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Bills And Sabres Making All The Right Moves

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It’s a pretty great feeling when your favorite sports teams seem to be making all the right moves. As Buffalo sports fans we’ve certainly dealt with a lot of stomach-roiling management over the years and it’s nice to feel like things are finally going well for both the Sabres and the Bills management-wise.

As for the Bills we had to put up with some horrible coaching ever since the Marv Levy days. Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron and a brief look at Perry Fewell. Fewell didn’t have enough tenure for us to know much about him but the rest … ugh.

 Bills And Sabres Making All The Right Moves

The “Dick Jauron Face”. Passion-inspiring it is not. We had to put up with THREE YEARS of this.

Chan Gailey is such a breath of fresh air form those guys – especially from Dick Jauron. It’s ridiculous to think back on the fact that he fired his offensive coordinator and had Alex Van Pelt install a no-huddle offense mere weeks from the start of the regular season. “Hey build me an awesome offense quickly. It’s easy, right? Hey, you’ve got Trent Edwards so don’t complain.” Er, yeah.

Mismanagement. We’d dealt with it for over a decade.

Now the Sabres have fans thinking that it’s possible they could pick up any player in the NHL. Rick Nash? Certainly possible. One source said they had $100 million offers in on both Parise and Suter. They’re willing to spend money and do anything – absolutely ANYTHING – that is necessary to make the team better.

The Bills got Mario freaking Williams to come to Buffalo. They’re signing great talent at every position and appear to be on the cusp of better-than-average-ness (I won’t say greatness because it’s been too damn long since we could say that and I don’t want to jinx it.)

There’s a disturbance in the force. Great players are being attracted to Western New York. Maybe it’s the prevalence of chicken wings across the country. Perhaps it’s a decades-long plot finally coming to fruition where scientists figured out a way to inject hot sauce with a mind-controlling substance that calls atheletes home to the wing mecca that is Buffalo.

Whatever the reason for it, it’s awesome. The Bills and Sabres may not reach their expectations this season but it’s still a great feeling to know that the organizations are willing to do the right things. That they’re willing to spend money and be aggressive. That they don’t just follow someone else’s script, but instead blaze trails with their own gameplans.

Another thought is that I used to give bad coaches the benefit of the doubt. After a year of guys like Williams/Mularkey/Jauron I’m usually like, “chill people, let’s give them a couple of years and see what they can do when they’ve established their system”. I used to think that 3 years was what it took for a new coaching regime to get their things going.

That’s bull. A new coach’s presence should be felt immediately. The team might not start winning right away, but you should be able to see their affect on the team. We saw that early on with Chan Gailey. He was willing to switch from Trent Edwards to Fitzpatrick within weeks of the regular season starting. He recognized that Edwards’ brain didn’t work at the game speed required at the NFL level while Fitzy’s did. Chan pulled the trigger and reversed his decision while other coaches (*couch*Jauron*cough*) just stay stuck in the mire of the decision they made in the past.

Thank goodness for Chan, Nix, Lindy, Darcy and perhaps most of all the Pegula clan. They may not make ALL the right moves, but you can’t be perfect. At least they’re sticking to their blueprint for success and being unabashedly aggressive about it. I love it. And it bodes well for an exciting 2012-2013 for both franchises.

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Pseudo-Live Tweet Coverage Of Buffalo Vs. Montreal

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Here’s a sort of “live tweet coverage” of the Sabres/Canadiens game last night. Some of these are actual tweets I managed to send out, but most of it is random observations. While watching the game there just isn’t time to tweet everything, but I wouldn’t want to flood people’s timelines with a brain dump like that anyway. What follows is a more vetted and edited list of thoughts.

Hope you enjoy the format, but let us know!

meyers goal 300x168 Pseudo Live Tweet Coverage Of Buffalo Vs. Montreal

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There is no better professional at anthem singing than Doug Allen. We are so lucky to have great surrounding talent outside the team like him, RJ, etc. Well, I don’t LOVE Harry Neale, but it could be much worse.

I hate people that hold up signs for the TV cameras rather than, y’know, WATCH THE GAME.

Neale called Nathan Gerbe, “Ger-bay”, as has Rob Ray in the past. Is he of French Canadian descent or something? Because last I knew he was from Michigan and attended Boston College. (RJ pronounces it “Gerb-eee” so I’m sticking with that.)

Fun Gerbe fact #1: at 5’5″, he is the shortest player in the NHL.

Fun Gerbe fact #2: The dictionary describes a gerbe as “a kind of ornamental firework”. Yes he is.

Horrible Commercial Watch
TV Commercial note: Healthy change #11, Blue Cross Blue Shield – I have a crush on the hot blonde that dances first. But the rest of it leaves me needing eye bleach.

Vanek/Ennis/Foligno line looking good early.

Horrible Commercial Watch
The Geico commercial where the guy karaoke’s to promote himself to other singles made us chuckle. The bar has been set pretty low.

Vanek/Ennis/Foligno – a great shift around 5:00, Foligno looking good.

Horrible Commercial Watch

  •  The Tim Horton’s commercial wasn’t horrible and made me really want a coffee. Good advertising.
  • VeinsVeinsVeins – call me old school, but all I think about is Motley Crue’s Girls Girls Girls.

Thinking that the arena is really quiet right now.

Stafford just seems to be a liability – he touches the puck for a moment and loses it or gets off a weak shot.

Horrible Commercial Watch

  • Loud commercials are loud. They’re cranking the volume way up for some of these, especially the Verizon FIOS commercial.
  • I hate MSG. I really, really hate watching NYC-based crap that I don’t care about. Basketball and old Yankees players I’ve never heard of does nothing for me (I’m looking at you “Fran Healey”, if that is your real name). I’m hoping that Terry Pegula is working on something like an Empire Sports Network.
  • Ok the Sabres app commercial was really neat and creative! (Sabres logo thought bubbles above people’s heads) Also, it’s very subtle but the ballons pop up in a “Let’s go Buffalo” cadence at the end.

Is there anyone who DOESN’T sing the Bad Boys song when Brad Boyes does something nifty?

Horrible Commercial Watch
That damn pig from the Geico commercials is truly annoying, but in a lovable way. How is that possible?

Awesome tweet: @mintyp69 twitpic’d this twitpic.com/8vk4i2 RJ jersey.

2nd PERIOD

Hard work by the Gerbe/Roy/Stafford line to draw a penalty early on. (Moreso the 9 and 42 of that line. Yes, I’m down on Stafford still.)

Top PP line not moving the puck well, looked awkward trying to just get onside. 2nd line of Boyes/Ennis/Stafford looked much better and got a great scoring chance with Myers in front of the net.

There are too many damn Canadiens jerseys in the stands. Sabres fans, WHY YOU SELL YOUR TICKETS? Oh yeah, you can make a boatload of cash. *sigh* I guess I might do the same if I had season tix.

Roy with an excellent chance. It seems like he should convert much more than he does. It feels like his shooting % is like 1.2%. [Post Game Update - it's 9.6%]

Isn’t “Canadien” the feminine version of Canadian? Like Comedienne? Just sayin’.

15:50 Roy with another penalty. Surprising. </sarcasm>

This arena is quiet. Too quiet. I can hear Canadiens fans cheering though, so what does that say?

Someone please punch those Canadiens fans holding up TSN signs to the camera.

Getting really sick of the Refs not calling things consistently from night to night. Can you hook a guy or not? Can you hit a guy w/o the puck or not? I don’t care if it’s minor, there shouldn’t be degrees of a penalty like holding in football. Call it or don’t. #OldMantRantyMcGee

When Leino makes a nifty move that actually results in a goal, I will eat my hat. (Also, I’m not wearing a hat.)

That Ennis goal was a complete and utter thing of beauty. Very un-Leino-like.

A very fast, fun pace to the end of the 2nd.

Leino with a halfassed scoring chance. I know he was on the ice for a long time, but still, the great players dig deep.

I like how the Sabres are finishing their checks all over the ice.

Horrible Commercial Watch

  • Paul William Beltz – y’know, not really a bad commercial, just too many damn lawyer commercials.
  • Mike Rowe is all over my TV. He’s slowly hypnotizing me with his voice to buy a Ford.

RJ “Another sell out crowd. I’m saying that because I know it to be true.” No idea why he said it like that, but I loved it.

Intermission Horrible Commercial Watch
GAHHHH! Cellino & Barnes! If I’m ever in a car accident their theme song will start playing in my head. At least I’ll know who to call.

3RD PERIOD

Ok, Leino is kind of a bull on the puck lately, but I have yet to see him do much creative with it. When he touches the puck it rarely leads to a scoring chance.

Ennis’ 2nd goal: some hard work and some luck, but it’s nice to see the breaks go his way finally. Great pass across the crease that got redirected by the D-man’s skate.

Pretty good pressure in the offensive zone and nice movement by the Sabres D-men to maintain puck possession. They’re playing well and with a 2-1 lead I feel confident. (Not cocky … *confident*)

Immigrant Song playing in the arena: the most-played hockey song. (I have no stats to back this up, but I hear it all the time.)

Horrible Commercial Watch
Independent Health – it’s all health commercials and lawyers. That’s where the money is. #TheSystemIsBroken

“It’s amazing how much better looking Nick is than Larry” – Neale talking about another Foligno brother. Ummm yeah.

Is it me or does Harry Neale just say the most obvious things? He doesn’t seem to add a whole lot of insightful color commentary. My vote is for Danny Gare.

With all of Pegula’s money, there has to be a way to makes clones with a mixture of Gerbe & Ennis’ DNA with some gene sequences of Meyers’ height.

2 on 1 chance by Montreal but Regher took the passing lane and Miller shut down the shooter. #textbook

Miller cool as a cucumber and making his saves look easy. (Does anyone still say “cool as a cucumber”? I guess I do.)

Gander Mountain is a sponsor of the Sabres? Huh. I will recommend it to all my friends over Bass Pro Shops.

RJ on the Canadiens penalty that negated their powerplay: “I’m sorry guys, I didn’t think it was a penalty” One of the many reasons we love him.

Ennis clearly ate his spinach/wheaties today. He’s quicker than anyone on the ice.

Horrible Commercial Watch
Chevy Truck Month – pounding “truck month” into our heads by playing it over and over will never work and it’s an annoying commercial. Hmm… I really need a truck…but now I don’t know whether to go Ford or Chevy!

5:00 left and it’s the first time I really noticed the crowd (other than Montreal fans).

It’s funny how we used to think Stafford could be a power forward.

After Montreal flipped a puck into the Sabres bench, Neale quipped: “I think Enroth made the save on it” Ok, well played, Neale, I liked that one!

Under 1:00 – Empty net excitement and Miller with a nice glove save.

Ugh. Montreal scored with 3 seconds left. That really hurts to give up a goal that late.

Gotta admire Montreal fans though – they’re last in the East and they still show up in force in another teams arena. Good on ya. But couldn’t you allow us the two points in regulation!?

Errrgh, my Gamecenter feed crapped out for OT! Twitter informed me that Myers scored the game winner – woot! It’s the one disadvantage of watching online, every once in a while you’ll miss something – but you can always rewatch it later.

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Why are you still reading this? It’s time to go home. The post is over. Go on.

 

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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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The Tease Is Over This Year For Sabres Fans – Now What?

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A tease.

That’s what this year has been.

We were teased with a competitive team after the offseason. Then teased again when the Sabres put together a short winning streak in late January/early February.

Big 80 s Hair the 80s 300441 308 194 300x188 The Tease Is Over This Year For Sabres Fans   Now What?

No not that kind of a tease.

After the 7-2 absolute drubbing at the hands of the hated Flyers, we now know there is no hope for this team, this year. Well, of course many of us knew before this, but some of us held out the slightest glimmer of hope. I did.

We were teased last year with the 16-4-4 run to end the season and make the playoffs… only to be crushed at the hands of those very same hated Flyers. Now we know that the run to the playoffs was more flukey than being eliminated in the 1st round and the record the Sabres currently hold (24-27-6).

The combination of the bad record despite the high expectations, the mediocre play on the ice, the Lucic Incident and issues of softness, and the TV problems with Time Warner make this season a difficult pill to swallow for Sabres fans.

funny dog pictures clean up ile 274x300 The Tease Is Over This Year For Sabres Fans   Now What?

Cleanup was indeed needed after the Sabres D soiled themselves in the 2nd period against the Flyers.

Lindy Ruff’s birthday is today but the celebration of his day has to be marred by where this franchise is at. This was supposed to be a mecca of hockey. A return to greatness. No, not even a return to greatness, but something better than we’d had in the past. Pegula labeled it “Hockey Heaven” – claimed a Stanley Cup was in our future. We got the Amerks back in the fold, got coaches entrenched that could coach Lindy’s “System”, the whole deal.

Pegula, Ted Black and the rest of the Sabres brass has consistently said we need to stay the course, to do nothing drastic.

At this point, even they have to see that something needs to be done. Questions come up about the coaching, about the general manager and about the heart of some of the players.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think we can just stay pat with the cards we’re holding. Perhaps it’s as simple as a trade or two now and build towards next year. Maybe it’s as drastic as firing Lindy Ruff.

After all, the team seems to embody his “nothing is wrong, we’ll get through this” mentality. Yes, it’s good for a coach to keep an even keel, but sometimes you need to light a fire under the guys.

Maybe Lindy does that, I don’t know as I’m not close enough to the team. All I know is that I see some guys on the ice who aren’t giving their all. I know that Lindy has had years of chances with different versions of this team and he hasn’t won a championship. There’s two sides to that coin: a) He’s done well over the years and gotten us deep in the playoffs b) It’s him holding us back from doing better than we could.

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THE ANSWER! Ok, not gonna happen, but it's fun to think about. More likely he'll go NASHville. These captions are horrible, but they're free, so quit yer whining.

In the end, I will have faith that “Pegula knows best”, that Ted Black and the rest of the staff are smart hockey guys and will get this thing figured out. But now we have to turn our attention to trades and a better draft pick and I don’t like that.

Go Sabres. /sigh

[Update: I was remiss not to say this: #DoSomethingDarcy]

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Us Lucky Buffalo Sabres Fans

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Are we lucky as fans or what? After one of the worst slides in Sabres history, they go on a 4-0-1 tear – against good teams even. I feel sorry for anyone who left the First Niagara Center early last night, as they missed a great show.

When it went to a shootout, I felt confident in Miller. He let in a few, but he was solid overall. When Gerbe’s shootout chance came, I knew he would sink it. Hell, the whole game I wasn’t worried about their play. The team is playing tough, confident hockey, with smarts to boot. They’re making crisp, quick passes and working hard in the corners. If they lost, they lost, but they were playing hard most of the way.

I don’t do much “real” analysis about the Sabres, as that’s not really my mindset (or forte). I’m more of a fan who just loves the game and makes bad jokes – but even I can see how much better this team is than just a few short weeks ago.

Perhaps part of it is the German bump, although the Sabres were playing well before the contingent of Mannheim Eagles fans came to Western New York. For more on that go here, it’s a feel good read.  And we could take some notes from their cheering playbook. They were rambunctious, perhaps annoyingly so to some, and even tried to get the wave going.

021112city 300x235 Us Lucky Buffalo Sabres Fans

European hockey fan enthusiasm is a little different than our brand, but we could certainly up the energy a little bit.

Or maybe it was Lindy Ruff. Perhaps his ego overshadowed the players and now that he’s injured they can finally play their best hockey. Now, I don’t believe this, but I’m sure there are detractors out there saying that. But the Sabres started this run well before Lindy fell and busted up some ribs.

Whatever the case, the Sabres are playing tough and are now eight points back in the East. I don’t think I need to say “buckle up”, we’re all pretty aware that this will go down to the wire, much like last year. But you couldn’t write a better script: a billionaire owner takes over the team, spends gazillions picking up all-star talent. The team flounders and all hope seems lost. Then, in Act 3 they get it together and miraculously make a huge comeback.

The only question is how does the story end – do they win it all, or is it just a feel-good drama where the team takes 2nd place but that was further than they ever should have expected to get to?

mighty ducks flying v 300x222 Us Lucky Buffalo Sabres Fans

Maybe James Patrick is using his time at the helm to teach the Sabres the Flying V.

Whatever the case may be, it’ll be damn exciting to be a part of. The Sabres are eight points back now with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming into our barn. We’ve got a lot of good hockey to watch ahead of us the rest of the year.

Go Sabres.

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