Time to relax for the tank stretch run

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Sabres are in a position to be drafting at the top of one of the richest draft classes since 2003.

Of all the tired Buffalo sports narratives in recent memory, the argument over the tank is making a strong run for the worst of them all. There’s been mudslinging from various members of the media, the fanbase is at odds over whether the team should be trying to win or pushing for the basement – how there are people who are against getting Connor McDavid is beyond me – and every night brings a new round of hand wringing from some contingent of fans.

The Sabres recent run of “good” play has seen them grab four points in their last four games despite being outshot and outplayed badly. This “surge” in the standing has brought them within three points of the Arizona Coyotes and four points of the Edmonton Oilers. It should be noted that the Sabres remain in 30th in the NHL standings heading into this weekend’s back-to-back games.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this entire twisted journey called the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres season is that there are so many people freaking out over things that are out of their control. Of course, all of this is out of all of our control, but for the sake of argument, consider anything related to the Sabres as something the fans and media controls.

The Sabres are bad. Historically bad. In fact, they’re worse in nearly every facet of the game compared to last year’s 30th place, historically bad team. Here’s a chart from Travis Yost from February 4th, the date the Sabres officially became the most outshot team in the analytics era.

Take a long look at that chart, even if you hate analytics. The green and red lines are last year’s Sabres and Leafs teams, both horrendously bad in terms of puck possession. That ugly black line is this year’s Sabres team. That’s how terrible the Sabres are. Continue reading

Might the Sabres be in line for their own prospect tournament?

News broke yesterday that Buffalo won’t be returning to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament after three previous appearances.

The news is slightly disappointing as the Traverse City Tournament is a terrific showcase for a team’s prospects and allows management to see their youngsters in more game situations than they’d typically get during camp and free agency. However, the tournament isn’t exactly close and there isn’t any enormous overarching benefit of shipping a busload of prospects up to the upper reaches of Michigan.

Ideally, the Sabres would take the opportunity to remove themselves from the annual event and host a similar tournament in Buffalo, utilizing HarborCenter as ground zero for the games. As John Vogl added today, it would appear that is already in the works.

With Vogl noting that the Sabres already have eyes on using HabrorCenter and First Niagara Center as the hub for such a tournament tells me that this is probably closer to fruition than we may already know. It makes too much sense for the Sabres not to do it. Continue reading

Sabres should take charge with custom player t-shirts

The Sabres store can be very hit or miss when it comes to some of the merchandise they offer. Some of it is simply not to my taste while certain items can’t be to anyone’s taste.

As I was discussing the Thirds Not Turds contest with a few people on Twitter last week, friend of the blog @MattyRenn brought up a very intriguing idea which would provide fans with a customization option that would go beyond the typical jersey purchase.

Matt’s idea calls for each team, specifically the Sabres, to provide a service that allows fans to order custom player t-shirts from various points in team history. As a team with a plethora of previous jersey designs, it would allow fans to get a shirt featuring their favorite Sabre along with their favorite Sabres logo and color scheme.

Imagine having the freedom to choose from any player and Sabres logo in team history for your next Sabres Store purchase.

It’s truly a brilliant idea. The team could charge a premium for the service – I imagine upwards of $35 or $40 per shirt – while giving fans the ability to pick and choose who winds up on their shirsey. It would be particularly effective in seasons like this one when barely any players inspire confidence and so many fans are looking to the future or past for good feelings about their favorite team.

This would be easy enough to carry out. The easiest way would be a basic order form where you select the logo from the era you wish to sport and then provide the player name and number you’d prefer. An interactive web forum could pare down the options to either a custom entry or specific players who wore those particular colors. I like the latter idea for continuity reasons and because it keeps the team’s history nicely in line.

If the team really wanted to get creative, some sort of computer workstation in the store could serve as the custom shirsey headquarters where you can see your order on the screen, not unlike the custom jersey generator on the NHL site.

Either way, this is a terrific idea for bringing in revenue from fans who like to hearken back to the black and red goathead jerseys, or the red butter knives thirds. Perhaps someone wants an Afinogenov slug shirt. Who knows? All of those personalities would be served by this idea. It’s foolproof. Dare I say, even the Sabres couldn’t screw it up. Continue reading

Enter the #ThirdsNotTurds contest and help design a new Sabres alternate

Few things have received such little support around Sabres nation than the Turd Jersey. From the agonizing reveal process to the busy, over thought design, there are no redeeming qualities to the Sabres current third jersey. Now the Basement Brigade is teaming up to give the fans more of a voice when it comes to the team’s alternate uniform design.

Can you believe how ugly this thing is? – Steve Ott, probably.

Through some discussion with Ryan Wolfe from Sabres Hockey Central, we cooked up a scheme to allow designers, bloggers, fans or anyone else to submit their own design for the Sabres third jersey which we will then open voting for down the line. The rules and regulations can be found at Die By The Blade but the long and the short of it is this:

  • Submissions should be sent to sabresconcept@gmail.com
  • Submissions will be accepted until March 23
  • Voting will be open for two weeks after all the submissions have been compiled
  • You can use #ThirdsNotTurds to submit or converse via Twitter

Ryan put it very well, saying that the goal is to give the fans a voice when it comes to the design of the third jersey. Given all the talent that exists around Buffalo (and beyond) we’re certain that we’ll get some very cool submissions. Hopefully, with the proper support, we can show the Sabres that there are better options than a gold and blue two-toned caped jersey. Here’s Ryan on the subject:

For the past few years, we have been told that the Buffalo Sabres organization wants to hear our opinion. The organization wants to know what we want to see. Let’s show them what we want. Send your design for a new Buffalo Sabres third jersey to sabresconcept@gmail.com. After we obtain the entries, a vote will be held, and we’ll do our best to make sure it gets out to as many eyes as possible. The winner gets the instant gratification that Buffalo Sabres fans want to see their design come to real life.

Continue reading

Murray active in second deadline season

The 2014-15 trade deadline was much different for Tim Murray than the 2013-14 deadline when he was just a few months into his new job.

Entering last year’s deadline, Murray was tasked with finding a home for pending UFA goaltender Ryan Miller, pending UFA Steve Ott along with other pieces. Most notably, Matt Moulson, who was also set to enter free agency. deadline

Last year’s deadline saw Murray make four separate deals and acquire a total of six players and four draft picks. He also claimed Cory Conacher on waivers on deadline day. Murray was not facing the same steep challenge at this year’s deadline. He did not have a franchise talent like Miller to deal, while sporting three pending UFAs who held varying levels of average value. The deadline closed with the Sabres having made four trades (again) while acquiring a goaltender, a prospect and four picks.

You certainly can’t give Murray a strong grade for this year’s deadline alone. None of the four deals he made were blockbusters and he wasn’t dealing from a position of power like in 2014. However, looking at the big picture, Murray has positioned himself very well to take the next big step in the rebuild of the Sabres franchise. Continue reading

Sabres Deadline Live Blog

It’s been an interesting deadline season thus far. Plenty of deals have gone down in the weeks leading up to today’s deadline and the Sabres really led the way in that department, sending Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and Jhonas Enroth away in pre-deadline deals.

I’ll use this space to track the moves made by the Sabres along with offering up a few quick thoughts on each move.

Buffalo acquires a 2016 5th Round pick from Montreal for Brian FlynnFlynnFlynn is an RFA, so it’s plausible to assume that Tim Murray wasn’t planning on qualifying him this summer. He’s a very serviceable player and I saw him as a nice fourth line forward once the roster rounded out. He does a good job on the penalty kill and has begun to show some offensive upside in the right situation.

Ultimately, Flynn was signed by the previous regime as a college free agent and simply may not be a player Tim Murray saw as a long-term part of his plans. If that’s the case, then by all means try to get as much return for him as possible. It’s still a questionable decision since they’re only getting a 2016 5th, but as a depth player who will be restricted this summer, there’s not much more to ask for.

Buffalo acquires Chad Johnson and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick for Michal Neuvirth

NeuvyThe prayers of the most ardent tank fans have been answered with this deal. Tim Murray saw the goaltender he acquired at last year’s deadline enjoy a fair resurgence over the past few weeks and leveraged his play for an additional asset in the 2016 draft. The Sabres already own the Islanders first and second round picks in the 2015 draft and now own four total picks in the third round of next year’s draft. This was solid return for a goaltender who about a month ago looked as if he was unmovable thanks, in large part, to a lengthy losing streak. This was very much a move for the Sabres’ tank as the Sabres have seen the Coyotes sell off nearly every asset they had in an attempt to nosedive to the league basement.

Johnson hasn’t been great this year as Jaro Halak’s backup and now joins Anders Lindback in what is easily the most unstable goaltending duo in the league. Johnson comes in with a 3.08 GAA to complement Lindback’s 3.71. Tank on.

Buffalo acquires 2017 2nd round pick from Minnesota for Chris Stewart

StewartCertainly not the return originally expected for Stewart as there were rumors that Tim Murray was requesting as much as a top prospect in exchange for Stewart. In the long run it will probably look like Murray waited a little too long to deal Stewart but landing a second round pick, as far in the future as it may be, is better than taking less than the original asking price. Further, the Sabres already owned Minnesota’s 2016 2nd (which they used to acquire Josh Gorges), so Murray did a good job getting a more valuable pick.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Murray’s thought process on acquiring this pick is to provide himself more ammunition for next year’s deadline and future trade offers. As the Sabres sit in a position to really hit the gas on their rebuild, having additional picks to swap is a very good position to be in.

Buffalo acquires Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick from Montreal for Torrey Mitchell

Mitchell

This has been a top secret deal (for some reason) since it was announced. Turns out the Sabres grabbed a prospect who has done nothing of substance at the professional and a very late pick in 2016 for Mitchell. This was simply maximizing return for an expiring deal while also pushing another veteran out the door and Murray certainly did that. If Nevins actually plays for the Sabres, I’d be shocked. But, they got an actual body for a player who would typically be pretty worthless in any other scenario.

I’ll have a full recap up on today’s happenings soon.

Sabres trade bait powers team past Canucks

With precisely 20 games left on the schedule, the Sabres have worked their way deeper into the divide in the fanbase following a 6-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice, Chris Stewart added a goal and an assist but most are left scratching their heads over where the tank stands and what to make of Buffalo’s recent string of hot play. neuvirth

The Sabres capitalized, once again, on substandard goaltending as Eddie Lack turned in a .783 SV% on a night in which he was only tested 23 times. Tonight’s win marked the third time this season the Sabres managed to shoot better than 20% in a game – the other two coming against San Jose and Calgary. Lack was strong early in the game, getting hung out on an early two-on-one and getting some unwanted assistance from Adam Clendening on Stewart’s breakaway. But he made a few impressive stops, including a dazzling glove save on Cody Hodgson in the second.

The wheels fell off for the Canucks in the third as Andrej Meszaros cleaned up a sloppy no-look pass from Nick Bonino and put the puck through a screen for Buffalo’s third, while Mitchell cleaned up some garbage in front to put the Sabres ahead for good. Brian Flynn’s security marker at 18:28 came after Lack misplayed a loose puck badly and Stewart found Flynn to cash on the empty net. Continue reading