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

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

Roadtrip Recap: Columbus and Nationwide Arena

When I penciled in a trip to Columbus to catch the Sabres-Blue Jackets game I had no idea the implications that night would hold.

At the time I decided to add Nationwide Arena as my next NHL road trip, the Sabres were wallowing through a franchise-record losing streak and April 10 looked like a great chance to see the Sabres in a new building in a cool arena district when the weather was nice. I figured any concerns about 30th place would have been locked up and the game would be easy to enjoy.

Obviously that wasn’t the case, as the Sabres put up a strong fight but ultimately succumbed to the Jackets in regulation, locking up a top two pick for June’s draft. That didn’t make Friday’s game less enjoyable, however. While the final period was nerve racking, I loved the arena district, arena and the atmosphere inside Nationwide Arena.

Our trip to Columbus was enjoyable. I took a road trip to Nashville last spring and took in the sights of the city along with a Predators game. I was very impressed by Bridgestone Arena, Preds fans and the overall atmosphere of the building. Nashville, as a city, is loads of fun and I can’t wait to return. Nationwide landed on my list for this season thanks to its proximity and the potential for a warm-weather game in a different locale than Buffalo. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Continue reading

Two more thoughts for the Sabres to include in the team store

Yesterday’s post on collector edition scarves got my wheels turning on a pair of potential projects that the Sabres could work on for the Sabres Store.

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Pretend like this was made by an actual artist and you’ll get the idea.

The first is one that came up in conversation with TJ Luckman a few weeks ago and the second is an idea that @MattyRenn has been preaching on for quite some time. Both would be entirely unique to the Sabres and both would almost certainly be items that fans would flock to the store to buy.

The first idea centers around a collector series of prints or lithographs of Sabres goal masks. The second, which is wholly and entirely the intellectual property of Matt, would be box sets of DVDs that chronicle great games and players throughout team history. I really love Matt’s idea as it gives so much latitude for the games they would wish to highlight. Continue reading

Sabres delay tank celebration for at least one more day with win over Canes

The merciful end to the nosedive to 30th will have to wait at least one more day as the Sabres edged the Hurricanes 4-3 in the season’s penultimate game at First Niagara Center.

Those who may be tied a little too much into the tank likely lost some hair as the Sabres jumped to a two-goal advantage after the first period and extended their lead to four after the second. Patrick Dwyer woke up the Hurricanes with a tally with just under 2:00 remaining in the middle frame and Carolina would carry that momentum into the third.

Alex Semin scored a beautiful goal just 2:31 into the third and Eric Staal made it mighty interesting with just over five to play. Buffalo managed to buckle down and preserved the one-goal win despite allowing 52 shots and 85 attempts.

Buffalo heads to Columbus on Friday with the magic number for 30th place locked in at two. The Coyotes could do us all a solid and win one more, but I hardly think that’s a realistic possibility. Continue reading

Scarf collection should be the next addition to the Sabres Store

Through the build-up for Dominik Hasek’s jersey retirement, I lobbied hard for the Sabres to provide the fans with a commemorative banner for the game. I also thought it would have been very cool if the organization sold replica banners of the rest of their retired numbers.Scarf8

My recommendations were posted in this space and also brought up to members of the Sabres marketing team who addressed them with hesitation. It’s my belief that they were unsure of the costs associated with producing and selling the banners. As it turns out, they seem to have figured out a way to turn a profit on them as the Sabres Store now sells replica retired number banners and replica championship banners.

This all, of course, was my idea. I didn’t even ask for a commission on it.

Kidding about my utter level of brilliance of million-dollar ideas aside, I was incredibly pleased to see the Sabres take this idea and run with it. At the end of the day this blog is here to create intelligent (I hope) conversation regarding Buffalo sports, Buffalo development and anything else that runs across my mind. If something I pitch is seen as a good idea, I hope to see the powers that be take it and run. That’s why I hope the #ThirdsNotTurds or the game day poster contest gets attention in One Seymour H Knox III Plaza.

So, my next recommendation is for the Sabres to introduce a line of collector-edition scarves. Continue reading