Expansion Rules will Create Crisis for some GMs

With news breaking this week that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the structure for  a future expansion draft, the maneuvering and preparations across the league can begin in earnest.

Reaching an agreement on no movement and no trade clauses was among the most important unanswered questions surrounding the way teams will form their protected lists. With the potential for an expansion draft taking place as early as next summer, the need for that determination was obviously important.

One position that will get plenty of focus will be between the pipes. As there is only one option for protecting goaltenders, there is a near guarantee that a pair of solid goaltenders are headed to Vegas should a draft take place next summer.

The requirement that no movement clauses must be protected could put pressure on a number of general managers to make a move this summer – or prior to next year’s deadline – to ensure they aren’t losing a goaltending asset for nothing. Continue reading

Trading Ryan Miller: Who will be looking to buy?

This will serve as the second portion to a post that I put up last week on the prospects of trading Ryan Miller

After exploring which teams may or may not make Ryan Miller’s no-trade list, I wanted to take things a step further and determine which teams may serve as suitors for the netminder. By doing so I wanted to determine which teams would have little interest in him as well.

As is well-known, Miller’s no-trade clause allows him to veto a trade to eight different teams. This may end up being a list that significantly handcuffs Darcy Regier but it could also serve as a list that does indeed limit options, but doesn’t prevent Regeir from effectively doing his job.

I decided to include the 11 different teams which Miller may veto a trade to on this list. I wanted to provide a comprehensive collection of the direction I’d assume each NHL club to take if approached about Ryan Miller.

Count the Rangers (Lundqvist) and Penguins (MAF) in a group of teams who would not provide themselves with a significant upgrade in acquiring Miller. Boston (Rask), Nashville (Rinne), Los Angeles (Quick), Vancouver (Schneider), Montreal (Price) and Detroit (Howard) are also on this list. Each of those seven teams have determined their goaltender of the future (and present) and wouldn’t provide their team with any sort of significant upgrade by bringing Miller into the fold.

There is another large group of teams who have a solid netminder and fall in the middle of the road when I consider potential suitors. They probably all lean closer to a no than a yes and here’s why: Continue reading

NHL risking oversaturation with more outdoor games

With news breaking that the 2013-14 schedule may have upwards of four outdoor games, my wheels again began to turn at the thought of the diminishing spectacle that is outdoor hockey.

The lockout prevented the 2013 Winter Classic from occurring but the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will meet on New Year’s Day 2014 to make up for their missed appointment this past January. In addition, rumors have indicated that the Canucks will play host to the Heritage Classic with additional whispers of a Kings and Ducks showdown at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodger Stadium game is expected to occur on Hockey Day in America and would potentially serve as a doubleheader with another outdoor game played at Yankee Stadium featuring the Rangers. The latter three games have yet to be confirmed, but it would appear that they’re going to be part of the plans for the 2013-14 season.

While I think the Hockey Day in America doubleheader could make for some cool television, I fear that by the time those two games roll around no one will care much for the outdoor product. As it stands now, the Winter Classic makes for a fun game to watch in the elements even though the on-ice product isn’t always up to snuff. Scheduling a pair of games to come after the Winter and Heritage Classic could seriously cheapen what has otherwise become a very cool product.

I wrote this last year about the potential for watering down what these outdoor games mean. I fear that oversaturating the market will change these from unique spectacles to just another blip on the NHL radar. Continue reading

Double Minors: Miller stands tall, Sabres take two from Anaheim

Even after losing two of their larger, tougher players, the Buffalo Sabres had plenty of grit left in the tank for last night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

AHL call-up, Corey Tropp, had yet another respectable scrap and brought plenty of jam along with him from Rochester. Tropp has been mighty impressive in each re-call he has had this season, I’d expect him to be a mainstay on the roster from this point forward. Mike Weber and Robyn Regehr each dropped the gloves while Pat Kaleta and Tyler Myers were right in the middle of a liney at the horn. Who says this team will miss Paul Gaustad?

In all seriousness, Buffalo showed some serious heart in the toughness department. They didn’t have the one player who typically brought the most sandpaper to the lineup. It is something that will need to be found in the near future. I don’t think the league’s smallest team will succeed well in the playoffs. That being said, Tropp and Kaleta certainly showed that they have enough jam to insert on the front end, while guys like Weber and Regehr play with plenty of edge defensively. So long as that aspect isn’t ignored by those players, the loss of Guastad and Kassian won’t be as noticeable.

Ryan Miller certainly proved his play elevates when he is motivated. Whether it was because he was heading home to this or because he is still pissed about losing his buddy and best defensive forward, Miller’s game was on yet again. He turned aside 43 shots for the shutout victory. According to Ian Ott of the Sabres, that is a franchise record for saves in a shutout.

Buffalo heads up the coast to San Jose for today’s game. It will be another late start in Buffalo but the game represents two more pivotal points. While the massive road losing skid in December and January is one defining moment of this season, this road trip could be what turns the year around.

  • Cody Hodgson had an impressive debut for the Sabres. He created a few chances and had a couple of his own. The goals will certainly come for the young pivot. I enjoy seeing him play with Tyler Ennis, I assume the two have some sort of relationship from their time on the Canadian WJC roster. I hoe that Hodgson is able to continue creating offensively as he did tonight. I was certainly impressed with what I saw. I also liked that he got time in every situation. It was pretty clear that he didn’t understand Buffalo’s penalty kill rotation just yet, but that will come. Keep getting him big minutes, that is key.
  • One night overreaction regarding Hodgson: the Sabres are a better team with him in the lineup vs. Zack Kassian. Realistic interpretation: Hodgson’s skillset benefits the needs of the Sabres better than the skillset Kassian brings to the table.
  • Once again, Ryan Miller was phenomenal. He has been strong since January 1 and simply stellar since January 24. He is finally healthy and has raised his game to a new level.
  • Mike Weber and Tyler Myers can go take some boxing lessons this summer. They’re two big-bodied defensemen, it would be nice if they had the ability to fight and not get totally rag dolled.
  • On the Myers fight, I truly hope that is a turning point for his physical game. Lindy Ruff’s postgame press conference referenced the fact that the Sabres need him to find that physical aspect and truly utilize it. He is still quite young, so he is likely still feeling his way out and finding the right way to use his size and reach. I’m just saying it would be nice for that mean streak to come out in a big way.
  • Derek Roy has played some pretty good hockey as of late. In fact, he almost looks like the type of center the Sabres need on their top line. I don’t feel that he is the long-term answer for where they want to go, but if he can keep this play up, the team is better for it.
  • Lastly, the Sabres have a combined four shots in the two third periods they played against Anaheim this season. That is not a good number. Buffalo were outshot a combined 31-4 in the third period of their two games against Anaheim this season. The bend don’t break mentality of Lindy Ruff’s “system” is infuriating to me. As was proven in the loss to the Rangers, hoping to ride out a one or two-goal lead is no way to succeed in the NHL.

Game Summary/Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Hodgson in spotlight for debut

It sounds as if Lindy Ruff plans on using Cody Hodgson on a line with Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis. Keep in mind that is the plan. Lindy Ruff isn’t afraid to shuffle his lines and he certainly isn’t afraid to shuffle them after a few minutes.

For the record, I would have placed Hodgson on a line with Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek while bumping Derek Roy to more of a checking role. There is still a chance to see those type of lines as early as the second period tonight.

I have high hopes for what Hodgson will bring to the table. He is a skilled center who should pay dividends to a team desperate for offense. I don’t expect to see Alexander Sulzer in the lineup any time soon. Perhaps he will see time here and there, but the Sabres’ top six have been playing strong hockey as of late. On the bright side, if he goes in the lineup, he would probably mesh well with fellow German Olympic teammate Christian Ehrhoff.

Getting Hodgson and Sulzer out to the west coast last night certainly isn’t ideal. It would have been nice to have him skate with his new teammates yesterday, but I doubt that Hodgson will have too much trouble adjusting to the new locker room.

Don’t forget, this is a game between two teams scrapping to find their way to the playoffs. Each team is in desperate need of points and should show quite a high level of compete to get a pair this evening. The Sabres need to come out flying, the Ducks are a big squad who should be able to push the Sabres around.

Highlighted Matchup

Cody Hodgson. Obviously everyone wants to see how the new face will fare with the Sabres. Last year’s deadline acquisition, Brad Boyes, paid immediate dividends. If Hodgson has a similar impact right off the bat, he would be an excellent addition for the Sabres.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

ANA: Jonas Hiller

Last Meeting

Sabres 4 – Ducks 1, Helsinki, 10/7/2011

Double Minors: Sabres 4 – Ducks 1

The Sabres started the season off with a convincing 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks in Helsinki. Thomas Vanek scored twice on the power play and Ryan Miller made 29 saves for Buffalo.

Buffalo’s big guns were active early as Vanek and Ville Leino scored in the first period and Jason Pominville and Vanek tallied in the second. Miller was tested late, turning aside 23 shots in the second and third period after facing only six in the first. The Sabres special teams were especially effective as Buffalo killed off all five penalties and converted two of four power play chances.

There were a few hiccups as the game progressed. The Sabres coasted through the third period after building a 4-1 lead through two periods. They didn’t register a shot in the final stanza and spent a great deal of time short handed. They face Los Angeles tomorrow after the Kings came back to top the Rangers 3-2 in overtime.

  • Christian Ehrhoff’s contribution to the power play was immediate. He assisted on Vanek’s second goal of the game after making a strong move down the boards. His presence on the top unit will be a major benefit for the Sabres all season.
  • Ryan Miller had an outstanding performance. He had an easy first period but was up to the task in the second and third. He made several sparkling saves and certainly earned his third-star status.
  • If Leino and Vanek can get hot early it will be of benefit to everyone involved. Vanek’s line accounted for three goals and eight points today. Leino only tallied once, but looked smooth as a centerman, he won just under 50% of his draws, a number that will go up with more repetition.
  • The Robyn Regehr and Tyler Myers paring will be absolutely miserable to play against. Regehr has a serious mean streak and it is clear that it will rub off on Myers – someone who showed his nasty streak in the playoffs. Myers was third in ice time (23:00) and Regehr will log equal minutes if he stays out of the penalty box (4 PIM).
  • This team needs to learn to keep the pedal down. It is only one game, I’m well aware. But the way the Sabres shut it down in the third period is somewhat disconcerting. They lost a big lead in game six against Philly and it cost them the series. They need to learn that you press on the throat when your heel is on it, not let up.

Three Stars

  1. Thomas Vanek: 2G + 1A, 9SOG
  2. Jason Pominville: 1G + 2A
  3. Ryan Miller: 29 saves – 30 shots, .967 SV%

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Ducks

The Buffalo Sabres finally drop the puck on the 2011-12 NHL season this afternoon when as they take on the Anaheim Ducks as part of the 2011 NHL Premiere. The Morning Skate will go full format for the regular season, the scaled-back TMS used for the preseason is due to the swollen rosters and lack of stats.

Buffalo has a tough draw for the Premiere compared to some past match ups. They will play two of the favorites to emerge from the West between Anaheim today and Los Angeles tomorrow. A slow start won’t be accepted well in Buffalo and these two games will offer a barometer to see what you should expect from the Sabres this season.

The powerplay came along well towards the end of the preseason and the lines appear to have gelled quite well. How they will fare in a regular season game is the unknown factor, but the look of three solid scoring lines should instill confidence in Sabres fans.

Highlighted match up

The toughest match up for the Sabres will be how to neutralize the Ducks top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. All three are tough, nasty players who can score goals at ease. Expect to see Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr see quite a bit of time against this line with Paul Gaustad’s line also checking the big guns. If the Sabres can shut down these three they will likely have success in today’s game.

Projected goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 2010-11: 66 GP, 34-22-8, 2.59 GAA, .916 SV%

ANA: Jonas Hiller 2010-11: 49 GP, 26-16-3, 2.56 GAA, .924 SV%

Last meeting 12/21/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 5 – Ducks 2

Expect both teams to play with a lot of energy, they have had plenty of time to adjust to the time change and will be amped to get the season started. Anaheim will have the crowd on their side as Teemu Selanne returns home alongside Saku Koivu. Ville Leino is Buffalo’s lone Finn and he doesn’t have the star power of the other two, so expect a pro-Ducks crowd. The Sabres will need a quick start to build confidence with the new roster and potentially win some fans to their cause. Expect special teams to play a huge role in this game as both teams try to establish some footing on a new season.

2ITB NHL preview: The West

Since it is a yearly occurrence for the West to have 13 teams in the playoff race and two team at least 20 points out of eighth, I struggled to find a good balance of picks this season. I made a bold choice with the Kings last year. While I don’t have them coming out of the West, I have made a similarly bold statement

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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round one recap

To say the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs were highly entertaining would be a massive understatement.

Half of the series went to a game seven and three of the four deciding games were spectacular. The one exception was the 5-2 drubbing the Flyers put on the Sabres. The other four series were equally entertaining. I would say the Caps 4-1 triumph and Detroit’s sweep of the Desert Dogs were the only ho-hum parts of the first round.

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals defeat #8 New York Rangers 4-1

I had the Caps winning in five, which really is no great stretch of a prediction. This could have shaped up to be a much different series had Marian Gaborik not gift-wrapped the game four overtime goal for Jason Chimera. The Capitals improved defense was strong as was Michael Neuvirth. Washington scored timely goals and Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t enough to counter the superior match up. Turning point: Marian Gaborik’s gaffe leads to OT winning goal to give Washington a 3-1 series lead. MVP: Michael Neuvirth – 4-1, 1.38 GAA, .946 SV% Continue reading

2ITB first-round predictions

After going just about o’fer on my regular season predictions, here is a look at who I think will advance in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.

East

1. Washington Capitals vs. 8. New York Rangers

This is an interesting series. If Ryan Callahan was healthy and the Rangers had better scoring depth they could really give the Caps a run. However, they don’t have those two things. The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist and block a lot of shots. It ends there. The Caps play good defense and can score in bunches. Their goaltending is quite suspect but Alex Ovechkin has been heating up over the last half of the season. Plus, Jason Arnott and Scott Hannan were two fantastic acquisitions by George McPhee. Caps in five.

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