0Posted by Scott Michalak on April 26, 2012 at 8:45 am
Two words: Aaron Maybin.
Bills fans are in a prime position to be disappointed when the Bills make their choice at 10th overall today. The “sexy picks” of WR’s Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd will likely be already taken or simply passed up by the Bills in order to fill position(s) of more pressing need (OT).
Mind you, I’m a fan of LB Luke Kuechly, SS Mark Barron, and CB Stephen Gilmore, players also mocked to the Bills at tenth overall, but there’s a chance none of them will be available at that 10th pick. Ideally, the Bills should lunge upon Kuechly if he is still there at #10. He’s an elite tackling machine who excels in pass coverage. This guy should really be up for serious consideration: how about a player who, along with helping the Bills’ run defense, would also better the pass defense? From the Boston Herald:
The 6-foot-3 Kuechly arrived at the combine at his ideal playing weight (242 pounds) and with a head full of knowledge on the evaluation process. Kuechly was described on the combine website as the “most instinctual and technically sound linebacker to enter the draft in years.” That would explain his 532 career tackles, second-most in NCAA history, and an ACC-record 191 last season.
Basically, imagine a hard nosed guy like Poz, but who doesn’t suck. One that can actually help to stymie Tom Brady. One that can help stop that damn running game.
But this is draft day. The kind of day where the Bills might reach on a player like they did with Aaron Maybin (11th overall in 2009) over a stud like Brian Orakpo. No one needed a few NFL seasons to know how that pick would turn out for the Bills. Most mocks have the Bills reaching for OT Riley Reiff. Don’t get me wrong, Reiff is a solid player – but he’s not a top ten talent.
In other words, if the Bills pick a player at 10 that they should trade down for, this will be the sound heard’ round the B-lo (fair warning: turn your speakers down):
There’s also a good chance the Bills will trade up to land the elite OT Matt Kalil, or trade up for a guy like Kuechly. That tenth spot is pretty dicey in terms of what best player available will be left – and if that guy will be able to make a big impact on the gridiron for Buffalo this season.
Trade up, trade down, whatever you do, Buffalo, do it right.
0Posted by Scott Michalak on April 26, 2012 at 7:09 am
April 26, 1976.
Vaclav Varada, owner of the Sabres’ best werewolf face, is born unto the world.
Seriously, tell me this guy does not howl at the moon.
Varada plied his tooth and nails style of hockey for the Buffalo Sabres from 1995-96 (just missing the cut for NHL 94 by a season or two) until the 2002-03 season, when he was traded to Ottawa (where there were more hours of darkness to ply his tooth and nails style of lycanthropy).
While Varada never scored more than 10 goals for the Sabres in the regular season, he was more of a playoff beast – at least for a couple important seasons in Sabres’ history. In 1997-98, he put up 3 goals and 4 assists in 15 games. In the 1998-99 Cup run, he put up 5 goals and 4 assists in 21 ill-fated games.
Here’s a video that sums up Varada’s time in Buffalo quite nicely: missing the net, but “unleashing the furry” on Darcy Tucker.
3Posted by Scott Michalak on April 24, 2012 at 9:55 am
Greetings, offseason Sabres fan friends.
Here’s a quick little vintage video of the Sabres’ first 10 years, to help you cope as NHL teams are prepping for the second round of the playoffs. It’s a bunch of snippets, but they’re fun little snippets.
Absolutely my write in vote for the 2012 Nerd Conference All Star Hockey Team.
While the jersey is by design of “Rinkgear,” the “Voltron Jersey Project,” which includes all the goalie gear above, is the brain child of Junkyard Athletic, for the Ducks’ Zamboni driver, Joel Francisco. You can check out more pics of the project here. You can also check out more of Rinkgear’s pics –
And in the UNBHL, winner takes all. Or at least wins the choice of which toon to watch after the games. And who wouldn’t want to be up in the stands to check out a match between Star Trek and Star Wars fans? They would theatrically upstage any of those trendy staged fights that NHL players could ever dream of.
OK. This has gotten silly enough. I need to get out of this post. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, get me outta’ here.
Buffalo only has three defenders over the age of 24. A disturbing list:
Steve Montador, 31
Jordan Leopold, 30
Shaone Morrisson, 28
Chris Butler, 24
Andrej Sekera, 24
Marc-Andre Gragnani, 24
Mike Weber, 23
Tyler Myers, 21
Of those guys over 24, Morrisson has hardly been a defensive stalwart this season, and Leopold/Montador have not been able to stay on the ice. Indeed, if there is a weakness of the Blue and Gold that teams are going to expose until the end of this hockey year, it is going to be the green defense corps. Of all places, it is in their own zone, from where the team must take it’s most important steps, where their Achilles Heel is exposed.
We went a bit further from there:
Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal wrote a smart piece that not only confirmed my worries about our green defense, but provided an analysis of all Cup-winning team defenses from the last ten years (this year’s Bruins excluded). The results of his study are truly damning of our current roster.
As a whole, the champion defencemen were a veteran group. The average age was something over 30, with the top-pairing guys averaging a year or two more than that. Among 28 minute-munchers who averaged over 20 minutes a night (highlighted in bold), fifteen were 30 or older, just three 25 or younger.
Each of the last four Stanley Cup champs has featured a major UFA signing on the back end.
As we all know, Darcy Regier took Terry Pegula’s riches and was able to lure Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr to town. Mission accomplished, so one might think. Ehrhoff was a steady spark plug on the ice all season long, and played well enough with his new teammates. Regehr lead the team in hits, as expected, and was a quiet force of steely grit on the ice.
Well, mostly. They weren’t always out there. Like most of their new teammates, they were hit by the injury bug. In all, 335 man games were lost to injury this season for the Sabres. That’s not an excuse for missing the playoffs. It is just something that happened. Folks might point out how the Penguins had even more man games lost and still succeeded, but remember – we don’t have a 50-goal 109-point scoring Malkin if our Crosby goes down.
And we don’t have a Crosby.
For a while, we also didn’t have a Ryan Miller. Thanks, Lucic. The Miller Lucic incident will define this season for years to come. It’s ridiculous and sad that something more out of the WWE will be our nostalgic gem from this campaign.
To add to our misery, we had our share of dealing with the worst part of the injury bug this season – concussions. It first hit home for us on October 6th, when the CBC produced a report detailing the discovery of CTE in the brain of deceased and beloved Sabres legend, Rick Martin. Concussions hit Jochen Hecht pretty damn hard, too. Concussions limited his time on the ice to 22 games. He’s now an UFA, and at 34 years of age, he’ll be lucky to sign on anywhere. Frankly, given his injury history along with this CTE nightmare, he might be luckier if no one signs him. After 9 seasons with Buffalo, (10 if you count the lockout season), it looks like Hecht has put on a blue and gold sweater for the final time.
As if the injuries and the losses weren’t enough, fans were also treated to the misery that was the Time Warner/MSG Network dispute. For many, the 2011-12 season will be remembered as the season we all learned how to (illegally?) transmit feeds of the game on our laptops. (If that’s you, I’d strongly advise running a strong anti-virus program right about now.)
After the magic of Jeremy Lin helped settle that ridiculous issue, the magic of the Sabres began just in time for an unlikely playoff run. A 19-5-5 run almost got us there, but just faltered at the end. It was reminiscent of the 16-4-4 late season push last season, when Pegula first strode into town.
Then again, this season was also reminiscent of something else.
On locker room cleanout day, the players all agreed that this year’s 12 game road losing streak was a main factor (likely the main factor) that killed this season. The last time the Sabres missed out on the playoffs was the 2007-2008 season, which featured a 10 game losing streak that stretched from December to January. The boys weren’t able to recover from that one, either.
Injuries, Lucic, and one heckuva losing streak. Those are the stories of the 2011-12 Buffalo Sabres. Well, mostly the Lucic one. But, Sabres fans, take heart, for
ALL IS NOT LOST.
Ted Black appeared on WGR radio recently to tell everyone that “Sometimes, winning and success aren’t necessarily the same thing.” Despite how that might enrage some of the local media, he’s right. While the Sabres ultimately failed on the ice this season, they succeeded in plenty of other areas. Their roster additions were smart and effective (ok not Leino, and yes, I know we signed him hoping for a strong playoff performance, but he was a stoic no-show for the clutch games of the 19-5-5 playoff run and beyond). The Sabres over-spent, but the message to the players of the NHL was delivered: the Sabres do what it takes to get players to Buffalo and to keep more coming. Buffalo: a destination. Finally.
And for fans, the upgrades to the arena and game experience are still coming. Hockey heaven isn’t just the guys sitting on the bench. It’s all around us, outside the arena, in our living rooms and at our local rinks. Pegula bolstered an already strong hockey community here, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.
There were plenty of other sparks on the ice once that injury bug finally started to disappear. The Foligno-Ennis-Stafford line was nothing short of spectacular. The need for call-ups from Rochester gave our young kids plenty of NHL experience, which will ultimately speed and augment their development as prospects. Regier was also able to add Cody Hodgson to our center ranks, and the surprising Alexander Sulzer to the defense. He dealt Gaustad for an unfathomable 1st round pick. Buffalo has 4 picks in the top 44 selections of the upcoming draft. The future, as they say, is bright.
“The future” isn’t much of a consolation to this team or its fans right now. But after a week of hindsight at least on my part, it’s pretty clear that the Sabres built a strong foundation this season. They’ve got a top notch goaltender, a veteran defense, some pretty nifty wingers, and an improving center corps.
That’s usually a recipe for deep playoff runs.
And they’re not done building.
This offseason should be a wild one. Those 4 picks in the 1st and 2nd round could add much to this team through the draft, or through trades. It would seem that no one in the “old core” is untouchable in the trade market anymore. (5 seasons of general failure will do that to a core.)
In other words, don’t buy anyone’s jersey right now. (Or if you do, make sure you request for a free nameplate switch if your player is dealt.)
Meanwhile, we’ll keep you entertained again in the offseason. We’ll have our ridiculous Summer Awards and top Sabres GIFs. 2011-12 is dead to us, but as Rick Jeanneret is famous for saying: “Plenty more comin’ up in a moment!”