Sabres trade bait powers team past Canucks

With precisely 20 games left on the schedule, the Sabres have worked their way deeper into the divide in the fanbase following a 6-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice, Chris Stewart added a goal and an assist but most are left scratching their heads over where the tank stands and what to make of Buffalo’s recent string of hot play. neuvirth

The Sabres capitalized, once again, on substandard goaltending as Eddie Lack turned in a .783 SV% on a night in which he was only tested 23 times. Tonight’s win marked the third time this season the Sabres managed to shoot better than 20% in a game – the other two coming against San Jose and Calgary. Lack was strong early in the game, getting hung out on an early two-on-one and getting some unwanted assistance from Adam Clendening on Stewart’s breakaway. But he made a few impressive stops, including a dazzling glove save on Cody Hodgson in the second.

The wheels fell off for the Canucks in the third as Andrej Meszaros cleaned up a sloppy no-look pass from Nick Bonino and put the puck through a screen for Buffalo’s third, while Mitchell cleaned up some garbage in front to put the Sabres ahead for good. Brian Flynn’s security marker at 18:28 came after Lack misplayed a loose puck badly and Stewart found Flynn to cash on the empty net. Continue reading

Sabres trades net quality return, though full value is still pending

While most of the return that Darcy Regier received at this year’s deadlines came in the form of draft picks, there were still a trio of trades made that will affect the Sabres moving forward.

The lone disappointment of the deadline might just be that more moves didn’t go down. Simply expecting a complete overhaul of the roster is rather unrealistic, but with players like Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller rumored to be on the block many expected today to end with more than just one player (not counting Regehr and Leopold) sent on to a new team.

Grading the moves isn’t appropriate in many ways because these are moves that have set up for the future. Unlike recent deadlines in which players were brought in to bolster the lineup, 2013 was a year in which the opposite was true. There was no Cody Hodgson acquisition to base an opinion off of, which does make things slightly difficult when considering that a majority of what was acquired may not pay off until this summer at the earliest. Continue reading

Regier makes a deadline splash: acquires Cody Hodgson and a first

Many Sabres fans were sitting in front of their televisions, or on Twitter, waiting for a deal to be made. Surely some were losing patience, thinking Darcy Regier wasn’t going to make a single move.

Just when the fans thought he couldn’t get any worse, he went out and acquired Cody Hodgson. And totally redeemed himself.

Regier made one of his most surprising trade deadline moves over his entire tenure, sending Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver in exchange for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer. It was a trade no one expected to see, but one that ultimately addressed the needs of the hockey team.

Hodgson provides the Sabres with immediate help at center, a position at which they have very little depth. He is a top-ten talent, picked 10th overall in the 2008 draft – three spots ahead of Tyler Myers. Hodgson has a wide skill set and has respectable numbers (16+17) over 63 games this season. Those numbers were put up playing third line minutes behind the likes of Ryan Kesler and the Sedins.

For those who aren’t familiar with Hodgson, he was a major player on the 2009 Canadian junior team that took gold in Ottawa. He has the potential to be a number one center, but certainly qualifies as a 2A at the very least.

Looking at Buffalo’s centers before and after this trade, it is obvious Regier knew he needed to make a move to shore up more top-end talent at center. Hodgson addresses this need today and for the future.

Giving up Zack Kassian is going to be a very tough pill to swallow for a number of Sabres fans. He was drafted with the hopes of providing a gritty, talented winger for the Sabres to ride for years to come. While his physical game seemed to wane on a game-to-game basis, the offensive chops appeared to be growing. However, finding a physical winger who can hit and score is far easier than finding a true talent at center. Continue reading

Deadline Primer: What direction should the Sabres take?

Tomorrow could be a make or break trade deadline for Darcy Regier. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will determine his future with the Sabres; but if he falters at the deadline, there could be ramifications in the summer.

Buffalo’s stance for deadline day has yet to be truly determined. Even by taking three of four points this weekend, and five of six for the week, the Sabres are still clawing to gain ground in the playoff race. There have been some bright spots this season and even as of late. However, there still seems to be far too many question marks surrounding the roster.

Derek Roy seems to be a prime candidate to be traded tomorrow.

Considering that, there should be one stance that Reiger should be taking; retooling his roster to improve the glaring weaknesses that have been revealed this season. While that is the approach that 60% of the NHL’s general managers will take, but the Sabres shouldn’t necessarily be labeled as a buyer/seller this season.

Regier’s stance should have been unwavering ever since December when his team began their slide towards the bottom of the conference. It was obvious that Buffalo needed to get tougher and better down the middle. Their secondary scoring had disappeared, but it wasn’t for lack of personnel. There are players on the roster who appear to be in need of a change of scenery and there are other players who just need to be sold for some return (see: UFAs).

With the Sabres still within shouting distance of a playoff spot, they haven’t dug themselves in as a buyer or seller, necessarily. However, Dave Pagnotta on The Fourth Period radio raised some excellent questions. He first made strong points by saying a number of teams need to realize that their roster is flawed and change is necessary. This was also pumped by Pierre LeBrun who said a handful of teams need to stop looking at the standings and start looking in the mirror. I would certainly count the Sabres among that group.

Another interesting point made by Pagnotta and Dennis Bernstein was that the Sabres shouldn’t be waiting any longer to make their call on Drew Stafford or Derek Roy. They made very cogent points that it is obviously time for change and a message needs to be sent to the locker room that a shift in attitude is necessary. It was actually a terrific show, you should get XM just for NHL Home Ice.

I’m in total agreement that the Sabres should be in a position to sell assets, or at least start the process of recycling talent to upgrade the roster. What is unfortunate is that Buffalo’s success this week will likely keep Darcy Regier from shipping off his tradeable pieces – namely Roy, Stafford and even Paul Gaustad. I expect to see a conservative approach from Regier in the hope that his team is indeed capable of finding a playoff position. Continue reading