Skip to content

Five Storylines to Watch as the Sabres Head to Camp

September 18, 2014

Sam Reinhart- This is the obvious one; expectations are sky high for the Sabres’ highest draft pick since Pierre Turgeon in 1987. By all accounts Reinhart played well in Traverse City despite not finding the back of the net. Reinhart will obviously face a step up in competition as he heads into his first NHL camp. The rookie will most certainly get his shot at the beginning of the year with his nine game pseudo tryout before a decision must be made on his future. All eyes will be on him as he attempts to force his way into the Sabres’ top six forwards, but looking at the Sabres’ roster make up, don’t be shocked to see Reinhart headed back to Kootenay for another year.

The Defense- Only seven, maybe eight blue liners will be on the roster when the puck drops against Columbus on October 7. The team currently has ten candidates for those spots, with the rest shipped down the thruway to Rochester or sent back to juniors for the beginning of the new campaign. Looking at the roster, four spots are locked up in Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Andrej Meszaros, and Josh Gorges, plus the signing of Andre Benoit to a one way deal likely wraps up the fifth spot on the back end. That leaves Jake McCabe, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, Chad Ruhwedel, and Nikita Zadorov to battle it out in camp for the two or three remaining spots. Zadorov took a seat for a period or two in Traverse City due to a perceived lack of effort and looks set to be on the way back to the OHL for another year of seasoning barring an exceptional camp. While play on the ice will obviously be the major factor in deciding who sticks with the big club, contract flexibility may also pay a factor; a player like Rasmus Ristolainen is still able to be shuttled between Buffalo and Rochester without going through waivers, which makes him a more likely candidate to start in the AHL.

Top Six Forwards- Tim Murray was able to add much more depth to the NHL ranks on July 1, and the majority of that depth comes in the form of top six forwards such as Brian Gionta and the returning Matt Moulson. Those additions, along with the likes of Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford, and Chris Stewart would lead folks to believe the Sabres’ top two forward lines are fairly set. There are still some questions positionally, mainly who will man the middle. Cody Hodgson’s defensive deficiencies have led some to believe he could end up on the wing, while Tyler Ennis saw time at both center and wing last season. With these players seemingly locked into scoring roles barring a trade or injury, it looks like a tough task for anyone, including Sam Reinhart, to break into the group on a permanent basis. Another name who gets lost in the shuffle is Mikhail Grigorenko. The odds are certainly not in his favor for an opening night spot, but he has added 15-20 pounds of muscle and heads into this season in what looks to be a much better frame of mind when compared to last year; I’m pulling for him to put forth a good showing in camp.

Bottom Six Forwards- The Sabres have a ton of bodies looking to fill the final eight roster spots (including healthy scratches). While Zemgus Girgensons is basically a lock to man the middle for the 3rd line and likes of Marcus Foligno, Brian Flynn, and the repatriated Cody McCormick also look to have spots, there are still plenty of questions. Torrey Mitchell barely got on the ice for the team last year before getting hurt, and is thus a bit of an unknown. Nic Deslauriers acquitted himself well in limited duty last year, and Matt Ellis is back in the fold for another year. Add in the now healthy (and sometimes forgotten) Pat Kaleta, new signing Zac Dalpe, Johan Larsson, and new addition Jordan Samuels-Thomas (who played very well in Traverse City) and the competition for the last few spots will be fierce.

Goaltending- For the first time since the early 90’s the Sabres go into the season without a definitive answer in the crease. Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth head into camp as the goaltending tandem for the Blue and Gold, and all indications point toward a scenario where the two are viewed as option 1a and 1b by Ted Nolan. While it is unknown how Nolan will split time in net during the preseason, the two 26 year old netminders will be looking to show that they deserve the nod on opening night. The year may start with the time split relatively even, Nolan will likely not hesitate to go with the hot hand. While the opening night starter is by no means a guarantee to play 55 or 60 games, whoever gets the start will have the first chance to prove himself to the coaches. New goaltending coach Arturs Irbe may also play a role in determining who eventually wins the job. Irbe was considered an undersized goaltender throughout his career and he is now tasked with mentoring the 5’ 10” Enroth and Neuvirth, who is listed at 6’ 1”. Whichever goaltender is able to take to Irbe’s methods quickest may benefit in the form of more playing time.

Could Buffalo be Considered as a World Cup of Hockey Host?

September 15, 2014

The World Cup of Hockey will be returning. After a ten-year absence, the tournament will officially return in 2016. Per Pierre LeBrun’s report, it’s simply a matter of ironing out the final details of the agreement before making a formal announcement.

Re-instituting the World Cup could mean any number of things with some wondering if it means the league is bracing for a divorce from Olympic participation. Further, the timing of the tournament itself will likely fall prior to the regular season, which should ensure full participation of the world’s best players.

One advantage this tournament gives the league is greater control over the product being produced. Hand-picked venues avoid the time zone constraints created by many Olympic host cities (a primary concern regarding the next two Winter Games). The 2004 event saw games played in Toronto, Montreal, St. Paul, Helsinki, Stockholm, Cologne and Prague. Most of those venues also served the 1996 World Cup.

The 2016 event offers the league and the event’s organizers an chance to showcase another group of cities around the world and I have to wonder if Buffalo earns consideration as a host city. Read more…

Finding a solution to First Niagara Center’s blocked signage

August 18, 2014

There have been a few rumors and reports that the Sabres are working to mend things with First Niagara as the construction of HARBORCENTER is leading to the First Niagara Center’s front door to be obscured quite a bit.

The new facility has risen high enough to block a fair portion of the building’s name when looking down Washington Street along with from other vantage points throughout the city. I can’t imagine it’s too big of an issue as the building’s name isn’t going to change and all the in-arena signage will certainly remain, but a fix is in order for the arena’s signage. Quite frankly, I’m surprised they haven’t already taken care of it.

The areas in yellow would be where the new FNC signage could and should go.

The areas in yellow would be where the new FNC signage could and should go.

I understand why First Niagara is upset. They paid a lot of money for the naming rights and now their sign is all but blocked when you look at the arena. What’s silly is that everyone already knows the name of the building and given the size of the arena, we know it’s not going to be dwarfed by many other developments in that area. However, it is still something that needs to be resolved.

With the new construction, using one sign on the front of the upper façade is no longer an option. It’s obscured from most angles and when you have a corporation shelling out as much as First Niagara has, a remedy will be in order. The easiest, and perhaps most logical, solution is to simply adorn either side of the arena with a First Niagara Center sign so that it’s fully visible no matter where you’re looking from.

As the picture above shows, putting up FNC signage on the east and western portions of the oval would provide cars a full view of the arena’s name whether they’re driving on the north or southbound 190 along with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Personally, I think it could be cool to place the signs on the edge of the façade rather than directly on the blue ring (as it is today). But that’s a minor detail. One way or the other, placing signage on those two areas should appease the decision makers at First Niagara nicely. Read more…

The 2ITB Plan for a Bills stadium

August 8, 2014

The Bills sale is going to close before we know it and the focus will shift from who will be purchasing the team to what that new owner plans to do for a new stadium.

More than a few opinions are floating around currently and this week’s Artvoice cover story goes into great detail about a very cool plan for a new stadium in the heart of downtown. It is a phenomenal article written by a pair of stadium experts with the details worked out and planned by a true expert.

I really love the idea of depressing the 190 and eliminating a great deal of the barriers that sever the central business district from the waterfront. My concern is that the costs associated with such a project would ultimately doom this plan, despite its resounding brilliance. There won’t be a better alternative in terms of quality, preparation and vision compared to what Andrew Kulyk, Peter Farrell and the rest of the Artvoice crew came up with.Bills

That being said, I decided to break down and share my own personal pipe dream for a downtown stadium. In a previous post on this site, I alluded to my interest in utilizing the Perry Projects as the site for a new stadium. I love the proximity to Canalside and First Niagara Center along with the opportunity to reinvigorate a district that has been whittled down to a single block of buildings.

This plan is contingent on one major factor: the development of an adequate replacement to the current Perry Projects. If there isn’t a feasible option for relocating the residents of both the towers and two-story apartments, there is no reason to think about a stadium on this site. Ideally the BMHA (whose office near the Perry projects would need to move as well) would be able to take advantage of the countless vacant lots throughout the city to develop a replacement project. Getting funding for this project from the future owner would certainly go a long way in financing the construction of the new units while aiding in gaining approval for such an undertaking.

Assuming that a new home for the Perry Projects is found, the rest of my proposal follows in a fairly simple path. Upon replacing the Perry Projects, I’d see both the currently occupied buildings along with the vacant ones further south demolished to make way for new development. Everything between Chicago and Hamburg St. could be removed and that land would serve as the location of the new stadium. There would be space for new offices for the Bills as well if that was deemed a necessary addition. You’ll notice that I’m leaving out the field house because I feel that the current one serves the team too well to simply be cast aside. Read more…

Food Truck Tuesday Needs more Space

July 30, 2014

Food Truck Tuesday is awesome.

Food Truck Tuesday is awesome.

Food Truck Tuesday is awesome.

Food Truck Tuesday really is awesome. It’s one of the coolest things Buffalo has going on in the summertime. However, it’s quickly outgrown the space it occupies in Larkin Square and I wonder what the result will be if something isn’t done to address the layout of the weekly event.

The sole issue at hand is simply that too many people want to be down in Larkinville to enjoy great food and sunny Tuesday evenings in the summer. But the popularity has resulted in massive crowds that not only create massive lines at many trucks but also a sardine-like experience in every other portion of the square. Next summer’s iteration will need to find some sort of plan to help disperse the crowd. Read more…

Two in the Box is on Fancred

July 23, 2014

Two in the Box has recently become the first verified Sabres account on the sport social networking application, Fancred. You’ll be able to follow along with updates on new posts and the occasional comment or thought from the account. The presence on Fancred ought to work nicely with Facebook and Twitter to help promote more conversation on the topics we’re writing about the Sabres, Bills and other sports.

Signing up for Fancred is simple and it opens up a convenient, informative feed about all your favorite teams and sports. Check out Fancred.com to get signed up today.

Reserving green space and public access to the Outer Harbor is key

July 22, 2014

Things have shaped up over the last few months around Buffalo’s waterfront. Approximately a year removed from a relative low point in construction and planning – punctuated by the removal of Pike Construction from the Aud site – things have hit a definitive upswing.

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has recently taken control of Outer Harbor land and are currently working to identify the proper direction for the property. The public hearings on the land appear to reflect the desire for park space to occupy most, if not all of the ECHDC-held land. As someone who has longed to see true progress along the waterfront in the form of a mixed-use, entertainment district I feel that this seems like a terrific way to go for the Outer Harbor.

If the Outer Harbor was kept as green space that maximized public access thanks to the acres and acres of land, the Inner Harbor and Canalside could be left to grow as the entertainment district it’s been slated to become since the first drafts of the master plan were laid out. A relationship of public access and green space along the Outer Harbor and mixed-use development on the Inner Harbor would not only appease nearly every sector of the public, but would also allow the ECHDC to keep their focus on each topic without being spread thin.

Of course, that means that the Outer Harbor is indeed pegged to become a sterling waterfront park. It seems doubtful that the Outer Harbor is used for a football stadium, residential development or any other sort of large development. This is a space that is already dominated by a number of linked green spaces that could be further enhanced if the space was enhanced further. Read more…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,225 other followers

%d bloggers like this: