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It’s time to consider ugrading the Metro Rail’s look

November 10, 2014

A great deal of time, money and interest is being invested into Main Street in an effort to reverse some of the planning errors of the last 30 years. The decision to return vehicle traffic to the street has already brought new business to many long-vacant storefronts and more is expected to come as the project progresses towards Canalside.

train

Side by side of the rail cars used in Buffalo and the Twin Cities

While securing the funding for the final portions of the project remains the biggest hurdle for the city, I keep wondering if the NFTA missed a major opportunity in recent years when they spent millions on new Metro Rail cars as part of a system-wide update. The new cars came with new technology and an upgraded interior, but the exterior look remained the same as the other dated trains that are used daily.

With so much change coming to downtown, particularly along Main Street where new stations will begin to replace the eyesores from the Metro Rail’s original installation, the NFTA will be front and center. As will their rail cars. Read more…

Fury: The Untold Story of the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres

November 10, 2014

Ok. Not really.

The start of the season has gone about how you might expect it to and there is still a long way to go before the suffering is over. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath and just relax. So I took some time to bring a little levity to the current state of the Sabres. Enjoy:Sabres Tank

Brainstorming an addition to the Alumni Plaza

November 6, 2014

I took the opportunity to write out a number of thoughts I had regarding the exterior of First Niagara Center and the steps the Sabres could take to alter the exterior of their home.

It was a lengthy post that touched on a handful of topics that centered on the bland exterior of the building, the atrium and the visual and architectural relationship between FNC and HarborCenter. In the wake of that post, another idea came to fruition – via another talk over beers with a friend – and an alternative to the water feature in the Alumni Plaza was born.

Imagine this (only better) adorning the wall of the FNC parking garage. Ed note: I'm aware that's not the save I mention in the post.

Imagine this (only better) adorning the wall of the FNC parking garage. Ed note: I’m aware that’s not the save I mention in the post.

The water feature is nothing more than a green space buffer that softens the transition between the Alumni Plaza and the First Niagara Center parking ramp that opens onto Illinois Street. You can see some of that green space in this photo.

I’m of the opinion that the water garden is painfully dated and is bordering on becoming an eye sore simply because that portion of the plaza is so underused and the garden simply exists. What came of my conversation was an idea to better integrate the portion of the Alumni Plaza that sits behind the statue of the French Connection and the bridge between the ramp and arena.

With the assumption that at least one or two more Sabres statues will grace the Alumni Plaza in the near future (see: Hasek, Dominik), why not use that wall of the garage as part of the plaza itself? I’d like to see the wall of the parking ramp that is currently obscured by that garden turned into an interactive mural celebrating Sabres history. Read more…

Revisiting Buffalo’s Lottery competition

November 3, 2014

Even after Sam Reinhart had been selected the collective eyes of Sabres Nation were on the 2015 Draft and Connor McDavid. Even as Tim Murray approached the podium in Philadelphia he had three first round picks in this year’s draft sitting in his back pocket and a ragtag roster with fairly limited potential.

Fast forward beyond July 1 and the first month of the season and not much has changed. The Sabres are bearing headfirst towards the draft lottery, allowing an astronomically high number of shots per game, barely scoring and showing little capacity for carrying out any sort of hockey system.

While I don’t endorse rooting for losses, I fully understand the course this team has been set on and I can accept the decisions based on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I put together a post at the end of June that gave a peek at which teams may or may not compete with the Sabres for 30th place in the NHL and the precious 20% lottery share that comes with a dead last finish. Some of the teams that I expected to nosedive have managed to keep their heads above water while others are surprisingly bad. So I decided to take the opportunity to revisit the teams who could sneak in beneath the Sabres in last place.

The entirely subjective 1-5 (one being the highest) ratings I gave each team were designed to reflect my opinion on where a team would likely finish in the final standings. I made a slight change from “Lottery Threat” to “Lottery Chances” to reflect the influence each team could have on the draft. A team with a one means they have a strong likelihood of picking very high. The opposite, of course, is true of a team with a five. After offseason acquisitions and a month of play, my rankings have undergone a slight change as the NHL landscape has taken shape. Read more…

Pipe Dream: Taking the opportunity to upgrade First Niagara Center’s exterior

October 30, 2014

The fanfare surrounding HARBORCENTER isn’t going to die down soon. Nor should it. This is a phenomenal project that will inject all sorts of money and life into downtown Buffalo. It has the added flair of pissing off Tim Tielman and leaving him pouting in his open air bus, clutching to his construction paper and crayon “alternative”.

Just take a minute to look at that thing and tell me it’s not the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever seen. I can’t tell what’s more hysterical, the fishing huts along Main or the rink on a portion of the DL&W Terminal that isn’t currently a platform suitable for a rink.

Make this a statement, not an afterthought.

Anyway, HARBORCENTER is going to be a boon for downtown, the waterfront, Canalside and the arena district as a whole. It has raised some concern over the First Niagara signage on the arena being obstructed and it has also obstructed a vast majority of First Niagara Center’s atrium. The former point probably isn’t all that important. Nor will it be all that difficult to address. The latter, however, should be addressed in some form or function.

I’ve mentioned before that it would be beneficial to re-skin the atrium as a way to improve the visual connection between HARBORCENTER and the arena. The drop off in height and the drastic difference in architecture makes the adjoining buildings look odd, especially from Main Street. So the idea of a visual upgrade makes sense to me.

However, in between portions of our most recent podcast, Eric (of 3rd Man In) and I got to talking about a few aspects of the arena and how the Sabres may be able to improve on the exterior of the building. Read more…

What To Expect Out Of Jonathan Drouin

October 21, 2014

By Matt Scully

Tampa Bay certainly did not wait long in the 2014-2015 regular season to call up top prospect Jonathan Drouin. Just a couple of weeks into the regular season, the 19-year old is set to make an impact at the NHL level right away. While the hype is real surrounding the forward, just how good can he be from a fantasy hockey perspective in year one?

During the preseason, some thought that Drouin would be ready to play on opening night of the regular season. However, a fractured right thumb held him out of some important training opportunities, so Tampa Bay sent him to Syracuse to begin the season.

At the beginning of his NHL career, Tampa Bay expects to play him regularly. After all, it would be silly for them to call up a promising youngster and place him on the bench instead of allowing him to get reps. He will most likely be on the third line at first, and his playmaking at center or left wing should allow him to contribute in fantasy hockey right away. He is worth taking a risk on, especially if a person is in a keeper league.

Tampa Bay is off to a decent start so far this season, as they stand at 3-1-1 on the year. They feel like they have a chance to be pretty competitive in the Eastern Conference if they are able to stay healthy. Drouin is going to have a chance to make this team a serious threat for the Stanley Cup if he is as good as advertised. The Lightning will not be putting huge expectations on him just yet, but they do think he has a chance to be a franchise type of guy down the road once he gets familiar with this level of play.

 

Calling for commemorative banners for Hasek’s jersey retirement

October 20, 2014

Despite lacking a Stanley Cup Championship, the Sabres have a handful of banners adorning the roof of First Niagara Center. This includes 10 division and conference championship banners (and one President’s Trophy) along with six retired numbers. Dominik Hasek’s number 39 will join the French Connection, Tim Horton, Danny Gare and Pat LaFontaine on January 13.

The Sabres commissioned some very cool one-off merchandise for the LaFontaine retirement and I’d love to see them take the same approach this time. In fact, I think it’s a shame that the Sabres don’t offer a full collection of team banners in the Sabres store.

In addition to pictures and t-shirts, I’d assume the Hasek ceremony will also be accompanied by some sort of replica banner available for purchase. Why not make that final item a permanent addition to the Sabres Store? Why not offer the other six retired numbers as well?

I made a few purchases after Florida State won their third National Championship in January. One purchase was this three-pack of National Championship banners. They’re perfect. A uniform, understated design on a 12×18 felt banner which looks good from a distance and up close. I have them hanging from the ceiling in my basement and hopefully I’ll be able to add another in the near future. I’d love to add a few Sabres versions as well.

While the font isn’t uniform on all six retired number banners, the Sabres could make a killing selling replica 12×18 banners of their retired numbers. They could charge at least $50 for the French Connection pack and upwards of $100 for the entire group. I know I’d pay for them and I’m certain other fans would pay for them as well. Other teams do this and I think it’s a major missed opportunity that the Sabres don’t.

It almost seems foolish that the Sabres don’t do this. They sold tacky “Big John” t-shirts last year and have carried a number of very cool commemorative items in the past. Aud Bricks and the French Connection Statue immediately come to mind. This is a terrific money making opportunity that I’m certain fans would eat up. The Sabres need to be on this. Yesterday.

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