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Offseason Christmas June 30, 2011

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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These are truly dizzying times for Sabres fans. With the July 1st free agency approaching, the Sabres are in the news long and loud, and not because the interwebz are reporting which unrestricted free agents can’t wait to leave newly christened ‘hockey heaven’. This promises to be a very exciting Friday, ensure you are glued to your favorite media source come noon!

All of this can be traced back to new owner Terry Pegula, who along with his family and appointed-president Ted Black have taken it upon themselves to change the face of a venerable franchise. In the period of a few months, the Sabres are changing from ‘that plucky team that tends to overachieve’ to ‘this lean mean hockey machine built to win’. The city of Buffalo has struggled in recent decades and it seemed that the sports teams were following that spiral down too.. but up stepped Pegula with his vision of ‘hockey heaven’, and his motto that the Sabres sole reason for existence going forward is to win the Stanley Cup, and then do it again.

Apart from the dozens of changes on the operations end, from something as minute as letting fans choose gameday tunes to be played at the arena to an entire reconstruction of the locker-room facilities, the new management is pulling out all the stops. Now we all know newly embroidered carpets in a circular dressing room is not going to win multiple Cups, but Pegula Inc did not stop there. Right off the bat the Sabres added salary at the trade deadline by picking up Brad Boyes, a move unheard of here in Buffalo for over a decade. Players within the system that have been identified as part of the Cup-push have been signed to long term contracts. A list of players on other teams who would fit the master plan here was made, and even better, aggressively pursued. Defensive rock Robyn Regehr was chased down and convinced that his services would be highly appreciated here in Buffalo. Another defensive stalwart Christian Ehrhoff is also feeling the full brunt of the Pegula machine this morning as he wakes up in Germany.

There were two glaring needs on this team in 2010-11 – a top line center, and a solid defense. With Regehr signed to pair with Tyler Myers, and another Top 4 d-man on the way (Ehrhoff, or Tomas Kaberle, or James Wisniewski)**, one can confidently say that the back-end of the team is all set. That leaves the Sabres sitting pretty to approach the conundrum of how to address the lack of top centers on the team with the double-barreled shotgun of cap space and prospects to spare. This kind of aggression from Sabres management definitely gives you the feeling that somehow or the other, there will be changes made to the forward ranks. Whether we get Brad Richards or not, there will be a top line center starting for the Sabres come the start of the season. You can take that to the bank, because Pegula Inc. owns that damn bank!

**EDIT – since the time of writing Christian Ehrhoff has been signed on as the newest piece of the Sabres’ defense, to a front-loaded 10yr, $40 million contract.

10 reasons Buffalo is “Hockey Heaven” April 7, 2011

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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Ted Black, on the day that Terry Pegula took over the team, said that he wanted to make it clear to players around the NHL that Buffalo is “Hockey Heaven”. I’ve long felt that Buffalo is one of the greatest towns ever to be a hockey fan in, even when the team wasn’t playing as well. So, in honor of the extravaganza known as “Fan Appreciation Night” tomorrow night, here are 10 reasons Buffalo is, in fact, “Hockey Heaven”:

  1. Terry Pegula is the owner of the team, and appears to be willing to spend eleventy billion dollars to make things great for the players and fans.
  2. Sabres fans, for the most part, are knowledgeable fans who go to the games because they want to watch the team play, unlike some other markets *coughNewYorkRangersTorontoMapleLeafscough*
  3. Ryan Miller is our starting goaltender, but Jhonas Enroth has looked pretty darn spiffy lately.
  4. Buffaloians are pretty respectful of the players and their personal time.
  5. Ticket prices, comparatively speaking, are reasonable, and yet the players make as much as other teams’ players do.
  6. Buffalo is close to the hometowns of a lot of players, thus enabling family and friends to come and watch them play.
  7. The housing prices in Western New York are ridiculously cheap compared to many other areas of the US and Canada.
  8. Even when the team isn’t playing as well the fans still pack the stands. And even if the team is losing the game the fans will still cheer loudly – as long as the team is trying.
  9. The travel is way easier than what some other teams – notably the Western Conference teams – face.
  10. The media isn’t as “in your face” or as critical as in other cities.

You’re welcome, Terry Pegula and Ted Black. Feel free to make this into a brochure that you mail to your “wish list” of players. All I ask in return is a box for the next ten years and the opportunity to have all the ice cream I want during games.

It’s really real, people! March 12, 2011

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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I read the article in the Buffalo News today about the changes being made in the locker room and the arena. If you didn’t see it, take a minute and go here to read it. It’s worth your time.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that even though I tend to be relentlessly optimistic where this team is concerned, even I’ve been burned enough times by the management that I don’t tend to get too excited about things like new owners. Yes, my heart went a-flutter at the mention of no financial constraints, but until I see high-profile players putting the Sabres jersey over their heads I’ll reserve judgment.

Then I read the article. And it was like Rick Jeanneret was asking me, “Now do you believe?”

Yes. Yes, I believe.

You may find it funny that I believe more after hearing about these little things than I did after hearing Terry Pegula speak about how the primary reason for the Sabres’ existence is to win a Cup, how there would be no financial constraints, how he planned to do everything first class, etc., but to me, it’s the little things that count. Yes, hockey players want to get paid lots and lots of money, but they like the little things too. And maybe it will be all the little things that Pegula and Co. are doing that will bring the stars here. But the most important thing to me right now? I believe.

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.

Does this team WANT to make the playoffs? February 19, 2011

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After watching the last two games, this is a question which bears some consideration. However, upon further review, you have to wonder about a few things?

  1. Are significant members of the team playing hurt? (Probably.)
  2. Is Ryan Miller tired? (I’d have to think so.)
  3. Can the team win without Ryan Miller? (Not in its current make-up.)
  4. Will new owner Terry Pegula try to make a run this year or write it off and build with an eye toward the future? (Where’s my Magic 8 Ball?)
  5. Even if they make the playoffs, will it matter or will it be another colossal disappointment? (My money is on the latter.)

Hate to be a downer, here, folks, but Pegula’s best option may be to get rid of as much dead weight as he can, decide if he’s going after Steve Montador and Drew Stafford, possibly get a couple of quality players through free agency if he’s willing to spend the money, and then see what next year brings.

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