Buyout appears to be the best option for Hodgson

Cody Hodgson’s drastic regression over the course of last season brought the possibility of a buyout into the equation as early as the halfway point of the year.

Tim Murray reiterated that this week in a conversation with WGR 550, noting that Hodgson is a potential buyout candidate. While he didn’t definitively say if a buyout was coming the writing appears to be on the wall despite the strides Hodgson is taking in Sweden to improve his skating.

The question fans are now debating is whether or not it makes sense to use a buyout on Hodgson and his $4.25m cap hit. Hodgson’s down statistical year, tumble down the depth chart and general struggles in the skating and defensive departments make for a long road back for the former 10th overall pick. His advanced stats – as noted by Coller in the above post – were so dismal that even when deployed with better linemates, you have to wonder how much room for improvement there may be. Continue reading

Who is the Next Captain of the Sabres?

The Sabres have a bunch of questions that need to at least begin to be addressed this offseason and next season. While everyone focuses on the draft and who is going to put the puck in the net for last year’s worst offensive team, many have forgotten that the Sabres are (once again) without a captain.

There are a couple basic things that I believe the organization should (or should not) do when considering who will be the next person to wear the “C”.

First (and most important) is that the next captain must come from in-house. The cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to naming a player who was just acquired as the captain. The most obvious issue is that it places undue pressure on the new player. No matter the age or experience of a player, when someone is traded to a new team, or signs with a new team as a free agent, they want to make a good first impression. On top of trying to fit in with new teammates and a new system on the ice, the player is faced with trying to acclimate to a new city off the ice. Throw in moving a family and all that comes with it into a new town and the player is juggling all he can handle.

Another concern is that naming a player that is new to the team as a captain is an indictment of the leadership qualities (or lack thereof) of your current roster. By giving the captaincy to a newly acquired player you’re basically telling the 23 guys on your roster, “I don’t think any of you are capable enough or ready enough to assume responsibility for this team.” Given the state of the Sabres’ roster, I’d advise against doing that. Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: 2013 report card

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.

Team

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 Continue reading

More chances, more goals and more losses

There isn’t all that much to sum up with the Buffalo Sabres at this point. Another game, another night allowing four goals and yet another loss. This is the same broken record that’s been playing for this entire 1-6-1 stretch.

Due to injuries, Adam Pardy made his Sabres debut and Lindy Ruff also chose to get Jhonas Enroth some action although the result on the scoreboard and from those in front of the goaltender didn’t differ. A few key faceoff losses hurt the team, as did continued struggles from the special teams units.

The point will be made by many that this is only 10 games worth of hockey. Others will argue that the season is almost a quarter of the way through. Regardless of which side you stand on, the glaring shortcomings on the Buffalo roster cannot be ignored. Even if it is too early to make a rash decision or trade, there needs to be some sort of remedy found for what ails this team.

There were certainly Ryan Miller detractors all over Sabres Nation claiming that he was once again letting his team down and getting paid far too much money after his last few games. He was, in fact, quite average in his last couple of starts and that shouldn’t be ignored. However, after seeing another four-goal outing with a different goaltender in net, I’d hope that the lightbulb would go on for many of those fans who only see Miller as an overpaid, overrated goaltender.

The Sabres simply cannot defend. Even when the defense corps plays a sound game – which you could technically define tonight as – the forwards are invisible defensively. Not to point the finger at one player, but Cody Hodgson was not only wandering in the corner on the penalty kill that led to Erik Karlsson’s goal but he also made a crucial error on the play that led to Daniel Alfredsson’s goal in the first period. Continue reading

Burning questions as season looms

With training camps across the NHL set to open by this Saturday, at the earliest, the Sabres will be bringing in plenty of familiar faces to be evaluated for the 48 games that will be played in 2013.

Unlike a traditional training camp and preseason, this abbreviated version will keep the position battles to a minimum and many roster spots will go to the usual suspects. This is particularly good news for some veterans who may have otherwise had to claw for a spot on the 23-man roster and this also eliminates the ability for youngsters to make a statement as to if they belong in Buffalo for the duration of the season.

With every team in a similar situation, there is bound to be a league-wide struggle with chemistry. The teams that will be successful will be those who adapt and overcome any issues they have once the season gets going. The biggest struggle, outside of chemistry and fitness, will be those teams that hit any sort of losing streak. With a shortened schedule against conference foes, wins and losses will be magnified and any streak will be magnified that much more.

As the Sabres look to take advantage of the shortened season and build on an interesting offseason, here are a few questions that will likely have an impact on the season. Continue reading

Amerks (Sabres) Season Preview: Forward thinking

Looking around the hockey world, there are plenty of players getting bumped off rosters due to the influx of skaters and goaltenders previously slated for the NHL. The effect will be felt across Europe and particularly at the AHL level.

While individual AHL teams will benefit from skaters on entry-level deals making their way down to the developmental league, the players who would have typically battled for one of the final roster spots are likely destined for other locations.

Rochester serves as a perfect example of this as a few tryout players and summer free agent signings have suddenly found themselves on a roster with a lot more talent than originally expected.

Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson were each expected to be in Buffalo to start the season with Luke Adam, Kevin Porter, Nick Tarnasky and Corey Tropp were all expected to at least push for a roster spot with the big club. Now, those six join 14 other forwards who now face a much more daunting task in making the AHL club.

Those who are most affected by the infusion of talent are; Riley Boychuk, Maxime Legault, Jonathan Parker, Frederick Roy and Jamie Wise. Boychuk and Parker each saw time in the ECHL last year, while Legault has stuck with the organization on AHL contracts over the past few years. Roy and Wise each made a positive impression at development camp, but are behind far more skaters than they would have been after their camp performances earlier in the summer. Continue reading

Sabres Development Camp: Day one recap

With day one of Development Camp in the books, it is quite clear that the Sabres have some impressive skill throughout their prospect ranks.

The prospect group has been broken into a blue and gold squad, with a few more veterans on the gold side and some more explosive talent on the blue team. Based on my schedule, I will only be able to catch the first session for Monday and Tuesday but be present for the entire time on Wednesday and Thursday.

Today’s first group was the blue team’s prospects that included Joel Armia, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko. The blue team is certainly full of more of the high-octane talent on the Development roster as compared to those with more NHL and AHL games played on the gold team.

The blue team is loaded with the top prospects from each of the last three NHL drafts. In addition to Armia, Girgensons and Grigorenko, the blue squad boasts Mark Pysyk, Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb.

As for the gold team, Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson and Corey Tropp will anchor the team in terms of talent up front while Dan Catenacci, Brian Flynn, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Matt MacKenzie and Kevin Sundher all are players who signed with the Sabres in the past year.

Monday’s first session ran through a number of basic puck movement and flow drills with a few drills with a bit more of battle included. A majority of the ice time was devoted to full ice, transition drills that lead to equal (2-on-2) and odd-man (2-on-1 and 3-on-2) rushes. Most of the drills were straight forward enough that each players’ talent level was on display each rush down the ice. I would expect the next two days will start infusing a bit more systematic hockey as compared to simple rush drills. Continue reading