Archive for February, 2012:

The Sabres Are On Track For Greatness; Just (Maybe) Not This Year

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By most accounts, trade deadline day was declared a Festivus miracle. Like most trades, we’ll have to wait a few years to really see how things shake out, but on the surface – on paper, the Sabres appear to be big winners.

Heading into the day, only the most foolhardy optimists could have thought the Sabres would get a 1st for Gaustad (well plus that 4th we had to throw in, but still). Then the Kassian & Gragnani for Hodgson & Sulzer trade …. well, wowser. Darcy must have been feeling the heat of the hashtag and indeed #didSomething, using his Jedi mind tricks to bend other GMs to his will. (I like to think he’s a Sith, using treachery, intimidation and over-the-phone Force chokes.)

Or, more likely this was the Sabres’ plan all along: don’t do anything drastic and sell the farm now just to try to make the playoffs, but instead stay the course and do what we can to improve for the long haul, slowly building towards being a championship-caliber team.

3d52ac944554894227bf9c2d6408 300x185 The Sabres Are On Track For Greatness; Just (Maybe) Not This Year

Cody Hodgson. I feel like it should be pronounced Hod-g-son. Shouldn't there be an 'e' in there somewhere? Must be a Canadian thing. Probably the same reason he plays 'centre'.

I’m certainly sad to see Kassian go, not just because I have a Badassian t-shirt from Hockey Heaven. (Which, incidentally they’re so cool they’re offering 50% off the purchase of a new Cody Hodgson #19CoHo shirt.) I love me a good power foward with grit, who is hard to knock off the puck  and will fight – it’s perhaps my favorite type of player. We haven’t seen that in B-lo for some time and Kassian had/has that potential.

But of course, potential is just that and we needed a center. It was the right thing for the Sabres, and Sulzer for Gragnani seems like an upgrade for us as well. Even if Sulzer doesn’t improve much, he won’t be the meek turnover machine that MAG was. Plus, Ehrhoff will have a German buddy who played in Vancouver to hang out with. Maybe those two will synergize into something stronger than the two of them individually, like a monstrous German-speaking Voltron-like robot that smashes anyone who crosses our blue line into a thin paste yet has a (literal) rocket slapshot. Sorry, I was daydreaming a bit there, but I do believe the possibility for them to both improve in each other’s presence is there.

Of course I have to type the obligatory “sucks to see Gaustad go” that every Sabres blogger has had to do. I don’t think I need to expand on that much, but for some reason I didn’t realize he was 6’5″ until today. He didn’t seem that big on the ice and knowing that makes me think that he could’ve (and should’ve) played a little bit tougher. Yes, he’s awesome at faceoffs and plays center against the other teams top line and all that – but for his asking price, it was the right move. The worst thing about that is breaking up the oft-used Gaustad/Kaleta/Gerbe line. I loved that line: high energy and tenacious as all get out. And no, I don’t think there’s a snowballs chance in hell that we’ll be able to get Goose back in the offseason.

So the Sabres are in a better place and geared up for the future. We’ve taken more steps in the right direction and yet we can still take a run at the playoffs this year. I now feel less apprehensive about having to make the playoffs now and more secure in the fact that we’re on our way to greatness.

 The Sabres Are On Track For Greatness; Just (Maybe) Not This Year

I'll miss this mug. I hope Kassian does well - but not TOO well to make us really regret trading him.

Now the bad news: Washington is 7 points ahead of us. Damn you Dale Hunter! Perhaps we did ourselves a disservice by lambasting the Caps earlier this year and helping to get Bruce Boudreau fired.

Ah well, Go Sabres and remember to grab some powernaps for the upcoming late games on the slate!

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Possible topic of discussion for the comments: Do you feel more comfortable with the team now after these trades? Do you feel like we still have to make a push for the playoffs? Or are you more relaxed and ok with not making the playoffs as long as we’re building towards a much better team?

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Hodgson/Kassian Swap Stupefies Vancouver/Buffalo Press

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So who won this trade?

On BSN, we’re (at least I) am pretty excited at the potential that Hodgson brings to our offense. Being on pace to join our best 10 rookies in scoring in team history is nothing to scoff at. It’s something to relish. It’s exciting. Kassian, meanwhile, had been a problem project for the Sabres from the start, and oddly had begun to play a softer game in Rochester this year that set off a bit of a tiff with reporters. Aside from that, Kass just doesn’t have the upside and NHL-natural ability that CoHo possesses. We’ll find a another beefcake grinder soon enough.

Hodgson is special.

Exciting.

But readers of the Buffalo News might be far more wary of Hodgson as a prospect, let alone a player, this morning. From a Bucky Gleason column yesterday:

Upper management apparently was thrilled when Regier completed the deal for Hodgson, the one-time poster boy for Canadian junior hockey. He was selected two picks ahead of Tyler Myers in 2008. The following year, he played on a line with John Tavares and led Canada in scoring on their march to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships.

The Sabres were desperate for help down the middle, and Hodgson could be the playmaker they needed. He had 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games, putting him on pace for 20 goals and 42 points for the season. Not bad considering he played on the third line behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.

Hodgson is a right-handed shot, so you can envision him opening more ice and feeding left winger Thomas Vanek at some point in the future. He was on the Canucks’ second power-play unit, too. Perhaps he can find chemistry with Nathan Gerbe and Ville Leino in the coming years and Brad Boyes this season. Who knows? He could be a young Daniel Briere.

It could be an ideal fit.

So far, it all sounds good.

Let’s not start the celebration just yet. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to reserve judgment on Regier’s decisions and not overreact to what appeared to be a good move. Expectations soared when he added three players last summer, but the Sabres were in 12th place Monday. It’s a recent example among many.

Remember, the object is winning the whole thing. To me, the Sabres weren’t big enough and tough enough before the deadline, and they came away smaller and softer afterward. Kassian is a big winger who was physical when willing. At times, he was the only one playing with bite that had been missing for far too long. He could turn into the nasty power forward Buffalo has been missing (see: Lucic, Milan).

The Sabres are puny down the middle with lightweights Roy and Hodgson tipping the scales at 185 pounds and featherweight Tyler Ennis all of 157 pounds. Questions remain about whether Hodgson, who had back problems last season, will validate predictions that he was a can’t-miss No. 1 center in the NHL.

Hodgson’s stats are impressive when you consider he played less than 13 minutes a night, but they’re less so when you realize he had been playing against the third defense pairings while opposing teams tried matching up with the Sedin twins and Kesler on the first two lines. He’ll get more ice time in Buffalo, but he might not be as effective with less talent around him.

And there’s this simple question: Whom would you trust more to make the proper evaluation at this stage, Canucks GM Mike Gillis or Regier?

…Was Monday a good day Buffalo? Short-term, probably not. Long-term, let’s wait and see.

In short: looks like a good trade, but this is a very guarded assessment. It almost seems like it was written to correct his previous column, in which he missed the mark in roasting Regier pre-deadline:

What should Regier do Monday?

Not much of anything, really.

OK, perhaps he could ship out pending free agents Paul Gaustad and Brad Boyes for midround draft picks or prospects in cap-clearing deals. But if there’s even a sliver of doubt inside the organization about retaining Regier — and there is — he should otherwise keep his hands off the roster.

You want Derek Roy or Drew Stafford or Ryan Miller on the next bus out of town? Fine, but that’s a decision for the next GM. The sooner Pegula and his upper-management team realize Regier is not the man who will build a Cup winner, the sooner they can get to work on winning one.

At this stage, Regier can’t be trusted to lead the Sabres in the right direction. Any move Monday should be greeted with suspicion because there’s a good chance he’ll make the wrong one. Anyway, there aren’t enough players available who can rescue this team after so many listless efforts and so many losses.

The damage is done.

Oops. Remember, this is the 1st full season of Regier/Pegula. GM’s can be defined by their owners, or at least by the constraints of their owners’ wallets. This is no longer the Golisano/Regier Era, and the future performance of Darcy should not be judged as such. Pegula/Regier is an entirely different animal.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Hodgson’s ability was clear, as was the impact of his loss to the Canucks. Or was it? From an Elliot Pap column in the Vancouver Sun, from yesterday:

Here’s the first thought that came to mind when word came down the Canucks had dealt 2008 first-round pick Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for 2009 first-round pick Zack Kassian: Is this Markus Naslund and Alek Stojanov all over again, only in reverse?

In 1996, former Canucks GM Pat Quinn acquired Naslund from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Naslund was a skill forward, not terribly big, and a first-round pick who was chaffing with his playing opportunities behind the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

Stojanov, like Kassian, was huge (6-4, 230), had a mean streak and was considered more than pure cement. He had butted heads with Eric Lindros in junior and was expected to do that again in the NHL against not only Lindros, but all the large players of the day. He was also a first-round pick. In fact, he went nine spots ahead of Naslund in the 1991 entry draft. (Stojanov was the seventh overall pick, Naslund the 16th.)

We probably don’t need to tell you how Naslund-Stojanov turned out. Naslund struggled for a couple of seasons in Vancouver before blossoming into the best left-winger in the NHL, an Art Ross runner-up, a Ted Lindsay award winner, long-team team captain and the Canucks’ all-time leading scorer. Naslund’s No. 19 Canuck jersey was raised to the rafters last season.

Stojanov, meanwhile, was plagued with shoulder problems and played just 45 games as a Penguin, scoring two goals. Naslund scored 346 for the Canucks in 884 games. That trade is widely regarded as one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history.

…In any case, all trades take time to shake out.

How will we look back on Hodgson-Kassian in five years? Hopefully for long-suffering Canuck fans, it will be a positive one.

The comparison to the Naslund/Stojanov trade is a fun read but is, at best, just more guarded speculation. Although it does hint at the offense Hodgson will bring to Buffalo, it actually defines nothing concrete.

dowhatnow 300x214 Hodgson/Kassian Swap Stupefies Vancouver/Buffalo Press

Sports analysis should not be fence sitting, no matter how cute it reads.

Meanwhile, Iain MacIntye of the Sun had this to offer up:

We don’t know how good Cody Hodgson might have become for the Vancouver Canucks.

We know he can score, but we don’t know how much. Will he be merely good or great? Is his offensive ceiling 60 points or 90? Would he have developed into a leader, a captain? Could he have helped the Canucks win a Stanley Cup?

And the problem with judging this stunning trade is we probably would never have known how good Hodgson could be in Vancouver because he was stuck behind centres Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler and was not going to get the minutes to be a star here.

…It will be years before Hodgson or Kassian becomes whatever it is they’re going to be in the NHL.

Years? He is already 3rd on the Sabres in goals, tied for 6th in assists, and 4th in points. Heck, he’s a Calder candidate – was the rookie of the month in January, and is second in goals scored for all rooks.

Yes, he’s going to spend more time in top 6 minutes now, and thus against better defensive pairings. But, as we pointed out here yesterday, he’ll also see more power play time, and likely will butter his stats with some ice time between snipers Vanek and Pominville.

Kassian needs more development before we know just how good he may be, but from what we saw from him in Rochester and Buffalo, there are concerns over his progress already. The future for CoHo is now – he’s been dynamic at the NHL level, and will only get better. We have “years to go,” yes. But we also have measurable performance and stats to back it up.

Guarded assessments aside, I abhor how all of those columns ended.

…Was Monday a good day Buffalo? Short-term, probably not. Long-term, let’s wait and see.

 

…In any case, all trades take time to shake out.

How will we look back on Hodgson-Kassian in five years? Hopefully for long-suffering Canuck fans, it will be a positive one.

 

…It will be years before Hodgson or Kassian becomes whatever it is they’re going to be in the NHL.

That’s our expert analysis from Vancouver and Buffalo? That’s disappointing press. It’s magic 8 ball stuff. It’s safe, wait and see, ne’er-be-wrong-now-or-years-from-now fluff.

This whole Kassian/Hodgson thing is pretty darn clear. Top six-ish grinder for a top 6 scorer. Hodgson is a hell of a hockey player.

No one is truly this incredibly baffled over the futures of Kassian and Hodgson in the NHL. The real let-down is in the lack of insight in these columns.

There’s nothing wrong with a little excitement, folks. Don’t let the doubt-mongers dull your senses.

Go Sabres.

Edit: Oh yea – “Who won this trade?” Well, between sportswriters, we’ll call it a definite draw.

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Hodgson Arrives in Buffalo on Pace to Join Elite Company

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You wanted offense?

You got it.

Before Cody Hodgson has laced up his skates for the Blue and Gold, the rookie has already compiled 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points. The Sabres have 20 games left. Mathematically, he’s on pace for 20-22-42.

Just how would those totals stack up against former Sabres rookies?

CodyHodgson 300x169 Hodgson Arrives in Buffalo on Pace to Join Elite Company

Cody could be on pace to set some Sabres lore already.

Note: of course, he will no longer be on a third line as he was while with the Canucks – he’ll be up against tougher defensive pairings. Then again, he’ll have more opportunities on the power play, and should see some playing time with Thomas Vanek. That being noted, let’s have a gander at the rookie record book from the Sabres’ Media Guide:

SabresRooks Hodgson Arrives in Buffalo on Pace to Join Elite Company

Legends. (Mostly.)

Well, he’s just barely off that chart with that 20 goal pace – but it’s certainly reachable. The assist category will be difficult to break into – that might depend on how much ice time he sees with snipers Vanek and Pominville. Overall points should go the same route, depending on his line mates.

So what’s the point?

Well, whether he breaks into any of these charts or not, Hodgson certainly is bringing a lot of offense to a team that so very sorely needs just that. Should he endure and grow statistically as he has in his first year in Vancouver, he could be a dynamic player for the Blue and Gold. He could be great.

Time will tell.

But it sure is exciting thinking about this kid’s future.

Go Sabres.

Edit: here’s some outstanding tape on CoHo’s 1st 14 goals this season.

Cripes.

Is it Wednesday yet?

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Gaustad Saves the Day; Hodgson in, Kassian and Gragnani out

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Gaustad and a 4th round pick to the Nashville Predators, for a 1st round pick.

At the beginning of D-Day, I tweeted reservedly that if the Sabres actually landed a first rounder for Paul Gaustad and nothing else happened, it would be a huge win for Regier and the Sabres. This is a great hockey deal.

Goose was likely on his way out the door anyway, as a UFA at year’s end.

BMGoose 300x159 Gaustad Saves the Day; Hodgson in, Kassian and Gragnani out

Pricey!

May, the former Sabres bruiser who now works as an analyst with Sportsnet.ca, sent that tweet out on the 26th. No offense to Goose, but $3mil is a lot of money for a fourth line grinder with zero playoff goals on his resume (he has 8 assists in 38 games played).

Earlier in the day, Sami Pahlsson, a simliar grind-it-out center, was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks. The Blue Jackets received two 4th round picks in return for Pahlsson, and it was widely believed at the time that Goose would fetch the same.

Darcy waited it out, and in turn, pulled in a big return.

Heck, I would have been pleased with a 2nd rounder for Gaustad. A 1st is a Deadline Day Heist.

Regier probably saved his job with this move. Sure, we all would have wanted to see other players moved as well (TSN is reporting that Derek Roy will not be moved, and no, we aren’t getting a 7th round pick for Brad Boyes), but this deal was smart.

The Sabres wound up the day as neither buyers nor sellers. They stayed patient, did not panic, and the move they made was to improve the team in the long term. That was the mantra going in, and that was the result coming out.

Well played, Darcy and Co.

Look for Luke Adam to return to the NHL now that a pivot position is vacant. And hey, with two first rounders, the Sabres can now #FailForNail/Mikhail and #MakeARunsForGirgensons. In other words, get the best possible player with what will likely be a high pick, and land a beastly centerman like Zemgus Girgensons later in round 1.

And again, we all love Gaustad to death, but the future is likely much better as a result of his departure.

Go Sabres.

EDIT: The Sabres have also acquired centerman Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alex Sulzer from Vancouver for Zack Kassian, and the ne’er used Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Hodgson was the NHL’s rookie of the month for January. He has 16 goals and 17 assists (for 33 points) in 63 games this season. Here’s a link to his bio at The Hockey News.

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NHL Trade Deadline Day Guide: Sabres Edition

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Feeling antsy-in-the-pantsy?

Ah yes, that’s the nervous anticipation on the NHL’s Trade Deadline Day. Will Regier pull off a huge trade that shocks us all? Is Dustin Brown on the radar? Would Rick Nash actually consider waiving his NMC to come to Buffalo, after Joffrey Lupul, Tom Brady, and Brad Marchand tried their best to set our city’s image in the sports world back another ten years?

What’s going on with Gaustad?

What about Roy? Has he played his last game in a Blue and Gold uniform?

What are the sources saying? What are the rumor blogs out there reporting (usually preceded with the phrase “I’m being told” and ending with the phrase “we’ll see”).

Well, who the heck knows what is going to happen. Big things are going to go down somewhere, and it could be here in Buffalo. Whatever happens, here’s a quick list of advice for D-Day:

  • If your boss is evil and has Twitter blocked, use your phone. Or just call in sick.
  • Speaking of Twitter - and this is very important – a ton of fake TSN/THN accounts spring up on D-Day, so make sure you’re following the correct ones. (A easy way to check this is to look at their number of followers.)
  • The deadline is at 3pm, but trades are announced after that time (teams have to submit by 3, and the NHL then goes through its approval process).
  • Stop the Darcy bashing, at least for now. It’s not going to make yourself or anyone else feel better as the tension mounts. Let’s just see what he pulls off tomorrow before we call for his head.
  • If you want a big name, like Dustin Brown, be prepared to lose one – or two – of your favorite Sabres.

 

Suitcases NHL Trade Deadline Day Guide: Sabres Edition

A lot of players will be packing their bags tomorrow - but we tend to forget that a lot of families will also be also up-rooted. Remember that when you phrase your chirps for a player leaving town.

And lastly:

A lot of media guys and blog sites have cited sources and names, possibilities and plausiblities.  The fact is, no one really knows anything. Even a true source doesn’t know if a trade is really going to happen or not, until it’s done. However, we do know a couple things as fact.

  1. Pegula, Black, Regier, and Ruff will be in the war room in a “We will not panic” mode. There won’t be any moves just for the sake of making moves.
  2. This same group is living by the whole “long-term plan” thing. Any move they make will take this into prime consideration. A trade might help the team win now – but must help the team later.

Again, just have fun. Try not to lose your head as your wish list grows thinner.

Some helpful links:

TSN Tradecentre

The Hockey News’ Trade Log

Edit: Jeremy White of WGR 55 has compiled a very handy Twitter account list, which includes all the Deadline Experts.

NHL.com shared a list of their preferred Twitter handles.

Go Sabres.

Oh, and of course – Go Regier.

EDIT: And for the love of mercy leave the Pegula daughters alone. They are not processing trade requests from fans, or taking chirps to Regier for you. 

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