2015 2ITB End of Season Awards

The 2014-15 season was like no other in Sabres history as Buffalo’s rebuild plunged the team into another last place season as they pushed to secure the right to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Media narratives on tanking and the need to pick first piled on game after game of poorly played hockey by a patchwork roster led by a lame duck coach. The season was capped by the Edmonton Oilers snatching the first overall pick with the Sabres guaranteed to slot in second in the draft order.

Such an odd season cannot be served by any run-of-the-mill awards post. So the fourth-annual 2ITB Awards will take on a slightly different look this year as we reflect back on a headache inducing run towards the end of the rebuild.

Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Toews – Toews heroics in the final minutes of Chicago’s 4-3 win erased an improbably Buffalo lead and snatched away a regulation win that would have brought the Sabres two points closer to 29th place. As it turns out, Captain Serious’ tallies were much needed as Buffalo didn’t ensure last place until the second last game of the year and the lottery results would have pushed them out of the second pick.

Least Valuable Player: Andre Benoit – I’m not sure there was any one player on the roster who was as consistently disappointing as Benoit was. He scored a nice shorthanded goal in a drubbing by the Red Wings but was generally bad the entire year. He certainly contributed to the tank but was a complete albatross in every other situation.

Best Prospect: Mark Pysyk – Pysyk has been a good solider for the Sabres since he was drafted. Tim Murray knew that the best place for Pysyk this year was likely to be Rochester despite Pysyk’s ability to excel at the NHL level. He’s poised to be a major piece of the puzzle in the near future and if his health issues clear up I think he’ll wind up playing a top-four role next year. Continue reading

It’s time for the Sabres to address their rafters

The summer is expected to bring changes to One Seymour H Knox III Plaza both on the ice and off. Tim Murray will not only be ushering in the second overall pick in the draft – which is all but assured to be Jack Eichel – along with a number of other acquisitions which are expected to improve the on-ice product.

Away from the ice, improvements to the arena will be on their way again as First Niagara Center continues to get updates as its 20th birthday approaches. One area of the arena that I think needs immediate attention is the rafters. Particularly the items hanging from the rafters.

Presently the Sabres have seven retired numbers, ten Sabres championship banners, two banners in memory of the Knoxes, six banners commemorating the Bandits retired numbers and championships and then four “Gold Ring Sponsor” banners. That’s the extent of what hangs from the FNC rafters (aside from the US and Canadian flags) and I’d like to see the Sabres organization address this aspect of the in-arena experience.

First off, the Sabres banners look horrible. They’re separated by a large gap and there are at least three different fonts used on the seven banners. The French Connection and Tim Horton banners are obviously made with a different font than Gare, LaFontaine or Hasek’s and it appears as if the Hasek banner has a slightly different number font than the others as well.

Additionally, the Hasek banner itself is a different size than the rest. It appears to be the same width but the break to the pointed end is lower than that of the neighboring banners. Combining that poor measurement with the varying fonts – and potentially colors – cries out for the team to revisit and re-hang the banners with a uniform look.

Finding a new location for them, hopefully somewhere in the rafters that isn’t interrupted by a spotlight stand, would provide the ability to order them properly as well. The large gap between Gare and LaFontaine’s banners look ridiculous and I’d rather see the team decide to abandon that spotlight location in order to provide a better layout for their retired numbers. Continue reading

Sabres Banners, Revisited

As you may remember, I lobbied hard for the Sabres to produce a line of replica banners commemorating both their retired numbers and championship seasons. They listened and both lines can be found at the Sabres Store at this moment. IMG_0858

While I knew that Dominik Hasek’s banner was the only guarantee this past winter, I took matters into my own hands as it pertained to the rest of Buffalo’s retired numbers. I contacted Thomas Lutz of Primetime Banners on Etsy regarding a custom set of banners.

After some preliminary talks and design plans, Thomas produced a full set of retired number banners along with a French Connection banner to hang above Robert, Martin and Perreault’s banners in my basement.

Just last night I repositioned and rehung the banners with a rod along the back to ensure a bit more rigidity for the entire collection. That made me realize I hadn’t followed up on this group of banners and I wanted to share how they turned out. They’re bigger in size than the versions offered at the arena but they also highlight the work Tom is capable of pulling off.IMG_0859

He can make anything you want. He just recently said he was working on a set of Buffalo Bandits banners for a customer and I’m certain that he could cook up any player or team banner you would want adorning the walls of your man cave or office.

You can reach Thomas at thomas.lutz21@gmail.com or through his Etsy shop. Forgive the picture quality. The lighting in my basement is less than ideal.

Reflecting on the positives after a season of negatives

The 2014-15 Sabres season was strange, bizarre, and everything in between. As a season ticket holder I thought I knew what I was getting myself in to when the team broke camp at the end of September with a roster not exactly built for a long playoff run.

I was so wrong.

As Tim Murray shipped off whatever talent was left on the roster at the trade deadline the tank discussion was ratcheted up to a level previously thought unreachable. The various social media platforms became a veritable cesspool, as the tankers and anti-tankers became more and more entrenched in their beliefs. Columnists decried the goings on at the foot of Washington Street as immoral, while one particularly prescient radio personality knew all along that this was the right path to take; hell, he was so certain he declared himself worthy of being an NHL scout. Even when you thought it was over, the artist formerly known as “Harry Tee” got his 15 minutes of fame (and scorching hot takes).

When last place was finally cemented in Columbus a few weeks ago it put an end to the debates over Tim Murray’s morals and bemoaning Anders Lindback moonlighting as a capable NHL goaltender. In its place was (finally) the opportunity to take stock of the positives that have been overshadowed by being more concerned about Mike Smith’s sudden inability to get in the way of a hockey puck.

Believe it or not, there have been quite a few positives, both noticeable and not so noticeable, that will make the 2015-16 season (and the summer leading up to hit) much more enjoyable than the last six and a half months. Here are a few things that will ease the sting of that McDavid guy going to Edmonton: Continue reading

I Like Eich

The Sabres may not have won the draft lottery, but they certainly didn’t lose anything. Edmonton will pick first (again) much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone who doesn’t live in Edmonton proper, but that’s okay.

I Like Eich.

The Sabres will more than likely be adding Jack Eichel to their teeming pool of prospects to top off the rebuild that was set in place by Darcy Regier two years earlier. Eichel will join the likes of Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov to form one of the most promising young cores in the league.

Many Sabres fans may be upset with not getting McDavid and while that’s understandable, this season wasn’t really about getting McDavid – despite what you may have taken from Tim Murray’s comments – it was about ensuring they would be guaranteed a generational player and that player is Eichel.

To celebrate the coming of Buffalo’s new prize, I put together a little poster project for your enjoyment. Like the other “posters” I’ve created, these aren’t actually poster sized but simply a fun graphic that can be used at your discretion. I’ve also included two phone background versions below the main version if you wish to adorn your lock screen with the I Like Eich campaign poster.

Enjoy and Go Sabres.

Jack Eichel Sabres

iPhone background

Jack Eichel Sabres iphone wallpaper

Galaxy background

Jack Eichel Sabres Galaxy wallpaper

Finding a fit for the Broadway Auditorium

It’s easy to say that Buffalo has more than enough hockey rinks (we do). There are far too many youth programs and, for the most part, higher level teams are watered down because of this. However, there is a building on Buffalo’s near East Side that would serve brilliantly as a mid-sized hockey venue.

The Broadway Auditorium was originally built as an armory in the 1800s and was eventually expanded to its current size to accommodate for parade grounds and later, sporting events. This write-up from The Daily Public does a great job highlighting the tremendous sporting history of the Broadway Aud and making a case for the grand building to survive Byron Brown’s recent call to replace it.

Brown’s plan for replacing the structure isn’t without merit, as it would take an aging structure that lost a great deal of its beauty in recent years and replace it with a mixed-use development that would help towards the revitalization of the near East Side. The project would also help to better connect downtown to the East Side as other projects in recent years have.

In fact, McGuire Development is planning to fill in one of the city’s countless surface lots with a mixed-use development that’s just a mid-iron away from the Broadway Aud. The area around the property is picking up lately and rather than see a relic of Buffalo’s sporting past go the way of the landfill, why not find a way to revitalize it for the better?

One idea that was brought up to me in conversation was to build it out as an OHL-sized arena. The Aud previously held boxing matches – Joe Louis fought here – hockey games and many other sporting events. It’s a very good-sized building and has that old barn feel that’s been long forgotten with new rink construction. Continue reading