Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gaustad out for a month

Buffalo Sabres
After injuring his thumb in a fight on Sunday, Paul Gaustad will need surgery to repair the ligaments. Given that there is still over a week until the season begins, and that he shouldn't be out for too long (and has a history of returning before expected) this shouldn't hurt the Sabres too badly as they have plenty of depth upfront.

Buffalo's other injured forward, Adam Mair is well on the road to recovery. While he is still a bit of a long shot to make the roster on opening day, he is not likely to miss more than the first two games.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another preseason loss

The Sabres have not had too many wins this preseason, but that's not what the games are for at this point anyhow. The Minnesota Wild beat Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout. Gaustad scored the only goal for Buffalo, while Lalime looked good, only allowing a goal when Spacek put one in his own net.

Buffalo outshot Minnesota for most of the game and lead in shots in overtime 5-1. The Sabres play with the man advantage was less impressive, resulting in no goals.

This was the first game in Buffalo for former NCAA players Kennedy and Gerbe, but it is starting to look as if both of those players will be starting in the AHL this season.

The Captain for this game was Pominville with Hecht and Rivet taking turns as the alternates. These positions have been moving all around in the preseason, but both Pominville and Hecht are likely captains come regular season. This is the second straight game that newcomer Rivet was an alternate captain, so that may happen this coming season as well.

Once again Sabres Edge has more details on the preseason game.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sabres put in regulars and win a preseason game

The Sabres had their first home preseason game of the year (complete with a red carpet). They used most of their regulars in this game, with Miller in goal, and goals scored by Roy, Gaustad, and Kotalik. Afinogenov looked good as well, with an assist on all three goals.

Kaleta and Rivet both played very physical games and showed a tougher side for the team. Having a defenseman who is a physical presence will be a bit of a change for the Sabres, but certainly a welcome one. Numminen was the captain for the game with Gaustad and Rivet both being the alternates. More on the game from Mike Harrington.

The Sabres play another home preseason game tonight against Minnesota.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mike Ryan closer to home

Instead of signing with a KHL expansion team in Belarus, Michael Ryan has shown up in camp for the Nashville Predators. He is not guaranteed to make the team, but given his talent should have a decent shot at making the roster. This move makes much more sense for him, as most of the players going back to play for Russia are usually from Russia to begin with. Nashville will be an ok team this year, and will have a chance at the playoffs. They are not expected to be a powerhouse, but won't be bad either.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pacific Division

The Pacific division is set to be one of the toughest divisions in the NHL this coming season. The division's top two teams in Dallas and San Jose are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs, and a third is likely to do so as well.

#1 Dallas Stars
Stu Barnes may have moved into coaching, but the bedrock of the Dallas Stars is in goal. Marty Turco is the best goalie in the league, and is more than capable of carrying the team. However he now has the supporting cast to help him. Dallas doesn't have many big names (besides the aging Mike Modano), but has solid depth all around, and a talented forward in Brad Richards. That said, an injury to Turco would end their season.

#2 San Jose Sharks
This team is also able to benefit from top quality goaltending, and have the league's second best goalie in Evgeni Nabokov. The team however is weaker as a whole. They have lost both former Sabre Brian Campbell, and current Sabre Craig Rivet from their defense, and instead are going to have to rely on the overpriced Boyle. Up front the team is based around it's veterans like Jeremy Roenick, former Sabre Mike Grier, and the very talented Jonathan Cheechoo.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes
The desert dogs are a team on the rise, and have a shot at making the post season this year. They need to hope that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's success last season was not a fluke, and that they can get better production from their younger players. They have also brought in Olli Jokinen from Florida, who while very talented leads the league in games played without a playoff appearance.

#4 Anaheim Ducks
While stocked with good players, this is a team that may be too dysfunctional to have a phenomenal season. They have a good shot at getting third in the division, but won't be able to get into the top two. The team is over the cap and is still trying to get Teemu Selanne onto the team. While stocked with good players like the Niedermayers and Gigure in goal, the team has also traded away other top line talent like Andy McDonald.

#5 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings being at the bottom of this conference shouldn't surprise anyone. They have a young team, a number of goalies that nobody has heard of, and a history of finishing last. The team is barely over the cap and has no expectations to do anything.

See also the reviews of the Central division and the Southeast division

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The Buffalo Sabres are finally starting to move away from the slug logo, and go with the Blue and Gold that Buffalo's fans have wanted all along. Not only has Buffalo introduced a third jersey in the classic style, but have also now removed the slug from the ice at HSBC arena.
Buffalo Sabres

Glad to see the old logo back there. A huge improvement.

When the slug logo was first introduced, it was seeing the logo painted on the ice that confimred everyone's worst fears, and indicated that the adoption of the slug was irreveresable. Now perhaps it's removal can signal the beggining of the end. Image from Goose's Roost

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gerbe scores in preseason loss

Buffalo lost their second straight preseason game. Being preseason the big news is not the loss, but rather a goal by Nathan Gerbe. After having such a great year last season for NCAA Boston, Gerbe has a legitimate shot at winning rookie of the year if he can only make the team. Gerbe is an explosive talent, but is far back on a roster that is stuffed with forwards.

This pre-season game was a special event held in Glace de Roberval, a small town in Quebec, that won the right to host the game as part of a "Hockeyville contest". The arena the game took place in had only 1,237 seats, but drew a crowd of an additional 11,000 to watch on screens out side of the stadium.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sabres lose pre-season game

Most of Buffalo's regulars had limited playing time, so the outcome doesn't really matter all that much. The leading point earner for Buffalo was Marek Zagrapan who had a goal and two assists, but was still minus two in the game. Ryan Miller played for half the game, with Jhonas Enroth coming in for some playing time in the second half. Dominic Moore played well for Toronto earning two goals in the win.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Questions for the comming season

The Sabres play their first pre-season game of the year tonight, but still face alot of questions coming into this season. The answers to these questions will determine if Buffalo can win this year or not.

  • Can Vanek play defense? - two years ago Vanek lead the league with a plus 47 rating. Last year, despite only a slight drop in goal scoring he was minus five. He needs to go back to playing two ways if the Sabres are going to have a chance this year.
  • Can Connolly stay healthy? - Tim Connolly has only played in 50 games the past two seasons combined. He is a good player, but is off the ice far too often to be considered the cornerstone of this team.
  • Will Peters use up a roster spot? - Even when he is on the roster Peters only rarely gets more than five minutes of playing time a game. Given Buffalo's depth on offense that is a spot that would be better filled by Kaleta or Gerbe.
  • Is Sekera for real? - Andrej Sekera has been penciled in as a top six defenseman this season off of only 37 games played last season. In a similar position Paetsch disappointed last year. Granted Mike Weber may be capable of taking this spot as well.
  • Will Max show up big in his contract year? - there has been some talk about trading Afinogenov this off season, but just three seasons ago he lead the team in points. Last year was a disappointment for him, but does the possibility of him turning his game around still exist?
  • Can Lalime get enough starts to give Miller some rest? - It was clear that the team did not trust their backup goalie last season, forcing them to play Miller every game. Given how he did last year in Chicago Lalime should be trusted to take a few games.
  • Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Southeast division

    The South East division has been the worst in the NHL for quite awhile now. While Carolina did luck into winning the cup a few years ago, the division as a whole is very week, and given that there will be less divisional games this regular season it is unlikely that more than one team gets to the playoffs from the southeast, and guaranteed no more than two.

    #1 Washington Capitals
    The Capitals, who were good last season, and almost won their playoff series have returned with the core of their team intact. They still have the league's best player in Alexander Ovechkin, and a very solid supporting cast with Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Sergei Fedorov. The Capitals real problem is in goal, where they forced out Olaf Kolzig, and then lost replacement Cristobal Huet to free agency. They now have veteran Jose Theodore, but he is no longer one of the leagues top goalies.

    #2 Carolina Hurricanes
    Carolina has a strong team, but has almost no standout players. The one exception is Rod Brind'Amour, but he can't carry the team on his own, and needs more of a supporting cast. Carolina finished just outside of the playoffs last season, and will likely finish just outside again this year.

    #3 Tampa Bay Lighting
    Tampa has some very talented players, but for a while now has been a very dysfunctional club. Lecavalier and St. Louis are as good as ever, but have no help from their other lines. Rookie Steve Stamkos will do ok, and my even have a shot at winning rookie of the year, but won't do enough to help this team.

    #4 Florida Panthers
    Not much to say about this team. They have the supporting cast that Carolina and Tampa Bay need, but without the leaders and top of the line players to push them over the edge. Tomas Vokoun is still a bit of a question mark as far as goaltending goes as well.

    #5 Atlanta Thrashers
    Will be battling with the LA Kings for the top spot in the draft. The team has Ilya Kovalchuk but very few other players. Second year defenseman Tobias Enstrom is really the best that they have on the blueline. The only chance this team has for staying out of the basement is if goalie Johan Hedberg can get lucky and steal some games for them.

    See also the review of the Central division

    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    Darcy Regier sticking around Numminen passes physical

    Darcy Regier has signed a contract to stay in Buffalo for another two seasons.
    Teppo Numminen
    These sort of deals however are always much more flexible then the contracts that the players sign. Still after eleven years with him and Lindy Ruff running things this should not come as a surprise at all. Nobody expected him to leave, and I'm glad he will not.

    Teppo Numminen passed his physical yesterday, which is a welcome change from last year. Hopefully his heart doesn't give him any problems, and Buffalo is able to keep the depth on defense that they were supposed to have last season. In that regards at least this year is already starting out better than the last.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Pominville signs for five more years

    Buffalo Sabres Jason Pominville
    Jason Pominville has signed a contract extension to stay with the Buffalo Sabres for five additional years. As he still has another full year under his current contract, he will be in Buffalo through 2014. This puts the Sabres in really good shape, as there is no very little they need to do next offseason besides resigning restricted free agents Kaleta, Stafford, and Sekera.

    Pominville showed last season that he is more than able to lead this team, and now that he has signed a contract is all but guaranteed to be named team captain this Saturday.

    It is a good thing that this extension got taken care of before the season began. Last year the constant contract talks clearly distracted Campbell from his game, and is not a issue that the team needed to face again. That said, if they hadn't come to a deal by the start of the regular season, I'm hopeing that the team would have put off further contract discussions until after the season was over.

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    The Making of a Classic

    This Saturday the Sabres are releasing a dvd titled "The Making of a Classic" about the 2008 Winter Classic that was held here last season. While this was quite the event and was certainly a big deal, perspective have changed a bit since.

    For one thing the Sabres lost that game in a shootout. Given how close the team was to the playoffs at the end of the season, and that the loss was part of a ten game losing streak puts a bit of a damper on the whole thing. Also that the game will move to Chicago next year, which makes it more of a general NHL thing, then a Buffalo event. Alot of the hype and excitement around the event was in the fact that it was showcasing Buffalo which is really a hockey city. The fact that Buffalo is no longer a part of it makes the ice bowl's future a bit of a disappointment.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Central division

    For most of the past decade the central division was the easiest in the NHL, and the Red Wings took advantage of this year after year to repeatedly win the president's trophy. Starting with last season the division has gotten tougher and should be much more competitive this year. However there is no reason to expect the Red Wings not to come in first.

    #1 Detroit Red Wings
    Winners of both the President's trophy and the Stanley Cup last season, there is little reason to expect this team to fall. The team lost almost no one except for replacing aging goalie Dominik Hasek with Ty Conklin who had a breakout year last season as the back up in Pittsburgh. Detroit also managed to sign this offseason's most coveted free agent, Marian Hossa for a completely reasonable amount.

    #2 Chicago Blackhawks
    Although finishing just outside of the playoffs last season Chicago is clearly a team on the rise and will be much improved this year. The team's young core of Kane, Toews, Sharp and Byfuglien have all returned. Furthermore they have bolstered their defense by signing former Sabre Brian Campbell. Also they have signed goalie Cristobal Huet leaving Khabibulin as the backup and committing $12.375 million of cap space to their goaltending. However the team has not resigned Kevyn Adams and unexpectedly traded away Robert Lang for only a draft pick. Chicago was the only team in the league that didn't look scared of the Red Wings throughout the season.

    #3 Nashville Predators
    The Nashville Predators slipped into the playoffs in the eighth spot last season and are likely to finish close to that spot again. The team played well in the playoffs only losing to division rival and eventual cup winners Detroit in six games. The predators have one of the league's top goalies in Dan Ellis. The team is also lead by former Sabre JP Dumont. On the downside they lost rising star Alex Radulov to Russia, and have a mess of an ownership situation.

    #4 St. Louis Blues
    The good news is that this is at least a team on the rise. While they will almost assuredly finish in the bottom two in their division and out of the playoffs the team will get better by next year. They have a decent goalie in Legacé and some veteran leadership in Paul Kariya and former Sabre Jay McKee. They also have some good young players such as Stanley cup winner Andy McDonald, rookie T.J. Oshie, and West Seneca native Lee Stempniak.

    #5 Columbus Blue Jackets
    While better than they were last season, the Blue Jackets have little to no chance of making the playoffs. The team brought in some veterans such as R.J. Umberger, Mike Commodore, and Kristian Huselius, but still lack the depth do go far. Their goalie is ok, but this team is not set for success.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Rookie camp gets underway

    While all of the Sabres rookies and other prospects all arrived in Buffalo last Friday they are only really getting practices underway this week. This will only give them a single week of practice before all of the veterans report for physicals this Friday. The main players to watch will be Nathan Gerbe and Mike Weber. Currently both of these players are not expected to be in Buffalo's starting lineup, but have the potental to get a shot at it. Gerbe is an outstanding talent, but will have to convince Ruff to give up Peter's and MacArthur's spots to have a shot at making the team. Weber has some NHL experience but will be battleing Patesch for the number seven role, and also Sekera who he played very well with last season. Still in the event of injuries we are likely to see both of these players at some point in the year.

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    Zednik retuns to hockey

    After getting his neck slashed open seven months ago, Zednik is ready to play another season. This was by far the worst injury that the NHL saw last season, and it's good to know that he is doing all right and will be returning. He does however plan on wearing a neck guard this season, similar to the one that Tallinder started wearing after Zednik got cut.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    2011 World U-20 championships

    Buffalo is one of the leading contenders to land the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-20 championships. The other contenders are the Twin Cities and Grand Forks, which are both good hockey areas, but hopefully Buffalo gets the games.

    According the Business First, the Buffalo area impressed the selection committee when they came to town. They even managed to get Amherst resident Scotty Bowman to push for granting the games to Buffalo.

    This is still a few years away, but it would be awesome for an event like this to come to Buffalo, much like the frozen four was, when it came a few years ago.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    EA Sports NHL 09

    No game will ever overtake the awesomeness that was Blades of Steel, but EA's newest game NHL 09 does have better graphics even if it lacks the cool name. NHL 09 game has only a few minor changes from past titles in the series, and plays pretty much the same. More or less your typical sports game.

    The Sabres are ranked more or less middle of the road, but have a few surprises in their lineup. Despite signing with HC Dinamo Minsk in Belarus Michael Ryan is still listed as a Sabre, and so is Nolan Pratt despite there being zero chance of him being resigned.

    Also I saw Connolly get knocked down by a vicious check, and get up no injuries. I don't know if that was a hidden game setting or not, but seeing that was a bit odd.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Upcomming Dates

    Exactly one month from today, the Sabres have there first regular season hockey game. It has already been far too long since the last time any hockey game has been on, so seeing the Sabres again will be good.

  • September 12th - Rookies report to Buffalo
  • September 19th - Training camp begins
  • September 20th - Sabres take to the ice and reveal third jerseys
  • September 20th - first NHL pre-season game
  • September 22nd - first Buffalo preseason game
  • October 4th - first NHL regular season game (in Prague)
  • October 9th - first NHL regular season game in North America
  • October 10th - first Buffalo regular season game
  • Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    Classic Jersey

    In one of the lamest, and worst kept secrets in the NHL, an image of a new Sabres jersey has been floating around the internet. And what do you know, it is blue and gold with the classic logo right in the middle of the chest. I personally knew a full year ago that this was coming, but the official announcement is still over a week away.
    Buffalo Sabres

    The jersey does have the draw strings, which is one of those classic hockey things that I've never really understood. Also I'm slightly disappointed that they have removed the B from the shoulder as I've taken that as a good mix of the old and the new. Still there is nothing incredibly surprising about this design at all, we saw this as a third jersey two years ago, and in white last season at the winter classic.

    At the very least this means we will be able to go some games without having to look at the slug.

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Ranking the top 41 NHL goalies

    Below is a ranking of the top 41 goalies league wide. This also shows why some teams, such as Los Angles, do not have a chance at all this season. Buffalo came out ok, with Miller at number 8 and Lalime doing respectable at number 32. The most stacked team is obviously Chicago with both Huet (#10) and Khabibulin (#18). The top ten show and even split between the east and the west although both of the top two are in the Pacific division, and numbers three and four both play in the Atlantic division. A few of these are a little uncertain such as #17 Carey Price who has seen very few starts, as well as Curtis Joseph (#37) who has been out of the spotlight for a while now. Also half of the top six (numbers one, four, and six) are all named Marty, which is a bit unusual. Chris is the only other name repeated at numbers 14 and 21.

    #1 Marty Turco
    #2 Evgeni Nabokov
    #3 Rick DiPietro
    #4 Martin Brodeur
    #5 Dan Ellis
    #6 Martin Biron
    #7 Roberto Luongo
    #8 Ryan Miller
    #9 Henrik Lundqvist
    #10 Cristobal Huet
    #11 Jean-Sebastien Giguere
    #12 Marc-Andre Fleury
    #13 Miikka Kiprusoff
    #14 Chris Osgood
    #15 Tim Thomas
    #16 Tomáš Vokoun
    #17 Carey Price
    #18 Nikolai Khabibulin
    #19 Niklas Bäckström
    #20 Ilya Bryzgalov
    #21 Chris Mason
    #22 Martin Gerber
    #23 Pascal Leclaire
    #24 Manny Legacé
    #25 Johan Holmqvist
    #26 Peter Budaj
    #27 Mathieu Garon
    #28 Cam Ward
    #29 Jose Theodore
    #30 Alex Auld
    #31 Vesa Toskala
    #32 Patrick Lalime
    #33 Kari Lehtonen
    #34 Dwayne Roloson
    #35 Andrew Raycroft
    #36 Jason LaBarbera
    #37 Curtis Joseph
    #38 Olaf Kolzig
    #39 Johan Hedberg
    #40 Manny Fernandez
    #41 Fredrik Norrena

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    Ruff ranked amoung the best NHL coaches

    This is about a month old, but a ranking of NHL coaches by ESPN repeats what Buffalo fans already know, in that Lind Ruff is on of the best coaches league wide. The other coaches chosen to be amoung the "elite" are Mike Babcock from Detroit, Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire and Nashville's Barry Trotz.

    From the lock down no goals system of the late 90's to the high scoring speed game post lockout, Ruff has proven to be able to coach whatever style works best for his team, and to be to compete regardless, rather then to be stuck in one system. This year expect Ruff to be exually as adaptaive as the Sabres take on a slightly tougher side with Rivet, and more apperances by Kaleta. I don't see how keeping Ruff over the years has been anything but good. If only he would smile.

    Also see why Top Shelf Cookies Loves Lindy Ruff.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Larry Quinn and Dan DiPofi become minority owners

    Gollisano has announced that as of a few months ago both Larry Quinn and Dan DiPofi (both head office guys) have become minority owners of the Buffalo Sabres. Now in this case minority owner probably means a combined ownership of under one percent, so I doubt that this will result in any significant changes to the team.

    Monday, September 1, 2008

    Things that the NHL should not do

    A number of lists have been posted lately (mostly on Puck Daddy) about things that the NHL should change. I even posted a list of recommended rule changes myself. However, many of these lists contain items that absolutely should not be changed.

    Changing the size of the nets
    This suggestion is brought up over and over again, but really should not be. Although it would make it slightly easier to score, inflating the point totals is not really good for the game in general. There are less controversial ways to increase scoring such as allowing more curve in the sticks and changing the colour of the goal. To make a more exciting game the focus needs to come off goals, and to try and create an environment that allows more scoring chances.

    League Contraction
    There are a number of concerns over the size of the league, but it would be very detrimental to the NHL to have a smaller league. Not only would they lose money, but they would also lose talent and public standing. If anything the NHL is more likely to expand up to 32 teams.

    Less playoff teams/Less games per series
    Any suggestion to having less teams in the playoffs or to have shorter series in the first rounds are simply bad ideas. Playoff hockey is the best thing that the NHL has to offer, and creating less of it is simply a bad idea. Furthermore one of hockey's strengths is that a a best of seven series is used rather than single elimination. Anything move closer to single elimination is a step backwards.

    No touch iceing
    The current iceing rules reward teams for being fast, no touch iceing takes this advantage away from the quicker teams and as such is detrimental to the game.

    Removing the Salary Floor and or Cap
    The Salary Cap is the best thing to come out of the lockout, and as the fan of what is traditionally a small town (although not really in the hockey sense) I fully support the Salary Cap. Furthermore a Salary Floor is needed, as the players are contractually obligated to receive a percent of all revenue, so the removal of the floor would artificially inflate the Cap, leaving some teams behind.

    Leave the Predators alone
    Nashville may not be the strongest market, but it is still better than Florida, Phoenix, or Atlanta. Lets move these teams north before we worry about anyone else.

    Failure to reword shootout losses
    I am all for making everything a three point game, but to tell a team they get nothing because they failed in a skills competition is not acceptable. I would rather go back to ties instead of counting a loss in the shootout as a normal loss.