Tag Archives: nhl

Tim Bits

6 Mar

All of these sketches were done in the last week by Marquil at EmpireWire.com






NHL Adrift

7 Dec

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

The Daily Five – Things To Like About NHL Realignment

6 Dec

When the news broke yesterday that the NHL had committed to a realignment package, I immediately thought to ask my good friend and sports guru, Brad Riter to tell me what I should like about it.

Brad is currently the public address announcer for UB Basketball games. Prior to that, Brad was Sports Director and Program Director at WECK 1230AM where he worked UB Bulls football games and discussed sports with a stellar gallery of guests each day. Prior to his tenure at WECK, Brad hosted the Sabres post-game show at WGR 550AM as well as his own nightly talk show. His resume is much more extensive than that, but trust me, he knows a thing or two about sports.

Take it away, Brad.

Brad Riter

Five Things To Like About NHL Realignment:

My first contribution to “The Daily Five” revolves around the announcement of a surprisingly radical realignment plan by the NHL Board of Governors.  The whole thing kicks in next season.

Dating back to the NFL’s realignment of 2002, I’ve made a case to anyone willing to listen that a league consisting of four eight-team divisions makes far more sense than one made up of eight four-team divisions.   So with this move, we get the “super divisions” that I’ve been calling for…only they’re called “conferences.”  And it’s 10 years late.  And it’s in a different sport.

1. Current rivalries remain intact.  Assuming you’re a Sabres fan, nothing that you’re REALLY used to is going away.  A ton of games against Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto await.  Bonus:  for fans who like to map a vacation around the team’s travel plans, now you’ve got extra visits to the Panthers and Lightning to utilize (at least until Number 2 on my list goes into effect.)  Oh, and every team visits every city every year.  Cool.

2. Potential for back to back games (or even a 3 game series) in one city.  If simplification of travel is truly at the heart of this plan, wouldn’t it make sense to occasionally (or ultimately, after a transitional phase, always) play the entire slate of games between two teams in one trip?  Do the Oilers really need to make the 1367 mile flight from Edmonton to Los Angeles three separate times throughout the season and vice versa?  One trip to play three games over the course of five nights makes more sense, adds playoff-like intensity, and allows familiarity to breed contempt.

Palpable Contempt

3. “Conference” (formerly “division”) now means something so the regular season means more…   or something…  I think…  right?  I’ll admit I can’t completely get my head around this yet but it certainly feels as though moving into an era where you always need to battle one of your closest rivals to make it past round one of the playoffs is a good thing.  With round two playoff rules yet to be announced, this may wind up being irrelevant but, for now, I’m happy to watch a league in which you’ve got to make it out of your division conference before you get to take on the rest of the league.  Note:  We’re all going to need some time to adjust to the language of this whole thing.  As fans of professional sports in North America, we’re conditioned to think of the term “conference” as a synonym for “half the league” and that doesn’t go away just because Commissioner Gary Bettman has an idea.

4. Possible (likely?) return of historic “conference” names.  When “Adams Division” is replaced by “Northeast Division,” a Canadian angel loses its wings, crashes to Earth and dies.  Even perpetually out-of-touch Bettman has to be aware of society’s obsession with nostalgia.  Here’s a chance to return the Smythes and Norrises of the world to their rightful place in the daily NHL conversation.  It’s also an opportunity to put a new spin on it, honoring more recent legends like Gretzky and Orr.  If it’s Bettman alone making the decision, don’t rule out names like “Conference One” but my fingers are crossed that the Board of Governors and logic will prevail.

5. If you don’t like it, don’t worry…  it won’t last.  The NHL has spent the past 30+ years searching for a magical formula.   While this is the first adjustment since 1998, the league’s track record gives us no indication that we should think of what we’re getting now as permanent.

Game Seventy-Seven Open Thread: Canadiens at Sabres

28 Mar

In the early days of the Open Thread Era, we traditionally would dedicate each open thread to a former player who had worn the jersey number that corresponded with the game. The choice at #77 is not a difficult one…Chris “Hands of Stone” Gratton or Pierre “I’m here to bugger your wife” Turgeon. I think Pierre wins this one going away. Any special Turgeon memories you’d like to share?

As to tonight’s game, the last time Les Habitants visited Buffalo, the team and fans were riding high after a dominating win over the Predators in which new addition Steve Bernier acted as a one man wrecking crew. Unfortunately, the Habs took the Sabres to school in a dominating win in which they pounded the team up and down the ice and walked a way with a 6-2 victory.

Now, the Sabres find themselves in tenth place, five points behind the Flyers for the final playoff spot. Tonight is a must win for the Sabres, can they nut up and pull it off or will the Canadiens school the Sabres again?

730PM start on MSG.

Game Seventy-Six Open Thread: Sabres at Senators

27 Mar

What’s more likely at this point; the Sabres making the playoffs or Jocelyn Thibault being rear-ended by Central American gangsters participating in a gang initiation?

In the early days of the Open Thread Era, we traditionally would dedicate each open thread to a former player who had worn the jersey number that corresponded with the game. So, who is the best #76 of all time? Wayne Primeau or Andrew Peters? Discuss amongst yourselves…

State Of The Sabres

22 Jan


Normally, I leave the sports talk to WNYM sports bloggers at BfloBlog, USRT, and BuffaloBaseballBlog, but I have to discuss the current state of the Sabres as we approach the All Star Break.

The Sabres have won only one of their previous thirteen games and they are spiraling down the standings with a determination to go from first to worst in one year. Their seeming indifferent approach to contract negotiations with All Star Defenseman Brian Campbell has left a bad taste in the mouths of Sabres Nation and the bandwagon seems to be emptying.

A few random thoughts as I channel my inner Bucky Gleason:

  • I am tired of reading blog commentary and radio discussion about this team having better talent than their record indicates. This is a mediocre team of role players looking for a franchise player or two. The players the Sabres have deigned to re-sign are all second and third line players who provide the depth for a sustained charge for the Stanley Cup, not lead it. One of the few players on the roster who approaches franchise status has recently decided to end negotiations with the team.
  • Brian Campbell needs to be re-signed and not just for the comic relief of his continued starring role in television commercials for the The Center For Excessive Sweating, because he is a top notch defenseman with the ability to become elite. Campbell at $6MM per for the next 5/6 years sounds like a damn good deal. That would slot him as the 10th or 11th highest paid defenseman in the league for 07/08 and the contract will only get more friendly as salaries escalate. I’d rather have Campbell locked in than sign a mid-level goalie like Miller to a 7 year deal.If the argument is “Campbell isn’t worth it”, who is?  Who are the Sabres willing to commit to as a franchise player? Are they only willing to pay value deals to midrange players like Roy, Pominville, and Gaustad?  If so, welcome to Mediocrityville, population:  Sabres
  • The league is trending towards longer term contracts of higher value for younger players who are still developing. Campbell is still maturing and defensemen peak later than forwards. Locking him up now is wise, even if it costs $6MM per to do it. Within two years, that contract will be a value.

    It seems as if Golisano didn’t want to pay market rate for Briere or Drury, and then had his hand forced on Thomas Vanek.

    Vanek hasn’t come close to returning the investment so far and it appears they are going to be stingy in future dealings.

  •  I hate to tell ya, but I just don’t think Ryan Miller is a franchise goaltender. As much as we all wish he was, the numbers do not back up a longterm investment in Miller as a franchise cornerstone. His inability to pitch a shutout, the up and down mechanics, and his reliance on a talented defense are not the makings of a franchise goalie along the lines of a Luongo or Brodeur. He is above average, but his Save Percentage ranks him 18th in the league this year, 16th last year, and 10th in 2005. Numbers that are regressing each year and certainly not the caliber to place him amongst the league’s elite. Can the Sabres win a Stanley Cup with Ryan Miller as the chief backstop? Perhaps, but his contract demands will certainly be based more on his perceived value than his real value. Of course, this will mean the Sabres will be priced out of the market for him when his contract expires at the end of next season.
  • Dave Staba of The Niagara Falls Reporter hit the nail on the head with his assessment of the Sabres and Managing General Partner, Larry Quinn.
  • After the end of the NHL lockout, the Sabres were hailed as leaders in the “New NHL” which put a premium on speed and skill players rather than toughness and hitting.  Unfortunately, in the third season after the lockout, the league is trending back towards a defensive mindset with a focus on hitting and toughness.  The Sabres seem to have been caught flatfooted in this new league paradigm.

    With all of that said, where do the Sabres go from here?  Any realistic chance of a sustained playoff run is pretty much written off at this point and they are on the verge of seeing yet another top flight free agent walk out the door without compensation.  Do they begin tearing the team apart and rebuilding?  Do they make some minor tweaks to the roster and bring in a high end offensive weapon in the offseason?  Package Brian Campbell and a few complimentary pieces on the roster for prospects and draft picks?

    Whatever they decide to do, they have certainly spent much of the goodwill they earned during the last two years.