill, and I’m certainly not worried about his size. In fact, his size makes me a little giddy.  I don’t think he’s particularly fleet of foot, but not all defensemen need to be, especially if they stay in their own zone while other offensive-minded guys rush the puck up the ice like it’s on fire (I’m looking at you, Myers, Butler, and Sekera – get your asses moving!).

Tyler Myers: I know his nickname is “The Big Easy” (that’s what she said – ba-da-bump), but my nickname for him – besides The Jolly Blue Giant, is The Revelation. HOWEVER, let’s not put too much pressure on the kid. He looks like he can handle it, but remember – he’s only 20. Kid can’t even drink – legally – until February first of next year. So before you throw the mantle of franchise player on the guy, let him breathe a little. Let’s see how he handles the loss of his surrogate father, Hank, before we get too excited.

Craig Rivet: This pains me to say, because I think he’s a great guy and a good leader, and because I could be wrong, but I think it’s time for Rivet to hang up the skates. I fear that trying to come back from this major shoulder surgery may put him in the category of “staying too long at the party”. We’ll see what happens. Maybe that’s one reason Darcy stocked up on d-men. Who knows? Feel free to throw (hopefully not rotten) fruit at me if you disagree. Or just leave a comment.

Drew Schiestel: I am inordinately proud of myself for spelling that right on the first try. Schiestel is another player who I think will benefit greatly from a year in the AHL, logging a ton of minutes and learning from Kevin Dineen and his staff. He’s got a ton of talent and a ton of time to harvest it. Maybe we’ll see him in a call-up situation this year, though judging by the 37 d-men on the current roster that seems unlikely.

Andrej Sekera: Another guy who got ridden pretty hard last year, and again, I’m not sure why. He’s a little older than Butler, so maybe he should know better than to make some of the mistakes he’s making, but really, compared to some of the defensive performances I saw last year from opponents, the dude was practically rock-solid. I fear that the “Lindy Treatment” might have permanently eroded his self-confidence, but I hope not. I think he’s still got a lot of upward potential in his game.

So there you have it. I’ll deal with the forwards and the goaltenders in upcoming posts. Feel free to disagree with my assessments in the comments section. I can’t promise I’ll agree with your disagreement but I’ll listen to reason. If you’re a jerk, though, I’ll dismiss you and assume I’m right. Fair warning.

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