What Rob Ray meant to the Sabres

This post was originally on Hockey Heaven and you should all be so kind to check out the stuff that Matthew Stewart is pumping out there.
 
A look back at Rob Ray

QUICK HITS

Last week Rob Ray turned 43-years-old. Earlier this week, we took a look at the role of Patrick Kaleta on the Sabres, and so we thought it might be interesting to take a look back at one of the premiere agitators and enforcers of Sabres past in a quick hit. What Ray has contributed to the Sabres organization?  Ray made his debut for the Sabres in 1989-90 becoming a steady ice time contributor throughout the remainder of his career.  Ray was the proverbial tough guy ‘enforcer’ every NHL team needs to guide themselves through an 82 game schedule.  He was listed at 6’0” 220 lbs and played much bigger.  As his playing career ended in 2004, he came back to the Sabres organization shortly thereafter to contribute to the television broadcast. He certainly wasn’t the best player to ever wear the Sabres sweater, but few alumni are more recognizable and adored by fans.  Rob Ray is a synonymous name and face with the Buffalo Sabres. Continue reading

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Hey Hockey Fans, relax!

Recently there has been a lot of momentum building around hockey due to the fantastic playoffs.  When Matthew Stewart and I debated the whether Buffalo was a hockey or football town, it really started to make me wonder why I thought Buffalo was clearly a football town. Then I started to read Bill Simmons’ site Grantland (don’t judge), and his article about people labeling him a NHL front runner.  It all became so obvious to me why football has grown in ridiculous fashion while hockey has stayed where they are.

1. The new NBC/Versus deal.  Don’t get me wrong: I think this is a great deal for the NHL and if NBC actually plays this right could, it really help build the brand.  What I thought was a problem was a lot of fan’s reaction to the notion that ESPN would merely offer one game a week or whatever the case may be.  The reaction of anger and spite towards ESPN was comical –  that the NHL didn’t NEED ESPN.  Sure they didn’t need ESPN, but wouldn’t it be a lot easier to build awareness for the sport if it were involved, if it were on Sportscenter a little more often?  Wouldn’t it be a little better if they nudged a ridiculous Sidney Crosby goal to #1 on Top 10 plays as opposed to some run-of-the-mill fast break dunk? Continue reading

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Player Profile: Mike Weber

Mike_Weber

2010-11 Regular Season stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

6

D

Mike Weber

58

4

13

17

13

69

0

0

0

53

7.5

 2011 Postseason stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

6

D

Mike Weber

7

0

1

1

-3

6

0

0

0

6

0.0

Career: 

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

6

D

Mike Weber

81

4

16

20

22

102

0

0

0

67

6.0

Look Back: Mike Weber was part of the of the ever revolving blue line that Lindy Ruff utilized throughout the 2010-11 season, but his development was an important step in this team’s development.  He was second on the team with a +13 rating and seemed to gain confidence throughout the second half of the season.  In his first full season on the parent club, Weber became part of the group of young defensemen that have many fans excited.  As much excitement as there is amongst that group, Weber exhibited some ill-timed poor play in the playoffs that ultimately hurt the team’s chances of advancing.  He’s just 23 years old and appears to have a solid NHL future ahead of him

Look Ahead: As solid as that NHL future appears, whether or not he stays with the Sabres remains to be seen.  Similar to Chris Butler and others, the Sabres have a plethora of RFAs to deal with, including Weber.  With Marc-Andre Gragnani, Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera and Weber all scheduled RFAs the likelihood of that entire group returning is small.  The Sabres appear poised to make a run at least one top tier free agent veteran on the blue line and roster spots are going to be at a premium.  The Sabres’ farm system is deep with several huge prospects on the blue line that will most likely push the efforts to add veteran leadership in that position.  Whether or not that affects Weber’s future remains to be seen, but after the playoff performance of Gragnani he isn’t likely to go anywhere.  The odd player(s) out remains to be seen.

Fake Darcy’s take: Good things always seem to happen when Websy’s on the ice. He was a +13 for us last year, and a +18 in Portland the year before that. The thing I really like is how he taunts Lindy about his -17 in ’88-’89.  He once asked Lindy if he played without a stick that season. Funny stuff, good kid.

Up Next: Rob Niedermayer

Twitter: @brianbund

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Player Profile: Chris Butler

20090327-Interior-ChrisButler

2010-11 Regular Season stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

34

D

Chris Butler

49

2

7

9

8

26

0

0

0

52

3.8

2011 Postseason stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

34

D

Chris Butler

7

0

1

1

-3

10

0

0

0

6

0.0

Career:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

34

D

Chris Butler

155

5

31

36

4

66

0

0

1

149

3.4

Look Back: Chris Butler struggled to find the lineup for most of the first half of the season. As he gained ice time in the second half of the season, he still did not contribute much offensively.  Butler was a horse in logging long minutes down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs as he paired with Tyler Myers.  His performance against the Flyers however seemed to expose some of the growing pains associated with young defensemen.  He’s just 24 years old and should be able to take that experience and learn from it as he continues to develop.

Look Ahead: Butler is one of the many RFAs the Sabres front office needs to deal with.  The former fourth round pick may be caught in a numbers game as other RFAs like Nathan Gerbe, Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber also need to be prioritized.  With a lot of fan and media sentiment on bringing in veteran defensemen it is likely that one of these young blue liners will struggle to maintain their position on the roster.  The fact that Butler didn’t contribute significantly offensively may be overlooked by the fact that he played alongside Tyler Myers quite extensively during Myers’ second half resurgence.  The team may want to build around them, although that appears unlikely.  We’re fast approaching July 1st.

Fake Darcy’s Take: A steal in the 4th round, I think Butler has a spot on our team for many years, as long as he keeps his salary requests in line with his value.  One of his funnier bits is using the “Pioneer Paddle” on players in the locker room. That’s the value of drafting college players: those funny fraternity pranks.

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Player Profile: Shaone Morrisonn

Shaone_Morrisonn

2010-11 Regular Season stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

27

D

Shaone Morrisonn

62

1

4

5

-2

32

0

0

1

44

2.3

2011 Postseason stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

27

D

Shaone Morrisonn

1

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0.0

Career:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

27

D

Shaone Morrisonn

480

11

64

75

34

455

0

0

4

293

3.8

Look Back: Morrissonn was one of the two free agent signings on the blue line to replace the departed Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman. It was the level of his play with Mike Green of the Capitals that brought hope for stability to the blue line, and hopefully help develop Tyler Myers.  Morrissonn’s production was extremely limited and his spot in the lineup was shuffled throughout much of the season. He only appeared in one game against the Flyers and wasn’t able to contribute much in a positive way to slow philly’s attack.  For a season that started with modestly high hopes, Morrisonn was not able to live up to those expectations.

Look Ahead: Morrissonn has one year remaining on his contract before becoming a RFA and turns 30 in December.  His $2mm salary isn’t a back-breaker for the team, but with the likelihood of the team adding a high cost defenseman, as well as the hope of adding a #1 center, it is a $2 million contract I think they would like to live without.  The Sabres’ farm system and current NHL roster is filled with other defensemen that can contribute to what Morrissonn was suppose to add in 2010-11.  If the team is able to find a trade partner, I would think they would jump at the opportunity, or they may send him down to whoever the AHL affiliate ends up being.

Fake Darcy’s Take: Shaone is one of the rare free agent misses of my career. And by rare, I mean typical. I guess he wasn’t carrying Mike Green in Washington, after all. Shaone is the reason there are “mulligans” in golf. Although, if he makes our 2011-2012 team, I will talk him up again.

Up Next: Chris Butler

Twitter: @brianbund

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Player Profile: Mike Grier

 Mike_Grier

2010-11 Regular Season stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

25

R

Michael Grier

73

5

11

16

0

12

0

0

0

107

4.7

2011 Postseason stats:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

25

R

Michael Grier

7

0

1

1

-3

0

0

0

0

5

0.0

Career:

#

Pos

Player

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PP

SH

GW

S

S%

25

R

Michael Grier

1,060

162

221

383

-9

510

16

20

26

1,643

9.9

A Look Back: Mike Grier ended his season playing through a knee injury and was obviously not his normal self in the Game 7 performance against the Flyers.  For the season, Grier was a huge component to the Sabres penalty killing unit.  Registering just 16 points in 73 games, Grier saw his production per game drop from .36 points per game down to .22 ppg.  Grier is a consummate professional that no doubt had a positive impact on players like Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford this year, but his on the ice performance definitely declined. 


A Look Ahead: Grier completed his 14th season in the NHL and is 36 years old.  As well as he played in the series against the Flyers delivering punishing checks and solid penalty killing it was evident that his game just isn’t quite the same.  The Sabres are going in a direction of building towards a Stanley Cup in the near future and I still believe Grier has a place in the organization, just not on the ice.  He has stated his desire to only play if it is in Buffalo, but I think Ted Black and Terry Pegula will find a place for him within the organization.  Players respect Grier and he can still have a positive effect on a relatively young core group of players. 

Fake Darcy’s Take: I have never seen a player with less goal scoring skills get himself into more goal scoring situations.  We don’t call him “Hands of Stone” because of his fighting ability.  As opposed to Mancari, Grier is an NHL journeyman with great grit and determination. I expect to offer him a low-ball contract with the hopes he signs. I think he might retire.

Up Next: Shaone Morrisonn 

Twitter: @brianbund

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Three most important players on the Buffalo Bills defense in 2011

Disclaimer:  First I took a look at the offensive side of the ball and now I’m ranking the order of importance to the Bills’ defense in order to make them a very good or great defense, not necessarily who the best player is.  On that note, let the debate begin.

 

3.  Kyle Williams: On a defense that ranked last against the run and 23rd overall Kyle Williams was by far and away the most consistent and best player on the field for the Bills. Williams was fifth on the team and tackles and sadly led the team with 5.5 sacks.  For an interior defensive linemen that is more credit to Williams.  Pro Football focus named Kyle Williamsthe defensive player of the year in 2010 and Williams continued play and development is going to be crucial for the Bills in 2011.

Not to minimize his importance for the team, but for the Bills to drastically improve on defense it needs to come from other sources not named Kyle Williams.  Williams’ effort and consistency should be a given and he will provide stability in the middle of the defense.  Williams needs to get more help from the rest of his front seven counterparts if the Bills intend to compete in a loaded AFC East. 
 

 2.  Marcell Dareus: The difference between 1 and 2 is so minute for me, but to maintain the integrity of the list I went with Dareus only because of his youth and inexperience that their reliance on him will be slightly less. I have Dareus rated above Williams because the need to have him improve the league’s worst ranked rush defense cannot be overstated.  Dareus lined up next to Williams will hopefully force opponents to commit at least three blockers to the tandem and free up space for the linebackers.  His ability to control the point of attack and penetrate gaps are essential for this team’s success.   

Dareus’ versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive line when the Bills play a three or four-man front will go a long way in improving the defense.  If Dareus is able to take some of the focus off of Kyle Williams and force teams to be honest in their gap assignments then the defensive line will go from a point of weakness on this team to possibly one of its strengths.   You hate to place so much importance on a rookie, especially in a lockout shortened off-season, but Dareus was a top 3 selection for the purpose of coming in immediately and making an impact.  How big that impact is and its importance cannot be underestimated. 

 

1.  Shawne Merriman:  The only thing worse than putting so much importance on a rookie is displacing it to an oft-injured former superstar, right?  The Bills were tied for the fourth fewest sacks in the league in 2010 and were led by the aforementioned Kyle Williams (5.5 sacks).  In a 3-4 defense the interior linemen should not have that distinction.  Merriman has 43.5 career sacks in 60 games and posted double digit sack totals in 2005-2007 with a career high 17 sacks in 2006.  Injuries have crippled his production in most of the past three seasons and his ability to rehab from the injury sustained on his first practice day as a Buffalo Bill is the most important development for the Buffalo Bills.  Even if Arthur Moats continues his progression as a playmaker on the outside, there is no denying that a great defense needs multiple playermakers. 

Merriman has the potential to resurrect his career at only 27 years old and entering what is normally considered your prime playing years he should be motivated to capitalize on these two years in Buffalo for a lucrative final contract.  A lack of a consistent pass rush has hurt the Bills for the better part of the last decade and improving upon that should have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the Buffalo Bills defense. 

 So, who is the most important component of the Bills defense?  Williams, Dareus or Merriman?  Or someone else?  For the Bills to be successful, they really need all three of these positions to consistently produce in 2011.

Twitter: @brianbund

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