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Goaltending controversy (or not) November 7, 2011

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Before I go muckraking some more like the conventional press has been with the apparent conflict within the Sabres regarding who the starting goalies should be, I would like to apologize for being MIA in between games 4-13 on this blog. In that period, Sabres fans have gone from humming “ooh ahh Sabres on the warpath” to screaming “it’s the same old story, same old song n’ dance my friend” from the rooftops. After the European road trip the bonhomie was flowing over and any apparent faults on the team were being overlooked by fans wearing Stanley Cup-shaped glasses. Nothing like some adversity to ground everyone back in reality and remind us all that the playoffs are still a whole 69 games away. Hehe, yes, I said 69 (Beavis and Butthead is back on TV, you can see I missed them).

So, to the question of goalies. It has been so long since we have had a capable backup for Ryan Miller that this is an unfamiliar situation for younger (and bandwagon) fans of the Sabres. By using the adjective ‘capable’ I am automatically eliminating any ‘tenders who answer to the first names of Ty (Conklin), Jocelyn (Thibault), Mikael (Tellqvist) and Patrick (Lalime). In all fairness though Conklin is the only one who has gone on to have any sort of success post-Sabres. Anyways, that takes us all the way back to the trade deadline of the ’06-’07 season when a certain Marty Biron last played second fiddle in goal here. That same season was the last time when Miller missed back-to-back games while healthy, until this last Saturday.

My take on this is that I insist we do not have a goaltending controversy here in Buffalo. We are in a situation where the lead goalie is playing like crap (and he knows it), and the backup has a hot hand and is therefore starting, and winning to boot. If Miller is pouting about it and showing pressmen some attitude.. good! I for one do not want any players on this team to be riding the pine and shrugging their shoulders going “Woe is me, I’m not playing”. I’d like them to be bleeding mad that they are not on the ice doing what they are being paid to do.

Jhonas Enroth is doing what he is being paid for, which is step in whenever required and win some games. Last season when Miller had his concussion problems, Enroth came in and kept the playoffs charge alive. Not only did he contribute to us making the playoffs, he was a key element. He is 4-0-0 so far this season, 1.41 GAA and .952 SV%. Ruff knew what he was talking about when he said he wanted to give Enroth more than 20 games this season. In fact, last season Enroth was 9-2-2,  2.73 GAA & .907 SV% – quite respectable don’t you think? In his last thirteen starts the shortest goalie in the league (at 5’10”) has gone 12-0-1!

This is not a controversy people, we are playing the better goalie at the moment now so that we can win games. What’s happening in our blue ice here is a distinctive reminder of what has been happening in the Boston Bruins net. In ’09-’10 Tim Thomas was having a rough go of it and the new kid on the block Tuuka Rask took over the reins, going 22-12-10 and going on to stymie the Sabres in the first round of the playoffs. The next season Thomas came back with a vengeance and went on to win the Vezina last year. Remember a certain member of the Sabres goaltending unit who not so long ago was the winner of that piece of silverware? Don’t write off Ryan Miller, the man is tougher and better than a lot of us give him credit for.

Sabres Preview #3: The Goaltenders September 5, 2010

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Welcome to the next Sabres preview. Today we’ll look at the goaltenders. I’m only going to deal with Miller and Lalime because I haven’t seen enough of Enroth to give him a fair shake. So let’s get to it!

Ryan Miller: When I just typed that I imagined it the way the arena announcer says it. Hee. Moving on… We all know Miller is a stud. He plays a lot of games, and he’s probably going to play at a high level for 90-95% of the season. Hopefully he’ll continue his mastery over the shooters in the shootout, and will be less likely to wear down over the stretch without playing in the Olympics. There’s not much more you can say about Miller, except that if he has a bad year, the team will have a bad year. But really, isn’t that true of most starting goaltenders?

Patrick Lalime: I know people were disappointed when Marty Biron didn’t sign here, but he didn’t, so let’s move on. Lalime is what he is – apparently a better goaltender than he’s shown. One thing that mystifies me: if the guys on the team love him so much, why don’t they play better in front of him? If Ruff keeps to his schedule Lalime will only see the ice about six or eight times anyway.

Tomorrow – Sabres Preview #4: The Team. Please don’t hold your breath while you wait – you’ll turn blue and die, and I need all the readers I can get!

Sabres to trade Connolly and Stafford? Yes, please! May 2, 2010

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According to the Edmonton Journal (h/t to Nick Mendola on Twitter for the info), the Sabres were not happy w/Connolly’s performance (or lack thereof, as the case was) in the playoffs. They obviously haven’t been happy with Stafford’s play lately either. Without those two players, and without including any of our current UFAs on the roster, the Sabres have approximately $16-17 million in cap room. This amount of cap room assumes we’ll sign the RFAs – Kaleta and Kennedy for $1.4M each.

Let’s assume Mike Weber will make the roster next year at his ’09-10 salary (.56 million). Let’s also assume they bring back Mike Grier at his ’09-10 salary ($1.2 million) and Matt Ellis at his ’09-10 salary (.5 million) – that makes the cap number $14-15M before we start our shopping spree.

Where does that leave them as far as bodies are concerned? Before any additions, there would be eleven forwards, six d-men, and one goaltender. Teams normally carry 12-13 forwards, 6-7 d-men, and two goaltenders. To fill out the roster, the Sabres would need to sign or bring up 1-2 forwards, one d-men, and one goaltender.

Ok, still with me? By the way, I’m doing the best I can with the numbers available to me and by making what I consider to be reasonable assumptions. Don’t sue me if the math isn’t quite right – this is all just for argument’s sake.

Let’s go shopping for one or two forwards. We’ll look at some notable UFAs this summer, their ’09-10 compensation, their position, and the likelihood of 1- the Sabres wanting him, and 2- whether the player would be willing to come here. For those two parts, I’ll use very unlikely, somewhat unlikely, somewhat likely, and very likely. The explanations at the end are why I rated them the way I did.

TOP 20 UFA Forwards

Ilya Kovalchuk, $7.5 million, left wing, very unlikely – expensive and Russian
Patrick Marleau, $6.3 million, center, somewhat likely – expensive but worth it
Paul Kariya, $6 million, left wing, somewhat unlikely – old and injury-prone
Olli Jokinen, $5.5 million, center, somewhat likely – old, had trouble lately finding his game, but could be a good fit
Pavol Demitra, $4 million, right wing, somewhat likely – old, but could be a good fit
Alexander Frolov, $4 million, left wing, somewhat unlikely – Russian
Slava Kozlov – very unlikely. ‘Nuff said.
Ray Whitney, $3.55 million, left wing, somewhat likely – the Sabres have expressed strong interest in Whitney before
Fredrik Modin, $3.5 million, left wing, somewhat likely – decent price, could be a good fit
Lee Stepniak, $3.5 million, right wing, very likely – he’s a Buffalo boy, and we know how the Sabres LOVE the locals
Saku Koivu, $3.25 million, center, somewhat likely – decent price, good leader
Markus Naslund, $3 million, left wing, somewhat unlikely – old, losing his game
Matt Cullen, $2.8 million, center, somewhat likely – the Sabres have expressed interest in Cullen before
John Madden, $2.75 million, center, somewhat likely – good price, good fit
Owen Nolan, $2.75 million, right wing, somewhat likely – old, but good leader, tough
Tomas Plekanec, $2.75 million, center, somewhat unlikely – his stock is going to shoot up based on his playoff performance
Raffi Torres – very unlikely. ‘Nuff said.
Fernando Pisani, $2.5 million, center, somewhat unlikely – injury-prone: some of them potentially career-ending
Alexei Ponikarovsky, $2.5 million, left wing, somewhat unlikely – Russian
Alex Tanguay, $2.5 million, left wing, somewhat likely – decent price, had trouble lately finding his game but could be a good fit

Now let’s shop for a defenseman:

Top 20 UFA Defensemen

Nicklas Lidstrom, $7.45 million, very unlikely – unfortunately, not gonna happen
Scott Niedermayer, $6 million, very unlikely – again, not gonna happen
Sergei Gonchar, $5.5 million, somewhat unlikely – Pitt will try to keep him, Russian, but would be GREAT fit for the Sabres
Kim Johnsson, $5.3 million, somewhat unlikely – expensive, coming off an injury that caused him to miss 20+ games in ’09-10
Pavel Kubina, $5 million, somewhat likely – expensive but a good fit
Paul Martin, $4.5 million, somewhat likely – expensive, but brings toughness, still has a lot of good years ahead of him
Rob Blake, $3.5 million, somewhat unlikely – old, not a good fit for the Sabres (too slow)
Brett Clark, $3.5 million, somewhat unlikely – hasn’t played a full season since ’06-07
Willie Mitchell, $3.5 million, somewhat likely – big, coming off major injury in ’09-10
Andy Sutton, $3.5 million, somewhat likely – big & tough, but slow, might be a good fit for the Sabres
Derek Morris, $3.3 million, somewhat likely – lot of good years ahead, decent stats, decent price, decent size
Ruslan Salei, $3.275 million, somewhat unlikely – hasn’t played a full season since ’06-07
Adam Foote, $3.25 million, somewhat unlikely- old and slow, but has toughness
Anton Volchenkov, $3.2 million, somewhat unlikely – Russian, but great shot blocker (if Lydman not re-signed), stock has risen
Randy Jones, $3 million, somewhat likely – never played a full season, but decent stats
Joe Corvo, $2.75 million, somewhat unlikely – slow, injury-prone
Jason Smith, $2.6 million, somewhat unlikely – old, slowing, but a good leader
Dan Hamhuis, $2.5 million, somewhat likely – lots of good years left, good price
Brian Pothier, $2.5 million, somewhat unlikely – has never played a full season
Aaron Ward, $2.5 million, somewhat unlikely – slow, journeyman, injury-prone

What have we learned? According to my completely unscientific analysis, to address the needs at forward the Sabres should make a play for Marleau if they are serious about change and want to make a splash, and for Whitney, Modin, Stepniak, Koivu, Cullen, or Madden if they can’t land Marleau. I don’t know if Rivet and Marleau or Grier and Marleau are friends or not, but it might help if either talked up the Sabres to him.

As for defensemen, if they go for the power play specialist they need so desperately, they should look at Gonchar or Kubina. If they’re looking for a younger guy, try Hamhuis. If they’re looking for toughness or shot blocking, Volchenkov or Martin would work.

Whew!

Now, to goaltenders. It would be nice to find a backup who the team could actually count on. Of course, I don’t think Lalime was as bad as it seemed like he was, but no matter how righteous a guy the players thought he was, they didn’t play well in front of him. Let’s see who can fill our goaltender shopping cart:

Dan Ellis, $2 million – great choice if the cap money is available
Ray Emery, $1.5 million – I think not
Martin Biron, $1.4 million – another great choice: stuff him in the cart and promise him pancakes
Peter Budaj, $1.25 million – decent choice for a good price

And that’s really it. Three choices isn’t bad though.

You’ve seen who I think the Sabres should focus on. Who would you put on your wish list?

Sabres vs Leafs 12/18/09 Postmortem December 18, 2009

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Hopefully the guys were able to eat more than crackers and ginger ale before tonight’s game.

The Goose is loose!

Liked:

  • Besides that silly goal in the first Ryan Miller looks strong again tonight.
  • When the Sabres did shoot, they scored. It’s 2-1 Buffalo and the Sabres have scored on both of their shots in this period.
  • Hecht has been a formidable dude to play against in the last couple of games. It’s time for Marty Biron to pipe in, “Jochen’s maaaaadddd.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, oh well.
  • Four goals on 10 shots. Heh. Buh-bye, Vesa Toskala.
  • Aaaand the faceoffs are much better. Shocking. Tim Kennedy, I repeat, Tim Kennedy, is at 75% so far (after two).
  • That goal was the Vanek we know and love.
  • I know I say something almost every game about Myers, but tough. Here’s one more: I love the way he’s moving up ice tonight. I’d think twice before trying to poke check him. If you miss he’ll be in Alabama before you look up.

Didn’t like:

  • No fight, no energy in the first period, as evidenced by a total of four shots in that timeframe.
  • I like that Cellino & Barnes are giving money to the JDF for Roy’s goals, but I hate hate hate those pop-up ads.
  • Rob Ray, buy a thesaurus for the love of Pete. That would be “fantastic”.

Sabres vs Flyers 11/6/09 Postmortem November 6, 2009

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I reeeaaallllyyyy hate losing. But I reeeeeaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy hate losing to the Flyers. I don’t even like Danny Briere anymore because he’s a Flyer. I found it quite difficult to like Marty Biron while he was a Flyer.

These bullets might be shorter than normal. I had physical therapy today and let’s just say I’m “playing injured”. I couldn’t let y’all down.

Liked:

  • Tim Kennedy’s thwarting of the Flyers’ chance in the defensive zone.
  • Not much else. Yeah, I’m out.

Didn’t like:

  • Tim Kennedy’s retaliatory penalty. Luckily it didn’t cost them.
  • Shot selection on the power play.
  • Kaleta’s knee-to-knee hit.
  • Missing so many shots. It makes Ray Emery look like a competent goalie, which he clearly is not.
  • Not calling a penalty on the Flyers when they had 5,396, 274 guys out on the ice at the same time. I believe that’s what The Pensblog calls “Too Many Men”.
  • The linesmen and referees pulling guys apart before they can fight. It never ends well.
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