Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Ryan signs with HC Dinamo Minsk

Michael Ryan is officially not going to be with the Sabres this coming season as he has signed a contract with HC Dinamo Minsk an expansion team in the KHL. The Sabres didn't really need Ryan as they have plenty of depth at forward, but this decision is still a bit odd.

There is no reason that he couldn't have signed elsewhere in the NHL as a very competent fourth liner or at the very least a veteren for an AHL club, as they really are not all the far behind the KHL talent wise. Still Ryan is an American from Boston who really has no good reason to sign with a team in Belarus. He was getting to be one of the older players at the NHL AHL border, but was doing good and played in 46 NHL games last season and appeared to still be improving. Now he has gone off to Russia/Belarus to do who knows what, and has likely seen his NHL career come to an end.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stu Barnes retires

Former Sabres captain Stu Barnes has decided to end his career as an NHL player. His current plan is to stay in Dallas, and assume an assistant coaching position.

Stu only spent four years with the Sabres, coming to town just in time for the 1999 Stanley Cup run. He then got to hang around the team for the ugly departures of Hasek and Peca. Barnes went on to become captain after Buffalo went a year without one due to the Peca situation. Then he was traded to Dallas for Michael Ryan and a second round draft pick. For most of Stu's time in Buffalo he was the only bright spot on what was a very poor team through much of that period.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The 2009-2010 roster

While it is way too early to talk about the season that comes after the next one, there is also no hockey news to talk about in the middle of August. Assuming that Michael Ryan isn't going to be with Buffalo this coming season, the Sabres 2008-2009 roster is pretty well set. The year after the Sabres will not have contracts with twelve of their players, however things are not as bad as that statistic makes them sound.

Maxim Afinogenov
Afinogenov lead the team in points just three seasons ago, but seems to have lost his place in Buffalo. While a good player, he no longer appears to fit the Buffalo system and will probably not be resigned. The Sabres will most likely continue to try and trade him throughout this season.

Tim Connolly
Another player who looked real good the first year out of the lockout. However he has been unable to stay healthy so it is unlikely that he will be offered a large contract. If he stays with Buffalo or not is really dependent upon if any other team is willing to take a risk to sign him to a large deal.

Ales Kotalik
A good player who's resigning should be more important to alot more Buffalo fans. While it would not be the end of the world if he doesn't come back, he has been a solid player, and would be likely to sign a multi-year deal for around $4 million a year. Expect this deal to happen shortly before the start of free agency next summer if it does.

Jason Pominville
This is the contract that has been getting all of the attention, however he will still be a restricted free agent, so the Sabres have their options open. I feel that his shot at being captain is dependent on him signing a long term deal before the season starts. Because Pominville has some constraints on him as a restricted free agent, I expect that this deal will happen, but not until half way through November or so. Worst case scenario is that we go to arbitration, or that another team signs him for alot and we have the option of matching or taking a number of high draft picks.

Drew Stafford
Stafford is also a restricted free agent, but his value is highly dependent upon how he does in the coming season. Last year was a bit of a disappointment for Stafford and if that happens again it is likely to be reflected in the offer that he gets from Buffalo. Regardless of the amount odds are he will be resigned next summer.

Andrew Peters
Will be a restricted free agent. We could resign him for practically nothing, but lets hope we don't and let Kaleta or Gerbe move up into this roster spot.

Patrick Kaleta
Kaleta's contract will be up, but as a low paid restricted free agent who is unheard of outside of the Buffalo area, there is almost no chance of him signing elsewhere. Expect him to get a raise next summer dependent on how many games he plays with Buffalo.

Jaroslav Spacek
After one bad season and one decent season in Buffalo Spacek is a real question. I expect that the Sabres will have a small amount of interest in keeping him, but that it is likely that he will sign elsewhere next summer. Well I think he could be resigned for a somewhat reasonable amount I expect that Sekera and Weber will be ready to fill in for him by then.

Teppo Numminen
Currently only on a one year contract, Teppo's future is really dependent on this coming season. There is always the possibility of retirement, and I think this is mostly going to be based on how healthy he can stay. If he does want to come back, expect another one year deal.

Andrej Sekera
As a restricted free agent who is likely to play less then 40 games in the NHL this season, there should be no problem resigning him next summer.

Mike Funk
As a restricted free agent who will probably not get a single NHL appearance this season he is likely to be resigned. However being behind Sekera, Weber, and Myers I'm not sure that it really matters.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sabres still need a captain

Last season I tried to anticipate who the team would pick as captain, and was completely off picking Connolly and Campbell. Instead the Sabres went with a rotating captaincy, and besides Campbell who is no longer on the team, the obvious captain appeared to be Hecht and Pominville.

Despite the assumption that the Sabres will stick with a rotating captain, I think it is likely that they will not do so for this season. I think the pattern that we saw before with Lindy Ruff and the Sabres will hold true, in that after a single year of a rotating captain, that Ruff will pick from those who were captain during that time, and give them the full time job.

The obvious candidates are Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht and Teppo Numminen. Both Hecht and Pominville were very strong in the role of captain, and would be the go to guys to take on the role. Numminen meanwhile was the alternate captain behind Briere and Drury before having to sit out all of last season due to heart issues. Teppo is unlikely to wear the C, but will probably represent the defense as an alternative captain.

Between Hecht and Pominville, Pominville most likely has the slight edge to act as captain, but unless he signs a contract extension, the team is not likely to grant him the role if only to avoid seeing their captain leave the team again. As such, Hecht (who has a four year contract) becomes the obvious choice. There is also the possibility that the two of them are named co-captains as the team has done before. In fact the last captain that was neither a co-captain or a rotating captain was Stu Barnes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rules the NHL should change

Everyone has a few gripes with some of the rules within the NHL. Some almost everyone agrees on, some are more controversial, and some even have almost no support. Still these are all things that I feel should be changed in the league (in order of how much they annoy me).

#1 - Puck over the glass
This rule is really annoying, and furthermore may have cost the Sabres the cup in 2006. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the time the puck goes over the glass it is a simple mistake, and not an attempt to "delay the game" or anything like that. So in addition to the fact that the team has already just messed up a clear under the current system they also get penalized as if they had just elbowed someone in the head. Additionally if the game has broken down to the point where the refs have stopped calling almost all the penalties, they will still feel compelled to call this one as it isn't really much of a judgment call. If you want to still prevent the team from bailing themselves out of trouble, treat it like an iceing where the defensive team is not allowed to change their lines.

#2 - Fake overtime
Five minutes of four on four overtime is really just weird. This should really be played five on five, and should go at least ten minutes, so that the teams actually have a chance to score. While we don't want ties, we don't really want games to be decided based upon a glorified skills competition either. Personally I would love if they did continuous sudden death like in the playoffs, but can understand why they may not like to do that.

#3 - Three point and two point games
The fact that some games are worth more then others is fundamentally a problem. Additionally it gives added incentive to play for the tie. Under the current system playing a low scoring safe game will give you an average of 1.5 points, while playing a high scoring exciting style will return an average of 1 point. The easiest fix to this would be to make all games worth three points, so that the expected average return would be 1.5 regardless of the style of hockey played.

#4 - Ignored elbows
The way the league currently ignores elbows to the head is very annoying as this is one of the few penalties that often results in injuries. If players are expected to control their stick regardless (high sticking), then we can expect them to do the same with their arms.

#5 - Distinct Kicking Motion
Nobody in the league knows what this phrase means. It changes every single game, and nobody ever has any clue if the goal is going to stand or not. Personally I don't care if they disallow all goals off of skates or allow them, but the current system of counting them sometimes is really annoying. If they feel that goalies need to be protected from skateblades, they can add a separate "kicking at the goalie" or "kicking in the crease" penalty that has nothing to do with goals, but is instead based upon goaltender safety.

#6 - Rewards for bleeding
A high stick gives a two minute penalty, but it becomes a four minute penalty if the player hit is bleeding. However, this doesn't make much sense as the reason for a player bleeding often has more to do with how tough his skin is or if he has been in a fight earlier, then it has to do with how hard they were hit with the high stick.

#7 - Only three shooters in the shootout
One of the complaints about the shootout is that only four players on the team of twenty are involved at all. This could be easily increased to six players by simply having each side take five shots. Every other sport that has shootouts (Soccer, Water polo, and Handball) all use five shooters a side, hockey should as well.

#8 - No tv timeouts in OT
There are currently no tv timeouts in OT. While this does help the games end a little earlier, this also wears out players and results in lower quality hockey. Also it helps the networks financially, and perhaps would make them less likely to cut away to show horsey races.

#9 - Exception to offsides rule
This doesn't happen often at all, but if the defending team puts the puck over the blueline, all offsides rules suddenly do not apply. The instances in which this is a problem are very rare, but this rule just does not make sense.

#10 - Stay in the box
I'm am sure this will never go in effect, but I think it would be really cool. If a player is in the penalty box at the end of a period, they will have to stay there until the penalty is over, and will not be allowed to go to the locker room for intermission. I'm still not sure what we should do with penalties that result with a player in the box at the end of the game, but I am sure we can come up with something.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Third Jersey

The Sabres have announced that they will announce their third jersey on September 20th. Of course the whole world has already known for months what the third jersey looks like. In short it is a revival of the classic blue and gold jersey, and is a barely updated version of of the one they wore two seasons ago.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sabres sign Jimmy Bonneau

Jimmy Bonneau is a left wing who picked up one goal and four assists in 24 games last season between the AHL and the ECHL. In short there is pretty much no way he is going to be up with the Sabres at all this season, but is rather yet another example of the Portland Pirates getting a well stocked team.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tyler Bouck

The Sabres have signed Tyler Bouck to a contract. Last season Bouck was the captain for the Portland Pirates and will probably reassume that role this year. Last season he scored 29 points in 79 games for Portland.

Individually this signing is not a big deal, but coupled with the signings of Colton Fretter, Colin Murphy and Mathieu Darche it is. Portland is set to have a really good year, as the Sabres have signed a number of experienced top AHL guys for this season. With the exception of Darche, not a single one of these recently signed players really has much of a chance of playing in the NHL this season. Gerbe, MacArthur, and Kaleta will all get called up before these players do.

One of the issues of contention with Rochester had been Buffalo's lack of willingness to sign players like this for their AHL team. Now that they are doing so, appears to be more of an issue with how management in Rochester was working then a philosophy against having AHL veterans.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Teppo back for at least one more season

Teppo Numminen has signed a one year $1.1 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres for this coming season. Teppo was only able to play in one game last year, but is still in good shape, and although not the fastest player on the ice, he is still a solid and experienced defenseman.

For the Sabres this solidifies there blueline, with a top pairing of Tallinder/Lydman, a second line of Rivet/Spacek, and a third line of Numminen/Sekera. That final pairing will not see as much ice time as the top two, but leaves us with a very capable numbers seven and eight of Weber and Paetsch.

Numminen is accepting a deal of less then half of what he made last season, but I think realizes that at his speed he really can not demand more money. Really it is good to see him playing at all. He worked hard last season just to get in the one game he did play. Hopefully his heart problems are behind him, and we get Teppo for a full season. I would assume that he will even be given a chance to be the alternative captain once again, with Hecht and Pominville taking the other two leadership spots.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mats Sundin and the Long Offseason

There has been a lot of question over where Mats Sundin will sign during this off season. However, there is no guarantee that he will be playing at all this coming season. While he still is able to play if he wants to, there is little reason to believe that he does. While there has been no official word on his retirement, he has been rather quiet this off season, and well there are many teams that would love to sign him nobody knows exactly what to expect.

One of the leading candidates to sign Sundin are the Vancouver Canucks. At the start of free agency on July 1st, Mats Sundin turned down a contract offer from them. The Montreal Canadian's are another leading contender, but nothing has happened there either.

One of the issues, may be Sundin's die hard loyalty to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has played his entire career with the team, and really doesn't want to leave. Last season when he was asked to waive his no trade clause, he refused, despite being in the final year of his contract, and with a team that clearly had no shot at making the post-season. However, going back to the trade Toronto has made it rather clear that they don't really intend to bring back Sundin for another season, and are surely not offering him another no trade clause.

Still the Maple Leafs refusal to bring back Sundin for another season is puzzling. Well I can understand why they may not want him on a long term contract, there is no reason not to sign him for one more year. Toronto currently has a young and weak team, that has very little chance at making the playoffs. At least bringing Sundin back would give them some credibility even if it won't improve the teams chances too much. In the end it is a bit pointless to watch your best player wander off without trying to keep him.

With these limited options Sundin may very well just retire this offseason. There are teams that would love to have him, but if he doesn't feel like continuing his career there is no reason he should feel forced to. Well Mats is smart to take his time and weigh his options before rushing into retirement (see Favre), the end result is that Sundin will not be playing this coming season. At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Kevin Dineen will be our AHL coach

Kevin Dineen will be the coach of the Sabres' AHL team in Portland this season. Dineen was the coach in Portland the past three season (when the team was affiliated with Anaheim), and put up a very respectable 135-76-13 record. He also won AHL coach of the year honours in 2006. He should be a solid coach, and should do a decent job of getting our younger players ready. I still think that losing Randy Cunneyworth is a huge blow to the Sabres organization, but that Kevin Dineen really isn't that bad either.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Colton Fretter and Colin Murphy signed

The Sabres have signed right wing Colton Fretter and left wing Colin Murphy to their team. Don't expect to see them in Buffalo too often though. Both of these players will be spending the season mostly in Portland with the Pirates. The most likely call ups from the AHL level are still Kaleta, Gerbe, Mathieu Darche, Kennedy, and MacArthur. Still under this new deal with Portland the Sabres seem to be committing much more to their AHL team as far as bringing in veterans goes.

Rumors continue about Marian Gaborik being traded to the Sabres. From the sounds of it though, it is not going to happen. Still Gaborik is an awesome player, and I would love to see him in Buffalo.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why I support Chicago

Starting last season, and assuredly continuing this year, my team to root for in the Western conference is the Chicago Blackhawks. Well, this isn't to uncommon in Buffalo apparently I need to justify my allegiance for the Blackhawks.

Like me, most of my friends are really into hockey, and with the NHL center ice package will often just turn on a random game and watch it. Early last season that focus landed on Chicago. Following the draft I had heard alot through the Buffalo News and such, about number one draft pick and Buffalo native Patrick Kane. Well I had never seen him play I was glad that a local player was doing so well, and was mildly interested. Meanwhile one of my friends happens to be a big fan of the University of North Dakota hockey team, and as such knew Jonathan Toews and was excited to see him play in the NHL.

Then this goal pretty much sold me on the team full time. We were talking and only half paying attention to the game, but around midway through that play, we both kindof just stopped and watched in awe as Toews pulled off that spectacular play.

Between Toews and (rookie of the year winner) Kane, Chicago had a rather exciting team last season. I probably only watched around 30 of their games, but that is more than I watched for any other team besides Buffalo. Khabibulin and other players such as Byfuglien, Sharp, and Buffalo native Kevyn Adams made the team easy to root for.

This season the team has picked up Huet, who I've always kindof liked and former Sabre Brian Campbell, who unlike some others who have left Buffalo I still like.

Furthermore, my other favorite players in the west, Jerome Iginla, and Marty Turco are both on teams that have signed some scum players this off season.

Friday, August 1, 2008

How Sabres management imporved the team by allowing players to walk

The Buffalo Sabres have gotten a lot of criticism for allowing alot of their star players to leave town, notably Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell, Jay McKee, and JP Dumont. While I would love to have Drury and Dumont back, it is important to remember why the team let Dumont walk in the first place. If the Sabres had signed JP they would have been over the cap. If the Sabres had signed all of these players they would have been well over the cap.

As a starting point I looked at the roster of the famed 2005-2006 team that did so well in the first season after the lockout. If Buffalo had resigned all of those players the cap hit for this season would be $73.846 million which is an astounding $17.146 million over the cap. The team that year consisted of Maxim Afinogenov, Chris Drury, Ales Kotalik, Daniel Briere, Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Brian Campbell, Jochen Hecht, J.P. Dumont, Teppo Numminen, Jason Pominville, Paul Gaustad, Mike Grier, Henrik Tallinder, Dmitri Kalinin, Toni Lydman, Jay McKee, Rory Fitzpatrick, Ryan Miller, and Martin Biron. This 21 man roster consists of all the players who had over 45 games played and the two starting goalies. Left off are Taylor Pyatt and Adam Mair, who played in 41 and 40 games, as well Andrew Peters who had 28 games, and goalie Mika Noronen who had four starts before being traded mid-season. However these extra players are still making close to the NHL minimum and would only have a small effect to the numbers.
Player2008 cap hit
Thomas Vanek$7.143
Brian Campbell$7.1
Chris Drury$7.05
Daniel Briere$6.5
Derek Roy$4
J.P. Dumont$4
Jay McKee$4
Jochen Hecht$3.525
Martin Biron$3.5
Maxim Afinogenov$3.333
Tim Connolly$2.9
Toni Lydman$2.875
Ryan Miller$2.667
Teppo Numminen*$2.6*
Henrik Tallinder$2.562
Ales Kotalik$2.333
Paul Gaustad$2.3
Dmitri Kalinin$2.1
Mike Grier$1.775
Jason Pominville$1.033
Rory Fitzpatrick*$0.55*
*2007 cap hits are used for Numminen (who is unsigned) and Fitzpatrick (whos cap hit for Florida can not be found)

Furthermore, besides being well over the cap and needing to trade away over $17 million worth of salaries for this season. This would also not make room for players such as Daniel Paille who only a bit player at this point, and Drew Stafford, and Patrick Kaleta who both had yet to play their first NHL game. Now looking back, with the notable exception of Chris Drury it would not have done the team any good to sign any of these players. Furthermore Miller is due an $4 million raise next season, and Pominville is likely to get the same. Yet only the salary for Numminen shows any possibility of going down (and even then it can not drop by more than $2 million).

So please stop complaining whenever Buffalo's management allows a player to walk. From this line up you could replace Dumont, McKee, Biron, Numminen, Afinogenov, and Connolly, all with players making the NHL minimum and you would still be over the cap. I think our current team is a huge improvement over that.