For Many Bills Fans, it’s a Love Hate Relationship

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To coin a phrase: I’m “Billspolar.”

This time of year, every year, I go crazy over our Buffalo Bills – and not in a good way. My mood swings up and down with each incoming news report that the Bills might sign a great RT, and then fail to do so. Things don’t go very well for the Bills during free agency. The draft has mostly been a disaster. The team has been off the NFL map for so long, that ESPN reported that one of the Bills’ key losses this season was James Hardy.

HadlyHardyESPN For Many Bills Fans, its a Love Hate Relationship

That's Matt Warren of "Buffalo Rumblings." Check out the blog. Good stuff.

If you forgot, Hardy was indeed cut by the Bills – in September of 2010. I’d like to blame ESPN for this lazy journalism, but really, the Bills have been so bad for so long that I can’t blame anyone for not paying them much attention.

I know – we’ve all been handed the line that Buddy Nix is rebuilding this team through the draft. We need to be patient. I respect his efforts, but I am done being patient. Here’s a dandy quote from “@TheCockfight” on Twitter:

So the Bills are planning on getting better by drafting and developing their own guys, huh? That frees up my Sep-Dec for a few more years.

And one more:

Don’t forget the 61% LOSING record over last 10 yrs.

We haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999. We haven’t hosted a playoff game in Orchard Park since December 28, 1996. There’s a good chance that some of you reading this weren’t even born by 1996. A whole generation of teenagers is walking around town without ever having felt the buzz in town when it’s playoff game day. That can’t be good for the future of the fan base, well, at least it would be in any other town.

lowlybillsfans 300x225 For Many Bills Fans, its a Love Hate Relationship

A few beers usually helps get us through the games, too.

Just as I am Billspolar, the rest of the region is clinically insane about this team. Come game one of the regular season, I’ll put on one of my Bills jerseys (I have to choose between Lynch and McGahee), and cheer for every down like my life depended on it. This is what we do.

And on an aside, I was oh so close to snapping up one of those Posluszny jerseys at the Bills online store that were on sale for $20 during the lockout. Did the Bills store know something we didn’t? (It wouldn’t be the first stupidly weird conspiracy surrounding the team. In an “X-files” episode – coincidentally aired in 1996 – the “Cigarette Smoking Man” stated that the Bills would not win a Super Bowl while he lives. Someone put a hit on that bastard.)

Now, if that weird tangent tells you anything, it shows the how deeply this Billspolar sickness has gone. This is just not a good time of the year to be a Bills fan.

I just get through another offseason – I need to get to week one.

Billspolar or not, it is during the season that I return to the flock. I’ve painted myself up and attended away games in Jacksonville. I’ve written before how I was one of those folks who stayed seated at the stadium for “The Comeback.” (That, frankly, is a much better read than this – I highly recommend reading it after suffering this post. It will cheer you up.) And I’ve also written more recently how Terry Pegula and the Sabres have put Ralph Wilson and his Bills “on notice.” While we’re told to be patient, we’ve got an actual contender for a championship in this town right now. Guess which team that young generation of teenagers I just mentioned is going to spend their lawn-mowing money on?

And am I the only one whose favorite memory of Ralph Wilson stadium over the last ten plus years is attending the Winter Classic?

Joe Pinzone at “Buffalo Wins” put up a great post on what we’re experiencing as fans, and how to remain optimistic. “The Scizz,” over at “Dear God Why Us Sports,” put up a post detailing the more agonizing side.

For now, I’m with The Scizz.

Just get me to week one.

Go Bills.

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Sabres Confirm Roy on Twitter; Important Rules for Fans

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It appears the player-mandated ban on public Twitter accounts may finally be over.

In case you missed it, Phil over at “Black & Blue & Gold” posted a list of Sabres prospects and players that are now on the social media service. Fans have always been anxious to follow their favorite players on Twitter, and have been burned by fake accounts before.

twitter 300x176 Sabres Confirm Roy on Twitter; Important Rules for Fans

We're finally adding some gold to the Twitter. Now, if we can only darken the blue...

This time, Kevin Snow and the Sabres’ New Media Staff are working on verifying the accounts.

KevinSnowSabresTwitter Sabres Confirm Roy on Twitter; Important Rules for FansSabresRoy Sabres Confirm Roy on Twitter; Important Rules for Fans

There you have it, sports fans: no more guess work. Many thanks go out to Kevin Snow and the rest of the Sabres’ New Media Staff for taking care of this.

Meanwhile, it’s important for all of us who use Twitter to remember how ugly the scene can be when things don’t go our way. Now is the time to set down some behavioral guidelines, so that we don’t lose this access to our team again.

The last thing we need is a thousand angry fans sending hateful drunken tweets to our players after a hard loss.  So, in an effort to avoid such a fanatical catastrophe, I’d like to present 5 simple rules to fans. Learn them, love them, live them:

  1. Do not send hateful drunken tweets to the Sabres after they lose.
  2. Do not send hateful drunken tweets to the Sabres after they lose.
  3. Do not send hateful drunken tweets to the Sabres after they lose.
  4. Do not send hateful drunken tweets to the Sabres after they lose.
  5. Do not send hateful drunken tweets to the Sabres after they lose.

Salesmen say that you need to say something 3 times before it takes root in someone’s memory.  I said this 5 times, so there are no excuses, folks.  I don’t care how many arena beers-deep you may be after a game – do not send hateful drunken tweets to the Sabres after they lose. (Now I’ve said it 6 times.)

Don’t be a distraction.

Now, go forth, and stalk.

Go Sabres.

See Also: Black & Blue & Gold’s “Guide to Sabres on Twitter” (as linked to above)

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Can the Shootout Revive Kotalik’s Career With the Sabres?

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For Ales Kotalik, making the 2011-12 Sabres squad looks like a long shot, but he has at least one gimmick up his sleeve.

Ales Kotalik’s $3 million cap hit doesn’t bode well for a guy determined to make the Buffalo’s opening night roster. His plummet in production over the last few seasons with Edmonton, New York (Rangers), and Calgary (so much for a no-trade clause) is downright foreboding. What’s more, Ales skates on the right side, and will be competing with a group of already entrenched right wingers in Pominville, Stafford, Boyes, and Kaleta.

Still, if there is one thing that the Pegula Era has taught us, it is that the salary of a player doesn’t matter. If he can be effective, and if he can fit under the salary cap, he’ll stick. And AlKo’s stick schtick might help him do just that.

Fans may recall his propensity for scoring pretty dang consistently in the shootout. In the 2008-09 season, his last with the Blue and Gold, he was tied for 2nd in the NHL in goals scored during the shootout, with 6. He placed 1st overall in game determining goals, with 4.

AlKoShootoutWinner 300x197 Can the Shootout Revive Kotaliks Career With the Sabres?

The Move: giving the 'Nucks the ol' "backhand switcheroo."

Anyone remember when Ales opened the shootout during the Winter Classic with a goal? It was a beautiful moment, and had many of us convinced, at least for a little while, that the Sabres were going to win that historic game (until Sidney Crosby soon thereafter finished off the shootout for the 2-1 SO victory).

Well, that’s all in the past – and since his departure, the Sabres have seen the emergence of some new shootout studs. To add to the ever-reliable Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis placed in the top 25 in shooutout goals last season (5th and T-22nd, respectively).

Having a shootout crew featuring Vanek, Ennis, Stafford, and Kotalik could really score some extra-time points for the Blue and Gold, but do we really need four gimmicky specialists? The answer to that is no – especially considering the fact that there is no shootout in the playoffs.

Ales enjoyed his moment in the sun sno-globe, but his time for being showcased for that speciality alone is gone. The challenge for Ales for the 2011-12 season, to break into the deep RW corps and justify that $3 mil hit, won’t be about gimmicks. And it’s not going to be easy. If he is going to revive his career with the Sabres, he’s going to do it in one way only:

He’s going to have to work his Ales off.

Schtick intended.

Go Sabres.

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The Regehr Trade: Perspective from Calgary

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It’s time for some post-trade-stress-disorder analysis.

With Robyn Regehr, the Buffalo Sabres picked up the rugged, dominant defensemen that they needed to push teams around in the playoffs (instead of the other way around, as we’ve seen in recent history). We’ve already touched on the promise of Regehr, Kotalik, and that 2nd round pick before, but what are the pundits and fans in Calgary saying about what they got in return?

RegehrPresser 300x210 The Regehr Trade: Perspective from Calgary

Nice work, Terry.

Brian Costello (Senior Special Editions Editor of of The Hockey News) was quick to fire off a neutral-site column about this trade, a piece entitled “Robyn Regehr Trade Makes no Sense for Calgary Flames.” Not the most auspicious title for Flames fans. From the column:

Why did Feaster think he had to be the one throwing in the second round pick? Shouldn’t Buffalo have been the team sweetening the pot? Was it that important for Feaster to get rid of Kotalik’s deal? Why wouldn’t he farm the winger in Abbotsford next year (like he did part of this season) or make him go away to Europe, the way Chicago GM Stan Bowman made Cristobal Huet and his $5 million go away a year ago?

If the rationale for the Regehr trade was freeing up salary cap space, shouldn’t Feaster have been trying to trade disappointing Jay Bouwmeester and his $6.68 million, or unproductive Matt Stajan and his $3.5 million, or stone cold Niklas Hagman and his $3 million? Not someone useful like Regehr.

Chris Butler is a No. 5-6 defenseman now. The Flames have a plethora of those in Brett Carson, Adam Pardy, Brendan Mikkelson and T.J Brodie. Those types of players can typically be purchased every July 1 for about $1 million or so. Butler has upside as a No. 3-4 defenseman and that will be absolutely necessary for Feaster to save face here.

Paul Byron is an undersized 22-year-old minor-leaguer who wasn’t ranked among Buffalo’s top 10 prospects in Future Watch. He has terrific offensive skills, but that may or may not translate at the NHL level because of his 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame.

A lot of things have to align for Feaster to make this trade look good. And if they don’t, it’ll look even worse when the toughened-up Sabres have a successful playoff run, then pile on by boosting their prospect system with Calgary’s second pick next June.

The Flame’s blog “Matchsticks and Gasoline” noted that this trade was going to need some serious analysis. They sat down for an “M&G Roundtable,” wherein Arik James collected his team of writers for some perspective. (Note: surnames of writers were not noted.) From Arik:

There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. But I’ll address the whys and hows in a different post. I’d like to talk about what this means for the Flames and their defensive corps going forward. The first thing is obviously the acquisition of Chris Butler. Now while he hasn’t been “great” so far in his career, it’s important to remember the development curve for defensive defensemen is exceptionally late. If Butler can develop as even a 3/4, the Flames won’t have terrible defensive depth. Just pretty bad defensive depth.

From “Hayley:”

I suppose you really have to wonder what other teams were offering if Feaster did indeed like the Buffalo deal best (or if it was just the chance to dump Kotalik that sweetened the pot), but then again he’s not exactly a candidate for GM of the year. Re-signing Tanguay at the cost of his annual cap hit ($3.4M) probably could have been done without moving Regehr and/or Kotalik considering that there will be a number of unrestricted free agents whose salaries come off the books next Friday, so it seems Feaster has something else up his sleeve, which is, understandably, terrifying.

Overall, it’s hard to feel the least bit positive about this deal. It’s simply a continuation of the awkward middle-ground the Flames find themselves in between being average/capable enough to get by and horribly awful, although now we’re probably leaning more towards the ‘horribly awful’ side after dealing our best defenceman, which I suppose could be a plus in the long-run.

I don’t know, I think I’ve gone delusional.

From “Ryan:”

In the end, the Flames have $7.5m in cap space and the freedom to do some things in free agency, which is a win. However, we’re down a top-pairing d-man without an immediate replacement in the top 4 and didn’t get a blue chip prospect coming back the other way. That’s disappointing.

From “Mitch:”

I don’t think many teams out there are seeing Regehr playing much past his current contract. He is a D man who has to play physically to contribute, if that dimension of his game begins to soften what else does he have to contribute? Is he that incredible first pass out of the zone, is he that bullet from the point and PP QB, is he that fast D man who can save a goal on a broken play with a diving poke check? I don’t want to slag Regehr, I love the guy as much as any Flames fan but how he was seen on the market may not have been as high as many think.

His body has taken a lot of abuse over the years and he is not going to play till 41 like Lidstrom, I don’t think anyone is going to dispute me on that.

Ultimately this trade is all about Cap space for the Flames and trying to clean up a Sutter mess. Nothing else, they have taken some very high risks on Butler and Byron which may or may not work out. So if you were expecting this trade to improve the team for the season you have to be disappointed.

Essentially, the Sabres seemed to have ripped Calgary off on paper, but it’s not like Regehr is a spring chicken anymore – and that is the best way to look at this trade. Sabres fans may not really be getting the wholly dominant shutdown defenseman that they were hoping for in the slightly aged Regehr (at least not for the long term), and at the same time, Flames fans are getting a bit more than they immediately thought.

Byron still has a lot to prove at the NHL level, but Chris Butler is still an up-and-coming defenseman who may be quite good. It’s easy for fans to forget that Chris virtually skipped all of his pro development. After spending just 27 games in the AHL, the bulk of his pro hockey training and experience came at the NHL level.

Butler’s quick success in the big league was overshadowed by each defensive zone mistake that he made in the faster, meaner, mentally tougher NHL. Having virtually gone straight from the NCAA to the NHL, it may have been a bit unfair to judge his entire future on his developmental mistakes. Frankly, he did quite well for a guy who had the pressure of honing his pro game in the NHL, up until the point where he found himself as Tyler Myers’ partner at the end of this season. Flames fans should take heart – Butler does have a lot of promise.

For now, of course, there is a lot of panicking going on in Calgary. For the more adventurous, here’s the link to the Flames’ fan chat on HF Boards analyzing the returns for Regehr and that 2nd round pick. Let’s just say the people in that discussion are pretty ticked off.

They really have a hard case of post-trade-stress-disorder.

Go Sabres.

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Drew MacIntyre: What you Need to Know about Our New Goaltender

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While everyone was focused on the Ehrhoff and Leino sigings and the Regehr trade, the Sabres quietly added a very good netminder to the organization.

It went a bit under-reported, and most fans in Buffalo were left scratching their heads over not only over what MacIntyre brings to the crease, but why the organization brought him in. Some even jumped to the conclusion that it was a move that signaled an impending trade of Jhonas Enroth.

DrewMacIntyre1 300x225 Drew MacIntyre: What you Need to Know about Our New Goaltender

Our new Man Behind the Fiberglass/Kevlar Mask

MacIntyre will be in Rochester for the 2011-12 season (barring any injuries at HSBC), but just how good is this guy? To get more info on him, we headed straight over to The “The Goalie Guild,” an information and scouting destination for all things netminder related. Justin Goldman, member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association and contributor to NHL.com, is one of the best minds to pick when it comes to what to expect from a anyone wearing a goaltender’s mask.

Goldman gave us a full profile on MacIntyre, and you’re going to like what he had to say. Take it away, Justin: (more…)

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