It’s a time of turnover in Hockey Purgatory Heaven with Lindy Ruff getting his walking papers while Jordan Leopold, Jason Pominville and Robyn Regehr each were shipped out of town before the deadline. It appears as if this summer will bring about more change via the trade market for the Sabres as they continue their rebuild.
One key for the Sabres will be finding partners as they search for options to swap out certain players. There have been specific mentions of the need to find more offense from media members in Vancouver, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Nashville. These came from either interviews or game broadcasts on the NHL Network station on XM Radio. Obviously these aren’t confirmed rumors, but the need for more established offensive weapons on certain teams isn’t a difficult conclusion to draw.
Vancouver’s sweep at the hands of the Sharks has many asking if Alain Vigneault will be back for the 2013-14 season after his team again struggled to score in a first round series defeat. The Canucks aren’t short on elite talent. The Sedins’ production has begun to tail off lately but I’d say their struggles to find talent beyond their top line has been a major issue for them. Identifying more scoring help would immediately improve the overall depth of their forward ranks.
A similar situation has been illustrated with the Kings despite the acquisition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last season. The Kings top six is very impressive, yet they were tied to a number of scoring forwards during the year. While the roster is deep, they continue to win close, low-scoring games on the strength of their goaltender and defense. While I don’t see where they would place a top-six forward, I can certainly understand the connection drawn to improve their offensive potency.
The Blues and the Predators immediately spring to mind for me when I think of offensively challenged Western Conference teams. However, the Blues roster would indicate anything but that. Oshie, Schwartz, Berglund, Tarasenko. This list goes on for a while and forms a youthful, talented core which has the potential to be lethal. The Blues just happen to play a measured, defensive style and don’t allow too many shots. Perhaps they need a certain $6m goaltender. But probably not.
The Preds are actually a curious case. They have two big money players (Rinne and Weber) and made moves at the 2012 deadline to find more offense. However the second Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov didn’t do the trick and now they have retooled a bit with the acquisition of Filip Forsberg. Finding another piece to add to their top six would be extremely helpful towards finding more offense for the Preds; especially after missing the playoffs.
There is a market out west for scoring forwards, there is no denying it. Perhaps the e4s and #CONFIRMEDD tweets and blog posts aren’t flying yet, but media members are looking at the teams they cover and are saying they’re in need of offense. Read more…
Perhaps you’ve heard. Ron Rolston was officially named as head coach this morning after what I can only assume was a tiresome, no stone unturned coaching search.
Darcy Regier has tabbed Rolston as the man to lead the Sabres for at least the 2013-14 season as they begin to retool and rebuild a roster that carried the organization to the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft. While Rolston isn’t the sexy choice to fill the role as permanent head coach, he isn’t necessarily the wrong choice – which is what many Sabres fans out there likely believe.
Rolston’s skillset is that of a teacher. He led the USNTDP team for a number of years before coming to the Sabres organization to coach and develop young talent in Rochester. Lindy Ruff’s firing put him in a bad spot as his time as interim coach came with muddled success and a roster that did not meet the standards of a competitive NHL team.
That last point is the one that happy, apathetic and angry fans need to focus on. A flawed roster not only helped lead to the firing of Lindy Ruff, but gave Rolston a weak hand to play during his time as the interim head coach. Rolston was kept on as head coach by the man who made the decisions to build this roster and that man is still in charge. Darcy Regier hasn’t lost his Teflon coating just yet and is preparing to lead a rebuild that will kick into high gear at the draft. Whether or not Regier is the right man for the job is the more pressing question and should be of greater concern than who is going to be behind the bench this season.
The debate over Regier’s effectiveness and whether or not he deserves to still have a job at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza is a lengthy one and is slowly but surely filling towards the negative. Realize that Rolston, who was ultimately chosen by Regier, isn’t necessarily the worst person for this job. Read more…
Something that has been a popular point of contention these past few seasons is the mausoleum-esque atmosphere inside the F’N Center.
I don’t fancy myself to be a game presentation guru, I like to leave that expertise to Eric at 3rd Man In as he has a much better grasp on what it takes to put together a successful game presentation approach. However, I do enjoy spitballing ideas and seeing if they make any sense (this is how I come up with all of my brilliant patent pending ideas.
One thing that I’ve maintained for some time is that the atmosphere in that building does not rest solely on the shoulders of the game presentation staff. While some things they do could certainly be improved, I strongly believe that the fans carry a great deal of the responsibility. Most of the time it seems like the fans are just waiting for something bad to happen so they can jump down Tyler Myers’ throat or boo the players off the ice. Perhaps it is because of their overflowing #hockeyIQ that so many fans act like this. I’m not quite sure. But that’s not the point of this post.
One thing I picked up on this season at the few Sabres games I attended is that there is simply too much going on during pre-game. There’s just too much substance for the fans to pay attention to and, ultimately, to get riled up with. On an individual basis these are all quality ideas. The flag, the kids skating over to the bench doors, pump videos. Each one of these ideas works in their own right. Unfortunately there are too many of these things happening at once for them to have their desired effect. Perhaps, in this case, simpler is better.
What I’d like to see is the team to scale back on a few of these ideas – I’d probably begin by cutting the big flag and I’d probably replace the kid flag bearers too. Basically I’d want to bring the sole focus of the fans on one singular entity. And 350 words later I’ve finally gotten to my main point. Read more…
The defensemen and goaltenders get to share the spotlight in the second portion of my Sabres season grades. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.
Tyler Myers: Oh, where to begin? Myers was downright bad to begin the year before leveling out at midseason. He looked out of shape and lost most of the time and his play suffered for it. Considering the salary he is being paid, his contributions are especially frightening. Before his injury he was only okay and you could certainly say the defensive play was better without him. Yikes. Grade: C-
Christian Ehrhoff: Ehrhoff finished off another strong year in which he remained Buffalo’s best defenseman. He hasn’t blown up the scoresheet like some expected, but his powerplay time has changed from the Sedins to any number of players in blue and gold. Still, there’s a lot to like about Ehrhoff and he will be around for a long time. Grade: A-
Andrej Sekera: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Sekera actually wasn’t bad at all this season. He quietly goes about his business and plays steady hockey. I’m not a huge fan of his but I can’t deny that he has been a solid contributor in his own end all year. Grade: B
Mike Weber: Steve Ott’s arrival may just be the best thing for Weber’s career you could ask for. Weber is beginning to evolve into a leader, plays a gritty nasty game that is almost entirely absent on this roster. His puck skills aren’t very good, but as a defender there is a lot to like. He may still be on the rise for this squad. Grade: B- Read more…
A fired coach, traded captain, booing fans and missing the playoffs typically doesn’t not make for a very successful season. That was certainly the case for the 2013 Buffalo Sabres.
While there were a few bright spots amongst the doom and gloom, the lockout shortened season is certainly one to forget for the Sabres. Before shutting the door completely I wanted to grade out the team and players on how the year played out.
Coaching: It had been rumored that Lindy Ruff’s message had grown stale some time ago. Finally, after a number of listless losses, Ruff was fired after nearly two decades coaching the Sabres. Frankly, it just looked like the team had tuned him out and needed a change. While Ron Rolston arrived and helped to energize the roster, his presence wasn’t enough to lift the Sabres back into playoff contention. Entering the offseason, many are wondering if Rolston will have the “interim” tag removed from his title and command the bench for a full season. Grade: C
Powerplay: It is almost as if the Sabres don’t consider the possibility of an odd-man rush against while on the power play. It also seems likely that trying the same thing over and over again (zone entry) is not the definition of insanity. The power play simply wasn’t good this season and endured a massive dry spell in the thick of Buffalo’s ugliest stretch of losing. They would get an F but they managed to score every now and then. Grade: D+
Penalty Kill: Buffalo decided to run a unique, if not peculiar penalty kill which basically turns into a 1-1-2 in the zone and rotates with the puck. After Ruff’s departure it appeared as if things began to change, but the base of the kill still worked off the 1-1-2 set up seen earlier in the year. I personally didn’t like it as the second forward was rarely in the right position to deny passes across the zone. Grade: C-
Management: A lot was made over the end of the season press conference and other silliness. My focus is on what Darcy Regier did for the hockey team and if he made them better or worse. He traded away two veteran defensemen and his captain and came away with a first round pick, five second round picks, Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett. Overall it was a solid haul for what was given up (Leopold and Regehr) but the pieces acquired really won’t have much impact for at least two more seasons. Add in the firing of Ruff and it was a pretty tough four months for Regier. While he handled himself well I find it hard to see how he still has the reigns for this rebuild. Grade: C Read more…
With the West taken care of I now move along to the Eastern Conference and who will earn the right to play the Penguins in the Conference finals. I don’t necessarily think that the Penguins are guaranteed to cruise to the Cup, but I certainly think they’re one of the easiest choices as a favorite.
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 New York Islanders
All the shuffling at the bottom of the standings found the Isles in eighth when the dust settled and they’re not heading to Pittsburgh for the first round series. The Isles get a raw deal here as they were a few wins away from a much more favorable seed.
Why Pittsburgh will win: You could basically go back and read the reasons for the Blackhawks if you want. They’re first powerplay unit is straight out of an All-Star game: Iginla and Letang on the point with Malkin, Crosby and Neal. That’s insane. This is not a team I’d want to play for seven games.
Why New York will win: The Isles have gotten strong goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov this season and certainly have a few horses that can run with the Penguins. They may not enough horses, but there is some talent on this roster.
Outcome: Penguins in 5 Read more…
I may never recapture the magic of the 2012 2ITB Playoff Predictions. Specifically, the magic of my 5-for-8 first round in which the Blues, Penguins and Bruins fell as teams I chose to advance. Regardless of that fact I will offer my thoughts on each round of the playoffs just as I have in previous years. Beginning with the Western Conference.
#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #8 Minnesota Wild
Minnesota snuck in just ahead of #Lumbus for the eighth spot in the west and their prize is to face the Presidents Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks. Congratulations. Minnesota has a nice little roster and can certainly give teams fits, especially if their guns start firing. However Chicago is about three players short of being an All-Star team and have a pretty impressive makeup for a long playoff run.
Why Chicago will win: Depth and talent. Simply put the Blackhawks have one of the most impressive rosters I’ve seen this side of my NHL 99 team that had Steve Yzerman playing in a third line role. When you have players like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on your second line, you have a very impressive roster. There is a reason the Hawks rattled off that “unbeaten” streak earlier in the year. Their fans just have to hope that magic is still in the room.
Why Minnesota will win: The Wild, on paper, have the edge in goal. I think there could be some contention in Chicago over whether Ray Emery or Corey Crawford should start (especially if one of them falters). Nik Backstrom is a great keeper and could definitely give the Hawks headaches if he stands on his head. Minnesota will need to avoid certain matchups to fully take advantage of the talent they have as compared to the near limitless depth of the Blackhawks. Read more…