Archive for June, 2011:

Target: Brent Burns

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Richards.  Bieksa.  Ehrhoff.  Wisniewski.

There have been some big UFA names bandied about this town since the Sabres Game Seven Meltdown against the Philadelphia Flyers. But in all seriousness, which of these guys do we really expect to sign on to year one of the Pegula Experience?  A quick analysis:

  • Richards – strongly tied to the New York Rangers, or an “original six” team; has also stated a willingness to return to Tampa Bay
  • Bieksa/Erhoff – one of these guys will stay with the ‘Nucks, the other will be pursued by every other team in the NHL
  • Wisniewski – has already stated he wants to stay in Montreal and raise a family; Habs will do everything they can to keep him

The July 1st spending spree is not exactly a statistical “home run derby” for contracts, anyway (see: Drury, Chris; Gomez, Scott; etc).  Invasive baseball metaphors aside, the Sabres will and should look to bolster their lineup on July 1st – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a “curveball” or two up their sleeves.

Another baseball metaphor?  Must be 75 and beautiful outside.  Before I go outside for some much-earned sunshine, here’s one big-time surprise maneuver that the Sabres could pull off.

Trade for Brent Burns.

BurnsRebelYell 300x169 Target: Brent Burnsbuffalosabresnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/BurnsRebelYell.jpg 488w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

The call of the Wild.

Burns isn’t an UFA – yet – his contract expires after next season.  However, as Michael Russo reports today from the Minnesota Star Tribune, he could very well be available on the trade market.  His speculation:

With the NHL draft on June 24-25 in St. Paul, trade talks are commencing and Fletcher (the Wild’s GM) says he’s willing to trade anybody — except captain Mikko Koivu.

The Wild has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons — two under Fletcher — so he says he’d do “absolutely anything,” other than, “I’m not trading Mikko Koivu. I can guarantee you that.”

The biggest decision brewing is with defenseman Brent Burns, who scored a career-high 17 goals and 46 points last season. Burns, who struggled in the season’s second half, is a year from unrestricted free agency, meaning, as with Koivu last summer, the Wild might need to decide to either extend his contract or trade him.

Burns could command at least $5 million annually.

Fletcher said he feels no urgency to sign or trade Burns this summer, but the Wild has been down that road before. Marian Gaborik turned down a long-term deal in early 2008-09, then missed 65 games because of injury. That destroyed his trade value, and he ultimately signed as a free agent with the Rangers.

Burns also has a history of injury, but Fletcher said, “There’s a risk for any player, there’s risk in any decision you make. … If we can’t get a contract done, that’ll have an impact on his future the same as it would have with Koivu or Gaborik or anybody.”

So, why Brent Burns for Buffalo – and at what cost?  First, let’s examine his dry stats:

 

BigBB1 Target: Brent Burnsbuffalosabresnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/BigBB1-300x130.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 561px) 100vw, 561px" />

Stats aside, he has a respectable woodsy charm about him, wouldn't you agree?*

The Sabres could award Brad Richards with the greater portion of their available cap space, (a dangerous idea as we’ve talked about on Buffalo Sabres Nation previously), but remember that at 31 years of age Richards is not entering his prime, and is coming off of a concussion.

Burns also sustained a concussion in both the 2008-09 and the 2009-10 seasons, but he is only 26 years old, and judging by his stats, he is up for a stellar career.  He’d come at a lesser price, would have a better long term impact – and heck, he’s a regional kid, coming out of Ajax, Ontario.

Buffalo needs to add veteran depth to the defensive corps right now.  They can’t wait for a guy like Brayden McNabb to earn his way up to the NHL if the Sabres are to win the Stanley Cup in 3 years. With Ryan Miller at 30 years old, now is the time to beef up the men that protect him and truly make a run at the Cup.

The Sabres have a plethora of young defensemen along with several blue chip defensive prospects – too many to fit on the roster any time soon.  Plausibly, they could part with one of them and the #1 pick in this year’s draft to land Burns.

Then, maybe, after the Sabres depart with a little bit of that crowded defensive depth chart, they could pursue one of those stud UFAs.  Myers, Burns, and Wisniewski sounds like a pretty scary top three to me.

Your move, Darcy.

Go Sabres.

*And it’s no coincidence.  Off the ice, Burns spends his summers in Barrie, Ontario and Lake Elmo, Minnesota and is a noted animal enthusiast. His suburban Saint Paul home is nicknamed “Burns Zoo,” due to his collection of dogs, cats, and dozens of reptiles, mainly snakes.

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The Resurrection of Tim Kennedy

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It’s a saga of redemption.

ThePassionOfTheTim 300x225 The Resurrection of Tim Kennedybuffalosabresnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ThePassionOfTheTim.jpg 420w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Tim Kennedy's been searching for a break since August of 2010. That break has finally arrived.

The sorry tale of Tim Kennedy began on September 30, 2009, when the Sabres announced that Kennedy would start the 2009–10 season in Buffalo.  Kennedy scored 10 goals and 16 assists, for a total of 26 points in 78 games in the regular season.  He scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.  Things were looking up for the kid from South Buffalo.

A RFA, Tim was unable to come to terms on a new contract through his agent and Darcy Regier. On August 3, 2010,  he was awarded a $1million contract through arbitration.  The Sabres felt the price tag was too high for their hometown darling, and immediately placed him on waivers.

Not a single team claimed him.  It wasn’t a pleasant situation for Tim.

“It hurts. This is not what I envisioned for the last month of the summer before the season started. It’s tough. I hope this isn’t the end, but it doesn’t look too good right now. You grow up watching this team your whole life. I don’t even know what to say right now because I’m so shocked.”

He eventually found a home with the New York Rangers, but found himself shackled in the AHL – the Rangers didn’t want to risk losing him through re-entry waivers by calling him up, and by burying his contract with the farm team, the Blue Shirts’ were able to ease up on their dwindling cap space.  Tim never played a game in a Rangers uniform.

On October 5th of 2010, he was waived again.  And again, not a single team claimed him.

Kennedy remained a Ranger by default, but was clear that they really didn’t want him.  In February of 2011, he was dealt (along with a 3rd round pick) to the Florida Panthers for Bryan McCabe.  On March 8 of the 2010-11 season, he finally saw action in the NHL again, and would skate on to record 1 assist in 6 games with the Panthers.

Fast forward to the 2010-11 offseason.

Kennedy is on the ice for the Panthers’ last game of the season.  It’s a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals, wherein TK records an assist and a +1 marker, helping the team finish on a high note by breaking a 10 game losing skid.

That high note doesn’t last long for Kennedy, though.  On April 11, locker clean out day, he is a RFA all over again.  You know that his head has got to be swimming with how this whole dreadful story started when he was a RFA back in 2009.  It sure didn’t help that Florida just fired their coach, Peter DeBoer, who at least had the faith to keep Kennedy in the lineup for that final game.

With an unstable world spinning under his skates again, deliverance must have seemed like a long, long way away.

Then, on May 31st, the Panthers announced the hiring of Kevin Dineen to fill their head coaching vacancy – and for Kennedy, that news must have felt like a godsend.  Finally, it looks like he will get the break he’s been hoping for.

There is simply not a single person on the planet better equipped to save TK’s career than Dineen.  After all, Dineen was the coach in Portland during the 2008-09 season, when Kennedy blossomed with 18 goals and 67 points in 73 games before his promotion to Buffalo.  Kennedy was quick to praise the hiring:

“I can’t thank him (Dineen) enough. He was a great coach down there (in the AHL) and he’d be a great coach (in the NHL) too. He really helped me transform from playing in college [Michigan State] to the pro game. I owe him a lot of credit.”

Those are some smart words from TK – he must know that this is his make-it-or-break-it chance to stick to the NHL.  Dineen knows who Tim is, what kind of player he is, what to expect from him on the ice, and how to utilize him to get the best performance possible.

Suddenly, the future is looking bright again – but there is still that nagging RFA issue.  With Dineen on board, and part of the decision making process, the most damning twist to this saga yet would be if the Panthers decide not to keep Kennedy on the team.  Such a move, by perhaps the person who knows Kennedy’s talents the best, would pretty much sound a death knell over Kennedy’s NHL career.

But I don’t think that Dineen is gonna’ ring that bell.

It would be a shock if the Panthers didn’t bring Kennedy back – a player that they traded for, a player that they used on the ice to help bring a tumultuous season to an end on a high note, and now a player who is reunited with the coach that made him NHL material in the first place.

South Buffalo, rejoice: the resurrection of Tim Kennedy has begun.

Screw the whole saga, and forget all those dates.

Instead, focus on plays like this.

And this.

And this OT gem, (where he “beats his old team” at the 3:45 mark).

Under Dineen, there will be more highlights from Kennedy to come – and from here on in, they will all come at the NHL level.

Good luck, Tim.

Go Sabres.

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NHL Namesake Tournament (Round 1, Pt. 2)

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We’ll keep as this short and sweet as possible. (See here for the full explanation of this tournament.)

Flyers vs. Senators

What the hell is a Flyer? Googling doesn’t help much, but as near as I can figure, it’s a guy who flys. Yeah. Like this guy?

G30 Reveal Flyer rev 300x245 NHL Namesake Tournament (Round 1, Pt. 2)

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McCutcheon out: Adams, Foligno in?

There will be a new pair of feet behind the Sabres’ bench for the 2011-12 season.

Brian McCutcheon has been relieved of his duties, after enjoying 11 seasons standing aside Lindy Ruff.  He enjoyed some ups and downs in his tenure, which included work on the power play – work that he was relieved from in 2009 in favor of James Patrick.

The Sabres have yet to comment.

McCutcheon’s dry stats:

Former head coach of the Amerks

  • 128-82-9 over 3 seasons
  • Took the Amerks to 2 Calder Cups (lost both)
  • Amerks’ franchise record for most points (111) and wins (52) in a season

Former head coach of the Columbus Chill (ECHL)

  • 44-21-5 over one season (lost in round 2)
  • ECHL coach of the year
  • Chill’s franchise record for most points and wins in a season

See the pattern there? He brings his teams into greatness, only to be tragically foiled in the playoffs. Sounds like a perfect match for Buffalo, given the Sabres’ history – and maybe it is for this reason that Buffalo will be looking for new inspiration.

McCutcheon’s possible replacements include Kevyn Adams and Mike Foligno.

adams cup1 McCutcheon out: Adams, Foligno in?

Help lead us to glory, Kevyn.

Sabres fans might remember Adams as the assistant captain of the Carolina Hurricanes team that eliminated the Sabres in the Eastern Conference Final in 2006.  At the expense of Buffalo, Adams would go on to lead his team to the Stanley Cup – but now, to Buffalo’s benefit, he may take that winning experience and put it right behind the Sabres’ bench.  Adams has been with Buffalo for the past two seasons as a player development coach.  The players already know him, which would make for an easy transition.

Fans have plenty of warm memories of Mike Foligno, who suited up for the Blue and Gold as a player from the 1981-82 to the 1990-91 seasons.  Foligno was named as an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks in 2010.  He was the head coach of the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL from 2003-2009, where he was able to coach his son and Sabres prospect, Marcus.

While one of these two will likely claim the job left behind by McCutcheon, the other may very well land in Portland/Rochester.  The head coach of the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, Kevin Dineen, has departed for a head coaching job in Florida.

Both Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com and Joe Pinzone of BuffaloWins.com have agreed that Foligno should wind up with the AHL gig.  In fact, Pinzone is convinced that Adams will be up with the Sabres and that Foligno has already been tabbed as the new head coach for the farm team.

By the way: here’s a big ol’ tip-o-the-sunglasses to Pinzone, who first broke the news that McCutcheon would be released.

Stay tuned!

Go Sabres.

 

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NHL Namesake Tournament (Round 1)

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This is the Hypothetical NHL Namesake Tournament, where the best team representative wins. See here for our intro post about it, but it comes down to the real life versions of the NHL team names playing each other.  In the toilet bowl we had the Panthers tearing apart the Oilers – so the Panthers advanced to the bottom seed of the Eastern conference.

To kick off round 1 we have Capitals vs. Panthers and Canucks vs. Avalanche

Not to influence your voting, but we have to talk about these matchups just a little bit or we wouldn’t be doing our job.

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