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

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

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.

Continue reading

Sabres vs. Flyers breakdown

The Sabres and Flyers get their series started tonight and many members of the media see this as one of the most even series of the entire first round. I’m not so confident in the Sabres ability to get past Philly. I certainly believe that they have the tools capable of pulling the upset. Of course, there is a reason the Philly was the second best team in the NHL for most of the season.

Why buffalo will win:

Ryan Miller. He has vastly improved his play from the beginning of the year. I feel that a great deal of that has to do with his workload and his health. He has played his best hockey since Jhonas Enroth has come up from Portland. If his extra rest has given him an edge then the Sabres will be in good shape. Continue reading

Pat Kaleta HITS Foundation Golf Tourney

Patrick Kaleta’s HITS Foundation is pleased to announce its 1st annual golf tournament to be held Sunday, August 8 2010 at Holland Hills Country Club (10438 Holland Glenwood Rd. Holland, NY 14080).

Registration for this event is going on right now. It is slated to be a shotgun start at noon and will play in a four-man scramble format. There are still openings for golfers of all skill levels. The cost is $500 per foursome which will include 18 holes of golf, lunch, dinner, and drinks. To register for this event, please visit http://www.hitsfoundation.org or email cw.hitsfoundation@gmail.com for further information. All proceeds will directly benefit the HITS Foundation.

The HITS Foundation (Helping Individuals To Smile) has been recently established to provide opportunities within the Western New York community for children and adults to participate in activities that otherwise would not be available to them. In doing this they are aiming to elevate the participants’ quality of life.

For more information, contact Chris Wasik at: cw.hitsfoundation@gmail.com or visit the HITS Foundation website.