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Who is the Next Captain of the Sabres?

April 20, 2014

The Sabres have a bunch of questions that need to at least begin to be addressed this offseason and next season. While everyone focuses on the draft and who is going to put the puck in the net for last year’s worst offensive team, many have forgotten that the Sabres are (once again) without a captain.

There are a couple basic things that I believe the organization should (or should not) do when considering who will be the next person to wear the “C”.

First (and most important) is that the next captain must come from in-house. The cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to naming a player who was just acquired as the captain. The most obvious issue is that it places undue pressure on the new player. No matter the age or experience of a player, when someone is traded to a new team, or signs with a new team as a free agent, they want to make a good first impression. On top of trying to fit in with new teammates and a new system on the ice, the player is faced with trying to acclimate to a new city off the ice. Throw in moving a family and all that comes with it into a new town and the player is juggling all he can handle.

Another concern is that naming a player that is new to the team as a captain is an indictment of the leadership qualities (or lack thereof) of your current roster. By giving the captaincy to a newly acquired player you’re basically telling the 23 guys on your roster, “I don’t think any of you are capable enough or ready enough to assume responsibility for this team.” Given the state of the Sabres’ roster, I’d advise against doing that. Read more…

2014 2ITB Sabres Awards

April 17, 2014

The Two in the Box awards are back yet again for another year and I’m joined in the voting by the newest contributor to the site, Tyler Roeder. Tyler will be chipping in with posts here and there to hopefully increase the content on the site above the current level, which is not very much at all. Each of the players or topics we picked are represented for each category. We didn’t agree on every one but each viewpoint is included below the winners.

Most Valuable Player – Tyler Ennis

Chris: In a lost season with few redeeming qualities, Tyler Ennis recaptured some of the magic he and Drew Stafford shared at the end of the 2011-12 season on his way to leading the Sabres in goal scoring. After a year in which his value began to be questioned, Ennis came back with an impressive run that could cement his value moving forward.

Tyler: Ennis was able to win me over with his play late in the year, after nearly losing me with some Maxim Afinogenov-esque play in the middle portion of the year. Ennis was able to put up a respectable 11 points in 20 games after the team was gutted at the trade deadline.

Least Valuable Player – Ville Leino

CO: Allow me to take the easy way out with this choice. Leino was a ghost for nearly the entire season and punctuated the punchline he had become by going scoreless on the season. He put only 38 pucks on net this year, fewer than such offensive dynamos like Mike Weber, Henrik Tallinder and Matt Ellis. His time in Buffalo has been nothing short of a disaster and his inevitable buyout will rid the team of a failed attempt at buying their way to a contending roster.

TR: What else can be said at this point? When you make $4.5 million and get outscored by John Scott, you get the LVP. It’s safe to say that this year was final year (Thank God) of the Leino era in Buffalo, which is best for both parties.

Top Prospect – Rasmus Ristolainen

CO: Ristolainen almost doesn’t qualify for this award considering he appeared in 34 games this season. He did, however, justify his draft position and set himself up to be a cornerstone on the Sabres’ roster for the next number of years.

TR: The Sabres have steadily stocked the prospect pool over the last few years, and have done so with a focus on the blue line. The 6’ 4” Finn got a taste of the NHL this year, but was better served being in Rochester. While with the Amerks he put up nearly .67 pts/gm; and with the 19 year old only growing stronger and more experienced, the sky is the limit. It’s a strong bet he’ll start next season with the big club. Read more…

Sabres still in a position of power despite losing lottery

April 16, 2014

Given that the Sabres had a 75% chance of not winning the draft lottery last night, there shouldn’t be much surprise or disappointment in Buffalo receiving the second overall pick. My disappointment lies in the two posts I wrote on Monday that needed to be drastically altered because of the result.

The consensus on this year’s draft is that the top four or five prospects are at a level above most others in the draft. This also happens to be a draft that will differ from the last two or three that preceded it in that there is no clear cut favorite to be picked first overall. Rather, the top four or five players are the consensus favorites to be selected at the top with the rest of the first round being described with any number of synonyms for average.

While the Sabres missed out on having their pick of the litter, they’re truly not at a disadvantage having to pick second. In fact, you could argue that they’re in a better situation but I’m not about to try and justify why not picking first could possibly not be the best possible scenario. I will say that the Sabres are not hamstrung for not having won the lottery. Perhaps the best possible scenario would have seen the Islanders win the lottery, but having the Panthers leapfrog the Sabres won’t have a resounding affect on the direction the Sabres go with their selection.

It would appear as if Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston forward Sam Bennett and Kootenay center Sam Reinhart have established themselves as the top three prospects in the draft. Although Leon Draisaitl is considered to be right there with Reinhart and possibly even Bennett at the top.

Tim Murray repeatedly said that he is going to take the best player available regardless of position. Reading those tea leaves could point you in a number of different directions. While the Panthers aren’t guaranteed to take a particular player, the Sabres decision won’t be altered at two. In fact, the Sabres could very well end up with the exact player they wanted at one even after the Panthers pick, something that Murray confirmed last night. Read more…

Thoughts on changing the NHL Draft Lottery

April 15, 2014

As the talent at the top of the NHL Draft continues to rise each year the topic of tanking to ensure higher odds at the first overall pick is becoming a hot topic. While the current system is designed to give the 30th place finisher the best opportunity to pick first, there is a better chance that team picks second given the odds.

With next year’s draft featuring a pair of generational talents at the top of the prospect pool, rumors and chatter have abounded regarding change to the lottery system in hopes of curbing the practice of tanking.

There doesn’t seem to be a good system that is strictly based off the order of finish in the standings. The system floated by Elliotte Friedman a few weeks back included a few nuances that wouldn’t only decrease the 30th place finisher’s chances but take into account a number of seasons as opposed to the one that had just passed.

However, it’s a fairly nuanced system that points towards even more complicated and convoluted systems for determining the first overall pick while preventing teams from taking nosedives to the bottom of the standings.

One idea I’m particularly fond of is a version of something similar I heard on NHL Network Radio a while back. If I’m not mistaken the original thought came from Mike Brophy, so direct the appropriate praise to him for the genesis of this idea.

The plan would be to still reward the worst teams with the highest picks in each year’s draft. You can’t have parity and turnover within the league unless you follow such a pattern. It also ensures that bad teams will improve – or should improve if you’re the Oilers – by picking high. In a league driven by revenues, perennial basement dwellers will eventually see lots of red ink if they can’t bring in players to overhaul their roster.

My plan would include the league’s five worst teams – although this could be expanded if necessary – in a competition to determine who wins the first overall pick. I stress the term win because this would be a standings-based competition that would be evaluated on each team’s performance after a certain point in the year. This way you can’t simply hit the brakes on your year, sell off your assets and wait to see what the lottery balls do for you once the season wraps. Meanwhile, if you finish 30th you’re still assured to draft high enough to get some help. Read more…

Poll: Who will win the draft lotto? The Sabres or the field?

April 15, 2014

The 2014 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight and after 82 games of suffering the Sabres hold the most lottery balls.

Buffalo will have a 25% chance at retaining the first overall pick with the rest of the non-playoff teams making up the other 75% of the chances. If you’re playing along at home that means that the Sabres have a better chance at picking second than they do of picking first.

The precise draft odds are on the internet now that the NHL released all of the pertinent information for tonight’s drawing, and this is how the breakdown looks for the 14 teams who missed the playoffs:

Buffalo Sabres – 25.0%

Florida Panthers – 18.8%

Edmonton Oilers – 14.2%

Calgary Flames – 10.7%

New York Islanders – 8.1%

Vancouver Canucks – 6.2%

Carolina Hurricanes – 4.7%

Toronto Maple Leafs – 3.6%

Winnipeg Jets – 2.7%

Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) – 2.1%

New Jersey Devils – 1.5%

Nashville Predators – 1.1%

Phoenix Coyotes – 0.8%

Washington Capitals – 0.5%

Once again, the Sabres hold the most lottery balls due to their 30th place finish, but they still face long odds on actually keeping that pick. For example, the Panthers, Oilers and Flames have a combined 43.7% chance of winning the lottery, so the Sabres aren’t a shoo-in for the first pick just yet.

Of course, if the Sabres lose the lottery they only drop one spot in the draft order. So the Sabres are guaranteed to pick no worse than second overall this year. It’s not a bad consolation prize, particularly in a draft where there isn’t necessarily a clear cut number one prospect.

Regardless of how things transpire tonight the Sabres are all but assured to end up with either Ekblad, Bennett or Reinhart.

I think I’m going to go with The Field in this case, but who are you taking? The Sabres or The Field.

NFTA can keep pace with Canalside development with a minor alteration

April 10, 2014

Progress at Canalside is expected to be in high gear this summer as HARBORcenter continues to rise at a breakneck pace and construction on the faux canals should recommence now that Pike has taken over. One Canalside is almost fully open for business and the entertainment district is truly taking shape.

While the grassy, empty parcels wait for private investors to dive in, another opportunity continues to be missed as the Metro Rail trains cruise through each day.

Use this as a guide, not a template for the idea I’m floating.

The hideous red arch that spanned the rail line was taken down last year and additional work on the former Aud Station has taken place lately as the NFTA took the necessary steps to bring the rail line and stations up to par around the burgeoning district. However, there’s so much more they could be doing.

As the project to return cars to Main Street continues to inch towards the waterfront, the NFTA is seeing major changes made to the antiquated décor that surrounds each of their stations in the free zone. However, slapping a fresh coat of paint on the current Erie Canal Harbor Station is simply lipstick on a pig. Read more…

Decisions in the crease could be looming for Sabres

April 4, 2014

A number of moves made by Darcy Regier and Tim Murray were done to prepare the Sabres for life after Ryan Miller. One player that was acquired (Matt Hackett) may find himself pushed out of the Buffalo goaltending situation.

Regier’s drafting of LinusUllmark and Cal Petersen in consecutive seasons along with the acquisitions of Hackett and MichalNeuvirth has bolstered Buffalo’s depth in the crease with an eye on the future. The Sabres have drafted a goaltender in each of the last three drafts and have eight goaltenders in various levels of the pipeline.

Could Andrey Makarov’s arrival push Matt Hackett out of the organization?

While Jhonas Enroth and Neuvirth are expected to carry the load into the 2014-15 season, the landscape behind them could be in for a change depending on the direction Murray wants to go. Both Enroth and Neuvirth have one more year left on their respective deals before reaching unrestricted free agency. Nathan Lieuwen has one more year until his entry level deal expires while both Matt Hackett and Connor Knapp hit restricted free agency this summer.

Andrey Makarov is the only signed goaltender with significant time on his deal; he doesn’t become a restricted until after the 2015-16 season. Cal Petersen and Linus Ullmark are both unsigned with Petersen a few years away as he prepares to head to Notre Dame and Ullmark creeping towards a contract with superb play in the SHL.

The situation for the big club is all but set. Enroth and Neuvirth will be Buffalo’s starters entering next season and it’s conceivable that they both receive extensions next summer as the rebuilding process continues. It’s the depth chart below them that could be due for a shake up. Read more…

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