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Miller’s new Blues mask isn’t a miss, but it’s not a hit either

March 20, 2014

Wearing the same mask design for 10 years isn’t easy in today’s NHL. Most goalies switch their mask art each year with some even switching in-season. That’s what helped make Ryan Miller’s Buffalo mask so iconic and what will make getting used to his new Blues mask so difficult.

A legion of Sabres fans spent their formative years with Miller working his way up from Rochester to the face of the franchise is short order. Along for the ride was his red and black era Buffalo inspired mask that was painted by his longtime mask artist, Ray Bishop. The only thing that changed over the years were minor alterations or additions that was finally retired in this form.

Photo courtesy of Bishop Designs Facebook page

Miller’s new St. Louis mask is different. Really different. It draws from Curtis Joseph’s old trumpets mask which would up serving as motivation for the Blues organization to include trumpets in their logo. So the pedigree was strong. I don’t think the overall look of the mask translates as well as Joseph’s did, however. Read more…

Sabres could benefit from proposed changes to the draft lottery

March 18, 2014

Even before Darcy Regier uttered the word suffering at his press conference last year, the Sabres were embarking on a rebuilding effort that would see many of their established veterans traded for futures that include prospects and picks in the coming drafts.

Regier likely expected to be in the exact spot that Tim Murray find himself in now; without Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson (via Thomas Vanek) and Steve Ott while possessing a bevy of draft picks in the top 60 of the next two drafts. He also most certainly knew his team would be picking quite high in one or perhaps both of the drafts as he set the organization on the path they’re on now. Exactly how deliberate the on-ice results that followed were is up for debate, but it would seem as if Regier and Murray both knew the Sabres would be picking at the top of this June’s draft with a strong likelihood of repeating the feat in 2015.

That’s why the news that the NHL is considering to make a significant change to the draft lottery, ahead of what’s expected to be one of the deepest first rounds in years, is likely startling to many Sabres fans. It falls in line with so many “because it’s Buffalo” moments as those who follow the team and were expecting to have a chance to purchase a Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel jersey in a few years may be watching another fan base with envy. Read more…

Sabres deadline solidifies foundation for rebuild

March 6, 2014

It may have taken a late flurry, but Tim Murray put his stamp on the organization with a firm, aggressive series of trades around the 2014 trade deadline.

A look at the players that have come and gone since the start of the 13-14 season.

A look at the players and picks that have come and gone since the start of the 13-14 season. I consider a lateral move one that saw the Sabres acquire and flip a player for additional assets.

He got started early by sending Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis on Friday and threw his hat in the ring with one of the earlier trades on Wednesday. Murray shipped Brayden McNabb, two second round picks and Jonathan Parker to Los Angeles for Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers.

Murray’s punctuated his first deadline with two 11th hour deals involving three of this pending UFAs that ensured previous investments would continue to pay dividends. After finding a dance partner to take Matt Moulson (and Cody McCormick), Murray managed to flip Jaroslav Halak for a younger goaltender with term.

It was a productive deadline that provides the framework for the way Murray will shape the roster through the 2014 and 15 drafts. Two drafts that will see the Sabres make four (possibly five) first round selections. Read more…

Where are the Sabres picks?

March 5, 2014

Tim Murray was awfully busy in the past week starting on Friday when he moved Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis. That started the ball rolling for Murray’s first trade deadline as a general manager and when the dust settled the Sabres had made four moves involving 15 players and prospects and seven draft picks.

Things may have gotten particularly cloudy with the draft picks as the Sabres not only shipped out three on Wednesday, but have also acquired quite a few over the next few seasons in trades dating back to last year’s swap with Minnesota. A number of these picks are also controlled by various trade conditions that could drastically change the landscape of what the Sabres own in the 2014 draft and beyond.

For example, should the Islanders choose to keep their first round selection in this year’s draft – a condition that stipulates the pick must be in the top-10 – the pick will transfer to the 2015 draft. Should that occur the Sabres will own three first round selections (barring any trades) in what is expected to be a deep first round.

The Sabres could also score an extra pick in this year’s first round if the Blues reach the conference finals or choose to re-sign Ryan Miller prior to the draft. Given that the Blues were knocked out in the second round last year, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that is a possibility. However, if the Sabres are to receive that pick, the Blues will get Buffalo’s third round selection in 2014 along with the second round pick Buffalo obtained in the Jason Pominville trade last year. If the Blues miss the conference finals and happen to re-sign Miller after the draft, Buffalo winds up with St. Louis’ 2016 second round pick.

Confused yet? In order to provide some clarity on the situation, here’s a graphic on what picks the Sabres own and what picks have been moved.

Feel free to point out any errors.

Feel free to point out any errors.

Gone but not forgotten

March 3, 2014

The Word document for this post sat blank for quite some time. Probably because it’s still difficult to put to words exactly what I’m feeling regarding Ryan Miller’s departure.

Miller’s departure was something I was prepared for and expecting dating back to last year’s deadline. It was clear that the Sabres were moving in the direction of a full rebuild and a 33 year-old goaltender typically isn’t a major part of those practices. Having a full calendar year to consider his landing spot and prepare emotionally probably made Friday – and yesterday for that matter – much easier to stomach. Read more…

LaFontaine resignation shouldn’t alter team’s direction

March 2, 2014

Only the Sabres could find a way to overshadow the news that they had traded their franchise goaltender.

News of Pat LaFontaine’s resignation came less than 24 hours after Ryan Miller and Steve Ott had been traded to St. Louis and managed to throw Sabres Nation into a tizzy. As the news broke fans and media alike scrambled to find an explanation for the decision with the Sabres’ news conference earlier today offering little clarity on the proceedings.

Ted Black confirming that LaFontaine’s departure was known for a few days prior Friday’s trade indicates that whatever discord existed had been brewing for some time. Exactly what the genesis of the divorce was is what’s being so hotly speculated.

Some indicate that LaFontaine was lobbying for retaining Miller and trying to re-sign him with the decision to trade him leading him to step down. Others are jumping to the conclusion that LaFontaine was leaned on to resign or else be fired by those in management. It’s also being suggested that perhaps Tim Murray isn’t planning on extending Ted Nolan and that LaFontaine was going down with Nolan and the ship. Read more…

Things to keep in mind as the deadline approaches

February 28, 2014

Two games and five days separate the Sabres from the trade deadline and just about every player on the roster that carries some sort of value has been mentioned in at least one trade rumor over the past few days.

What is known is that Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott are at the top of Tim Murray’s to-trade list. They’re all pending free agents and are expected to fetch a hefty return on the open market. Henrik Tallinder, Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff and Drew Stafford have each been mentioned along the way and with silly season in full swing it’s important to know your facts.

It’s always good to be fully informed, so make sure you know the contract and cap situations for any team you think the Sabres may be dealing with. You’ll also find additional information on Cap Recapture Penalties and how much salary can be retained by teams. For example, the Sabres can still retain one more contract in a trade. They can retain up to 50% of a deal and it will likely be that of Ryan Miller’s. So, when someone says Miller can’t go somewhere because the team is  against the cap, you’ll know that the Sabres can hold onto half of his deal along with taking salary back to help grease the wheels.

Another good source of information is Hockey’s Future. The Sabres are going to be dealing for picks and prospects, check out each team’s prospect pool to figure out who would be names to chase. Elite Prospects and The Hockey News are also good sources of source material.

Lastly, use reputable sources. Otherwise, don’t go to Hockey Buzz. The Fourth Period offers awesome rumor reports and breakdowns and never oversteps their bounds when reporting a rumor. In fact, they were early on the reports that Dan Girardi would be signing and he signed his deal while I was writing this. The Hockey News also has a solid rumor section and even TSN offers a rumor round up, of sorts, on a daily basis.

If you’re scrolling through Twitter, each of the mentioned sites has their own feed and reporters like Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie are always preferable over users with two Rs or two Ys in their name. You can usually count on anonymous sources for little more than barstool fodder and very little real information. Stick to the primary sources and you’ll get solid reports in a timely manner.

This is certainly a working list and I would have much rather written it in more of a survival guide format since that’s much more fun. But, use this as a guide for this year’s deadline and be prepared for at least three more days of rampant speculation before the trades start hitting.

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