As Connolly Departs, So Ends the “Peca Era”

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(Quick disclosure: readers of my previous blog, “buffalo74,” will be already familiar with most of this content – but it bears repeating.)

Tim Connolly’s days as a Sabre are done.

It’s finally time to analyze the trade that first brought Tim to Buffalo – and you’ll be surprised who the “winner” of this old trade turned out to be.

In 1999, Mike Peca captained the Sabres all the way to Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals. Soon after, he would sit out the 2000-01 season in a contract dispute, and was finally traded to the New York Islanders for Connolly and Taylor Pyatt.

pecapickles As Connolly Departs, So Ends the Peca Era

In 2000-01, Peca, indeed, was in a pickle. It was a jarring dispute. The whole situation filled fans with piss and vinegar. Ok, I'm done.

Connolly would score 94 goals and 226 assists (320 points) in 464 games with the Sabres. Injuries would define his career in Buffalo, as the only full season that he ever played with the team was his 1st.

As a bonus, Pyatt would spend 4 years in Buffalo, netting 38 goals and 42 assists (80 points) in 230 games.  Pyatt currently plays for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Peca went on to score 49 goals and 93 assists (142 points) over 3 seasons on the Island before moving on to Toronto and Columbus.  While his leadership was never in question, he also failed to ever break the double digit mark in goals after the NHL emerged from the lockout in 2005.

Perhaps the most important parallel between Connolly and Peca was their unrelenting injuries – neither player ever had a chance to truly impact their teams.

TCOwieFace 300x232 As Connolly Departs, So Ends the Peca Era

Talented? Yes. But this is the type of image Sabres fans will remember Connolly for.

Peca was able to be a part of the Cinderella run to the Cup Finals with the Oilers in ’06, but he only managed 6 goals and 5 assists, and his Oilers succumbed to the Hurricanes in 7 games.

Meanwhile, Connolly was an integral part of that same 2005-06 playoff run for the Sabres, netting 11 points in 8 games – including a goal with 11 seconds left in Game One of the 2nd Round against Ottawa (Drury netted the winner). Tim was then lost to injury.

Peca would never regain the form that saw him win the Selke trophy with Buffalo, as the NHL’s best defensive forward.  He had a nice run in ’06, but as in ’99, it was all for naught.

Connolly emerged as a bull-force in the 2006 playoffs, before being crushed with injury. His woeful injury record would draw a monumental amount of derision from Sabres fans, who never gave up in their strident quest to run him out of town on his crutches.

Darcy Regier was in position after the ’99 Finals to make another solid run at the Stanley Cup, but the loss of Peca to the contract dispute was devastating, as the team floundered and barely made the playoffs the next season.  Most condemning of the dispute and the subsequent trade was the effect it had on all-time franchise netminder Dominik Hasek, who was then convinced that the Sabres would never do what it took to put a team on the ice built to win.  Hasek demanded a trade, and got his wish. Regier has carried the stigma as a stubborn sprend-thrift all the way to today, where he has finally had a chance to show what he can do with the largesse of Terry Pegula’s unlimited spending money.

Mike Milbury brought Peca to the Island to infuse the team with grit and leadership – and was rewarded with a playoff berth in the three years Peca was with the team – and three straight 4-1 first round exits.  Peca would net only one goal and one assist in those three playoff years.  Mike Milbury has gone on into the broadcasting field, after a series of questionable management decisions.

If anything, this drawn-out drama brought nothing but suffering for the players, management, and teams involved.

So now, as the trade and the subsequent elongated “Peca Era” comes to a close in Buffalo, who exactly was the winner of this mess of a trade?

Dominik Hasek.

The “Pecadebacle” might have driven Hasek out of town as a maddened, frustrated maniac, but he would go on to win the Stanley Cup with Detroit – in fashion:

During his first season with Detroit, Hasek posted a career high 41 wins with just 15 losses, helping the Wings earn the President’s Trophy with the league’s best record. During the conference finals against Colorado, he became the first goalie to be awarded an assist on an overtime game-winning goal in the post-season. Hasek also set a record for most shutouts in a post-season with six, broken the year after by Martin Brodeur with seven.  His name was finally emblazoned on the Stanley Cup.

HasekCup 300x175 As Connolly Departs, So Ends the Peca Era

"Mike, Tim, Darcy - I couldn't have hoisted it without ya'!"

Groan.

There’s always next year.

Go Sabres.

 

 

 

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You don’t Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

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First things first:

I am ri-donk-ulously happy that Jagr is back in the NHL. We need as many able-bodied NHL94 vets to stay in this game as long as possible. And by “we,” I mean “I,” because these guys that were in that version of the popular EA Sports hockey rendition were my guys – when I was a youngin’.

Jagr1994 300x219 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Jagr's mullet. Circa 1994.

Not that I’m old. But for each retirement, each transfer across the pond, I feel one step closer to leaving my old, happy, drunken sober, naive college days behind. One step closer to looking up to, or really, down to, the new generations of NHlers.

As you read this, you will be treated to a glorious barrage of tweet-captures that I took as I played a game of the ol’94 tonite. Such as:

NHL9411 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Tip-o-the-sunglasses to those sunglasses!

Crosby? Ovechkin? Is that all you got, New NHL?

NHL942 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Actually, every sip of Yueng brings me back to 2005-07. BW3's. Jacksonville. Fun times, and two very loud sad trombones.

Try Federov. Coffey. Bure (Pavel). Selanne (he grew up so fast).

NHL943 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Ledyard? Wow.

Roenik. Gilmour. Fleury. Robitaille.

NHL944 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Follow Frankie. Any friend of NHL94 is a friend of mine.

Modano and that punk Hull.

NHL945 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Double-whammy! Yet Jagr survived.

Lemieux. Oates. LaFontaine. Mogilny.

NHL946 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

That would be "Barrasso," for those of you that continue to live outside of 140 characters.

Messier. Gartner. Sakic.

NHL947 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Wood always had that "draggin' my knuckles" style of skating, but it was dang effective.

Recchi (one more year)!

NHL948 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

I will never tee off at Transit, or strike me dead.

Turgeon. Jagr. Yes, Jagr.

NHL949 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Bettman will pay for this.

Bourque.

NHL9410 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

In your face, Gary!

Stevens.

NHL94111 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

No idea how Jagr survived this, but props to Sutty for unleashing the Kev-racken.

Iafrate. Roy.

Oh yea, and Wayne freakin’ GRETZKY. “The Magnifique.”

NHL9412 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

Always nice to see Randy Wood leading the evolutionary charge.

Nice victory, for sure. Some real high-lights in there (much of which were horrifically missed checks on #68 by my agein’ fingers). Maybe I’ll have another try, but until then:

NHL9413 You dont Hate Jagr like I Hate Jagr

And deal with him with "extreme prejudice."

Time to turn in, and dream of better days. And better All-Stars.

Go Sabres.

*Oh, and thank you, Mr. Lidstrom, for signing on for one more year. I say we make it one more.

 

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“The Finnishing Line”

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You heard it here first (unless you follow me on Twitter, then you heard it there first).

That could be the most excellent name for a line including the Sabres newest Finns, Ville Leino and Joel Armia. Of course, the Sabres need to complete a transfer and a contract to get Armia across the pond, but he’ll be here sooner rather than later.

leinohalak 300x225 The Finnishing Line

Is it October 7th yet?

As we mused earlier, an addition of fellow Finn Teppo Numminen to the coaching staff could complete the trifecta, and give Lenio and Armia perhaps their best chance to succeed in Buffalo.

Armia The Finnishing Line

Get that "Armia's Army" banner ready for the 300 level.

As Regier has stated, we’re likely done in the UFA market, so we can all settle in and get ready for next season. Oh, and as for next season, I think Leino said it best as to what we are in for:

“To be honest with you I think they (Sabres) deserved to win (the playoff series). It will be a good fit for me. I think it’s going to be a good team in the future, a lot of young guys. They made some good adds, good defensemen lately. It’s a great hockey town, and I think we have a good chance to win next year. I’m really excited.”

Meanwhile, the Sabres’ additions of Regehr, Ehrhoff, Leino, and their re-sigining of Cody McCormick, puts their salary cap number at $66 million, above this year’s set limit of $64.3 million. They can remain over the cap by 10 percent% until the season opener. So maybe, we’re in for some more summer surprises through the trade market.

Darcy – well done, sir!

Go Sabres.

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Leino Stone Unturned

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You say goodbye, and I say hello.

It seems the Sabres are parting ways with center Tim Connolly, and saying “Hello, hello!” to his replacement, Ville Leino. (Sorry, the Beatles annoy me too. But TC annoyed us, so it seemed appropriate.)

Timmeh, thank you for your efforts. You fought through a lot of injuries in this town. Good luck to you.

Meanwhile, the Sabres also seemed to have passed on the perhaps mega-overpriced Brad Richards. That is probably a good business decision, considering the fact he is 31, coming off a concussion, and could undermine the Sabres ability to re-sign Myers and Ennis next year.

ville leino 300x189 Leino Stone Unturned

Photoshop this image into a blue and gold uniform, and add flames to the beard, and tell me you ain't excited.

Leino’s dry stats:

VLstatsties 300x112 Leino Stone Unturned

LW? WTF? (Click for larger image.)

53 points ain’t nothing to write momma about, if you want to talk #1 center – but Leino’s got game. Ken Holland (that GM who has won Detroit the Stanley Cup) called Leino one of the hardest cuts he ever had to make from the roster after training camp (citation required) before Ville was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Sabres fans would be wise to remember that Leino scored the OT winner in Game Six of the 1st Round of the 2011 playoffs between the two teams, a goal from which the Sabres never recovered.

Until now.

Leino is now ours. He may not be Brad Richards, or Spezza, Stastny, or even Joe Pavelski – but he is a Sabre. We now have our 1a and 1b centermen in Derek Roy and Ville Leino. But Pegula and the Sabres may not be done turning over stones to find their gems.

While the defense already features:

  • Regehr-Ehrhoff
  • Myers-Weber
  • Leopold-Gragnani
  • Sekera/McNabb/Pysyk/Schiestel

And the offense features:

  • Stafford-Roy-Vanek
  • Boyes-Leino-Ennis
  • Gerbe-McCormick-Pominville
  • Kaleta-Gaustad-Hecht

We might not be done yet, folks.  Note that glut at defense (which we’ve touched on before).

If you’re not convinced that we are now icing an upgraded unit at center, then look no further than to the trade fodder that is our crop of young stud defensemen to lure another body in.

For now, we already have Regehr, Ehrhoff, and Leino to celebrate and welcome. (Am I dreaming?) Oh, and it never hurts to add another Finn in Leino when you just drafted the Finnish Phenom-duu-jooouuur Joel Armia.

Tomorrow, well, who knows what to expect anymore. This whole Pegula-era has my head spinnin’ in his tail-winds. Still, I can smell another name coming our way in those cool breezes.

Go Sabres.

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Lindy Ruff is the Clear Winner on UFA Day

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Regehr. Ehrhoff. And…?

Sabres fans are in a tizzy over the delivered promises of Pegula and Black. It’s finally July 1st, but the new ownership group didn’t wait until today to direct this team towards that Cup. A passionate pitch and draft day flight convinced Robyn Regehr to bring his defensive shut down skill set to Buffalo. A similar pitch, and a contract loaded with massive bonuses, added the fleet feet and sweet slap shot of Christian Ehrhoff.

Yea, fans are pretty darn pleased, and they should be – but they can’t possibly be as happy as Lindy Ruff right now.

LindySuitedUp1 Lindy Ruff is the Clear Winner on UFA Day

He went to Napoli's!

Ruff was named the 15th coach of our beloved Buffalo Sabres on July 21st, 1997. There’s a good chance that some of you reading this might not have been born yet at that time.

He’s been patient, and has worked well with what Darcy Regier has been afforded to give him (and Darcy had really done a bang-for-your-Golisano-buck job for him).

When Pegula came into town, most of the media-mob-mentality was that Pegula should run Regier out of town, and take (Canada’s Assistant Olympic coach) Lindy Ruff with him. Pegula let us all know at his first presser that he did his research – Darcy was staying, “the shackles were off,” and added “Lindy ain’t going nowhere.”

The fact is, even without a wallet, Regier and Ruff lead the Sabres to the brink of a championship in the 05-06 and 06-07 season. Most would agree that the Cup would have been ours without the absolute decimation of our defensive corps in 2006. But that success, and all the failures and frustrations of the past, are, well, in the past.

The future, so far, contains a beefed up defense – arguably, one of the best in the league. We have yet to see what might be added during the coming UFA frenzy, but we’re all smiling already. Just not smiling as much as Ruff.

AngryLindy 300x225 Lindy Ruff is the Clear Winner on UFA Day

The frustration is over.

He finally is getting the tools to finish the job.

Go Sabres.

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