Tag Archives: Drew Stafford

GM For a Day

This past Sabres season was as fun as it’s been to be a fan in the last five years, but let’s be honest with ourselves that it was fun, but nothing is more fun than winning and it would certainly be a lot of fun if the Sabres were still playing.  The series against the Flyers taught us several things about this team both good bad.  There is some really good young talent on this team in Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers and company.  However there are some concerns with the group as well.  There is no depth along the center position and most notably a top flight center.  There is no true complement to Tyler Myers in developing a shutdown pair.  The new regime in charge of the Sabres make you feel like this is the offseason to get things done.  Ownership seems committed and if they truly are committed the Sabres seem in prime position to make some things happen.  Here’s how I would play out the Sabres offseason.

1.  Let Andrej Sekera walk.  This one is going to be the first decision that would make fans cry bloody murder, but Sekera had a very good season for the Sabres and is a RFA.  He’s an offensive defensemen and played in 76 games for the team and registed 3 goals and 26 assists.  He is likely to get to go to arbitration or they should hope that he gets an offer sheet from another team.  If anything happens with Sekera the Sabres will need to decide what direction they want to go.  This move has typical Darcy Reiger written all over it by bringing him back and paying him more than his $1.1m this year. I make this move because Marc-Andre Gragnani can be everything that Sekera is and hopefully more.  The team still has Jordan Leopold and a deep farm system (See Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb) on the blue line.  I think Sekera is a fine player, but the Sabres need more grit along the blue line and can use his salary to attract someone amongst the free agency pool.

2.  Sign Drew Stafford, but certainly do not overpay him.  There is no way to justify paying Stafford even close to Thomas Vanek’s contract.  Vanek’s contracted was inflated because of the RFA offer that the Oilers forced and the Sabres needed to keep a player they felt could be part of their core.  Stafford is coming off a 31 goal season in which he only played 62 games.  He deserves a pay raise and the Sabres need to keep as many top six forwards on this roster as possible. I would think the team would try to do something around a 4 year/$20m deal to keep him.  I’m not convinced I’d even go that far for someone who had a career high 52 points in 2010-11, but the team is likely to try and keep a lot of their young parts and Stafford is one I would try to keep.  I would like them to get a deal more like what Justin Williams received from the Los Angeles Kings (4 years/$14.6m).

3.  Sign a top rated defensemen.  If and when they let Sekera walk the team needs to add to their blue line and most people will agree to that.  Most fans in Buffalo have become interested in Christian Ehrhoff or Kevin Bieska from the Vancouver Canucks and both are under 30 meaning the Sabres would likely need to send a good contract their way in terms of dollars and years.  Both players made between $3-$4m this past season and will both want a raise moving forward.  The talent  pool in free agency really seems to lie along the defense and the Sabres are going to need to make sure they are players in this market if they let Sekera, Steve Montador and potentially Shaone Morrisonn go.   All of which I would.

4.  Do what It takes to get a top flight center.  I’m not convinced that the Sabres will be able to land a top center this offseason, but this need will carry into the beginning of next season.  The Sabres have a lot of moving parts to make this happen.  They will be part of the Brad Richards sweepstakes this offseason, but so will many other teams and that will likely drive up the price.  The Sabres may be better served relying on their rich farm system and middle level NHLers to make a deal.  No one within the organization seems to be untouchable at the moment outside of maybe Myers and whether the team pursues a Daniel Briere or Jordan Staal (although unlikely) or whoever the team has several highly rated prospects as well as good NHL players to send in return.  This roster doesn’t need complete overhaul, but bringing in more elite talent is going to be crucial and it starts in the middle.

5.  Bring Mike Grier into the front office in some capacity.  He has come out and stated the he’ll either come back to the Sabres or be done.  I’m not completely adverse to the idea of him being on the team for one more season, but his body did go on him slightly and I’d rather him have some other role within the organization.  One thing I feel about the “Pegula Era” is that they truly will adopt a family tone within the organization.  That being said I think this is a great place to start and have him within the front office and potentially working his way towards being a general manager.

6.  Start the hate mail, but if possible I would strongly consider re-signing Tim Connolly but for a much lower salary.  That being said, is that something he is willing to do?  A true #1 center is the primary goal this offseason in my opinion and the return of Derek Roy would have to bump Connolly down to a third line center, but that is where he could flourish.  He was the team’s top penalty killer and on the first power play unit.  The guy has some value.  That being said, would he return for a lesser salary and lesser role?  I doubt it and it may be the best for HIM.  However, if the Sabres could bring him back for a lower price I would do it.  All that being said, the free agency market for centers is very poor and the market value will be driven up by demand.  Anything over the $2m/year mark would nullify this entire opinion.

As a lot of people point out (Joe @ BuffaloWins) July 1st is when this new management team will earn its keep among fans.  For the last several years the fans have heard that things were going to change and the Sabres wouldn’t stand still only to watch Lydman and Tallinder be replaced with Leopold and Morrisonn.  Terry Pegula comes across as genuine as you can through a television and I truly believe that the motto within the organization is a win at all costs mentality so now they just need to prove they are capable of making the right decisions to get there.   I, for one am very eager to see the path they chose to get there.

Twitter: @brianbund

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All good things come to an end

Game seven between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres went against the grain as it relates to the rest of the series.  The Flyers took control of the contest from the start of the game all the way until their 5-2 victory. 

The Flyers will move onto the Eastern Conference Semi-finals and their opponent is yet to be determined.  For the Sabres they have to take pride in their second half surge and new direction under Terry Pegula and company.  The Flyers were the better team for most of the previous six games and that seemed to culminate in Game seven.  Regardless of the injuries the Sabres sustained throughout the series it was unfortunate to see their season end so abruptly and harshly. 

Some thoughts on how things developed throughout Game seven:

Derek Roy should be commended for the heart and determination it must have taken to get to the point where he could play in Game seven.  He was initially told he would be done for the season and then maybe the second round of the playoffs where that thought seemed impossible for this Sabres team.  Nonetheless, Roy put the work in necessary to get back when the Sabres needed him in Game seven.  You could tell he did not have game shape which after being out for four months and dealing with a leg injury it is difficult to work yourself back into shape that quickly.  Fans should not judge him solely in regards to his performance and if Tim Connolly would have been healthy it seems uncertain if Roy would have played.

The Flyers were the much better team in each game and Ryan Miller was the reason this series and Game seven stayed close.  The Flyers put relentless pressure on the Sabres in the first period outshooting the Sabres 16-2 and creating numerous scoring opportunities. A late goal by Braydon Coburn off the face-off was deflected by Mike Grier past Miller.  The Flyers registered 36 shots and many of their earlier shots generated quality scoring opportunities. Miller’s first period performance helped hold them off the board until the Flyers broke through on that late first period goal with 20 second remaining.

Even though the Sabres won the face-off battle 37-34, Paul Gaustad lost two face-offs that led directly to the Flyers first two goals. 

The Flyers forecheck and the Sabres inability to clear their defensive zone hurt them considerably in this game.  It was a constant advantage that the Flyers enjoyed throughout the series and in Game seven they really capitalized on pressuring Miller and the Sabres.

Danny Briere had a fantastic series against his former team that was capped with a 1 goal, 1 assist performance.  He has scored 94 points in 93 career playoff games.  His departure is well documented, but it is hard to swallow for Sabres fans that a point per game playoff performer left town.  This series put the Flyers depth on showcase, especially at the center position.  His and Claude Giroux’s play carried the Flyers through difficulties in goal.

Drew Stafford is going to be an interesting component to this offseason.  Coming off a 30-goal season the forward played extremely well at times in the series, but failed to generate much on the score sheet (1g, 2a).  Where his value is set on the market is going to determine whether or not he stays with the Sabres.

Chris Butler’s regression through the series really hurt the Sabres, especially with the injury problems that the team faced with Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera. Hopefully the young defenseman can learn from this postseason and continue his growth going forward.

This game was more a reflection of how well the Flyers played as opposed to how poorly the Sabres played,.  The Flyers generated more offense, played a more sound defensive game and for the first time in the series played better on special teams.  The Sabres seemed overmatched and even overwhelmed by the emotion of the Game seven.  Turnovers early in their own defensive zone and shooting pucks over the Flyers goalie really hurt any potential chance of building momentum early.

Three Stars:

  1. Danny Briere (1g, 1a and proverbial pest all night)
  2. Claude Giroux (2a)
  3. James van Riedsmyk (1g and solid all around play)

Regardless of the outcome, if many Buffalo Sabres fans were told back in December that they would have the opportunity to compete in a Game seven in the first round of the playoffs they would have been completely happy with the chance.  While that is little condolence for the season being over there are many positives that can and should be taken away from the season including the new direction under new ownership.  There are many questions that management will need to address come July 1 and beyond, but fans should anticipate an exciting offseason and 2011-12 hockey season. 

Over the next weeks and months, we will take a look back on the 2010-2011 season as well as a look ahead to this offseason.

Twitter: @brianbund

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Sabres vs. Senators reactions

Alright, so I finally got my lap top and am back in the swing of things, but I’ve felt beyond lost for the better part of a couple weeks and out of touch.  I’m glad I have it back though and after last nights game I couldn’t wait to see what was out there. 

 

Seriously, who bites someone? Ruutu’s post game comments said Peters’ hand was “by his mouth but he didn’t bite it”.  Obviously this was before he had the opportunity to see the footage of him biting Peters’ hand.  Wow. 

 

HOLYFIELD TYSON

 

As for the game it was nice to see the Sabres put together another solid performance.  The win in Boston on Saturday was great, but I was happy to see them play a great 59 minutes (minus the back to back goals) and Lindy Ruff couldn’t be more right.  For the Sabres to be great, they need their stars to play like it night in and night out and they’re coming around.  More importantly Stafford and Pominville and some others are raising their game.  I’d still like them to make a deal sooner rather than later though.  This team is going to be in the playoff race and Lindy traditionally puts together a good second half push.  Why not make your move now and try to build chemistry heading into or out of the All-Star break.

 

More to come, but I had to write something, too much has happened in the last two weeks to even try to write a monster post, but my absence sucks and I apologize.

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Devils @ Sabres Reaction

Here we go again.  That wasn’t the prettiest of hockey games and the Sabres really seemed to labor through the whole game.  Not sure if it was the couple days off or what but they didn’t have the energy and it showed throughout. 

 

That first goal by the Devils was the epitome of the goals I hate by Ryan Miller.  Yes I’m blaming him for the huge rebound right into the slot that led to the goal.  The 5-on-3 rebound goal was definitely not Miller’s fault and the D should’ve dropped down on the play, but they seemed out of position throughout a lot of that kill.

 

The first goal by Stafford I loved.  He made a great break out pass to Roy at center and then skated his ass off to get in front of the net and knock it in.  Sometimes Stafford seems to have Vanek type (stress type) skills about him and it’s nice to see that he’s gotten his game much more simple and attacking the net. 

 

Also good to see that Kaleta was back skating around and drew multiple penalties and scored a goal extremely similar to Stafford’s.

 

But seriously, the biggest problem is defensive zone turnovers.  It led directly led to what 3 of the goals last night.  I’m lumping not getting the puck out of the zone effectively with a turnover.  It’s ridiculous how often they do that and it wasn’t just Sekera this time.  It’s annoying and frustrating. 

 

Kings are coming in on Friday night and I’m hoping that they can give me a Christmas present of a little bit of a run.  Although December, last nights loss will hurt, they had a chance to go 3-0 against the Devils and pass them in the standings.  It’s unbelievable how bad they play at home.  If I were Lindy I would be doing something to their game day routine to try and find something that works because obviously they aren’t getting in the right mindset to play and they were sluggish for all 3 periods last night and New Jersey had played an overtime game the night before.  

 

Side Note:  Nice little plug last night on the SU/Canisus game for high school basketball in Buffalo.  I seem to remember Buffalo getting much better when I was in early high school and Turner Carroll had those back to back great teams and Page and Stokes went and played well at good D1 schools.  Now with Harris, Flynn and Haywood they have some more and teams like Niagara and UB (with Buffalo kids) are making a name for themselves.

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