Pegula Era, Cap Crunch Changing Fans’ Perception of Players

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It’s nothing personal.

We’re running a business now here in Buffalo, and our business goal is the Stanley Cup. Anything or anyone that gets in the way of that better watch out, because we’re all becoming a little bossy when it comes down to the employees that wear Blue and Gold sweaters.

It wasn’t too long ago when stop-gap players like Shaone Morrisonn were appreciated in this town. Hey, he showed up to work, did his best, and we rooted for him. Heck, even Steve Montador was put up on a pedestal last season, supported with hope and fervor by the fan base despite his glaring inconsistencies that were bad enough to earn him a healthy scratch for Game Seven against Philly (only the most important game of the season).

Still, we rooted for those guys. Now, Montador is out, and Morrisonn’s name is being typed into pink slips on Twitter and message boards across the Web. And it doesn’t stop there.

Jason Pominville, one of our longer tenured and favorite pieces of our Buffalo “population,” and the subject to much of the fan base’s great concern since his tendon was sliced in Game Five of the playoffs last year, is a topic of trade talk among us. No matter that he has a no trade clause – the guy carries a $5.3 million cap hit until the 2013-14 season. He’s not good enough for that. Off with his head.

ScottyGuillotine Pegula Era, Cap Crunch Changing Fans Perception of Players

I'm not innocent, either.

We are a long suffering fan base who not too long ago would do a spit take upon hearing about the signing of a Ville Leino. Well, we did – but the real spit take happened when we heard how much we paid for him. Plus, he’s not really a center, all the time. And we wanted Brad Richards. Leino, you’re on notice.

How about that Christian Ehrhoff – contract? The best offensive defenseman to join the team since Brian Campbell, and the winner of the Babe Pratt Trophy in Vancouver as the team’s best defenseman in 2010 and 2011, carries a bankroll with him so large that folks were shocked not so much that we signed him, but were shocked more so by the dollar signs. Is he really worth this much money? Ehrhoff, you’re on notice, too.

This is, of course, uncharted ice for Sabres fans. Blame it on adjustment – blame it on this ridiculous heat wave if you want, but aren’t we all a little to eager to lop off some heads?

Andrej Sekera, our best up and coming offensive defenseman* and easy member of a top-4 pairing, was locked up for four years in a clever contract that only pays him $1.75 mil for his last two seasons. That is an incredible bargain on a player who has shown consistent growth, and last year began to wow fans with his rink-long rushes. But a $2.75 million cap hit has fans yelling “Trade him now, while he has value!” Yes, we’re over the cap sports fans, but does this mean we’re giving up on one of our brighter futures, over $500k? Give me a break.

*Marc-Andre Gragnani is our best up and coming defenseman, you say? Let’s argue that point after he plays half a season.

The most obvious candidate for the guillotine has been the returning Ales Kotalik. AlKo carries a $3 million cap hit this year. Instead of giving him a shot with the coach that knows him best, we’re already demanding that he gets the blade before trial on ice. “Bury him in the AHL,” many say. “Trade him for a bag of puck buffer!” say others (even though he does have a no trade clause).

guillotinegold 300x232 Pegula Era, Cap Crunch Changing Fans Perception of Players

This could use some blue accents.

No one said that building a champion would be easy. I just never realized it could be this ugly. Here’s some other ideas being bandied about by fans, and even some media, alike:

  • Jhonas Enroth played some good games, so why not get rid of Ryan Miller? He’s got that “trade value” thing going on, and his cap hit is $6.25 mil. Surely there’d be a good return for an all-world, franchise goalie.
  • “Thomas Vanek for Ales Hemsky” is a trade proposal I read online recently. Yea, Vanek emerged as captain material last season and is one of our strongest players with the puck, but then again, his $7.142 million cap hit is just too much. Apparently switching him for the oft-injured Hemsky would be a good idea, because, you know, he’s cheaper.
  • Brad Boyes – it’s been fun. You put up some nice points in the regular season before you were taken out of your natural wing position and forced to play center during the playoffs. AHL or trade, we really don’t care, Buffalonians just want you and your $4 million cap hit out of town.
  • Jordan Leopold? That guy and his $3 million cap hit can stay, but only if Sekera goes.

Curiously, the only veteran name not tossed around has been Derek Roy. Suddenly people are looking past his sometimes selfish style of play and are buying into his bargain $4 million cap hit.

Goodness.

How things have changed.

Again, no one said building a champion would be easy, and fans have always berated certain players throughout the year. But this roster-berating is getting a little out of hand.

Being over the cap is a fun but unsettling place for Sabres fans to be. We all want the right players, at the right price, in the right position, and staying committed once the skates hit the ice. Fair enough.

But until they hit the ice, can’t we give them all a little breather? It’s time to lay the pitchforks and torches down, and let Darcy and Lindy work this roster “mess” out. “Mess” being in quotations, because it’s actually a blessing to have this much veteran and youthful depth to do business with, for once.

I guess that is the key word – “business.” This new kind of business is going to take some real gettin’ used to in our town.

Go Sabres.

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Bisons to Give Away Aud Replicas this Weekend

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I’ve been looking forward to this promotion since February 9.

From an article on the Buffalo Bisons’ website (from February 9):

Youth Pinstripe Jersey, “The Aud” Replica Highlight Giveaway Schedule
Great giveaways have become staples to any Bisons promotional schedule and the tradition continues in 2011. One of the most sought-after items is the Bisons’ Buffalo Landmark Replica series, which will feature “The Aud” on (Saturday) July 23, presented by Hamburg Overhead Door and LiftMaster.

TheAud 300x212 Bisons to Give Away Aud Replicas this Weekend

Relive the glory.

Game time is 7:05.

The first 4,000 fans through the Swan St. Gate receive this iconic little piece of the Queen City. And hey – it’s about time that the kids dragged their folks to the game early so Pops can get a souvenir for once.

Don’t be fan #4001.

Go Sabres.

And go Bisons.

 

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The Ehrhoff Signing: a Vancouver Perspective

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“Don’t hassle the Ehrhoff.”

There’s your banner for the 300 level.

Fans in Buffalo were pleased and shocked when the Sabres traded for the rights to negotiate with and then signed Christian Ehrhoff – pleased because a player of his caliber decided to come to Buffalo, and shocked because a player of his caliber decided to come to Buffalo. He didn’t come cheap. From the Vancouver Sun:

Ehrhoff, 28, was seeking a huge raise on the $3.1 million he made in 2010-11 and Vancouver Canucks GM Gillis apparently couldn’t entice the German to accept Kevin Bieksa-type money of $4.6 million per season.

Ehrhoff was a mainstay on the Canucks’ No. 1 power-play unit and collected 50 points last season. He had 42 points in 2009-10, his first with Vancouver.

“Playing on this team is more important than individual compensation and that’s our expectation with everybody,” Gillis continued. “It will work with some and it may not work with others. If he [Ehrhoff] is unwilling to accept what we think is fair and allows us to be competitive, then we’ll move in a different direction.”

A player with Ehrhoff’s puck-moving and power-play ability should command north of $5 million.

Ehrhoff was thusly dealt away to the New York Islanders, who then failing to sign him, dealt him to Buffalo, where we now scoff at phrases such as “Bieksa-type money,” and even the surly Golisano-esque “Playing on this team is more important than individual compensation.”

PelleyEhrhoff 300x203 The Ehrhoff Signing: a Vancouver Perspective

The 'Hoff getting hassled. By a New Jersey Devil. Rod Pelly, you better stay on the bench the next time we see you.

In Buffalo, “should commend north of $5 million” translated into $10 million for Ehrhoff, along with a $8 million signing bonus, for the 2011-12 season. 2012-13 will award him $8 million, with another “signing bonus” $5 million. From there, he’ll make $4 million until the 2017-18 season, where he drops to $3 million, and then to $1 million through the 2018-19 to 2020-21 seasons. All told, that’s $53 million over ten seasons – but hey, if you do your “Pegula Math,” that averages out to $5.3 million per season, and with a cap hit of $4 million per.

Turns out, over the long, long, long run, the money is right where it should be. Right? How much can we really expect as a return on our dollar?

Here’s more from Vancouver, from the Sun’s Sports Blog, which at least touches on his past accomplishments:

Ehrhoff will be greatly missed for his dynamic offense. While the German-born defender wasn’t much of a shutdown guy, his mobility, offensive awareness, and his shot made him a threat to score from just about anywhere. Seriously, anywhere. Ehrhoff has a tendency to put himself out of position on occasional forays into the untold depths of the O-zone, but he also has a tendency to score beautiful goals from those same spots (and don’t you worry: all these clips have happy endings).

Ladies and gentlemen: let every goal Christian Ehrhoff scored last season be his swansong.

Bang on the link above, to check out video of all of Ehrhoff’s goals from last season (though it may take you a little while to watch all 14 of them).

We’ll close with some quips from “Lighthouse Hockey,” who brings some perspective from Ehrhoff’s home in Long Island for all of 20 hours (and also adds some more insight into the Sabres current cap crisis):

Ten years, huh? TEN years for a defenseman! Here that team goes again. They never learned from that Alexei Yashin deal and they never learned from that Rick DiPietro deal.

‘Cause here those crazy Islanders go again, with a 10-year contract — to a non-star defenseman, no less. And they’re paying him EIGHTEEN MILLION in just the first two seasons alone.

Now granted, it tails off in the final four years to lessen the cap hit and dance around the salary cap (which all NHL teams should do, if they are in the blessed club that can get away with it).

Wait … what’s that, you say? …

You say the contract are actually between the Buffalo Sabres and Christian Ehrhoff…?

Fantastic deal then. What moves! Such guts and commitment to winning! You can tell this franchise really cares!

Boy, they’re really doing some great things in Buffalo, what with adding Ville Leino for six years at $4.5 million per to a collection that already includes Tomas Vanek for an eternity at over $7 million annually, and Jason Pominville at $5.3 million annually with a no-trade clause(!), to go with $6.25 million for the star goalie, and the $4 million still left on the contract for that 17-goal scorer who scored 40 goals that one time, long before they spent a draft pick to add him.

Now that is what I call putting your money where your mouth is, in all the right pl… well in some places, anyway.

Why, that franchise is so committed to winning, they even brought back Ales Kotalik and his $3 million salary — never mind that he hasn’t performed like an NHLer in three seasons and has been rejected by every team from Alberta to Manhattan. It’s just great to see such commitment and dedication in Buffalo.

Money, money, money. All the dollar bills in the world won’t make a lick of difference if these signings help bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo. And that’s where most of the criticism tails off.

Yes, the Sabres have over-paid on contracts, but that is not unusual for NHL teams in this age that are aiming to be more than just competitive. The Sabres “only reason for existence is to win a Stanley Cup,” as every Sabres fan knows very well by now. Let Regier toss his Pegula Bucks around.  Let the green fall where it may.

And let Lord Stanley fall right in our laps.

That’s the only thing that matters to us now.

Go Sabres.

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In the Heat Wave, “Thou Shalt Have Reinforcements” (From Hockey Heaven)

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Baby, it’s hot outside.

Almost as hot as the dollar bills burning holes in Terry Pegula’s pocket. While we swelter away here in WNY on one of the hottest days of the year, let’s all sit back and try to cool off with a little reminder of good things to come in Autumn, courtesy of “Hockey Heaven.”

Grab an iced Tim Horton’s, drop a spoonful of Perry’s into it, hit play, and enjoy.

 

 

Actually, I don’t know about you, but that video made me sweat a little bit more. That’s ok. I’ve got plenty of Perry’s ice cream in the freezer.

sabrestopshelfsundae In the Heat Wave, Thou Shalt Have Reinforcements (From Hockey Heaven)

Everything is tastier in Blue and Gold. Even that "Banana" flavor.

And plenty to look forward to.

Go Sabres.

 

 

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High Projections for the 2011-12 Sabres Have Begun, but Don’t get too Excited yet, Billy

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Always the bridesmaid.

4 Superbowls, 2 appearances in the Stanley Cup Final – and 6 second best ribbons.

Prognosticators and the media haven’t been kind to Buffalo for quite a while, and who can blame them? Having an “internal cap” and “spending budget” never did scream “Cup or bust” here for the Sabres.

Still, now that Pegula and Regier have busted through the Cap ceiling – leading all NHL teams in salary – the hockey world has no choice but to at least raise an eyebrow. Bookies are salivating, ready for the bets to start pouring in from over-excited Buffalonians.

Um, it’s Billy Brown calling. l’d like to bet on the Super Bowl. On Buffalo. To win. Right.

-(Billy Brown on the phone with his bookie. From the script of “Buffalo 66.”)

Take a breath, folks. And please, take your bookies off speed-dial. Yea, the offseason has been a thrilling ride, but we haven’t ever won a dang thing when it mattered most, and we haven’t won a single game in the 2011-12 season.

High projections have started to come to print for the 2011-12 Sabres. The core of our Blue and Gold roster that barely squeaked into the playoffs last year is still here, but with the additions of Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, and Ville Leino, expectations have vastly risen for next season.

Excited? You should be. We’re in uncharted ice, here.

SabresBanners 300x199 High Projections for the 2011 12 Sabres Have Begun, but Dont get too Excited yet, Billy

Those banners look awfully lonely up in the rafters - but there are some who are saying the HSBC might be adding another banner or two by the time the 2011-12 season is finished.

“The Hockey News” published their list of the “Top 10 Offseason Winners” recently. Though the offseason is not yet over (and certainly not over for the Sabres, who are already over the cap with Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jhonas Enroth yet to sign), Adam Proteau had this to say about how things have changed at the HSBC:

The Sabres received enough of a boost this past season when new team owner Terry Pegula assumed control of the organization. And Pegula put a lot of his money where his Sabres-loving mouth is this summer, ponying up for D-man Christian Ehrhoff, outbidding numerous teams for left winger Ville Leino and adding rugged blueliner Robyn Regehr from Calgary. If the Sabres don’t challenge Boston for the Northeast Division title, it won’t be because they don’t have the players.

Challenge the Bruins? The team that just won the Stanley Cup? Yep. Those Bruins.

The NE Division crown and the Stanley Cup are a long, long way off, and there is a lot of hockey to play before we can back up our bold new hopes, but at least we can enjoy some realistic dreams for once.

Then again…

Buffalo66 300x168 High Projections for the 2011 12 Sabres Have Begun, but Dont get too Excited yet, Billy

"Oh, and, Billy. lf Buffalo ever makes it back to the Super Bowl, bet against them."

We’re still Buffalo – that snake-bitten town that has never won a thing (apologies to the Bills of the AFL and our beloved Bandits). We’re all pretty excited to be bringing players in – very good players – but hopes are still tempered around the Queen City.

This past season, the Sabres went on a remarkable run to make the playoffs after Pegula took over on February 22nd. They posted a 16-4-4 record down the stretch, before running out of gas and Pegula magic in a hard fought first round series against the Flyers. It remains to be seen how much gas these new additions will bring to the squad, and if that Pegula magic still holds any lionizing power over the locker room.  This time, it’s a stretch of 82 games instead of just 24.

It’s still about surviving that long regular season, it’s still about making the playoffs – and then winning 16 of those extra and bloodiest games before anyone else does.

That’s a tall order.

That is a lot to hope for, and we’re all a little rusty on hope here in the Rust Belt.

But at least, for once, we can have some realistic hope. Even if we do keep our hopes a little quiet.

Go Sabres.

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