Murray active in second deadline season

The 2014-15 trade deadline was much different for Tim Murray than the 2013-14 deadline when he was just a few months into his new job.

Entering last year’s deadline, Murray was tasked with finding a home for pending UFA goaltender Ryan Miller, pending UFA Steve Ott along with other pieces. Most notably, Matt Moulson, who was also set to enter free agency. deadline

Last year’s deadline saw Murray make four separate deals and acquire a total of six players and four draft picks. He also claimed Cory Conacher on waivers on deadline day. Murray was not facing the same steep challenge at this year’s deadline. He did not have a franchise talent like Miller to deal, while sporting three pending UFAs who held varying levels of average value. The deadline closed with the Sabres having made four trades (again) while acquiring a goaltender, a prospect and four picks.

You certainly can’t give Murray a strong grade for this year’s deadline alone. None of the four deals he made were blockbusters and he wasn’t dealing from a position of power like in 2014. However, looking at the big picture, Murray has positioned himself very well to take the next big step in the rebuild of the Sabres franchise. Continue reading

Kane acquisition represents the next step in Buffalo’s rebuild

Tim Murray has had the arsenal of assets to make a major play for talent going back to his first trade deadline as the Buffalo Sabres general manager. He will enter his second trade deadline with his second major trade in his rear-view mirror.

Murray shipped an impressive package of Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a conditional first round draft pick to Winnipeg in exchange for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf. It’s a trade the provides the Sabres with not one, but two significant pieces that fit in both the short, and long term plans of the organization.

There is some concern that Murray may have sacrificed too much in order to complete the trade but in a world where you have to pay a premium to obtain premium talent, it lines up as a balanced transaction for both teams. Continue reading

Double Minor: Discussing Buffalo’s trade deadline strategy

We’re nearly a month away from the trade deadline and the rumor mill is really beginning to heat up. The Sabres are expected to sell off a number of players on expiring deals as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell and likely one of the team’s two goaltenders will be shipped out by March 2.

Tim Murray, however, is in a very interesting position. While Buffalo is firmly a seller this year, he also holds a bucket of picks and prospects that have helped make the Sabres system the envy of the league. Given the sheer number of players in the system, it’s very unlikely that all of the assets the Sabres have stockpiled wind up wearing blue and gold. In fact, Murray has admitted that not every player they’ve acquired or drafted will wind up as an NHL player and it’s up to the Sabres to determine who they need to hold on to. This tells me a few things.

First, Murray is very tapped into the assets he has and likely has a very good idea about who he sees as a fit in the near future. Second, he knows that he’s very close to the point of being over-saturated with futures and he needs to start dealing for NHL-ready talent in order to maximize the team’s elite talent and to speed up his rebuild.

As the deadline approaches, how do you think Murray will operate? Should his plan of attack be to continue acquiring picks and prospects or is it time to make some hockey trades? Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres grab first points with shootout win

The Sabres are in the left hand column, registering a shootout victory over one of the primary competitors for the top picks in June’s draft.

For those keeping track of each and every game for tanking purposes, the fact that Carolina managed to tie and send the game to overtime was helpful as the Canes still wound up with a point. Meanwhile, the Sabres still managed to trail in a number of major statistical categories despite pulling out the victory.

It’s woefully early in the year to start comparing the Sabres to the rest of the league but their four games are beginning to paint a telling picture. The Sabres have allowed over 70 attempts at goal in each of their four contests, being out-shot 156-83 along the way. While that may not sustain itself through the entire season, the Sabres are clearly struggling to possess the puck with any sort of authority and have paid for it on the scoreboard.

Buffalo’s biggest issues appear to come with their defensive zone breakouts. There is barely any sort of semblance of a system in place with many zone exits and when combined with poor passing, puts the Sabres back on their heels. It could simply be a situation of bringing the forwards a bit deeper into the zone in order to shorten passes and find lanes to complete the breakout. It may also just be execution of the system in place as there have been countless sloppy plays made by every person on the ice.

It’s odd because often there’s only one glaring weak point in a team’s breakout – passing, board play, execution – but the Sabres have been able to hit on every facet. Further, the disjointed breakout that is acting as little more than a punt back to the other team’s defensemen has also led to breakdowns in Buffalo’s forecheck. Their lack of possession has served as a trickle down to unsuccessful dump-ins or mishandled zone entries that ultimately wind up back in the Buffalo end of the ice. All of these factors add up to show why the Sabres are seeing so many more pucks directed towards their net and why the ice feels tilted in the wrong direction. Continue reading

Who is the Next Captain of the Sabres?

The Sabres have a bunch of questions that need to at least begin to be addressed this offseason and next season. While everyone focuses on the draft and who is going to put the puck in the net for last year’s worst offensive team, many have forgotten that the Sabres are (once again) without a captain.

There are a couple basic things that I believe the organization should (or should not) do when considering who will be the next person to wear the “C”.

First (and most important) is that the next captain must come from in-house. The cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to naming a player who was just acquired as the captain. The most obvious issue is that it places undue pressure on the new player. No matter the age or experience of a player, when someone is traded to a new team, or signs with a new team as a free agent, they want to make a good first impression. On top of trying to fit in with new teammates and a new system on the ice, the player is faced with trying to acclimate to a new city off the ice. Throw in moving a family and all that comes with it into a new town and the player is juggling all he can handle.

Another concern is that naming a player that is new to the team as a captain is an indictment of the leadership qualities (or lack thereof) of your current roster. By giving the captaincy to a newly acquired player you’re basically telling the 23 guys on your roster, “I don’t think any of you are capable enough or ready enough to assume responsibility for this team.” Given the state of the Sabres’ roster, I’d advise against doing that. Continue reading

Questions linger with crowded house on blueline

Ever since Doug Janik and Rory Fitzpatrick took the ice for game seven of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, defensive depth has been a focal point of how the Buffalo Sabres have been built.

The 2013-14 season will be no exception as the Sabres are heading to training camp with ten (TEN!) defensemen who will be battling for a spot on Buffalo’s NHL roster. For a team who struggled to find consistency on the back end last season, the plethora of rear guards on the roster isn’t a bad thing.

Of the ten defensemen I count as NHL ready, a few have all but sealed their spot on the roster entering the season. Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber are all a sure thing to have an NHL job this season and newly acquired Henrik Tallinder should join them.

Where things get interesting is filling out the remaining three or four spots for the team. It’s particularly fascinating when you consider Rasmus Ristolainen as one of the players jockeying for a spot. Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: 2013 report card, Part II

The defensemen and goaltenders get to share the spotlight in the second portion of my Sabres season grades. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

Tyler Myers: Oh, where to begin? Myers was downright bad to begin the year before leveling out at midseason. He looked out of shape and lost most of the time and his play suffered for it. Considering the salary he is being paid, his contributions are especially frightening. Before his injury he was only okay and you could certainly say the defensive play was better without him. Yikes. Grade: C-

Christian Ehrhoff: Ehrhoff finished off another strong year in which he remained Buffalo’s best defenseman. He hasn’t blown up the scoresheet like some expected, but his powerplay time has changed from the Sedins to any number of players in blue and gold. Still, there’s a lot to like about Ehrhoff and he will be around for a long time. Grade: A-

Andrej Sekera: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Sekera actually wasn’t bad at all this season. He quietly goes about his business and plays steady hockey. I’m not a huge fan of his but I can’t deny that he has been a solid contributor in his own end all year. Grade: B

Mike Weber: Steve Ott’s arrival may just be the best thing for Weber’s career you could ask for. Weber is beginning to evolve into a leader, plays a gritty nasty game that is almost entirely absent on this roster. His puck skills aren’t very good, but as a defender there is a lot to like. He may still be on the rise for this squad. Grade: B- Continue reading