GM Gibs For A Day

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What would I do if I were GM?

First, I’d call all my friends and then have a crazy pick up game going at the First Niagara Center.

After the dangle, snipe, and celly session, I’d get down to brass tacks.

Ron Rolston told the media after practice that he’s thought about breaking up the Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville line. In my opinion, that’s a very smart move. For those of you who think I’m crazy, allow me to explain.

This hockey team isn’t going anywhere. They don’t put out a consistent effort every time they hit the ice, they’re in 28th place in the NHL (two teams are actually worse), and to reach eighth place is a miracle. So instead of having your three best players on the ice for 90 seconds at a time, why not spread out that talent a little bit.

Who would go where?

Ville-Leino-570x320What I would do is keep Vanek and Hodgson together, and stick Pominville on a line with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino. Then I’d have Drew Stafford hop on with Vanek and CoHo. The reason for the move?

Trade stock.

Ville Leino is a good hockey player. He’s not going to score 25-30 goals a year, but he will create plays in the done and do a good job along the boards. Having Jason Pominville on Leino’s line would give him more freedom and space which would allow him to expose his talent. Leino’s got a set of mitts on him, and when he was with Briere and Hartnell, had all the space in the world.

Drew Stafford is another player that has failed to live up to his contract. Stafford has scored 20 plus goals in only threeAR-130219519.jpg&maxW=602&maxH=602&AlignV=top&Q=80 seasons. His highest total was 31 goals in 2010-2011, which is the last time the Sabres reached the playoffs (that was the year he had four hat tricks, two of them came against he Bruins). That 31 goal season brought Stafford a four year 16 Million dollar deal. The year after signing his contract, Stafford posted 20 goals in 80 games, and so far this season he’s been irrelevant. He’s got four goals and eleven points through 29 games, and has looked terrible most of the time. Two of those four goals have come in one game, and one of those goals was one of the biggest fluke goals you’ll ever see.

If you put Stafford on a line with Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek…I think it’s safe to say Stafford will find the net a lot more than he has this season. Not only that, but he’ll look a lot better than he does when he’s skating with Jochen Hecht and Nathan Gerbe. He failed to do anything on a line with Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno, so if you stick him on a line with your number one Center and best scoring forward, positive results are more than likely to come.

Instead of trying to convince yourself that this year is a fluke, which is what Darcy Regier really thinks, you should try and be the best team come April 3rd.

I’d be open to any ideas as long as Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, and Mikhail Grigorenko aren’t part of the discussion. Jason Pominville, Ville Leino, Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, Steve Ott, Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Leopold, Andrej Sekera, Robyn Regehr, and Mike Weber are all on the table if I’m the GM. If you got a first round draft pick for Paul Gaustad, I’m sure you can get another first rounder for Pominville or even a top six forward in return. Tyler Ennis is another first round draft pick caliber player for a trade.

The reason you keep Vanek, Hodgson, and Miller is because you can build a very good team around that. I understand Miller is 32 and is a big cap hit, but he’s still one of the best goaltenders in the world and he’s showing it this season. He’d be in the Vezina discussion if it weren’t for one of the worst defenses in the league playing in front of him.

thomas vanek sabres austriaThomas Vanek is your ‘get it done’ player, and in my opinion, he’s the only ‘get it done’ player on the team. He had a great start, but as somewhat cooled off after he suffered a lower body injury a quarter into the season. Cody Hodgson is having a very strong sophomore season, and hasn’t even reached the surface of what he can potentially become. Grigorenko’s obviously a young prospect that you don’t trade away.  Christian Ehrhoff wasn’t listed because of his monster contract, and also because he’s a top tier defensemen that you want to have on your rebuilding team.

Moving some players around also gives you room to think about who you might be able to pick up in free agency over the Summer.

Check out GM Gibs: A Look Into Free Agency, which will be posted soon.

Let’s Grow Buffalo

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If you ask someone why they like watching their respected sports teams, they’ll often tell you it’s an escape.  Watching your team is a form of entertainment that we all love. During those three hours of game time and commercials, we’re not thinking about what our course load is looking like or what kind of problems we have. We’re focused on something that’s supposed to take our minds off of that.

The way this year is going, I guess you can say, “Thank goodness for reality.” The progress of Buffalo’s civic landscape has taken a lot of Buffalonian minds off of the terrible distraction of our pro sports teams.

Usually, when the Bills and Sabres are winning, it distracts us from the reality of WNY’s region that has taken away thousands of jobs and people’s lives.

This year, the roles have been reversed.  Continue reading Let’s Grow Buffalo

Sabres – Rangers Recap

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Two very unexpected heroes took center stage on Tuesday night in Buffalo’s 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. Marcus Foligno scored twice ending a 20 game scoring drought, while Jhonas Enroth made 32 saves giving him his first win since November 26th, 2011.

In the opening ten minutes, the Rangers looked like they were en rout to take care of business. Unfortunately for New York, Jhonas Enroth decided to drink water instead of coffee before the game. Enroth came up big stoping all 10 NYR shots. The Sabres made some noise here and there in the opening period, but Buffalo’s best chance came at 12:01 when Thomas Vanek had two chances at an open net.

Henrik Lundqvist, Thomas VanekJason Pominville had the puck at the side of the net, and chipped it in front for Vanek. Vanek took his shot as soon as possible, but Lundqvist came across and absolutely robbed Vanek blind. Vanek’s shot created a rebound, but he wasn’t able to get his second chance shot through.

The first period would end in a 0-0 tie. Buffalo’s record when heading into the first intermission was 6-6-3, and for New York, 4-5-1. Another bizarre stat, Buffalo has ended a period tied 15 times this season, ten of those 15 have come in the first period. Continue reading Sabres – Rangers Recap

Sabres – Hurricanes Recap

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The  four game point streak comes to an end as the Carolina Hurricanes sweep the season series with a 4-3 victory last night.

In the first period, the Hurricanes made the Sabres look like the team we’re all used to watching prior to their four game point streak (3-0-1). They were chasing the puck around in their own zone, and when they brought the puck into Carolina’s end, they weren’t able maintain possession for more than five to ten seconds. Continue reading Sabres – Hurricanes Recap

Sabres – Lightning Recap

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They’re not dead, not yet at least.

After allowing another goal in the opening minutes of a hockey game, the Sabres fought back to beat the finely tuned offensive machine that is the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the first period, Buffalo came out like many expected. Slow, lazy, out of position, turnovers in their own zone, and that was in the first 70 seconds. Fourteen seconds later, the Bolts would strike.

Steven StamkosBuffalo had the puck in Tampa Bay’s zone when Tyler Myers took a shot that got knocked down in traffic. Matt Carle would recover the loose puck and immediately send it up to Teddy Purcell. Purcell easily skated into the Sabres zone, and took a hard shot right on Miller that bounced back out in front. Steven Stamkos came flying in, and buried the rebound.

Goal Breakdown: The only breakdown I have on this goal is Tyler Myers stopped moving his feet, and the Sabres were caught yawning. Oh yeah, one more thing: Yet again another Superstar burns Buffalo. It’s beyond a problem and it’s got to be at the top of the drawing board for Darcy Regier. Like I’ve been saying all season, Buffalo doesn’t have a Michael Peca or a Patrice Bergeron. Those two guys are/were fantastic as stopping their opponents highly skilled players. After the first meeting in Boston, Claude Julien decided to put Bergeron on the ice every time Vanek’s line went out. The results?  Vanek  has not registered a point in the last two meetings against Boston. Oh, and I almost forgot.  After those two meetings in three games against the Bruins, Vanek has fell into a slump. His last point was a 5-on-3 power play goal against the Penguins. — If that’s not a good enough example of a Super Star stopper for you, then please, find me a better one.

After Stamkos’ goal, it was all Tampa Bay and to be honest, the Sabres looked like they were in for an ugly loss. That all stopped when the Lightning let the puck slip out of Buffalo’s zone.

Steven Stamkos lost the puck at the blue line, and immediately sprinted after it with Vanek all over him. Stamkos got control of the loose puck in his own zone, and left tapped it back to Hedman. Hedman attempted to clear the puck out of his own zone, but his pass was intercepted beautifully by Pominville at Tampa’s blue line. Vanek saw JP intercept the pass, and immediately headed deep into the Lightning zone. Pominville got the puck to Vanek at the side of the net, he had no shot and elected to clear it through the slot but, no one was there. Sekera recovered Vanek’s pass at the blue line, stepped up, and took a shot right on net. Sekera’s shot deflected behind the net conveniently for Hodgson. CoHo tried banking it off of Garon, but it found Sami Salo’s skate which knocked it in to tie the162795770_slide game at one.

Goal Breakdown: It all starts with Vanek who did a great forechecking job on Stamkos who really isn’t on the ice for his defensive skills. Vanek’s pressure forced Stamkos to give it to Hedman who really had no where to go with it. Hedman panicked, tried clearing it, but Pominville read him the entire way. If you turn the puck over with the Vanek- Hodgson – Pominville line out on the ice, more often than not, they’re going to make you pay. All three members of Buffalo’s top line had big contributions on that goal.

There would be no scoring in the second period, which in Buffalo’s case, is a miracle. Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, and again Tyler Myers, would all receive penalties in a little less than a four minute span giving Tampa Bay a long 5-on-3 power play. Buffalo’s top penalty killer, Ryan Miller, stood on his head as always and bailed the Sabres out of, what could have been, a very ugly scene.

In the third, it would be Buffalo who struck first in the opening minutes of a period.

Tyler MyersTeddy Purcell had the puck deep in his own zone with Thomas Vanek all over him. Purcell went around his own net trying to escape Vanek’s pressure, and tried clearing the puck out. Christian Ehrhoff was in perfect position to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and like I said earlier: If you turn the puck over in your own zone with the Hodgson line out on the ice, more often than not, they’re going to make you pay.

Ehrhoff got the puck to Pominville who skated with it momentarily before he cleared it infront, but failed to connect with Vanek. Vanek, however, recovered he loose puck down low, skated around the back of the net, and cleared it through traffic in front. Tyler Myers came down from the point, and blasted the puck home to win the game for Buffalo.

Goal Breakdown: When Pominville had the puck on his stick, he wanted to give it to Vanek across the ice down low, but consciously cleared the puck through the slot instead. Even if JP got the puck to Vanek down low, Vanek would’ve been stripped immediately. Pominville’s decision to clear the puck through the slot area, threw Garon off completely which made him get out of position. Vanek quickly recovered JP’s clearing attempt and wisely threw the puck out front because Garon was so far out of position. Myers cheated in, and had a wide open net to shoot at. This was one of Myers’ worst games this year, and that’s saying something — it’s just funny how he gets the game winner. I guess that’s just how sports work out sometimes.

The Sabres were able to fight off the Lightning, and win their first game with Ron Rolston behind the bench. Not only was it a huge road win, but it gives them some momentum heading into Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers.

Notes:

Buffalo killed off 6 penalties against one of the best Power Play units in the NHL.

– This was the first win by a Sabres coach not named Lindy Ruff since 1996.

– Buffalo is now 26-9-3 on the road against Tampa Bay and 44-28-5 all time.

– This is the first road win for Buffalo since their 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on February 9th.

— The Sabres take on the Florida Panthers Thursday night at the BB&T Center. This is the second meeting between the two teams, as Florida came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Buffalo 4-3 at First Niagara Center. Puck drop set for 7:30.

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Lindy Ruff: A Man Of Class

RUFF RAMSEY JUNEAU SYLVESTER HOLZINGER PRIMEAU

On February 20th, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they had relieved Lindy Ruff of his coaching duties. Ruff being fired ended his tenure as the NHL’s longest serving head coach, and second in the four professional sports (Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs was No. 1).  Today, Lindy finally addressed the media two days after being fired.

Just like he entire career, Lindy Ruff defined the word “class” throughout the press conference.

“First, I would like to thank the Knox family for drafting me, and giving me the opportunity,” Ruff said to start the conference. Lindy was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round (32nd pick overall) of the 1979 NHL draft. Lindy would go on to play 10 seasons for the Sabres, and was the team Captain for his final three seasons in blue and gold. Ruff was traded in 1989 to the New York Rangers for a draft pick. Who would the Sabres use that draft pick on? Richard Smelhnik, who would play for several years under Lindy Ruff.

Ruff’s reputation as a player was one Buffalonians love: A tough, hard nosed player with perfect character. An example of Ruff’s toughness came in a game against he New York Islanders in a playoff game on May 10th 1980. Islanders goaltender, Bill Smith, struck Ruff across the head with his stick as Ruff skated in front of his net. Ruff turned around, and without hesitation, tackled him to the ice.

Ruff became an assistant coach for the Florida Panthers from 1993-1997, and was a part of the 1996 Panthers team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

Ruff was named the 15th head coach of the Buffalo Sabres on July 21st, 1997. Nobody knew a 16 year “Ruff Era” would be born on that Summer day.

Ruff had immediate success in Buffalo. He led the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season as the head coach, and the year after took them to the Stanley Cup Finals — we all know how that ended. The following two seasons, Ruff would bring Buffalo back to the playoffs. One, a first round exit courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers, and a second round exit the following year by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The next three seasons, Ruff’s team failed to reach the playoffs preceding to the NHL lockout amidst the teams bankruptcy and financial problems due to the Adelphia Communications corporate scandal. After the 2004-2005 lockout, Ruff would lead the Sabres to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances. In ’05-’06 Ruff’s defensive unit was crippled by injury in the Conference Finals, and lost game seven to the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina went on to sweep the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup. The next year, Ruff’s team started out 10-0-0, and would go on to win the Presidents Trophy — the award goes to the best team in the regular season. The Sabres would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, but would be Unknownbounced out by the Senators in five games.

After that, things headed south for Ruff and the Sabres organization. Buffalo failed to reach the post-season in four out of Ruff’s last six seasons, and wouldn’t win a playoff series since the  ’06-’07 Eastern Conference Semi’s against the Ottawa Senators.

One of Ruff’s most memorable moments as Head Coach of the Buffalo Sabres came in February of 2007, “The Brawl”. For those of you who live under a rock, “The Brawl” took place in Buffalo after Chris Neil delivered a cheap shot to co-captain, Chris Drury. Drury would spill blood on the ice, and Neil wouldn’t be called for a penalty. So Lindy decided to take matters into his own hands. The ensuing shift, Ruff sent out Adam Mair, Andrew Peters, and Patrick Kaleta — three of Buffalo’s bad asses. They would be on the ice with Spezza, Heatley, and Mike Comrie. As soon as the puck dropped, all three Sabres players attacked Ottawa’s forwards, and the brawl begun. Ray Emery and Martin Biron would leave their creases, remove their masks, and drop the gloves. Ruff was fined $10,000 for “precipitating” the brawl after Neil’s hit. The City Of Buffalo started to raise money for Ruff so that he wouldn’t have to pay the fine, but Ruff proudly refused the offer — If that isn’t a sign of class, I don’t know what is.

Those were the good days for Ruff, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The past three seasons, including the 17 games Ruff coached this year, the Sabres underperformed and the fans grew restless. This past Tuesday, the Sabres played host to one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference: the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets beat Buffalo 2-1 and that made Sabre Nation erupt with boo’s, and even chants of “Fire Lindy” started in the 300 level. Ruff explained how he felt after his last game as the Sabres head coach, “To take that step back against Winnipeg, that was a real kick in the gut for me.”

When the game was over, Darcy Regier was walking down the hall of the press box with a look on his face that explained what the future would hold. Lindy would be relieved of his duties.

“I saw him, and I said ‘I know,'” Lindy said this morning, talking about Darcy Regier showing up to his home to deliver the news. “I said, ‘Don’t say your sorry.’ I said, ‘You’ve been my biggest backer all these years.'”

Ruff would go on to thank a long list of people: Owners, assistant coaches and trainer, several players, and the fans.

45521Lindy said he already misses coaching, and will plan on doing it again. He will, however, continue to live in Buffalo, NY.

“It’s a hard tough game,” Lindy explained. “It’s been a strange feeling, but I got to keep going. I love the game.”

He watched hockey last night, and tried watching the Sabres 3-1 loss in Toronto. “I watched one period, and found it incredibly strange,” Ruff said. “I turned it off. It’s something I wanted to, but couldn’t.”

In this predicament, some coaches won’t show respect to the GM let alone praise them. Ruff did just the opposite.

Lindy said of GM Darcy Regier: “I know through 16 years theres probably 99 percent of GM’s in the league that would’ve whacked the coach at a certain time. We went through some tough stretches where he believed in me and said, ‘You can get these guys through it.’ He’s a good friend. He’s a great hockey man. We went through a lot together, an I’m indebted to him for trusting me in a lot of tough situations.”

Ruff saved the last part of his speech to talk about the fans in Western New York.

“The fans of Western New York are No. 1. It really came to the forefront when my I dealt with my daughter’s medical condition, got us through a real tough time in our lives. There was a ‘Thank You’ outside on the fence. I’d like to put my ‘Thank You’ right next to it because it’s a special group. It’s a place I call home, always will call home. I don’t feel like I have anything to be ashamed of or any regrets. Western New York is where I’m going to live. I love Western New York.”

Lindy Ruff had to be fired. It was needed, and we all know that. Aside from the team, the playoffs, the NHL, the media, Lindy Ruff is a class act all the way around. From the amount of criticism he dealt with, to the pressure of winning in this city, to defending his team after taking cheap shot after cheap shot, to officials missing a skate that was clearly in the crease, to his daughters medical condition, Lindy Ruff fought for his team, his family, and this city.

Lindy Ruff, this city will be indebted to you. You’re the definition of class, and you will always be loved in the City Of Buffalo.

Not only are we proud, but we are all extremely lucky to call you a fellow Buffalonian.

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Sabres – Leafs Recap

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Ron Rolston loses his first game thanks to JVR’s two goal performance, as the Maple Leafs beat the Sabres 3-1.

The past 48 hours leading up to this game, the Sabres were the most talked about team in the league after Lindy Ruff was relieved of his coaching duties. Ruff coached the Sabres for 15 seasons. His replacement, Ron Rolston, was the coach of the Rochester Americans this season before he was called on to be the Sabres new head coach. James Van Riemsdyk (JVR) used to play under Rolston for Team USA when he was a junior, and told the media that if it weren’t for Rolston, he wouldn’t be the hockey player he is today. For those of you who don’t know, JVR is a very talented forward and is having a very productive season thus far.

Sabres Defenseman TJ Brennan, who spent a great deal of time in Rochester with Rolston, said that the difference between Ruff and Rolston is that Rolston is more in your face and energetic. Whereas Lindy was more independent.

162307159_stdIn the first period, Buffalo looked like a rejuvenated squad on the ice. The controlled the puck in Toronto’s zone, kept skating, won the physical battles along the boards, and most importantly — weren’t chasing the puck around in their own zone.

Both teams would get their fair share of chances throughout the opening twenty minutes, but Buffalo would capitalize on one of their opportunities 13:20 into the opening period.’

Buffalo lost the draw in their own zone (how many times have we said that this season?) but recovered it after a shot by Bozak never made it’s way to the net. Ennis scooped up the loose puck along the half wall, gently bounced it off the boards for Stafford in the neutral zone, and headed up ice setting up a give-and-go. Stafford saw Ennis all the way, and gave him a nice lead pass into Toronto’s zone. Ennis flew past Gunnarsson, skated to the middle of the left face-off circle, and sniped a beauty to the top left corner to give Buffalo the lead.

The Stafford-Ennis-Foligno line is finally starting to feel it offensively. This is all thank to Stafford. Earlier in the year, Foligno and Ennis were doing their jobs (not to the fullest), but Stafford was nowhere to be found. Ennis does his part getting free and creating rushes, Foligno does his part when it comes to physical play especially around the boards, but Stafford was non existant earlier in the season. His job is to lead that line on the ice, shoot, pass, hit, etc. Now that Stafford is finally getting in a groove and skating much better, this line might go back to it’s old ways from last year. When I say old ways, I mean unstoppable.  Continue reading Sabres – Leafs Recap

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