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

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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!

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!

Hockey Season Moves Into Full Flow!

So with the start of the NHL season over the last couple of nights and Panthers finally getting back to stand alone Elite League fixtures, its safe to say that the Hockey season has now started properly!

So what do I think this season will hold for all my teams?  Well I guess its hard to say at present.  Panthers look a decent side on paper but with several key injuries its been a very up and down start.

It will be interesting to see if Nathan Robinson, quite possibly the best player on paper in the league and also a former Belleville Bull will hang around for a few more weeks now that his CHL contract is complete.  Only time will tell on that one but personally I hope he does and that even more chemistry forms between Lacho and himself.

With Chris Higgins back in the lineup this weekend and also the return of David Clarke that should give Panthers plenty more firepower than they have had recently.

I still think the defence looks very strong and confident on the puck but just need to cut down on the errors and turnovers.  Lets hope over the next few weeks we start to build a decent base to a possible title challenge!

Do I think we’ll win the league? Probably not but I’d like to see us at least challenge all the way!

Over in North America my beloved Buffalo Sabres began their season with a 3-1 defeat in our home opener to the Blue Jackets.

A result that possibly could have gone the other way had the Jackets goalie not had such a great game!  However I am still hopeful of a better season this time round, with the additions of Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges giving this young team some good veteran leadership.

Lets face it, it has to be better than last year!

Over in Belleville the Bulls, playing in the OHL, have got off to a flyer with 5 wins and just 1 defeat in their opening 6 games.

It seems that the team is building on what was a very impressive season last time out.  Again we will wait and see if the team gives all the fans false hope at the beginning of the season again.

So after all of this, come April/May where do I think each team will be?

  • Panthers I think will finish 3rd or 4th in the league this season and at least make either the Challenge Cup or Playoff final.
  • Sabres I feel will just miss out on the playoffs! (Not bad for this young team)
  • Bulls – Playoffs again but I can’t really see us going past the 2nd Round.

This weekend sees Panthers take on Fife Flyers in a home and home series, at the NIC on Saturday before travelling to Kirkcaldy for the return on Sunday.

It would be nice to take 4 points this weekend but realistically I can only see it be 2, maybe 3 if we can sneak overtime in Fife!