A Canada-Team North America Summit Series would be a Gift to the Hockey World

There’s a hint of irony that the orange color used on the Team North America jerseys is referred to as solar red given the team’s supernova-like short but brilliant run at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

What could have been.

Team North America’s stay may have been but they made a lasting impact due, in large part, to their thrilling final game against Team Sweden. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s a terrific oral history of that game written by Craig Custance on The Athletic. It’s a terrific retelling of their final game, the wire-to-wire banger against Sweden and a wonderful reminder of how much fun they added to the tournament.

Despite topping the top team in their group, North America failed to advance to the knockout round of the tournament due to a 4-3 loss to Team Russia that featured nearly as much action as the win over Sweden.

Unfortunately, that loss to Russia deprived the hockey world of any more hockey from the U-23 squad. Including a semi-final matchup with Team Canada. Continue reading

North American Young Stars World Cup of Hockey Roster Projection

The long wait for the World Cup of Hockey’s return is almost over and I can’t wait to see the event back on the ice next fall.

There is some contention over the choice to include a pair of teams who aren’t connected to any one country. The European All Stars, made up of players from countries not named Sweden, Finland, Russia or the Czech Republic, and the North American Young Stars teams will allow the league to showcase more star talent in the short tournament. The two teams have drawn the ire of some, particularly the Young Stars team which will pull American and Canadian players under the age of 23.

While Team Europe’s melting pot roster will be star-studded, the team isn’t pulling talent from other nations participating in the tournament. The same cannot be said of the North American Young Stars who will likely wind up with three or four players who would have otherwise suited up for the Americans alone.

I, for one, love the idea of the Young Stars team. As this isn’t the Olympics and there still doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer for the structure and schedule of the tournament, there’s no reason not to introduce a new wrinkle or two to help put more star power into the games. Each time the Olympics come around there’s discussion over how good a second Canadian squad would be. This practice isn’t far off from giving the Canadians another entry, there just happens to be a few Americans sprinkled in. Continue reading

Fans plunge FNC into bizarro world in Coyotes OT win

Someone had to win this game. Someone had to come out of the ridiculous atmosphere in First Niagara Center with a pair of points in the standings. Arizona came away with an OT victory and moved one point further away from the Sabres in the league basement.

But the result is hardly the most interesting part of tonight’s game. In fact, Buffalo getting another point in their cushion in the race for McDavid and Eichel isn’t even the most interesting thing to come out of tonight. Buffalo, on home ice, were actively cheered against for the better part of 30 minutes as they tried to battle back against the Coyotes.

Things didn’t get really bizarre until well into the second period. Even after Jordan Szwarz gave Arizona an early lead, most of the building seemed torn on how they should act. But after Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Moss scored to give the Coyotes the lead, everyone seemed to know what was at stake.

From there, fans gave overwhelming support to Mike Smith and the Coyotes. The fans would boo Arizona penalties and even booed when Brian Gionta scored to tie the game late in the third. When Smith made a desperation stop on Zach Bogosian in the dying minutes, you would have thought it was Dominik Hasek turning aside Trent Klatt. Continue reading

The best of the Sabres tank narrative

We’ve reached new levels of stupid when it comes to the Sabres 2014-15 regular season. The Sabres have inched closer to 29th place over the last few weeks despite holding the last spot in the NHL while continuing their largely inept play on the ice.

As we approach the two biggest games of the year as it pertains to the hopes of securing the best chance to draft Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, those who are both pro- and anti-tank continue to make some very curious points or arguments related to their cause.

Honestly.

I wrote something last night in an attempt to ease some of the tension related to the Sabres run of points over the past week and the inexplicable play of Anders Lindback. I thought I’d add to my thoughts on the tank and all of the ridiculous arguments and opinions related to it today with a slightly more easy-going post that highlights the most ridiculous statements I’ve heard or read as it relates to the Sabres rebuild, the tank and the potential to maybe finish 29th instead of 30th. Continue reading

Time to relax for the tank stretch run

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Sabres are in a position to be drafting at the top of one of the richest draft classes since 2003.

Of all the tired Buffalo sports narratives in recent memory, the argument over the tank is making a strong run for the worst of them all. There’s been mudslinging from various members of the media, the fanbase is at odds over whether the team should be trying to win or pushing for the basement – how there are people who are against getting Connor McDavid is beyond me – and every night brings a new round of hand wringing from some contingent of fans.

The Sabres recent run of “good” play has seen them grab four points in their last four games despite being outshot and outplayed badly. This “surge” in the standing has brought them within three points of the Arizona Coyotes and four points of the Edmonton Oilers. It should be noted that the Sabres remain in 30th in the NHL standings heading into this weekend’s back-to-back games.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this entire twisted journey called the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres season is that there are so many people freaking out over things that are out of their control. Of course, all of this is out of all of our control, but for the sake of argument, consider anything related to the Sabres as something the fans and media controls.

The Sabres are bad. Historically bad. In fact, they’re worse in nearly every facet of the game compared to last year’s 30th place, historically bad team. Here’s a chart from Travis Yost from February 4th, the date the Sabres officially became the most outshot team in the analytics era.

Take a long look at that chart, even if you hate analytics. The green and red lines are last year’s Sabres and Leafs teams, both horrendously bad in terms of puck possession. That ugly black line is this year’s Sabres team. That’s how terrible the Sabres are. Continue reading

Special Edition Instigator Podcast: CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Eric and I spend a little time during intermission at the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects game to chat about this guy Connor McDavid and some of the other draft eligible players on the ice in St. Catharines.

How the Sabres’ Prospects Fared at 2015 WJC’s

Every year the World Junior Championships is used by top NHL prospects as a showcase to prove to scouts that they are either worthy of a 1st round pick, deserve that first pro contract, or maybe a first shot in the show. As we are now three days removed from Canada’s triumph in the gold medal game the final sprint to June 26 in Sunrise is now underway. As evidenced by ISS’s January Top 30, scouts place a premium on performance (or lack thereof) at the World Juniors.

Sabres fans enduring the three-way battle royale for 30th place this season can take solace in the results from this year’s tournament, as many of their current prospects helped their cause, while some names they may have interest in come June also performed well. Here’s a look at how current Sabres farmhands fared in Toronto and Montreal, as well as how some 2015 draft eligible players helped or hurt themselves. Continue reading