Reflecting on the positives after a season of negatives

The 2014-15 Sabres season was strange, bizarre, and everything in between. As a season ticket holder I thought I knew what I was getting myself in to when the team broke camp at the end of September with a roster not exactly built for a long playoff run.

I was so wrong.

As Tim Murray shipped off whatever talent was left on the roster at the trade deadline the tank discussion was ratcheted up to a level previously thought unreachable. The various social media platforms became a veritable cesspool, as the tankers and anti-tankers became more and more entrenched in their beliefs. Columnists decried the goings on at the foot of Washington Street as immoral, while one particularly prescient radio personality knew all along that this was the right path to take; hell, he was so certain he declared himself worthy of being an NHL scout. Even when you thought it was over, the artist formerly known as “Harry Tee” got his 15 minutes of fame (and scorching hot takes).

When last place was finally cemented in Columbus a few weeks ago it put an end to the debates over Tim Murray’s morals and bemoaning Anders Lindback moonlighting as a capable NHL goaltender. In its place was (finally) the opportunity to take stock of the positives that have been overshadowed by being more concerned about Mike Smith’s sudden inability to get in the way of a hockey puck.

Believe it or not, there have been quite a few positives, both noticeable and not so noticeable, that will make the 2015-16 season (and the summer leading up to hit) much more enjoyable than the last six and a half months. Here are a few things that will ease the sting of that McDavid guy going to Edmonton: Continue reading

Vanek at right wing could provide balance

With development camp set to open next week and training camp around the corner, the Buffalo Sabres roster still remains in a state of flux.

The acquisition of Steve Ott and Adam Pardy stripped another center off a roster that was already in need of an upgrade at the position. Although the trade further depleted the Sabres down the middle, it wasn’t as if Darcy Regier was treating getting a number one center with low priority.

In all fairness, acquiring Ott was a great hockey trade. Despite having a need for center depth, Roy was an expendable piece for an organization with an abundance of undersized forwards. With Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis and even Dan Catenacci under contract, the Sabre won’t miss another small forward. While Roy’s departure does create a vacancy, it provides the infusion of size and grit the Sabres had been searching for.

The Sabres could be served well to try Thomas Vanek at right wing.

Losing out on an offensive center is not a good situation for a team that struggled to score in 2011-12, Ott does provide the Sabres with a flexible option. While the goal to acquire a true center is still the ultimate goal for the Sabres, it won’t be the easiest feat to accomplish. In addition to their deep defensive corps, the Sabres are overloaded on the left side at forward.

Ott is one of those left wingers, but he is capable of winning faceoffs and I fully expect to see him on the ice for defensive zone draws on penalty kills and at even strength. If absolutely necessary, Ott could fill a role as Buffalo’s third line center; unlike Ville Leino, he is capable of playing the position.

The true solution, in my opinion, is to keep Ott on the wing to take advantage of his offensive skillset. Yes, he is capable of producing points. The key lies with Thomas Vanek. Continue reading

Sabres culture change continues with acquisition of Ott

The Buffalo Sabres mission to get tougher took another step forward this evening when they acquired Adam Pardy and Steve Ott from the Dallas Stars for Derek Roy.

After opening free agency with John Scott, Darcy Regier made a major decision in parting with Derek Roy, part of the post-Drury core. Not only does Roy’s departure rid the Sabres of one of their undersized forwards, it rids them of a player whose opinion of the coaching staff and organization seemed to have soured.

Ott is obviously the gem of the trade for Buffalo. He is a gritty center who will fit Lindy Ruff’s system beautifully. Ott hovers above the 50% rate in the faceoff circle, likes to hit and once got in Peter Laviolette’s face. What’s not to like?

Whether or not the Sabres win this trade is debatable. They lose a talented, second line center to pick up a grinder and a fringe defenseman. That isn’t an ideal situation for a team who went through long scoring droughts last season. However, for a locker room widely regarded as stale, mentally weak and in need of a shake up, Ott is exactly the type of player you’re looking for. Continue reading