Phil Housley Trade Tree is Star Studded

Phil Housley sits at the center of one of Buffalo’s more interesting trade trees. A memorable player in his own right, the tree includes three, maybe four, of the most iconic players to ever suit up for the Sabres.

Housley’s tenure in Buffalo was somewhat rocky, with complaints about his lack of physicality and grit overshadowing his prowess as a play driver.

After being selected with the pick acquired for the 1975 Cup team’s favorite players, Jerry Korab, Housley was included in a blockbuster that brought the Sabres one of the league’s best scorers. Housley had blossomed into one of the game’s most dynamic offensive defensemen and Dale Hawerchuk was a bona fide superstar.  He had scored 35 or more goals in eight of his first nine NHL seasons – seven with 40-plus goals – and had six 100-point seasons. The pair came with a swap of first round picks in 1990, moving the Sabres up five spots. This is where the Jets wind up winning the trade, as they say.

The Sabres selected Brady May with the 14th selection and he’d become a fan favorite and score the most famous goal in franchise history. The Jets wound up picking 500-goal and 1,000-point club member Keith Tkachuk at 19. From there the rest is history. Tkachuck would twice score 50 goals for the Jets/Coyotes before moving on to St. Louis. May was turned into a key member of the 1999 Cup team, Geoff Sanderson.

This one doesn’t have the legs of something like the Martin tree or even the (spoiler alert) Dominik Hasek trade tree. But it stretches over three decades of team history, an impressive span considering the low number of players involved.

Note: I made one slight alteration to this tree compared to the others: splitting Scott Arniel off separately. While he was a simple throw in to the Housley/Hawerchuk deal, I chose to include his branch to make the tree more robust.

The Instigator Podcast 5.16 – Sabres Camp and the Surprising Trouba Trade Request

After Jacob Trouba’s surprising trade request from Winnipeg, Chris and Tyler discuss the Sabres-related focus on the request and potential for the Sabres to acquire the young blueliner. We also touch on the beginning of Sabres training camp and the battle for spots in Buffalo’s bottom six. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, hit the link here to subscribe and rate.

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 Minors: Sabres come up short when it counts

It was the biggest game of the season, to date, and the Sabres needed a strong showing. They didn’t get one. Buffalo looked flat for most of the game as they fell to the Winnipeg Jets 3-1.

The Sabres were facing a tough battle from the get-go. The final game of a rough west coast trip, in one of the league’s loudest barns against a team they are chasing for a playoff spot. Perhaps the deck was stack in the Jet’ favor before the puck dropped, but there was little push from Buffalo’s side of the table all night.

I don’t doubt that the fatigue factor played a major role in Buffalo’s performance, but it was just another one of those games where this group of players didn’t show up when they needed to. That isn’t necessarily a blanket statement, either. Ryan Miller had yet another impressive game (28 saves) and certainly gave his team a chance to get a victory. For the second-straight game in Winnipeg, Miller was strong and his team was flat.

Once again the top line of Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville were non-existent and turned a pair of three-on-two rushes into odd-man goals for the Jets. Lindy Ruff responded by plunking Vanek on the bench and using Roy as his extra attacker late in the game (#LindyLogic).

There can’t be too much overreacting put into this loss. Yes, it was a pivotal game. No, it doesn’t mean the season is over. Bottom line, it makes the journey to eighth that much harder and things would be a whole lot different if this road trip was finished 4-0-0.

  • It is about time Jhonas Enroth play an entire hockey game. Lindy Ruff was sort of forced into sticking with Miller. A pair of shutouts and generally awesome hockey kept Buffalo’s starter off the bench. However, running MIller into the ground will accomplish little. Show faith in Enroth and let him reward your decision. Two effective goaltenders are always better than one. I don’t care if Enroth plays Wednesday or Thursday, just get him in a game and do it soon.
  • Also, with regards to Lindy’s decision making. It is about time to do a little line shuffling. Whether or not Derek Roy’s presence has been what dragged down Vanek and Pominville, I think it is time for a new look. Cody Hodgson has been strong with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, but maybe he can help spark Buffalo’s two best scorers. Try this on for size: 26/19/29 – 23/63/21 – 42/9/36 – 37/22/78.
  • Robyn Regehr needs to hit Chris Thorburn on that third goal. Ryan Miller is standing his ground as a third-line grinder came to the crease with no option. Miller’s read is to hold his position and make the easy save. It is Regehr’s responsibility to deny the inside ice for Thorburn, that didn’t happen and suddenly Thorburn is the new Gretzky.
  • To that point, I have noticed the NBCSN crew getting on every pretty play more and more. I usually appreciate what Pierre McGuire has to say, but he is getting a little over the top with the major junior, college and European development references. He has a plethora of hockey knowledge, just use that and inform the viewers as to what they’re watching.
  • It is hard to pinpoint exactly who was good and who wasn’t for the Sabres. Mainly because most of the team wasn’t very good. All six defensemen had their struggles and most of the forwards were average. It was just a flat night for this team and they paid for it.
  • I love the fact that the MTS Centre crowd is loud and raucous for the entire game. It is a perfect combination of a hockey-mad city, loud fans and I would assume timely video/music choices. I’ll wait to see if the atmosphere at FNC changes for the better, but I don’t think many Sabres fans have it in them.

Game Summary/Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Playoff position on the line in Winnipeg

After two months of poor hockey and numerous losses, the Sabres are in a position to get back into a playoff spot against Winnipeg. With a regulation win the Sabres will be in a tie for eighth place. A win tonight would be another major step in an impressive, improbable turnaround.

Ryan Miller will be back in net again tonight. His game has been in phenomenal shape as of late, but I fear that his endurance is running low after a full run of hockey since the All Star break. In the one game he had off, he played 30 minutes after Jhonas Enroth was pulled in Philadelphia.I don’t doubt Miller will still have a strong outing, I just wonder if he had been better rested if his play would be that much better. I suppose this is still in line with the goaltending schedule.

Buffalo needs a 60-minute effort. They had three tough games on little rest on the West coast, tonight’s game comes after some rest for a road weary team. The Sabres top line has been absent as of late and that needs to change immediately. Without the production of Vanek and Pominville, the mountain that is the playoff race gets that much steeper.

Highlighted Matchup

Vanek/Roy/Pominville. This line has been slumping for a short period of time. It is my opinion that Derek Roy has negatively impacted the play of his two wingers. Regardless of the true cause of this slump, it needs to be snapped. Vanek and Pominville have been Buffalo’s MVPs all season. Tonight would be a great day to for them to turn a corner.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

WPG: Ondrej Pavelec

Last Meeting

Sabres 1 – Jets 4, MTS Centre, 1/19/2012

The Morning Skate: Road trip hits halfway point

After three disappointing road losses, the Sabres current trip away from First Niagara Center is nearing its end.

The current seven-game road trip is half over. The Sabres will play in Winnipeg tonight prior to shipping off to St. Louis on Saturday. The trip has not been friendly thus far. Buffalo has given up fifteen goals on the trip while scoring only four. The past two games have shown what looks to be an exasperated team without any answers for what ails them on the ice.

Tonight they skate into one of the most hostile arenas in the league.

The Winnipeg faithful bought up every possible ticket over the summer and have been more than just vocal for every home game this season. The edge the Jets have at home rivals that of the Blackhawks or Canadiens. Winnipeg’s impressive home record makes the trip to the MTS Centre that much more ominous.

Buffalo past two outings came against superior opponents who showed how much farther ahead of the Sabres they were in impressive drubbings. Winnipeg, while ahead of the Sabres in the standings, is not much farther ahead in the talent department. That fact is something the Sabres need to capitalize on.

Of the many dead horses surrounding the Sabres this year is the fact that they haven’t had more than a couple truly quick starts. If Buffalo manages to wrangle some passion into their first 20 minutes, there is no reason to think they won’t come away with a victory.

What to Watch For

Luke Adam. I have been a little touch and go regarding the young center for a few weeks now. Enough is enough. While he has had some defensive zone lapses, Adam’s contributions early in the year were a major reason this team was winning. Look no further than the fact that he is the third leading goal scorer on the roster. His line with Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe showed some fire last night in Chicago. Like many lines this season, they had their moments but couldn’t finish. Watch Adam closely, if he gets the ice time he deserves the production will come.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller vs.WPG: Ondrej Pavelec

Last Meeting

Sabres 1 – Jets 2 OT (1/7/12 – First Niagara Center)

Double Minors: All Swedish, no finish

Usually the Buffalo Bills serve as the muse for finding every way in which to leave their fans befuddled. After a 2-1 overtime loss to Winnipeg, it would seem the Sabres are exhausting any remaining avenues for evaluation.

Despite both teams tossing plenty of shots on goal, the game was rather dull. It should be mentioned the full house of fans were incredibly tame too. Based on the last two games, it would seem the biggest culprits regarding the First Niagara Library are the fans. Of course, there isn’t much to cheer for on the ice.

Buffalo received a great effort from Jhonas Enroth in goal, turning aside 39 shots in the loss. Not only was this the second straight game in which Enroth faced a barrage from the opponent, it was his second-straight overtime decision.

Between performance and the apparent fact that Enroth is the only player capable of securing at least one point each night, Lindy Ruff may need to revise his decision to ride Ryan Miller.

Last night’s loss was yet another one-goal effort from the Sabres. This time, Tyler Myers registered the tally on the power play. What seemed lost on many of the fans in the arena was the tremendous passing play that created the goal. While fans complained of too many passes, or yelled shoot, Pominville’s centering feed got behind Ondrej Pavelc. So much for high hockey IQ.

Obviously scoring is the plague killing this season. No matter how bad the goaltending has been, it truly only can be held accountable for a handful of losses. Expecting a shutout or a one-goal against performance each night is foolhardy. Until more scoring finds its way into the lineup, this team will be heading for a lottery pick.

  • The uproar over Ruff’s decision to start Enroth seemed a little shortsighted. A back-to-back weekend was a good time to start Enroth, especially considering his last outing. If Ruff re-evaluates and decides to get more games for Enroth, it wouldn’t be a bad decision. However, until that happens there is no reason to think he is sticking with his decision to ride Miller.
  • Myers lost a few battles in his end last night. It certainly wasn’t as strong of an outing as he had in Carolina. However, Ruff rewarded him with quality minutes and seems confident in leaning on the cornderstone. A quality, while not outstanding, outing was certainly tarnished by the errant pass that led to the game winning rush for Winnipeg. Myers game far exceeds the struggles he had earlier in the year, it seems safe to say he is turning a corner.
  • Ville Leino’s return was a success. He was strong on the puck, made some fantastic feeds. Two resulted in chances and a subsequent penalty. His no goal was probably a good call considering he dug the puck from Pavelec’s pads. However, given how quiet that arena was, no whistle blew. Unless the call was intent to blow (which it wasn’t), there may be an argument in allowing that one to stand.
  • The Sabres should research a headset device that fans can wear which feeds them corrections to some of the things they say during games. For example, when one fan exclaims at the stupidity of placing Vanek on the point for a power play the device can point out that two defensemen are indeed on the ice but one is playing deep in the zone. Just spitballing on that one.
  • You can officially call him Grocery Stick Gragnani. The “defenseman” saw only nine shifts for 7:02 TOI. A majority of that time came on the power play. Obviously he is seen as a complete liability to this team. There doesn’t seem to be much risk in waiving him and bringing up any one of the players in Rochester. Again, T.J. Brennan exhibited a fine two-way game while be heads and shoulders better than Gragnani in his own zone.
  • Drew Stafford is in a serious funk. His goal against Edmonton should have acted as a catalyst to spur a scoring streak. However, he looks like he may be yet another player who needs a change of scenery to break out. Tim Connolly was stale in Buffalo and giving minor contributions, he is enjoying some sound hockey in Toronto. Perhaps a similar change is necessary for Stafford.

Three Stars

1. Johnny Oduya

2. Ondrej Pavelec

3. Jhonas Enroth

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres trudge back to face Jets

The current state of the Buffalo Sabres is pretty darn ugly. Outside of a pair of players, there is no scoring. Despite playing strong hockey, their franchise netminder can’t keep three goals from getting by. The head coach seems to be making baffling lineup choices while the general manager is generally stuck due to a ridiculous injury situation and tight cap number.

All of that plus the fact the Sabres are three points behind tonight’s opponent for tenth in the conference. Raise your hand if you had the Sabres in the draft lottery rather than the top five this season. Nobody? Okay.

In all seriousness, tonight’s game (along with the remaining 42) is a must win. Buffalo is five points from a playoff position and need a strong run in order to secure a berth yet again. If the Sabres are able to establish some footing, last night’s loss will be nothing more than a hiccup. While that loss fits perfectly with the disheartening trend the team has picked up, it certainly be discarded with some strong play.

The Sabres victimized the Jets in their first meeting and probably would have blown their doors off if it hadn’t been for some terrible defensive zone coverage. Ryan Miller earned a victory in that game despite being piled on by the fans and hung out to dry by his team.

While a 60-minute effort still evades this team, simply finishing chances may be all that is necessary to win a few games. Last night was a perfect example, they can’t afford to provide yet another.

Highlighted Matchup

Sabres centers. Jochen Hecht is nothing more than a warm body between Vanek and Pominville. They really don’t need anything else at this point. Luke Adam will surely fill a larger role this evening and Ville Leino’s return may be pushed based on Derek Roy’s injury. The Sabres didn’t properly address their biggest need this offseason and now it is staring them square in the face – if it hadn’t been already this season.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 24 GP 10-11-2, 3.05 GAA, .901 SV%

WPG: Ondrej Pavelec 33 GP 14-13-5, 2.94 GAA, .907 SV%

Last Game

11/8/2011, First Niagara Center, Sabres 6 – Jets 5 OT

Double Minors: Sabres 6 – Jets 5 OT

The Sabres special teams bailed them out after a rough opening on a special night for the organization. Buffalo killed off three of four penalties and converted four power play goals to come back on Winnipeg for a 6-5 overtime win.

We had some great power play puck movement. Lately the puck hasn’t been going in the net for us. Tonight we moved the puck well. For me, it was nice to fight back and win the game. Especially with RJ and Dale being here.

The game certainly didn’t start well for the Sabres, or Ryan Miller, as Winnipeg scored twice in the first six minutes and the contest had the looks of last week’s Philadelphia game. Buffalo answered back with two goals in 11 seconds, one on the power play. Winnipeg found the net again shortly after but Jason Pominville tied the game again with a short handed tally.

After a stirring tribute to the two newest Sabres Hall of Fame members, Corey Tropp made the night more memorable by potting his first career NHL goal. The youngster has at least one more game with the big club as Pat Kaleta continues to serve his suspension.

The Sabres managed to stay close with the Jets for the entire evening, thanks in large part to the poorly disciplined play of Winnipeg and a suddenly potent power play. Buffalo fought off slow starts to all three periods before tying the game and eventually winning it on Thomas Vanek’s 10th of the season.

  • It certainly wasn’t the start Ryan Miller would have wanted. Most of the fans seemed to think it was the same old song and dance after the Jets first two goals and even their third later in the period. However, the Sabres big money goaltender battled back. After making nine saves on 12 shots in the first, Miller turned aside 17 of 19 shots he faced in the second and third period. He was especially good in the third period when he buckled down and shut the Jets out for the final 23:00 of the contest. The win was what Miller needed, now he needs to take the next step and have a truly effective outing. “We all know that Ryan needs to be better. He was fighting it, but you don’t know what to expect after last game. He may be fighting it for a while,” Ruff said.
  • The Tyler Myers/Andrej Sekera pairing was just plain awful tonight. Myers had a few strong plays but was generally average for most of the night. Sekera made two horrendous decisions and vacated his portion of the zone twice on the evening. On both occasions the Jets capitalized with goals.
  • Ville Leino needs to find the score sheet. He is making heady plays with the puck but simply isn’t getting the points to show he is making progress. For the money Buffalo is paying him, it would be nice to seem some tangible results.
  • It was awesome to see Corey Tropp score his first NHL goal. He has given a great effort in his first three games and was rewarded for his efforts. Lindy Ruff gave the rookie a great compliment on his play thus far. “He has supplied real good energy for us,” Ruff said.
  • Paul Gaustad had a whale of a game. He made a brilliant pass on Pominville’s shorthanded goal and made heady plays throughout the night. To that end, Cody McCormick turned the momentum with a hell of a fight in the second period. Despite seeing limited minutes, McCormick filled his role nicely tonight.
  • The Subway Line got back on the board tonight. Vanek potted a pair and Pominville accounted for three points. In addition to the 4/12 power play, the Sabres got contributions from everywhere they needed to get them from.
  • Lindy Ruff may need to make some sort of change to his defensive pairs for Friday. The Myers and Sekera pair have shown flashes before tonight’s tire fire and it seems as if Leopold and Regehr are clicking quite well. Still, it seems like a few games from Mike Weber could offer some serious stability on the back-end.

Three Stars

1. Jason Pominville

2. Derek Roy

3. Bryan Little

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Reincarnated Jets make return to Buffalo

Tonight’s game is going to be no different from either of the two visits the Atlanta Thrashers made to Buffalo last season. The only difference will be the color of their jerseys and the name on the scoreboard.

Still, tonight will be monumental for a reason other than the Winnipeg Jets flying back to Buffalo for the first time since the mid-1990s. This evening, Rick Jeanneret and Dale Hawerchuk will be enshrined in the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame. It should be a great ceremony as the last HOF induction I was present for (Andreychuk and Ellis) was quite stirring.

It is somewhat ironic that Hawerchuk will be inducted on the night Winnipeg returns to Buffalo. After all, it was with the Jets that Hawerchuk became a star. Of course, this is quite a different Jets team that will roll into First Niagara Center.

The Jets, who have struggled to find much consistency this season, will wrap up a seven-game road trip this evening. Winnipeg has taken seven of twelve points on the roadie despite dropping two of their last three (one in a shootout).

Buffalo is fresh off a back-to-back wins over Calgary and Ottawa over the weekend, two wins that put the Sabres back into the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Of course, the two-day lay off has brought a few teams back up to the Sabres in terms of points.

Jhonas Enroth played a big role in both wins, particularly Friday’s win over Calgary and has been quite good in relief of Ryan Miller as the team’s usual starter finds his way through a tough patch. Perhaps the best part of the two wins is that the rest of the Sabres roster has managed to pick up some slack from the Subway Line. While Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Jason Pominville have been held scoreless in the last two contests, the rest of Buffalo’s roster has managed to start finding the net.

Buffalo will certainly lean on their entire roster to find the net this evening. The Jets have had a few barn burners already this season (-10 goal differential on the season) but have tightened up the ship recently.

Highlighted Matchup

Tyler Myers and Andrej Sekera vs. Nik Antropov and Alex Burmistrov. Like Saturday in Ottawa, Lindy Ruff will certainly use more than one defensive pairing and one forward line to match Winnipeg’s two big scorers. The pair of Russians have 21 points (7+14) already this season and have been the most consistent offensive players for the Jets. Burmistrov’s agility plays off Antropov’s size nicely and the two seem to be establishing some chemistry. Obviously a sound defensive approach will be necessary to keep the pair quiet.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 9GP, 4-5-0, 2.48 GAA, .922 SV%

WPG: Chris Mason 4GP, 1-2-0, 2.68 GAA, .893 SV%

Last Meeting

3/19/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 8 – Jets (Thrashers) 2