Haul from Vanek trade continues to grow

Tim Murray may have inherited a clunker of a roster from Darcy Regier, but the organization still had good bones despite the kamikaze job Regier did on the roster prior to his departure.

One of Regier’s final acts continues to bear fruit for the Sabres as the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders may serve as a major catalyst for Buffalo’s rebuild. Murray brought this full-circle by re-sigining Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick yesterday. By doing so, he brought back a pair of players he sold off as rentals at last year’s deadline and virtually saved any currency he spent in building for the future.

Moulson and McCormick return to Buffalo after being shipped off for a pair of second round picks and Torrey Mitchell at the deadline. Mitchell is still with the club and the two second round picks were turned into Josh Gorges, Eric Cornel and Brycen Martin – the latter two through this year’s draft. Gorges, Cornel and Martin all factor into a bigger picture that still includes Moulson and New York’s first and second round picks in the 2015 draft. It’s an impressive haul that could technically grow more should Cornel or Martin be used in a future transaction. For now, the original trade has become seven assets that are set to directly impact the team in 2014-15 and beyond.


There’s no longer room for a traditional enforcer on Sabres roster

Merely mention John Scott’s name amongst Sabres fans and you’re sure to get a divisive response. The hulking enforcer has managed to win over or alienate his fair share of Sabres fans over the past 44 games.

He enters tonight’s contest with Philly with 44 games played in Buffalo, 102 PIMs, zero points and one significant suspension as a result of a check to the head. Oh, and he’s a -6. Scott’s effectiveness on the ice has never really been in question. He is a big huge dude who is paid to keep the peace, not score goals.

Scott was deemed a necessary addition after the lack of response surrounding the Miller/Lucic incident signified a need for more toughness in the Buffalo locker room. So Darcy Regier went out and found the one guy who was capable of fighting anyone.  A 6’8” behemoth who had fought 22 times (according to HockeyFights.com) in four previous NHL seasons.

He was to be Buffalo’s great nuclear deterrent. The man who could stand up for his teammates, handle himself against each and every NHL heavyweight and the one player who would best instill a notion of confidence in his teammates.

The one problem is that the nuclear deterrent doesn’t seem to carry the clout that he was expected. The limited ice time that Scott receives means that he’s rarely available when duty calls and when he is dropping the gloves, it’s typically with another fighter who fits in the ICBM category.

The issue with Scott isn’t all that complicated. First, he isn’t the greatest hockey player out there, which limits his ice time. Because he doesn’t get much ice time he’s rarely available to fight. Because he’s rarely available to fight would indicate that he’s not much use to the Sabres. Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: Role Players

Next on the report card list are role players and a few re-calls from Rochester.

Patrick Kaleta – B-

Kaleta had another rough and tumble season in which he dealt with injuries and suspensions. He was effective playing his gritty style, although the offense wasn’t where it was a few seasons ago when he was an ideal third line grinder.

As an RFA, I wonder if Kaleta could be on his way out the door. At some point Darcy Regier will probably start trimming a few dollars here and there to keep his top six at an elite level. Many teams do this in one way or another. While Kaleta fills a valuable spot, he could be deemed expendable.

For what it’s worth, Kaleta would be very difficult to replace. He had another great year blocking shots and being very defensively responsible. Those types of forwards are tough to come by, which could be a primary reason Kaleta is back for next season.

Cody McCormick – C-

McCormick’s chance at building on a terrific 2010-11 was derailed by concussion issues. While he did a nice job as an enforcer and filling a fourth line role, his sporadic play (due to injury) kept him from producing offensively. He only had one goal this season and when paying over one million dollars for a fighter/grinder, you need more production than that. Continue reading

Tropp recall keeps sandpaper in Sabres’ lineup

With Cody McCormick out for tonight’s game against New Jersey – and potentially more games depending on the severity of his injury – the Sabres recalled Corey Tropp from Rochester.

This was the easy choice for Darcy Regier to make. Tropp had a fine showing in his first four NHL contests and even managed to find the score sheet with a goal and an assist in his first call up. Many fans were clamoring for Zack Kassian to be the replacement for McCormick, but Tropp was the right call.

Considering there isn’t much information out there regarding McCormick’s injury, it is impossible to speculate how much time he will miss. For all we know, he will be back on the wing for Friday’s game. Worst case is that he misses extended time and the Sabres are without their primary tough guy. Obviously the biggest issue that would impact is the expected response from the Sabres when the Bruins roll into town next Wednesday. While Tropp isn’t afraid to drop his gloves, he is not the fighter that McCormick is. Continue reading

Where does Hecht go in the lineup?

There are a few facts and a few delusions floating around the First Niagara Center right now. The fact is the Sabres were very impressive in their first two wins during the NHL Premiere series in Helsinki and Berlin last weekend. Some of the delusions are that this team will be virtually unstoppable as the season progresses.

The Sabres are not going 82-0, sorry. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good bet to finish high in the East, or even to snag the Northeast Division crown. However, there are some overzealous fans out there with expectations that are far too lofty.

One factor that could seriously change the fortunes of the Sabres will be the return of Jochen Hecht. I am going to leave out the two extremes – he provides an even greater spark or sends the team down the abyss – but it is safe to say that his return to the lineup will disrupt the status quo.

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Buffalo Sabres season preview: Wingin’ it

Thomas Vanek is a prime candidate to be the Sabres' next captain.

This is part four in a series previewing the Buffalo Sabres 2011-12 season. Part four focuses on the wingers. Read the previous three entries here.

Darcy Regier has a knack for acquiring wingers. It probably has a lot to do with the league-wide overabundance at the position. Still, the Sabres have a stockpile of talented wingers entering training camp this week.

There are eight openings available and at least ten players vying for a spot on the opening night roster. Based on the salary figures – the Sabres are still $3.5 million over the cap – the projected depth chart is fairly easy to lay out. There are a handful of players who a prime trade candidates, but without anything more than vague rumors it is unfair to speculate who will be part of the organization in a few weeks.

Although the top four wingers are likely locks, the remaining four positions are up for grabs, so to speak. Due to contract structure, intangibles and production; Tyler Ennis, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek are all likely to be safe from a trade or demotion to Rochester.

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