We’ve touched on the “Khokhlachev-Kassian connection” before.
Bang on the link at the bottom if you want to re-read that post. Doing so might be a great primer for tomorrow’s draft, as at least one big time draft analyst has the Sabres now taking “Koko” with their 16th overall pick.
Ryan Kennedy, of the long-tenured Hockey News Magazine, has published his mock draft. His explanations were brief, but this is what he had to say about Koko and the Blue and Gold:
16. Buffalo: Alexander Khokhlachev, C, Windsor (OHL)
For a team that scores by committee, ‘Koko’ would be another potent weapon and brings strong character.
Short and sweet. Let’s revisit the scouting reports on Khokhlachev:
“The first thing that jumps out about Khokhlachev’s game is his heart. With a grinder-like style, Khokhlachev hustles on both the forecheck and backcheck. Watch Khokhlachev closer and one will see that he has a terrific hockey sense. Khokhlachev has no problem driving to the net without the puck and banging home a rebound or setting up backdoor for a pass. This style worked great for the center that saw a lot of playing time with wingers Tom Kuhnhackl (Pittsburgh) and Jake Carrick. Khokhlachev also displays a great release that makes him not only a scoring threat just outside of the crease but inside of the zone as well.”
–The Scouting Reports Andrew Weiss
“Khokhlachev is pure skill, baby. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he goes top-10 in the NHL Draft come June. He’s a game-breaker, and like Alexander Burmistrov, by coming over to North America has shown a commitment to playing here and will alleviate concerns about signability by doing so. He’s one of those guys who, although is small, could be in the NHL next season because his speed and puck skills top shelf.”
-Kirk Luedeke from “Bruins Draft Watch”
Get this kid a trainer! Once his frame fills out to match his heart, he's going to be a stick of dynamite on the ice.
Sabres draft nerds will be quick to point out how Buffalo elides talent from outside of North America, ever since the scouting department was downsized to a couple guys, a six pack, and a VCR.* However, KoKo is one of those determined kids from Moscow who chose to hone his talents in the OHL – and he played alongside Zack Kassian.
Kassian is a player that the Sabres really need to blossom into a goal scorer at the NHL level. What better way to achieve this than to reunite him with a center that spoonfed him goals? From the Windsor Star:
Training camp is one big chemistry lab, but you don’t need a university degree in the subject to see that there’s something developing between Russian rookie Alex Khokhlachev and LaSalle native Zack Kassian.
Playing on a line together, the duo made the puck sing with some nifty passing in leading Team Red to a 5-1 win Thursday over Team Blue in the Windsor Spitfires’ final intra-squad ga-me at the WFCU Centre.
The pair combined for seven points between them. Kassian had two goals and an assist while Khokhlachev had two goals and a pair of helpers.
“I haven’t clicked like that with anyone in my whole OHL career,” Kassian said. “His vision on the ice, his skating . . . he’s just outstanding. He’s fun to play with.”
On the game’s first goal, Khokhlachev supplied a perfect cross-ice pass for Kassian to one-time past goalie Jack Campbell at 9:20 of the first period. Kassian showed his soft ha-nds in returning the favour with a nifty pass in traffic five minutes later that Khok-hlachev finished off with a dandy deke.
The Kassian-Koko-Connection continued into the OHL regular season, and could continue here in Buffalo. That is, unless Khokhlachev continues to rocket up the charts, and gets selected before the Sabres pick.
In any event, there are plenty of larger-framed centers out there with a good skill set that will be available when the Sabres pick – all those guys would be safer selections, and would fit right in with the big guys the Sabres have been drafting lately.
It’s safe to say, though, that the Sabres have drafted enough size.
I’ve been very high on Boone Jenner. I like Mark Scheifele, Zack Phillips, Marc McNeill, and all of the big centers in this draft. I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Sabres drafted 6-7 defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. But really, now is the time to compliment the size that Buffalo has already drafted with skill, and there is no better compliment at #16 than KoKo.
Your move, Darcy.
BONUS VIDEO: Gotta’ love the kid’s celebrations, which remind many of comrade Ovechkin.
*Editor’s note: this is all comedic exaggeration. Except for maybe the six pack. This is hockey, after all.
UPDATE: A lot of draft profiles out there list speed as a concern with KoKo, as was pointed out to me today on the Twitter. So I did a bit of research. I think a lot of these claims come from two sources. The Hockey News Draft Preview cites an anonymous scout who says that “he’s not a tremendously gifted skater. ESPN’s scouting report says “skating is a big question mark.”
We’ll give THN a pass here, as the print magazine was put together a while back. The ESPN report, however, contradicts itself entirely (I know, ESPN screwing up something involving hockey is shocking. Utterly shocking.) Directly after questioning his skating, ESPN cites two scouts who laud his skating. We’ll let the pros take it from here:
“Dynamic, but smallish centre, is surprisingly strong on his skates and can create offense from nothing. Excellent playmaking skills and vision. Has good speed – quick and shifty. Very smart both with and away from the puck with excellent anticipation. Always has the puck and it just seems to follow him around the rink. Does the unexpected and is a terrifically imaginative distributor, particularly on the PP.” – Red Line Report 2011 Draft Guide
“One of the most electrifying offensive players in the OHL this year, Khokhlachev took things to a new level during playoffs, scoring 20 points in 18 games. Alex is a highly skilled, crafty offensive minded forward who possesses a real scorer’s touch. He is at his best and most effective when he has possession of the puck. He has excellent hands, and when he plays with the puck he does so at a very high pace and speed. He displays speed, quickness and the ability to change directions and gears in an instant.” – International Scouting Services 2011 Draft Guide
See also: “Khokhlachev, Kassian, and one Ridiculously Awesome ‘Subway’ Commercial“
“He shoots – he scoooores!”
We tend to talk a lot about Rick Jeanneret as the “voice of the Buffalo Sabres.” But as RJ will be the first to point out to any interviewer, the real voice behind the franchise was Ted Darling.
We’ve done plenty of posts involving RJ, and more recently a look at Kevin Sylvester and Mark Jeanneret. It’s about time we did a little tribute to the late, great Ted Darling.
For those of you too young to recall his voice – or for those who missed out on him entirely, you’re in for a real treat.
Darling, (pictured upper left) with young broadcastin' bucks Rick Jeanneret, Mike Robitaille, and Jim Lorentz.
From the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame:
The career of Edgar Lee “Ted” Darling, the long time Voice of the Sabres, can be best summed by the number of honors he received in a life and career cut short by Pick’s Disease. He was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame and the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame; is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, having been honored with the prestigious Foster Hewitt Award; and has the press box at HSBC Arena named in his memory. Ted joined the Sabres in their inaugural season after having spent time with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada as an intermission host. Darling spent the next quarter century in the gondola, entertaining Western New York’s hockey minions with his play-by-play over WGR, WBEN, WNYB-TV, and several cable outfits, including the Empire Sports Network.
Not unlike RJ, Darling had a real knack for creative and exciting play calling. Here’s a list of some of Ted’s fan favorites from his tenure up in the gondola:
- “He shoots – he scooooores!”
- “Ohhhhh – CROZIER!”
- “And – ahhhhhhhhh – Perreault over the line…”
- “Those aren’t boos you’re hearing, the fans here at the Aud are saying “Luuuuce!”
- “I’m sure the “gendarmes” (security) will assist that fan.”
- “And Martin says ‘thank you’ and goes the other way!”
- “Next up on the ‘shedule…'”
And everyone’s favorite:
- “The puck is up and over the glass, and that’s now in the hands of a happy fan from Angola.”
Endearing, to say the least, how he always “knew” where all those happy fans came from.
One quick factoid before we head on to some Youtube links: When the Blizzard of ’77 hit, Darling called a game between the Sabres and Montreal Canadiens from his apartment – phoning in his commentary while watching the action on his television.
And now, for your listening and viewing pleasure:
1979: Jaques Richard scores off of a Tony McKegney rebound.
1986: Perreault’s 501st (scored against Alain Chevrier, who let in Perreault’s 500th in an earlier game).
1991: Darrin Shannon “shoots and scoooores.”
Darling was relieved of his duties in 1991 due to worsening Pick’s disease, to which he eventually succumbed in 1996. His legacy will live on though, as RJ loves to remind us, as the first and foremost “voice of the Buffalo Sabres.”
See Also: “Mark Jeanneret: A Sabres Sampling;” “Kevin Sylvester and Danny Gare to Call Games…“
“We were cheated, not defeated!
“Thou shalt not steal!”
Those were a couple of the signs held aloft by Sabres fans on June 22nd, 1999 – 12 years ago today. Two days previous, the Dallas Stars had finished off the Sabres in the Stanley Cup Final in the third overtime of Game Six.
Brett Hull, from Lehtinen and Modano.
We all know the story, but if you’d like a refresher, click here.
Fans were crushed, but it didn’t stop 20,000 of them from attending a rally to support their team that just lost a professional sports championship in one of the most frustrating and controversial ways of all time.
Fast forward to 2011: a few days ago, fans in Vancouver rioted – again – after losing out in the Stanley Cup Final. (They had also taken to the streets in a stupor of violence in 1994, when their team was defeated in the Final.)
Not to take anything away from the city of Vancouver – it’s boasts a wonderful, year-round embracing climate, plenty of great stuff on the waterfront, and the people are as friendly as they come. Still, after that same friendly population there suffers a gutting defeat, there is a scary pattern of violence.
In Buffalo, that pattern could not be any different.
“We love you Scotty!”
Back on January 29, 1991, Barbara O’brien of the Buffalo News wrote a sentimental piece about how 30,000 Bills fans gathered downtown for a rally in support of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had just lost Superbowl XXV in a horrific way, as Scott Norwood failed to convert a 47-yard field goal at the end of the game. Fans in Buffalo would take to the streets, but not to riot. Instead, they came out to hold their heads high.
From the O’Brien article:
Dwight Bonk of the Town of Tonawanda and Matt Goulet of Buffalo said they wouldn’t want to be any place but Niagara Square on Monday afternoon.
“I thought the Bills had a great season. They definitely deserve an ovation like this, and I know they’ll be back next year,” Bonk said.
“The Bills are where it’s at. They’re the team of the future. They’re the team of today, they deserve the respect of every fan who’s here,” Goulet added.
“They’re still No. 1. I don’t care what anybody says,” said Yvonne Scott of Cheektowaga.
The players felt the same sentiment of hope.
“We don’t have the most talented players,” wide receiver James Lofton said. “Every player on our team is not All-Pro, but what they are is what Mark Kelso said — they’re family. We bond together. We’re Buffalo’s team. We’re going to be No. 1 when we get back next year.”
Eight years later, the quotes from fans at the ’99 rally were virtually interchangeable. Again, fans held their heads high – and the media covering the Dallas Stars even took notice. From an article posted by the Amarillo Globe-News:
“Even though they were defeated, we still have to show them support,” said Jennifer Feher of Kenmore. “They represented Buffalo throughout the world.”
While she remained disappointed over how the series ended, she said the fans would eventually put it behind them.
“In Buffalo, we’re tough people. We’ll come back next year,” she said.
This time, Rob Ray took over where James Lofton left off, to say what the players believed.
“This team is going to be unbelievable in years to come. You can almost guarantee there are going to be many more days like this in the future. The bright young stars that we have are not to be denied.”
Lofton, Ray, and those fans were right. The Bills would go on to the Superbowl for the next three seasons – an incredible feat for the ages, even bearing the fact they lost all of them. The Sabres’ young talent took a little more time. When they did emerge in the 2005-2007 seasons, they were better than Ray could have imagined – and likely would have won a cup in 2006 if not for a defensive squad entirely decimated by injury in the Conference Final.
At the end of every season, we’re lucky to have each other, in this “City of Good Neighbors.” Hope and hard-nosed determination really can’t help fans get to a championship, but in the times in-between deep playoff runs, it sure beats the heck out of smashing each other’s windows and looting what is left of our city and our pride.
Sure, there are plenty of rust-belted folks out there that would understandably quip that “Fans would try to riot, but as soon as they hit Main Street, they’d remember there isn’t anything left there to steal.” Funny, yes, but wholly untrue: you can’t steal hope, and you can’t loot pride.
We have those two things really figured out here in Buffalo. The folks in Vancouver might have a lot of “stuff” that we wish we had on our waterfront, but they sure don’t have what we have in our chests – (which is why it feels so great when we thump those chests, even in losing seasons).
12 years to the day since that rally in ’99, and we’re still ready and waiting to claim that Big Game. Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, all of that stubborn Western New York grit will be rewarded, and we will have a rally of champions.
Go Sabres, go Bills, and, “Let’s go Buff-a-lo!”
(We’ve made this old post “sticky” today, in honor of Alex the Great’s birthday [Feb 18, 1969]. Enjoy.)
Thank you, JimmyJ9989, of the miracle that is Youtube.
I have been trying to locate a picture of this iconic Sabres moment for years. Today, that search finally paid off.
The tale of the tape:
December 24th, 1992. In a slightly off-beat Christmas gesture to their fan base, the Buffalo Sabres hand out free sombreros to a bunch of lucky fans in a certain section of the Aud.
This was the season that Mogilny scored 76 goals (in 77 games). Already, this early into the season, many fans were saying to each other, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if he got a hat trick tonight?”
With all the good-times flair that was the 1992-93 Sabres, Buffalo beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 – with Mogilny capping off his natural hat trick with 5:25 left in the 2nd period. The sombreros came tumbling down to the ice.
Mogilny was often considered an enigma for many of his playing days here, but his fun-loving nature in 1992-93 can’t be denied. During the three star selections, Mogilny came skating out on the ice, wearing, of course, one of those sombreros. Here is a video highlighting that season, with Mogilny and his Mexican nap-hat making their appearance at the 3:35 mark.
For those video challenged out there, here’s a grainy screen-grab. If anyone has a better picture of this, please let me know.
Sometimes, "hockey lore" is just a very, very fun moment.
If that title made your stomach tighten a little bit, then you know what we’re onto here.
Relax. Let that boo go. Feel better now? Good. That’s what we’re here for.
Yes, the venerable Gary Bettman, commissioner of our NHL since 1993 (and thus being a symbolic part of the NHL94 alumni), is the namesake behind this award, given to the folk(s) with the firmest mastery of their Napoleon complexes and the talent to make us want to heckle them.
As for Bettman’s curious leadership of one of the most historied sports leagues in the world, fans needs not look any further than 1996. That’s when the Fox Network introduced the “glow puck,” which was supposed to make the puck easier to see on the primitive tv screens of the day. (We’ve come a long way since those ridiculous cathode-ray tubes, kids.) The problem, of course, with the “glow puck,” was that instead of making the puck easier to see, it just reinforced the idea that watching hockey on TV was impossibly difficult.
You can now find these things at classy eateries, buzzing and flashing wildly to alert patrons that their heart attack nacho platters are ready.
Indeed, Bettman was quick to preserve the reputation of the league when he emerged from his Penguins’ Lair to orate the following strong message to a concerned fan base:
“I don’t need it, [but] it doesn’t bother me. “I don’t like the blue dot – but if it makes it easier for [TV] fans, that’s fine.”
Bettman in his NBA days.
Since then, Bettman has employed the same resolute determination when guiding the NHL with his incredibly consistent NHL discipline plan, for injuries and scandals. (A flowchart.)
This season, there was plenty of nasty stuff out there that drew our ire. Here are our nominees; the winner receives a free platter of those heart-attack nachos, (glow-puck coaster not included), so vote wisely.
1. The Green Men and the City of Vancouver – The louder that hockey traditionalists cried foul over these green-skinned freaks, the more butt (or package) the Green Men pressed up against the penalty box glass. Loved by some, loathed by many, the Green Men set a wacko fan precedent that will lead only to god knows what in the stands next year, as circus-themed populations such as Montreal will undoubtedly try to outdo them. I would say that they were a “riot,” but what happened in the city of Vancouver after their team collapsed out of the Stanley Cup Final put the “I don’t care if I’m a sports star of my own, losing just makes me wanna’ smash stuff and blow up police cars” back into that word.
Take THAT, Boston!
2. Mario Lemieux – It’s no secret that the NHL greatly misses Mario’s
talents whining since he retired, but he was kind enough to remind us all that he still has it. After a dirty hockey game against the Islanders, Lemieux was prompted to release a statement whining doctrine masterpiece in which he warned, “If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.” Mario conveniently left out the fact that he employs the dirtiest little cheap shot artist in the league (who is also the most hated player in the league).
I'd say "Stay classy, Penguins," but according to Mario, they are TOTALLY classy.
3. The Thrashers’ Atlanta “Spirit” Group – There is nothing funny about this at all, so we’re going to skip the jokes. Instead, here’s a punch-in-the-gut quote from former co-owner Michael Gearon, who “broke down several times” when he assured Thrashers fans “I’ve been focused on trying to avoid this day. I spent time with possible investors going back four years ago, because I was concerned this day would come. I made a desperate plea in February. Unfortunately, that didn’t lead to any real prospects. To be sitting here today is just awful for me.” To which the disgusted fans of Atlanta responded, “Sitting there? Sit and spin, (expletive)!”
RIP, Blueland. We hardly got a chance to get to know you.
Probably shouldn’t have ended this on such a downer. Ugh. Anyway, those are our candidates. Make sure you vote with a heavy dose of spleen. I assure you, hitting one of these buttons is going to make you feel at least a little bit better.
See also: “BSN Summer Awards: The Envelopes (and Brooke Shields) are IN!“