The “Hockey Heaven” Contest: Introducing Kelly

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Time to wrap things up.

Again, we had a lot of great entries here, folks. Thanks to all who participated in our “What ‘Hockey Heaven’ Means to Me” contest. Our second winner (no particular order) is Kelly Heft, a die-hard Sabres fan from the day she was born. Take it away, Kelly!

I was born during the game that put the Sabres in their first Stanley Cup Final. Legend has it my dad had the game playing in the delivery room, and when I came home from the hospital he would rock me while watching the games on TV. I’ve been a Sabres fan since I was born, and Feb 22nd felt like a new beginning. For me Hockey Heaven is a rebirth, with the team and fans coming together as a hockey family. Seeing the Pegula family handing out programs, alumni welcomed back with open arms, and fans being truly listened to all reminded me of what brings me back to the Sabres year after year. It’s that sense of belonging to a community all dreaming of and working towards one common goal. Now we’re ALL united as a family, working towards the same vision: bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo.

KellyHeft1 300x225 The Hockey Heaven Contest: Introducing Kelly

Kelly and Sis at the Winter Classic - one of few tastes of "Hockey Heaven" under the Golisano Era.

If you recognize her sister, that’s because she is  “Her Heiny Granger” of the Queen City Roller Girls’ Devil Dollies. Outstanding. The next time I go to an away game, I want these girls on my bus.

Kelly writes a  Sabres blog, entitled “Rooting For Laundry.” She can also be found on Twitter, at @KHeft.

Once more – thanks to all that participated. If there is one thing this contest taught me, it is that the idea of “Hockey Heaven” is deeply embedded in our hockey hearts already.

Go Sabres.

Be sure to visit “Hockey Heaven,” our sponsor of this contest.

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The Offseason: Ain’t it Funny how the Night Moves

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This was a fun night to be a Sabres fan.

“How,” you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. While hockey players hit the links, fun and informative (and some disappointing) stuff continues to filter through the summer sports abyss. (Sorry “Home Run Derby,” but the only thing worse than “Home Run Derby” is highlights of “Home Run Derby.”)

We’re deep into the offseason now, and hockey news is hard to come by (save the delirious rants of HF Boards rumor-supposers. Schenn for Stamkos? Put out the “cigar,” sir).

Still, it’s been a fun day here in the B-lo. Here’s our mentions (which I am sure won’t make the ESPY’s, but more on that later):

Maxim Afinogenov is getting married!

TheEnigmafinogenovs 300x221 The Offseason: Aint it Funny how the Night Moves

Hey Lindy - someone finally cracked the "enigma code!"

For those who care, that’s tennis star (now retired) Elena Dementieva who is the beautiful bride-to-be for the (now NHL-retired) Afinogenov. As for what they are drinking, well, with Max comes always some measure of mystery. Odds are that vodka is involved.

Meanwhile, over at the “ESPY’s,” which apparently happened, a lot of hockey folk got left out. Tim Thomas was not even an afterthought for whatever “American Athlete of the Year Award” they have these days, and Rick Martin was left out of their eulogy sequence. I don’t know if ESPN is trying to make a statement and pick a fight with the NHL here, but I do know that you never, ever, pick a fight with a hockey player.

God speed Rico – we still miss you. (more…)

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The Leino Signing: Analysis from Philadelphia

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By now, the UFA buzz in your brains should have cleared up.

It’s officially Summer for hockey fans.  Time to sit back, re-set our rosters on NHL ’11, and hunker down for what should be a quiet offseason from here on out (barring a sudden trade, of course).

It’s also a good time to re-visit the signing of UFA Ville Leino. Sabres fans are not convinced that we landed the true #1 center that we all wanted in Brad Richards, but the Sabres did manage to sign the second-highest scoring UFA on the market. He can play center, and should provide a good one-two punch at center with Derek Roy. He’s a player that we’re to feel very excited about, so at least we’ve been told:

”We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt that it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player like him to slip by us,” (Darcy) Regier said. ”He was someone we identified early and moved him to the top of the list.”

leinohalak1 300x225 The Leino Signing: Analysis from Philadelphia

It's Blue and Gold for Ville for the next 6 years.

Well then, what about our counterparts in Philadelphia? What do they think about the Leino signing? I dropped in on a few Philadelphia blogs to find that out, and once I survived that journey into that Heart of Darkness, the intel I brought back with me was both good and bad.

From “Broad Street Hockey:”

Ville Leino was a freakin’ deal the last two years. The Flyers resurrected his career, he turned into quite the offensive power in the 2010 playoffs, and then had a decent 2011 season in which we learned that he’s as one-dimensional as one-dimensional players get in the NHL.

We knew he was going to get a raise, and the Flyers were apparently willing to pay him a four year, $12 million contract (as reported by Frank Seravalli). They weren’t going over that, and damn, we should be thankful for that.

The Buffalo Sabres signed him to an unbelievably obscene six year, $27 million contract today. The deal was announced by the team and the details were reported by TSN. It’s overpayment in every sense of the word, and it’s $1.5 million more per year than the Flyers were willing to dish out. Can’t blame him for going after the money at all… but holy crap, Ville Leino is not worth that much money.

We loved the guy during his time here and it was fun while it lasted. Not upset about losing him when all is said and done, though. Everybody is overpaying this year, but think of it this way: Jaromir Jagr for one year at $3.3 million, or Ville Leino at $4.5 million for the next six?

Uh-oh. I think we all knew we overpaid for this guy, but when I see the phrase “he’s as one-dimensional as one-dimensional players get in the NHL,” I start to feel that nagging anxiety of “buyer’s remorse.”

From Nick Derence of “The Bleacher Report:”

There is only so much cap space to go around. So when the Buffalo Sabres offered Ville Leino a six-year, $27mil contract, the Flyers were forced to say farewell to the dependable two-way forward. The Sabres hope that Leino will take up the same clutch goal scoring role for them that he did playing against them during these past playoffs.

Oh, he’s a “dependable two-way forward.” Good. I feel better about that now.

From Travis Hughes, of “SB Nation:

Leino, the 27-year old native of Finland, was toiling away in obscurity back in the 2009-10 season with the Detroit Red Wings. A late season trade brought him to the Philadelphia Flyers, and on a line with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, Leino turned into a hero in Philly’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The same chemistry with those two linemates wasn’t really there in the 2010-11 season, but Leino still managed to put up 19 goals and 34 assists in 81 games with the Flyers this past regular season. Flyers fans learned that he’s quite the one-dimensional player, as he started over 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive end of the ice, unable to be trusted with defensive zone minutes.

That’s why the money seems so high. Leino can score and has some of the best hands in the game, but that’s all he can do. Will it be worth it to the Sabres? It seems like any price is worth it to new owner Terry Pegula.

What? Which is it, Philly, good two-way or bad two-way? Stop jerkin’ us around! “One dimensional… 60%…unable…to be…trusted…” there’s that anxiety again.

buyersremorsepills 150x150 The Leino Signing: Analysis from Philadelphia

I need an rx. Is there a doctor in the house?

In order for Leino to be successful in Buffalo, he must produce – and not just in the offensive zone. The Sabres play a dogged “System” of hockey under Lindy Ruff, one that is focused on control of all three zones. While Leino has shown in the past that he can do this, he’s apparently shown more recently that he can be a liability in at least 40% of the ice surface. It won’t take long for this style of play to earn him a place in Ruff’s doghouse.

And then there goes that one-two punch.

If there is one stat that I have focused on since this surprise signing, however, it has been his playoff stats. 28 points in 37 career playoff games makes me feel much more confident and relaxed (even if one of those points was that goal he scored in the overtime of Game Six this past season, which pretty much ended our playoff hopes).

Another reassuring statistical pill is the fact that Leino put up a +14 over the regular season, despite the fact or opinion that he lost his two-way game somewhere in that stretch. That +14 would have been good enough for 2nd best on the Sabres, under the recently-departed Steve Montador’s +16. Drew Stafford was the forward closest in this category, at +13 (it’s pretty downhill from there).

It also helps to remember that bolstering the defense was one of the top priorities of Lindy Ruff in this offseason, and that was done in a huge way with the additions of Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff. Adding Leino (and subtracting Tim Connolly) feels more like a little bonus on top of that upgrade on the blueline.

We have to wait until October 7th until we find out which Leino emerges for Buffalo. There will be no excuses for him: he is just entering his physical prime and will have a larger role here than he did with the Flyers, who were overflowing with offensive talent last season.

Ville, here’s my advice for you:

  • Learn “The System.” Quickly.
  • Stay out of Lindy’s doghouse.
  • Help us get to the playoffs.
  • Go statistically crazy in the playoffs.
  • Help us win the Stanley Cup.
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The “Regehr Effect:” All NHL Teams are On Notice

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So you wanted Brad Richards?

Then the Sabres might just bring him to you: on a platter. Ain’t no Brad on the face of this earth that wants to go up against the defense that the Sabres just put together.  Just ask Mike Weber.

He’s always been a fan of Robyn Regehr. In fact, Weber has modeled his game after Regehr, the newest and arguably the best defenseman on the roster right now (though he has yet to play a game for the Blue and Gold).

Regehr is going to make us cringe. Regehr is going to make us yell things such as, “REGEHR SEZ NO!” when some complacent forward tries crossing the blue line on his side of the ice (bad idea).

Hey fans – there’s a sign/banner idea for the 300’s – “Regehr sez NO!”

REGEHRPALM 300x218 The Regehr Effect: All NHL Teams are On Notice

"Teeth, meet fist. Fist, teeth."

Something tells me that the Sabres defense will be very eager, and very expedient, at expelling NHL forwards from the defensive zone in the coming years. If a certain Danny Briere wants to angle his brakes on Ryan Miller after a save, maybe giving Ryan the old “snow job,” or just getting close enough to sniff a whiff of his pads, it’s pretty certain that Briere might find himself knocked a few strides back.

With extreme prejudice.

Yea, Myers, Weber and the boys are going to have a heckuva time this season. We are all very much acquainted with the hulking Myers (see aforementioned GIF). We’re getting to know what Regehr brings to the ice: 180 hits in 79 games, along with 142 blocked shots – he would have lead the Sabres in each category last season. Mike Weber piled up 158  hits and 99 blocked shots – but he did that in only 58 games.

Goodness. Gracious.

All we can say is no goodness, nor gracious, will come upon those that dare enter our half of the ice this coming season. You better believe that opposing teams are already taking notice: no one wants their stars on the ice when these guys are on patrol.

And I say to those teams: good luck. You’re all staring down the three-barreled cannon that is Regehr-Myers-Weber (in no particular Lindy Ruff pairing order).

Folks, these guys hit hard, and these guys hit smart. Regehr’s 180 hits were accompanied by a miserly 58 penalty minutes. Weber’s 158? 69 PIM’s.

WeberMaloney 300x235 The Regehr Effect: All NHL Teams are On Notice

Weber also knows how to feed some fist.

For years, Mike Weber has been following Regehr’s footsteps/bodychecks on the ice. Now, Terry Pegula and Darcy Regier have brought the two together. Could they be the best one-two punch in the NHL? I’m sorry, it should be one-two-three, right? Don’t forget Tyler (Myers). He had 107 hits with just 40 PIM’s last season.

myers tyler 1stGoal 300x162 The Regehr Effect: All NHL Teams are On Notice

"No one makes me bleed my own blood since this. C'mon. Try it."

Hits and PIM stats aside, only the blueline will let us know in 2011-12. They’ll let us know, and they’ll let the NHL know – things are about to get very loud in the B-lo. I say, bring it on. Screw Brad Richards – we score plenty enough. It’s about time we put enough snarl into this league to make teams regret a frown at a face-off.

Oh, and by the way, Sabres scary-mean prospect Brayden McNabb models his game after Regehr as well. Danny Briere, you’re on notice:

Hell’s a comin’.

And reinforcements are on the way.

Go Sabres.

See Also: “Stanley Cup 101: Sabres Cup Dreams Hinge On Bolstering Defense” 

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The “Hockey Heaven” Contest: Introducing Brendan

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Wow.

We had a lot of great entries here, folks. Thanks to all who participated in our “What ‘Hockey Heaven’ Means to Me” contest. Our first winner is Brendan McIntyre, who is rooting for the Blue and Gold deep from within the United States Capitol. Take it away, Brendan!

Hockey Heaven is a life-long Sabres fan, raised on the French Connection-led Sabres of the old Memorial Auditorium, buying the team and preparing it for greatness.

Hockey Heaven is a jam-packed HSBC arena, boiling over with blue and gold Sabres fans, screaming at the top of their lungs the most amazing cheer in all of sports, “Let’s Go Buff-a-lo.”

Hockey Heaven is a horde of blue collar Sabres fans rallying out front of 1 Seymour H Knox III Plaza, watching playoff games on enormous big screens.

Hockey Heaven is turning down Versus and turning up the living legend, Rick Jeanneret.

Hockey Heaven will soon be a mob of humanity gathered from around the country to see the Sabres bring Lord Stanley’s Cup down Delaware Avenue.

Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!

Brendan 300x223 The Hockey Heaven Contest: Introducing Brendan

Brendan, and ally, invading the Verizon Center.

Brendan also has an Ovechkin Sound Board on his blog. Goodtimes! I know, I should have typed “Ovechkin Sound Board” at the beginning of this post. Ovie is, after all, such an attention grabber: the “Can you give me some shots vodka please?” button on the sound board is a keeper. Hit it a few times in a row, and tell me you ain’t ready to dance.

Anyway, you may also find Brendan on Twitter at @BrendanMcIntyre.

We’ll announce our other winner shortly.

Go Sabres.

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