Wednesday, February 29, 2012

48 Hrs After the Trade Deadline - a Sabres Fan Reacts

In roughly six hours, the Cody Hodgson era in Buffalo will commence as the Sabres get set to take on the red-hot Anaheim Ducks.  Over the last 48hrs my excitement and anticipation for this game grown exponentially having been fueled by a constant stream of Hodgson highlight videos on YouTube like this one:



The kid can do it all.  He scores goals and makes the players around him better.  The arrival of Hodgson gives us something we haven't had since the old #19 Tim Connolly left, a true scoring play-maker at the center position.  The new #19 should immediately give a boost to the second line alongside Stafford and Ennis, as well as on the one of the powerplay units.  As difficult as it is, I am trying to curb my expectations for the youngster.  I think he has number one center kind of talent who could blossom over the next 1-3 seasons into a bonafide top flight NHL centerman.  How high is his ceiling?  Only time will tell.  As valuable as I think he will be in the long term, in the short term I expect around 5 goals and 10 assists from him over the last 20 games of the year.  Those numbers might be a tad high but could very well mean the difference between the eighth spot in the East and being out of the playoffs altogether.

As far as tonight's game goes, wouldn't it be fitting if he could put on a similar Sabres debut performance as the one Steve Bernier did in 2008:




As we all know, the Sabres also sent away three current roster players at the deadline.  Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani represented everything I thought was wrong about the Sabres prospect pipeline.  To me these were two guys who only wanted to play their style of hockey and were not willing to deviate from that.  Grags to me is a lot like his namesake Marc-Andre Bergeron.  Both are nothing more then powerplay quarterback's and are massive liabilities in their own zone.  In the past, Guy Boucher has gone so far as to dress seven defenseman each night and just play Bergeron on the powerplay.  This is not a tactic Lindy Ruff is willing to employ.  First and foremost he wants his six defenseman to be able to play in all situations and soundly in their own zone, then pick their spots and pitch in offensively.  Gragnani was either unable or unwilling to be a solid defensive defenseman and as a result spent much of this year watching the games from the press box.  He wore out his welcome and would have not be resigned after the season so moving him now made a lot of sense. 

Like many Sabres fans I had very high hopes for Zack Kassian.  To me he was a bigger, stronger, more skilled Patrick Kaleta;  A true power forward...
 

As dirty as some of his hits were, I was glad to have someone bring an intimidation factor to our smaller less physical lineup.  What I saw this year was not that player.  While he scrapped a few times, he was not the physical player we expected; at least not night in and night out.  He fought guys he knew he could beat and challenged guys he knew wouldn't fight him, see Dion Phaneuf and Todd Bertuzzi.  Kass started the season with a good attitude and was productive with 3 goals and 3 assists in his first 10 NHL games.  His NHL production plummeted over the next 17 games, registering only 1 assist over that time while playing mostly on the fourth line.  To me he appeared to be an immature young man who had trouble accepting that he was going to have to earn the ice-time that in the past was just handed to him.  For an organization that is so thin at center, sacrificing Kassian to get Hodgson was a complete no brainer.  Darcy, you get a gold star up on the board.  Nice job!

On the other hand subtracting Paul Gaustad was a hard pill for me to swallow.  Yes it was a deal that Darcy Regier had to make.  Getting a number one pick for an expiring UFA 3rd/4th liner is highway robbery even if you had to sweeten the deal with a 4th rounder in 2013.  As I mentioned last week, it was the intangibles that Goose brought to the team that made him so valuable.  His loss leaves a big whole on the 3rd line as well as on the number one penalty kill unit.  Competition is a great tool and there will be a handful of guys who will get a chance to win that ice time.  Expect Ville Leino, who has been clamoring for more ice all season, to get the first crack at Goose's minutes.  For the Sabres to make the playoffs they must score more goals.  Gerbe has to get going and Gaustad was just not talented enough of a distributor in the middle to make that happen.  Leino likes to play the puck possession cycle style of game and I think he could fit well in the middle of Nate and Kaleta.  I have my doubts on whether this line could continue to be the go to shut down line as it was with Goose, but we will see how Lindy rolls them out tonight. 

One last honk for the Goose.  It was sad to see him go...

#TEAMTOPGUNFOREVER

Friday, February 24, 2012

Buffalo is Gorges

I admit it, I am caught up in all the rumors floating out there on the Hockey Buzz/TSN/Blogosphere about the Sabres trading for Ithaca, NY native Dustin Brown.  He has been on my wish list since early in his career and that magnified about tenfold after watching him on Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Dustin gives you a little bit of everything and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.  He is a leader who will bring size and toughness to the Sabres lineup.      




So what will it take to get him in a blue & gold sweater?

My rational thinking is that you are probably looking at a combination of a top 6 forward, picks, and or prospects.  If I were Darcy I would offer up Brad Boyes, Marc-Andre Gragnani, and one of our second rounders in June's draft for Brown and a late round conditional pick.  With there being a possibility that Boyes is hurt and they are unable to move him, then someone like Drew Stafford or Luke Adam could be in play.  I think the Sabres could deal a forward and a defensive prospect and land Dustin Brown, whether that happens is up to Darcy.

#DOSOMETHINGDARCY

 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Should the Sabres let loose the Goose?

The short answer is no, the Buffalo Sabres should not trade Paul Gaustad on or before Monday's NHL trade deadline.  The long answer is a bit more muddy...

Right now the Sabres sit six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently held by Toronto.  The bottom eight teams in the East are still mathematically in the hunt  with only 8 points separating the eighth and fifteenth spots.  A lot can change between now and Monday's deadline as each of those bottom eight teams play two games, with Tampa playing three.  This could turn buyers into sellers and vice versa.  Here is the breakdown of the games over the next four days for the bottom half of the East:

2/23
Lightning vs Jets
Sharks vs Leafs
Ducks vs Hurricanes                  

2/24                
Canadians vs Capitals
Rangers vs Islanders
Bruins vs Sabres

2/25            
Blues vs Jets
Lightning vs Penguins
Capitals vs Leafs
Sabres vs Rangers
Hurricanes vs Panthers

2/26
Lightning vs Devils
Islanders vs Senators
Canadians vs Panthers

The Sabres desperately need points and they will be tough to come by this weekend with games against both the Bruins and the Rangers.  Things do not get any easier as Saturday's game kicks off a five game roadie for the blue and gold, that starts at Madison Square Garden then heads out west where they will face the Ducks, Canucks, Sharks, and Jets. 

All in all the Sabres have twenty-two games left, with fourteen of them coming on the road where the team has struggled going 11-16-0 on the season.  The Sabres have at least one game left with six of the bottom seven teams in the East (they do not play the Islanders again), with two games against both Montreal and Toronto.  They can still make the playoffs, but they are going to need some help and a lot of luck.  This bring me back to Paul Gaustad.    

Over his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres I have been rather hot or cold on Paul Gaustad.  Love his tenacity and toughness, hate his skating and his lack of puck skills.  I have never thought he was more then a fourth line guy with limited offensive upside having never scored more then 12 goals in a season:




With that being said, ironically Paul's value probably has never been higher then what it is right now.  He could fetch at least a 2nd round pick if not closer to a 2nd plus a conditional mid/late rounder.  Paul will be in high demand amongst playoff bound teams who are looking for a centerman who can kill penalties, win draws, and log big minutes against opposing teams best lines.  Despite his apparent high price tag, I am not in favor of trading Goose.  If we are going to try and make a serious run at that final playoff spot, we need what Paul brings to the table.  Things could change if we fail to get a point this weekend, but for now I am hoping the Goose stays put.    

Final note:  I do think we should trade Brad Boyes, use that 2nd/3rd rounder that we receive plus the 2nd we got from Calgary in the Regehr trade and go get us another center.  If it takes that plus a young defenseman they can have their choice of Gragnani/Pysyk/Brennan.  #DOSOMETHINGDARCY



     

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fitzy's Ribs

Just a quick few thoughts about the report that came out this afternoon from Jerry Sullivan at The Buffalo News regarding Ryan Fitzpatrick's rib injury.  Let me start off by saying that I am glad this guy is the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.  The "Amish Rifle" is as tough as they come.  Playing through what is being reported by teammate David Nelson, as four cracked ribs and a bruised sternum suffered in the Washington game only adds to the lore of our bearded quarterback.  Ryan never missed a game because of this injury and refused to make excuses about his production afterwords.  Sullivan stated in his post:

"Fitzpatrick can insist his performance wasn't affected by the injury, but the numbers suggest otherwise. He completed 67 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions before the injury. He had 11 TD passes and 16 picks after Fletcher drilled him."  

Playing quarterback in the NFL is a brutal job.  I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be with cracked ribs, being protected by a special flack jacket that might impede your throwing motion.  Ryan just had to go out there week in and week out and perform like he wasn't hurt.  Yes we did lose seven straight games after the Washington game.  Do I think we might have one of those games during that stretch with Tyler Thigpen at quarterback? Probably not.  We were just not good enough the second half of the season and a change at quarterback would not have magically won us any of those games.  Personally I would take Ryan Fitzpatrick at 60%-75% then a 100% healthy Tyler Thigpen. 

I believe in "Fitzmagic" and the "never say die"/"play for the guy next you" mentality that Chan has installed at One Bills Drive.  Ryan didn't selfishly play hurt for himself or to justify his new deal, he played for the 52 other guys in that locker room that go to war with him every Sunday.  He might not have the size or the arm that people clamor for , but he has something you can't teach; leadership. 

 

  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Buffalo Bills Top 10 Prospects

Below you will find my Buffalo Bills Top 10 Prospect rankings.  Please note that I will be qualifying a prospect as any player that has played three full seasons or under in the NFL.  This preliminary list will be adjusted after the draft in April to reflect the 2012 draft choices.

Enjoy...


1. Marcell Dareus


Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011 22 BUF DT 99 16 15 5.5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 32 11
7
Career



16 15 5.5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 32 11
7
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- Last season when Kyle Williams went down to injury, Dareus became the anchor and arguably the Bills best player along the defensive line.  The 2011 third overall pick, lived up to the hype notching a team best 5.5 sacks this past season.  With a healthy Williams in 2012, they should form one of the top defensive tackle combinations in the AFC, if not the NFL.  Dareus has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowl player.


2. Jairus Byrd


Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2009* 23 BUF FS 31 14 11
9 118 0 37 11




30 12
10
2010 24 BUF FS 31 16 14 1.0 1 37 1 37 2 3 0 2 0 0 61 27
5
2011 25 BUF S 31 16 15 1.0 3 88 1 37 8 3 0 1 0 0 75 23
6
Career



46 40 2.0 13 243 2 37 21 6 0 3 0 0 166 62
21
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- The 2009 Pro Bowl selection, had his most complete season as a safety in 2011.  He was third on the team in tackles with 98 and tied for second in interceptions with three including one for a touchdown in week 16 against Denver.  Jairus also had a team high three forced fumbles.  Byrd is quietly establishing himself as one of the more elite free safeties in the AFC.


3. Eric Wood


Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS
2009 23 BUF RG
10 10
2010 24 BUF RG 70 14 14
2011 25 BUF C 70 9 9
Career



33 33
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- When healthy, Eric Wood is the most talented member of the Bills offensive line.  The oft-injured center, missed seven games in 2011 with a torn ACL.  Prior to his injury he anchored the league stingiest offensive line, who gave up only 23 sacks on the season.  If he can ever put together a full healthy season, he has Pro Bowl caliber skills at the pivot.


4. C.J. Spiller

Rushing Receiving


Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G YScm RRTD Fmb AV
2010 23 BUF KR/PR 21 14 1 74 283 0 20 3.8 20.2 5.3 24 157 6.5 1 41 1.7 11.2 440 1 5 4
2011 24 BUF RB 28 16 11 107 561 4 38 5.2 35.1 6.7 39 269 6.9 2 19 2.4 16.8 830 6 2 6
Career



30 12 181 844 4 38 4.7 28.1 6.0 63 426 6.8 3 41 2.1 14.2 1270 7 7 10
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

Punt Returns Kick Returns
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Ret Yds TD Lng Y/R Rt Yds TD Lng Y/Rt APYd
2010 23 BUF KR/PR 21 14 1 12 175 0 34 14.6 44 1014 1 95 23.0 1629
2011 24 BUF RB 28 16 11 13 127 0 45 9.8 6 143 0 35 23.8 1100
Career



30 12 25 302 0 45 12.1 50 1157 1 95 23.1 2729
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- The Bills versatile 2010 first round pick burst out of his bust label once Fred Jackson was lost for the season.  C.J. showed all the talent and explosiveness that made him the ninth overall pick the year before.  With an increase in touches slated for him in 2012 he has the potential to be one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL.
 

5. Aaron Williams


Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011 21 BUF db 23 9 6
1 0 0 0 5 1 0 0 0 0 27 5
0
Career



9 6
1 0 0 0 5 1 0 0 0 0 27 5
0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- The 2011 second round pick started six of the nine games he played last season, missing seven due to injury.  His steady performance all but guaranteeing him a starting job in 2012.  He should make a huge jump next season becoming the Bills top corner.



6. Kelvin Sheppard


Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011 23 BUF LB 55 16 9
0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 42 24 1 4
Career



16 9
0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 42 24 1 4
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

 - Sheppard became a starter halfway through 2011 season and solidified himself as the teams middle linebacker for the foreseeable future.  Although he did not put up gaudy numbers his rookie year, expect his stats to sharply rise in year two.


7. David Nelson

Receiving Rushing


Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G YScm RRTD Fmb AV
2010 24 BUF wr 86 15 3 31 353 11.4 3 37 2.1 23.5






353 3 0 3
2011 25 BUF WR 86 16 13 61 658 10.8 5 35 3.8 41.1






658 5 0 5
Career



31 16 92 1011 11.0 8 37 3.0 32.6






1011 8 0 8
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- David Nelson had a breakout year in 2011, catching 61 balls for 658 yards and 5 touchdowns.  He was very effective in the slot using his 6'5" frame to create a mismatch against smaller corners, safeties, and linebackers.  David will once again be a key target for Fitzpatrick in Gailey's spread offense in 2012.



8. Andy Levitre

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS
2009 23 BUF LG 67 16 16
2010 24 BUF LG 67 16 16
2011 25 BUF LG/lt/ol 67 16 16
Career



48 48
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- The three year starter at left guard has been the most durable and consistent of the Bills offensive lineman over that time period.  While his job was briefly challenged by Chad Rinehart and Kraig Urbik in camp, Andy responded by having his best season as a Bill.  He is also a very versatile lineman, having filled in at left tackle and center in 2011.



9. Chris Hairston
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS AV
2011 22 BUF lt 75 13 7 4
Career



13 7 4
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- The 2011 fourth round pick out of Clemson, started seven games at left tackle filling in for Demetrius Bell.  While it is not known whether the Bills will re-sign Bell this off-season, I believe the job is Hairston's to lose.  He has a chance to be a very good left tackle in the NFL and should make huge strides in year two.  


10. Donald Jones

Receiving Rushing


Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G YScm RRTD Fmb AV
2010 23 BUF wr 19 15 5 18 213 11.8 1 40 1.2 14.2 3 1 0 2 0.3 0.1 0.2 214 1 0 2
2011 24 BUF wr 19 8 8 23 231 10.0 1 48 2.9 28.9 1 2 0 2 2.0 0.3 0.1 233 1 0 2
Career



23 13 41 444 10.8 2 48 1.8 19.3 4 3 0 2 0.8 0.1 0.2 447 2 0 4
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

- Donald Jones is sort of a wild card pick here.  As it stands he should be the number two wide receiver going into mini camps this spring.  Although widely inconsistent in his first two years, he showed flashes in 2011 before being placed on IR with an ankle injury.  I think he has the potential to develop into a very good number two wide out, but he will have a lot of competition coming in either through the draft or free agency or maybe even both.



On the Bubble:  Kraig Urbik, Alex Carrington, Torell Troup, Arthur Moats, Justin Rogers, Danny Batten, Da'Norris Searcy, Johnny White. Kellen Heard

Watch List: Lee Smith, Mike Jasper, Marcus Easley, Chris White, Kamar Aiken, Sam Young, Jay Ross, Jarron Gilbert, Robert Eddins, Kyle Moore, Fendi Onobun