Strong return for Vanek trade despite surprising timing

Darcy Regier may not do well constructing teams or awarding contracts, but he’s often proven to be adept on the trade market. He did well in selling off a major piece yesterday when he sent Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders.

Getting a first and a second round pick along with Matt Moulson is a damn fine return of a single player whose been widely rumored to be heading to Minnesota once free agency opens this summer. In fact, I’d say that the return for Vanek surpasses that of what Regier got for Pominville at last year’s trade deadline.

Regier also likely extended his lease on the General Manager position for at least a few more months. There’s a good chance that the fan discontent and media chatter has helped to turn up the heat on Regier’s tenure. Pulling an impressive trade for his team’s best player – particularly for a pair of impressive draft picks – will most certainly give him a stay of execution.

Trading Vanek was beyond inevitable as the Sabres’ dreadful start likely sealed his decision to depart Buffalo. He said as much in his first session with the New York media indicating that the type of rebuild the Sabres have embarked upon is far from an ideal situation for the pending free agent.

 

Hopefully there aren’t many Sabres fans who read too far into Vanek’s comments from earlier today as disdain for the team or area but simply as the desire to get out of a bad situation professionally. Continue reading

Pump the brakes on the Vanek to New Jersey talk

The Devils are in trouble. They’re in big trouble.

A year after Zach Parise left town the team has seen David Clarkson and now Ilya Kovalchuk bolt for greener pastures as the organization is suddenly looking like a quickly sinking ship as entrenched veterans continue to jump ship.

With Kovalchuk’s sudden departure the Devils are now left with Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe as their top two scoring wingers on a roster that is starting to look devoid of much talent. All this shuffling has gotten Sabres fans talking about a potential trade partner for the services of Thomas Vanek. However, they’re forgetting that the Devils don’t have very much to offer in exchange for the talented sniper.

New Jersey does not have a deep prospect pool by any stretch. They have some young, budding stars in Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson in addition to a great center in Travis Zajac. However, they’re without their first round pick next year (as a penalty for Kovalchuk’s contract), spent a first on Stefan Matteau last season and shipped their first rounder for Corey Schneider at the draft this season.

While there is some significant talent on their NHL roster – and some defensive value in their pipeline – I don’t think there’s any way the Sabres are able to swing a trade with the Devils. Reason being, the Devils won’t have anything to offer. Continue reading

The Instigator 2.8 – Cool Draft

Eric and I got together once again for an Instigator Podcast. In this episode we discuss the Sabres decisions at the draft table, the Andrej Sekera trade and whether or not Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek will be on the team next season. As always, we close things with plus/minus.

Have a listen and feel free to share feedback:

Sabres have trade chips on the wings

It’s a time of turnover in Hockey Purgatory Heaven with Lindy Ruff getting his walking papers while Jordan Leopold, Jason Pominville and Robyn Regehr each were shipped out of town before the deadline. It appears as if this summer will bring about more change via the trade market for the Sabres as they continue their rebuild.

One key for the Sabres will be finding partners as they search for options to swap out certain players. There have been specific mentions of the need to find more offense from media members in Vancouver, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Nashville. These came from either interviews or game broadcasts on the NHL Network station on XM Radio. Obviously these aren’t confirmed rumors, but the need for more established offensive weapons on certain teams isn’t a difficult conclusion to draw.

Vancouver’s second-straight first round exit have some asking if they need offensive help.

Vancouver’s sweep at the hands of the Sharks has many asking if Alain Vigneault will be back for the 2013-14 season after his team again struggled to score in a first round series defeat. The Canucks aren’t short on elite talent. The Sedins’ production has begun to tail off lately but I’d say their struggles to find talent beyond their top line has been a major issue for them. Identifying more scoring help would immediately improve the overall depth of their forward ranks.

A similar situation has been illustrated with the Kings despite the acquisition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last season. The Kings top six is very impressive, yet they were tied to a number of scoring forwards during the year. While the roster is deep, they continue to win close, low-scoring games on the strength of their goaltender and defense. While I don’t see where they would place a top-six forward, I can certainly understand the connection drawn to improve their offensive potency.

The Blues and the Predators immediately spring to mind for me when I think of offensively challenged Western Conference teams. However, the Blues roster would indicate anything but that. Oshie, Schwartz, Berglund, Tarasenko. This list goes on for a while and forms a youthful, talented core which has the potential to be lethal. The Blues just happen to play a measured, defensive style and don’t allow too many shots. Perhaps they need a certain $6m goaltender. But probably not.

The Preds are actually a curious case. They have two big money players (Rinne and Weber) and made moves at the 2012 deadline to find more offense. However the second Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov didn’t do the trick and now they have retooled a bit with the acquisition of Filip Forsberg. Finding another piece to add to their top six would be extremely helpful towards finding more offense for the Preds; especially after missing the playoffs.

There is a market out west for scoring forwards, there is no denying it. Perhaps the e4s and #CONFIRMEDD tweets and blog posts aren’t flying yet, but media members are looking at the teams they cover and are saying they’re in need of offense. 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

Buffalo Sabres 2013 2ITB Awards

The 2ITB Awards made their debut last season after the Sabres’ playoff push fell short. After a disappointing season, here are my picks for some serious and not-so-serious team awards:

Most Valuable Player – Thomas Vanek

Atlas Vanek put the team on his back for most of the season. He and Ryan Miller performed at a high level for most of the year – although Miller’s numbers reflect that of a more average goaltender. Vanek’s contributions are more visible and he is certainly deserving of recognition on a team that would be dreadful offensively without his skillset. Here’s hoping he isn’t traded.

Least Valuable Player – Drew Stafford

Just a dismal year for #21. Stafford could never get the train on the tracks and has been largely invisible on many nights. He wears a letter to boot. To think that he makes $4 million a year is a cap crushing nightmare. I would assume he gets traded in the offseason, but that is no guarantee.

Top Prospect – Mark Pysyk

Looking at the body of work each Sabres prospect put together this season, Pysyk is probably the one to stand out the most. Just as 2011-12 winner Marcus Foligno put together a strong stretch run, Pysyk has set himself up very well for his first full NHL season for 2013-14. Continue reading

Double Minors: Vanek powers Sabres

Tuesday night didn’t end well. Ryan Miller allowed a pair of questionable goals and there were some struggles from various players on the roster. However, Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Leafs was followed by a 7-4 win over the Bruins.

Thomas Vanek continued his Hart-worthy play with a five-point effort that was complimented by his first hat trick since 2011. Buffalo’s defensive struggles remained evident in the win, but Ryan Miller made a number of massive saves throughout the course of the evening, aiding in the Buffalo win.

Vanek was straight-up dominant on Thursday. He’s been strong all year and quickly jumped into the Hart Trophy race with a five-point game right off the bat and an incredibly impressive point streak. Vanek has registered at least one point in every game that he has played.

This is exactly the type of hockey that you need to see from Vanek. He has developed terrific chemistry with his linemates and providing him with a steady, talented center in Cody Hodgson has been playing dividends. Vanek’s line has combined for 33 points (15+18) thus far. Lindy Ruff has found lightning in a bottle with this line and I’d argue that no matter what type of slide the Sabres may hit that this line should remain untouched.

The one constant between Tuesday and Thursday’s games are the continued struggles on the defensive side for the Sabres. Tyler Myers has had an up-and-down season and Thursday was certainly a down game. His partner, Jordan Leopold, wasn’t much better in a contest where the Bruins skated freely in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Buffalo’s defensive zone lapses aren’t focused on one area either. In fact the defensemen, centers and wingers have all been culpable at times this season. Even the goaltenders have laid eggs of their own – Enroth in Carolina and Miller on Tuesday. Continue reading