A Defining Draft Day for Tim Murray & The Sabres – Part 2

So after the morning trade by the Sabres, all eyes were now on the afternoon draft and expectation that the Sabres would select Jack Eichel as their 2nd overall pick in the first round.

The Duo of Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn heading to Buffalo

The Duo of Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn heading to Buffalo

Just as everyone was settling down for the actual Draft though rumours broke on social media that the Sabres were talking to Colorado Avalanche about center Ryan O’Reilly.

So what was the deal all about? Well it turns out i was all around the number 31 pick that the sabres had.  It was another large trade that saw Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher and the 31st pick go to Colorado and in return the Sabres received Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn.

Both Zadorov and Grigorenko were decent enough prospects in Buffalo.  Zadorov played 60 games last season on the Sabres blue line in his first NHL season after being drafted as the 16th overall pick in 2013.

Meanwhile Grigorenko split the season between the Sabrs and their AHL affiliate in Rochester for the 2nd season in a row after he was drafted as the 12th overall pick in 2012.  His output is Rochester was fairly decent with 14 goals and 22 assists in his 41 appearances but he had just 3 goals and 3 assists in 25 games with the Sabres last season.

Also in the deal was JT Compher who was selected in round 2, 35th overall, in the 2013 draft.  He spent last season at the University of Michigan and will captain that team this season.

Ryan O'Reilly scoring for the Avs

Ryan O’Reilly scoring for the Avs

In getting O’Reilly the Sabres have gained a genuine number 1 centre who at only 24 has the potential to be a franchise player for some time.  He had 17 goals and 38 assists with the Avs last season and could be the perfect man to feed a fully fit Evander Kane this season.

With O’Reilly now in town It certainly gives you very good top line potential which I’m sure we will see develop during training camp and also pre season.

Jamie McGinn hopefully adding some scoring for the Sabres

Jamie McGinn hopefully adding some much needed scoring for the Sabres

Also arriving in Buffalo is Jamie McGinn who will be entering his 8th season in the NHL.  McGinn is a former San Jose Shark who was then traded to Colorado in the 2011/12 season.  Last season he only iced for 19 games but in his previous season he registered 19 goals and 19 assists in 79 games as well as 2 goals and 3 assists in 7 playoff games.

McGinn has also played on the same line as O’Reilly so it’ll be interesting to see if Dan Bylsma will look at utilising them together.

Finally the dust settled after the trade and the Sabres got down to the business of the Draft itself and following the Edmonton Oilers selecting Connor McDavid (#PrayForMcDavid) at the number 1 pick all eyes were on the Sabres.

The Sabres 2nd Overall Draft Pick - Jack Eichel

The Sabres 2nd Overall Draft Pick – Jack Eichel

In true Tim Murray style he kept things brief and to the point, walking up to the mic and simply saying “The Buffalo Sabres select Jack Eichel”.  Finally the Sabres have their man.

Eichel is a wonderful player and looks like he will be one of the superstars that the Buffalo Sabres need to finally win a Stanley Cup.  I for one am certainly excited to see him pull on a Sabres jersey.

Jack had 26 goals and 45 assists for Boston University last season in just 40 games, as well as playing on the US national team at the World Championships and also won the Hobey Baker Award for the best Collegiate Player last season.

Had Connor McDavid not have been in the draft, any other year Eichel would have been the number 1 overall pick.  I’m just glad we have him on our team.

So with the draft now done and dusted and having time now to sit back, catch my breath and look at what the Sabres have achieved during the draft it is safe to say that true to his word Tim Murray is making the Sabres better every day!

In fact on the Day in question I would say the Sabres got unbelievably better.  This draft day will certainly live in the memories of us sabres fans for a while and given the love for Tim Murray at the minute the atmosphere in Buffalo must be incredible.  It certainly is a defining day in the organisation’s recent history.

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A Defining Draft Day for Tim Murray & The Sabres – Part 1

Following the end of a disappointing NHL season where the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t even win the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery to get the 1st pick all eyes were on the Sabres at the draft to see if they would make any moves.

A couple of days before the Drat rumours were flying around about various players the Sabres were chasing.  Cam Talbot was the main name doing the rounds as everyone knew the Sabres needed a number 1 goalie.

The Sabres at the start of Day 1 of the draft held 3 picks in the first round at numbers 2, 21 and 31.  I think deep down I always knew GM Tim Murray would make a move and in the weeks leading up to the draft Murray himself has said all along he would always listen to offers.

The 21st Pick was traded for goalie Robin Lehner & center David Legwand

The Sabres 1st round 21st pick was traded for goalie Robin Lehner and center David Legwand

The morning of the Draft saw the news break that Murray had traded away the 21st pick to the Ottawa Senators.

In return the Sabres received goalie Robin Lehner and veteran center David Legwand.

Lehner moving from the Sens was something that was always going to happen with the Sens having a lot of depth in the position with Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond seemingly being the main goalies battling for the number 1 spot in Ottawa, especially once Lehner has suffered a concussion part way through the season.

Kane and Lehner now on the same team in Buffalo

Kane and Lehner now on the same team in Buffalo

With Lehner only being 23, I would say it’s a great pick up for the Sabres with a goalie that really excites me and it also gives the team a genuine number 1 goalie.  Could the Sabres have picked up a goalie with the 21st pick or through the UFA list that can match the potential of Lehner? Probably not if I’m honest.

The interesting part of this trade for me though is the addition of Legwand and what role does he have with the team?

Legwand scoring in his time in Nashville!

Legwand scoring in his time in Nashville!

Legwand is a 34 year old 15 season NHL veteran, he played 14 of those seasons with the Nashville Predators including 3 season with an ‘A’ on his jersey before being traded to the Red Wings as part of the Eaves and Jarnkrok trade and then signing for the Sens as a free agent last summer.

He’s never had huge goal or point production but he still has a lot to offer the team that’s for sure and with the Sabres having such a young team his leadership skills both on and off the ice could well match that of Sabres Captain Brian Gionta.

To quote GM Tim Murray as he always says “We want to get better every day!”

Did the Sabres get better on the morning of the draft?  Absolutely no question in my mind, we certainly did!

But all this was just the beginning of an incredible day for all Sabres fans!

I’ll look at the Draft itself and also a surprise Trade that caught everyone by surprise a it happened moments before the Draft itself in Part Two.

The Sabres 2nd Overall Draft Pick - Jack Eichel

The Sabres 2nd Overall Draft Pick – Jack Eichel

Dancing Dan’s The Man In Buffalo!

It’s been awhile since my last blog post so I thought it was about time I caught up with some recent developments!

The 28th of May finally saw the announcement of the new Buffalo Sabres head coach.

After a couple of weeks following #Babwatch and it looking likely that the Sabres were going to appoint, former Detroit Red Wings Coach, Mike “Whitley Bay” Babcock as the new head coach.  The Sabres then lost out to the Leafs as they gave him a contract that he just couldn’t refuse.

Babcock turned down the Sabres to join the Leafs!

Babcock turned down the Sabres to join the Leafs!

It seems that an 8 year $50m dollar contract was an offer Mike just couldn’t refuse.

The Sabres had been reported as offering the same $50m dollar contract but over a 10 year period.

But who knows and we move on.  I personally thought that Babcock would have been a great fit for the Sabres and was pretty gutted that he had decided to join the Leafs.

As soon as the rumours that Mike had signed with the Leafs one name was instantly linked to the still vacant Sabres post and that name was Dan Bylsma, the former Pittsburgh Penguins coach who has also coached the United States senior mens team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Just days later a press conference was called by Tim Murray and on 28 May Dan Bylsma was formally introduced as the new Buffalo Sabres head coach.

Dancing Dan unveiled as Sabres Head Coach

Dancing Dan unveiled as Sabres Head Coach

So what can we expect from the Sabres under their new leader?

Well one thing that immediately stands out is the attacking brand of hockey that Bylsma got the Penguins to play.

With the young exciting roster that we now have, due to the rebuild that has taken place over the last 2 years, there is certainly plenty of potential to work with.  There is also the addition of the exciting prospect that is number 2 pick Jack Eichel, things have really taken a good step forward.

As Tim Murray says, his aim is to make the Sabres better every day and hopefully with the appointment of Bylsma he has done just that.  Over the next few week there are bound to be more changes as we head towards the start of next season and also into training camp.

There are still several areas of the squad that need looking at with the Goaltending situation being possibly the biggest question mark.  Next up though is the draft, again something that the sabres couldn’t win, as we select at number 2.

One thing’s for sure though, there will never be a dull moment being a Sabres Fan.  I look forward to seeing what “Dancing Dan” can do with this team.

Dancing Dan is our leader!

Dancing Dan is our leader!

Sabres Trades are like Buses….

Just when you’re getting used to the idea of losing both Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford, Sabres GM Tim Murray then announces that he’s made a 2nd Trade on the same day.

Jhonas Enroth teming up with Lindy in Dallas

Jhonas Enroth teaming up with Lindy again in Dallas

This time the trade would the Sabres move on current starting goalie Jhonas Enroth to the Dallas Stars to link up once again with former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

With the Stars in the hunt for a playoff place and needing a goalie Sabres GM Tim Murray said ‘it seemed like the right time to make a deal.’ Let’s hope hes right on this, at least it give us more time to look at guys and assess our needs before the end of the season.

In return for Jhonas going to Dallas the Sabres get Anders Lindback and also a conditional third round pick in the 2016 draft, although this could become a 2nd round pick should Enroth reach 4 playoff game wins.

Anders Linback is a now Sabre!

Anders Lindback is a now Sabre!

For me it’s a shame Jhonas is going as he’s shown signs that he is finally stepping out from the shadows of Ryan Miller that held the number one spot for so long.  Again though Enroth is an UFA in the summer and GM Murray admitted that we may go back in for him then.

Jhonas has posted a 3.27 GAA and a .903 SV% in 37 games this season, leading the team to 13 wins.  Lindback in comparison has a 3.71 GAA and a .875 SV% with 2 wins and 8 losses in 10 appearances this season, including last weeks 3-2 Sabres win over the Stars where both goalies went head to head.

The deal is a good one for the Stars as they are serious playoff contenders so need the depth at the goalie position.  I just worry that we will now see a similar situation with our goalies like we had at the end of last season with anyone who is fit donning the mask.

Murray says he’d like to see more of Neuvirth but the guy has had so so many injuries.  I’d personally like to see more of Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen but for now it looks like Lindback and Neuvirth will get the nod.

We still have several weeks until we hit the trade deadline and it wouldn’t surprise me to see another couple of movements involving the Sabres.  It is however vitally important for me that we keep the likes of Girgensons, Ristolainen and Zadorov who for their ages have been superb and I look forward to seeing them develop further.

One thing is certain though Tim Murray isn’t afraid to shake up the roster, but when you’re the worst team in the NHL I guess you have to do something.

LETS GO BUFFALO

Sabres Making Changes!

Well after my last blog about the Sabres the wheels have certainly come off the bus.  Since the turn of the new year the Sabres have won just 2 out of 17 games and now find themselves 30 out of 30 team in the NHL standings, this also included a 14 game losing streak!

Sabres GM Tim Murray

Sabres GM Tim Murray looking to rebuild.

Yesterday finally saw GM Tim Murray announce a trade, which was then followed quickly by a 2nd trade.

In his press conference the GM was very open, as he always seems to be, something that I really like and something that is very good to see.

In fact he was so open that he freely admitted that he was ‘pissed off’ with the Sabres 14 game losing streak that sees them sit as the worst team in the NHL.

Myers & Stafford on their way to the Jets.

Tyler Myers & Drew Stafford are heading to the Jets.

So at midday Murray announced that a trade had been made with the Winnipeg Jets.

On their way to the Jets are Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford along with prospects Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a 1st round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Both Myers and Stafford have both been Sabres stalwarts for a long time, Myers though for me has not really show his real potential since 2009/10 when he won the Calder Trophy for the best NHL Rookie.  His season stats show he has 4 Goals, 9 Assists but a +/- rating of -15 through 47 games this season.

Stafford, who’s been with the Sabres since 2004, for me has possibly been one of the Sabres most consistent performers despite picking up a couple of injuries. His leadership has also been very good and he has 9 Goals, 15 Assists with a +/- of -18 through 50 games so far this season.  The other thing to note was that Stafford was an UFA in the summer so maybe the timing is spot on.

For me I think the timing of this trade is right, Sabres had to make a move and to get anywhere it was always going to be our better players that had to move.  Despite giving away a 1st round pick we still actually have 2 more available so that doesn’t really hurt us.

With the prospects its hard to say whether its a good or bad move, both though are players I expect to have decent NHL careers but only time will tell if we have traded away potential superstars.

Buffalo Bound - Kane & Bogosian

Buffalo Bound – Evander Kane & Zach Bogosian.

So in return for all this the Sabres will receive Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and college prospect goalie Jason Kasdorf.

Kane though we won’t see until next season due to him requiring to go under the knife to repair a torn labrum.

The Jets had made it clear over the last week or so that they were listening to offers for Kane but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted a trade this big.

In 37 games with the Jets this season Kane has scored 10 goals and has 12 assists with a +/- of just -1.  With him being just 23 years of age it’s a really good fit with the Sabres and I will look forward to seeing in a Sabres Jersey for what could be an improved season next year.

Bogosian will however be on the ice in a Sabres jersey this season, he’s been a fair steady performer with the Jets with 3 goals and 10 assists in 41 outings so far.  His +/- is also a nice +1, he is a good strong guy and will also play possible in all situations.

The final part of this trade will also see College prospect goalie Jason Kasdorf join the organisation and give us further depth at this position.  Although not having any real standout superstar goalie we do seem to have plenty of potential depth at this position.

So overall, despite giving away a couple of our best players this trade has plenty of longer term benefits to the Sabres.  Myers & Stafford have been great players for us and I’m sure the fans will give them a massive ovation when they return some day soon but in the mean time this is just another step in the rebuilding process.

GM Tim Murray is not afraid to make big trades after all he traded with the Blues last year when both Ryan Miller and Captain Steve Ott were traded for Jaroslav Halak, who was moved on straight away, and also Chris Stewart.  Murray admitted in his press conference he’s very open that he will listen to any offers.  Although there are some guys he doesn’t want to let move on!

Sabres Turning The Corner?

Are the Buffalo Sabres turning the corner and starting to turn into a playoff team?  Well it’s certainly a long way off yet the the Sabres form over the last 10 games certainly gives me some hope.

Following possibly the worst start to a season for a long long while and being the worst team in the NHL by a long way, the Sabres have now won 7 of their last 10 games.

The latest win came with a 1-0 win over defending Stanley Cup Champions the Los Angeles Kings.  This young team certainly seems to have a lot of spring in it’s step at the moment.

At the back Jonas Enroth seems to be edging ahead in the race to be the starting net minder and with Josh Gorges return from injury the Sabres defensively look a lot stronger.

Up front Tyler Ennis is in fantastic form and Brian Gionta seems to be bringing great leadership.  One returnee from injury that for me is helping the team is the return of Patrick Kaleta.  For me he is one of the most underrated players on our roster and his return for me has been key in our recent good form.

Coach Ted Nolan is really believing in this team and giving them time to develop, although there is still a long way to go for us to get back into the playoff picture it certainly seems that things are on the up.

My other team over the pond, the Belleville Bulls, are still performing well and looking good for a playoff spot.  The excellent early season form though has now died off as a 7 game losing streak proved last month.

However form seems to have picked up over the last week or so and the team still sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference, hopefully the team can keep up the recent momentum and have a strong Christmas period.

Finally back over the pond to the Nottingham Panthers who find themselves at the right end of the table and challenging for the elite league title.

Now although the team doesn’t seem to be a team in the traditional ‘Sexy Neilson Hockey’ style, this team certainly epitomises the sense of ‘TEAM’.  An injury to Craig Kowalski has seen Mattias Modig return between the pipes for a 2nd spell.

The team densely as I have said before certainly look strong but the forwards have seem to struggle to find some consistency and form.  This hasn’t been helped by several injuries that we seem to pick up every weekend.

Panthers though despite this find themselves sat 3rd in the league and just a point behind the Clan and Steelers.  With a busy Christmas period coming up I’m sure we’ll see whether we are genuine contenders in the new year!

One thing I do have to say though is that there does seem to be a lot of parity in the league this year and it could be a real fight right down to the wire.

Up & Downs for all my Hockey Teams

So with the NHL, CHL and Elite League season now well and truly under way it appears that my teams are all having very mixed fortunes!

Over in America the Buffalo Sabres look like having another dismal season, much to the delight of my Maple Leaf friends who appear to suddenly have come out the woodwork.

Our 4-0 defeat to the leafs on Tuesday night was made worse by the fact that we only had 10 shots on goal during the 60 minute game.

I do fear for the team who I had hoped would perform a little better if I’m honest but it seems our leaking defence, struggling goalies and shot shy forwards are making life very difficult.

Although the fact that we went into San Jose on Sunday night and won seems to have escaped a few peoples minds.

Good NHL teams though take time to build and I just hope Ted Nolan is given time to build something.  We have some good prospects and I’m sure they will develop over time.

It could be worse though, I could be a hurricanes fan!

Up in Belleville the Bulls have been putting in some great performances in the OHL with just 3 defeats in 12 games giving us currently 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference.

We have a very good team this year with some good goaltending from Charlie Graham and with the fantastic Jordan Subban (pictured above) looking as good as his brother PK it gives me plenty of hope that we will make a good run at the playoff this year.

Back home in the Elite League the Panthers despite not playing particularly great find themselves in a pretty decent position.

With Nathan Robinson now showing some of the skill that we all knew he had deep down and calls for him to stay for the season it really does look like we have a good TEAM this season.

Two others to make a good impression have been Jonathan ‘The Real British Bulldog’ Boxhill and Greg ‘Juice’ Jucina.

Both players have started superbly and the effort that Boxy puts in is a joy to behold.

Juice on the other hand is showing us why Corey brought him in last season and why he was one of the first to be resigned. Especially now that he is playing in his proper position.

Like I said in my preseason review I think we’ll be very competitive but not quite good enough for a title.

Here’s keeping my fingers crossed anyway!