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Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Kids help Sabres beat Hurricanes

It’s good to be back.

In the Buffalo Sabres’ return to their home rink for their first home game of the preseason slate, a squad littered with young talent overcame a sloppy first 30 minutes to storm away with a 5-2 win over visiting Metropolitan Division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Johan Larsson, acquired at last year’s trade deadline in the Jason Pominville deal, scored twice for Buffalo, who moved to 3-0-0 on the preseason campaign.

Trailing 1-0 after one period of play, Joel Armia scored his first of the preseason to tie the game. After surrendering another goal just minutes later, Larsson scored his first of the game, tipping in a Brayden McNabb point shot to deadlock the score after two periods.

Buffalo would go on to score three unanswered goals in the third, led by Cody Hodgson’s redirection of a Thomas Vanek pass with just under six minutes to go. Larsson and McNabb (who finished with a goal and two assists) would score insurance goals before the clock ran out.

The Sabres also got a very strong performance out of Ryan Miller, who played his first full game after splitting duties with Matt Hackett in Wednesday’s win over NHLBettingTips.com Metropolitan Division underdog Columbus. Miller stopped 34 of 36 shots to get the win.

While an undefeated record in preseason only means so much, the Sabres now face a home-and-home with Toronto. The Leafs will visit First Niagara Center on Saturday night for a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

  • Really like Johan Larsson’s game tonight. The guy does everything you’d want him to do. He goes to the net, wins draws (71% on 17 draws) and shows a lot of hustle. He could force his way into a roster spot, but if he doesn’t, he won’t be in Rochester long.
  • Best guy on the ice for Carolina tonight? You guessed it: Andrej Sekera. Led Carolina with 23:03 of ice time, showed a lot of possession of the puck, and save for the two third period goals he was on the ice for, was really, really good. The Canes are gonna love him. Compher better pan out.
  • Brayden McNabb’s game has been hit-or-miss for a little while, but tonight his work in the offensive zone is evident in the boxscore. That shot can generate a lot of opportunities, whether it’s going straight in, or he’s putting it in places that guys can tip it. He needs to show that if he wants to stick. Read the rest of this entry
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Anyone still here?

What’s up all?

Yeah, about that me-not-posting-for-two-months stuff… I think it’s time to hop back on the horse here.

So, until I fall off the wagon again, or run out of other clich├ęs to use to describe my lack of posting, I’m gonna try to get this rolling again. Which, considering once this week’s development camp ends, it’ll be pretty quiet in regards to Sabres talk until September, is great timing.

But I feel like I can step it up with the Bills-related posting, and I can come up with other stuff to do. Usually I can do some pretty in-depth analysis (whether it’s related to how much Adam Mair sucks or not), so topics, whether suggested by you or just whimsical, should be easy to come by.

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What the hell happened to the Sabres team awards?

With tomorrow night’s game marking the end of the Sabres’ home schedule, I’ve got a bone to pick with the organization.

Back in the day, before many younger Sabres fans actually became fans (remember Jason Botterill? No?), the home finale was always marked with the handing out of the team awards, recognizing players for their achievements over the course of the season.

This presentation has been absent over the past few seasons, and it took tuning in to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent ceremony to remember how nice it was to do this for the players and the fans. Why did they ever stop doing it in the first place?

After some brief research, the most recent record I could find of the award history came in the 2002-2003 media guide. Each publication since then has been completely stricken of any evidence, like such a thing never happened.

Now, I’ve had issues with the Sabres and how they run things over at Seymour H. Knox III Plaza, especially when it comes to game presentation and publications, and the way this has disappeared is just deplorable. I’m sure it’s too late to do anything about it now, but what’s stopping them from bringing it back? I’m gonna go ahead and say nothing but their own incompetence, but I could be wrong.

So, since they’re not going to do it, I’ll hand out this year’s awards.

Frank Eddolls Memorial Trophy (most popular player as voted by fans)

Ryan Miller, G

Miller has ascended to superstar status this season, and from his MVP-caliber play in Buffalo to his already legendary performance at the Vancouver Games, he has earned every bit of love he’s received from the fans this season. Easily the most popular player on the team right now.

Last five winners: 2001-02 – Martin Biron, 2000-01 – none, 1999-00 – Rob Ray, 1998-99 – Dominik Hasek, 1997-98 – Dominik Hasek

Memorial Trophy (most valuable player, as voted by players)

Ryan Miller, G

Players don’t just get a lot of consideration for the Hart or Vezina trophies without deserving it. Miller is still an odds on favorite to win the Vezina trophy and is one of the top candidates to be named MVP. As an unquestioned leader in the locker room and on the ice, it’s easy to see where the players would go with this.

Last five winners: 2001-02 – none, 2000-01 – none, 1999-00 – none, 1998-99 – Dominik Hasek & Miroslav Satan, 1997-98 – Dominik Hasek

Tim Horton Memorial Award (unsung hero, voted by fans and media)

Henrik Tallinder, D

While rookie phenom Tyler Myers has been a rock all season on the blueline, his partner has been often overlooked for his strong play. Tallinder has been rejuvenated by the pairing, rebounding from an awful season last year to being the team’s clear-cut #2 defenseman. Hank went from trade bait as a pending UFA after last season to being a likely candidate for a contract extension.

Last five winners: 2001-02 – James Patrick, 2000-01 – Rhett Warrener, 1999-00 – James Patrick & Stu Barnes, 1998-99 – Jason Woolley, 1997-98 – Alexei Zhitnik

Fred T. Hunt Memorial Trophy (best rookie, as voted by fans and media)

Tyler Myers, D

There’s no room for argument here. Myers has been a revelation this season, and has been a Calder trophy favorite since October. Myers could be the first Sabre to take home the Calder since Tom Barrasso in 1984. This is what a franchise defenseman looks like.

Last five winners: 2001-02 – none, 2000-01 – Dmitri Kalinin, 1999-00 – Martin Biron, 1998-99 – none, 1997-98 – none

Star of Stars Trophy (best performance in home games by three star selections)

Ryan Miller, G

Miller was a relative runaway winner in this award. Miller was named first star in five of the 40 home games and second star in five others. Ryan has had so many strong outings this season at HSBC Arena, this is not an upset. Thomas Vanek was second and Tim Connolly third. The last Sabres skater to win this award was Alexander Mogilny in 1992-93.

Last five winners: 2001-02 – Martin Biron, 2000-01 – Dominik Hasek, 1999-00 – Martin Biron, 1998-99 – Dominik Hasek, 1997-98 – Dominik Hasek

Punch Imlach Memorial Award (dedication and leadership)

Craig Rivet, D

As a senior member of the roster, it’s hard to argue against Rivet’s qualifications. The captain has battled all season and has been a leader by example on the ice in sticking up for teammates and showing effort. While his play has slipped, the guy has shown why he wears the “C” on his jersey.

Last five winners: 2001-02 – Stu Barnes, 2000-01 – Stu Barnes, 1999-00 – Rhett Warrener, 1998-99 – Michael Peca, 1997-98 – Michael Peca

So, Buffalo Sabres employees, whenever you wanna stop disregarding the team’s history and go back to doing the awards, feel free.

What to expect at the NHL trade deadline

The countdown is on.

With the NHL trade deadline tomorrow at 3 pm ET, teams around the league are expected to scramble their rosters and try to acquire those final pieces for a deep playoff run.

Some minor moves have already been made in the hours since the Olympic trade freeze lifted at midnight Sunday night. The Penguins picked up Jordan Leopold from Florida. The Sens grabbed Andy Sutton from the Isles. Other than some swaps involving minor leaguers, it’s been rental players for draft picks.

So what does Darcy Regier have in store for Sabres fans?

Likely it’ll be a disappointing day for die-hards who expect Regier to send Paetsch and a draft pick to Florida for Nathan Horton. That won’t happen. That’s not how Darcy rolls.

Usually, it works like this for Sabres fans: a couple people on the internet will start talking about the Sabres acquiring certain guys, and all of a sudden, fans are furious if the Sabres aren’t the team that gets them, if they’re moved at all. This gets emphasized when people with columns start throwing names out there.

There’s a list of those guys, which is pretty extensive this year, and odds are they won’t be wearing blue and gold by the end of the week.

So far, according to Sabres nation, we should be getting:

  • Nathan Horton, F, Florida …who may not even be available.
  • Tomas Kaberle, D, Toronto …who has said he’s not waiving his no trade clause.
  • Joe Corvo, D, Carolina …who could help the powerplay, but would be feared on Chippewa.
  • Marek Zidlicky, D, Minnesota …who just signed a contract extension.
  • Ray Whitney, F, Carolina …who has a no-trade clause and wants a three year extension to waive it.
  • Martin Biron, G, NY Islanders …who has been worse than Lalime this year but would somehow improve our goaltending.

The list could surely go on. “Realistic” isn’t part of the Buffalo sports vernacular for most fans.

The recent Olympics have surely put more pressure on the organization to make tangible moves to show they’re trying to win now. Sure, now that Ryan Miller is a megastar and can pretty much carry the team through the playoffs by himself, you’d like to see them improve the roster. And it’s safe to say they will. But how will fans react if the team makes a small move and says they wanna go with what they’ve got?

The Sabres tend to believe in chemistry, so making trades for the sake of making a trade isn’t going to happen. If they feel the team can be improved by a certain deal or combination of deals, they’ll make a move.

Of course, the team could use a forward or two. I don’t think anyone can expect to win anything significant when Adam Mair is in the lineup. Same for Matt Ellis. Depth up front can definitely be improved. But at what cost?

Dealing top prospects for low-end rentals, or even high-end rentals, should be considered out of the question for an organization that can’t replenish high-end talent through free agency. Star players in Buffalo can only be developed from within. Look at the top of the roster. Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Tyler Myers, Jason Pominville… those players were all drafted and groomed. You have to consider names like Tyler Ennis out of the conversation. Ennis’ name comes up more times than it should in conversations of what’s expendable, especially on WGR, but that’s worth a whole post in itself, so I’ll leave that alone. Selling the future is never going to help the franchise. Draft picks are like gold to teams like the Sabres. Unless it’s a blockbuster, expect Darcy to hang on to that first round pick.

The way the Sabres are going to do it, and likely the best way to do it, is move spare parts for picks and turn those picks around for talent. We saw it last year, not for a positive gain in my opinion, when they dealt Ales Kotalik for a second round pick, and grabbed Dominic Moore from Toronto for a second rounder. Pretty much a player for player swap. That’s what we’re likely to see.

The leading candidate to be sent packing right now has to be Toni Lydman. Not that Lydman’s been bad, but he’s just the most marketable asset available. He’s a UFA at season’s end. So is Henrik Tallinder, but do the Sabres want to break up their number one defensive pairing? Doubtful. With Andrej Sekera’s resurgence in Vancouver, the Sabres have a crunch at defense. Sekera has to play. To get him in there they’ll have to move somebody, and Lydman has to be the clubhouse leader.

Players who have fallen out of favor are sure to be considered as well. Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur, even the aforementioned Sekera can all be moved.

But, that said, there’s always the opportunity for a surprise. CapGeek has the Sabres’ acquisition space (based on full year salaries) as $8,495,427 thanks to all the “banked” cap space from this season. That leaves the opportunity to make multiple moves.

So, for the time being, we wait to see what happens. Who knows what Darcy has working right now. We’ll know tomorrow.

Now boarding: Flight 2010… Buffalo to Vancouver

Captain AmericaAs the 2008 IIHF World Championships come down to the wire, one of the relatively major stories of the tournament was Jason Pominville deciding to play for the US.

While this post will not talk about how awesome Jason Pominville is for choosing to call himself American, (that will be covered in a later post) it will be discussed because there is talk that it was motivated by a potential opportunity to play in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Should Pominville put up numbers like he did last season again next season, there will be no doubt that he will be included on the US roster for the Games.

Odds are, he will not be alone on the flight to Vancouver. Here are some candidates for their national teams:

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