Sabres Exit Early, Here’s Why

Buffalo Sabres exit the playoffs in the first roundThe Buffalo Sabres 2009-2010 season ended tonight in Boston. They were the losers of Game 6 of the best of seven first round series, and that loss closed the doors on only the sixth season where Buffalo were the champions of their division.

In many ways, this team had everything going for it. Third seed in the Eastern conference. Worked hard all year long to get there. They were 30-0-0 in the regular season with a lead going into the third period. (That means they were dominant.) They had the best goalie in the league for much of the year. (He was overtaken late in the year by the goalie who manned the pipes at the opposite end of the rink in this series, Tuukka Rask.)

But they came up short. Very short.

Now, usually when that happens to one of the higher seeds, it’s cause for tongue lashings and many calls by the fans for the heads of this player or that, or even the coaches and GM. But this series was really, very close. They were essentially all one goal games, with the only exceptions being Boston’s 5-3 victory (thanks to an empty net goal) and Buffalo’s 4-1 win—the only game where there was a 2-goal lead at the end of the game.

The goalies played great. The teams gave tons of effort. And each game was a battle throughout.

The Sabres wish they had a couple of second periods back. They wish they hadn’t given up two 2-goal leads. And, well, they wish they were playing in round two.

They are not. And here’s why.


The Sabres were zero for twenty-two on the power play. ZERO. You can not win with those numbers. In contrast, the Bruins were something like 6 for 22 for the series. By far, that was the advantage the Bruins were able to turn into a series win.

Add to that the inability of some of the Sabres’ key players to “step up” to the playoff level—really, to even regular season level—and help push their team to the next level. Players like Tim Connolly, and Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford, and even Raffi Torres. Players who had scored a good number of goals in the regular season, but who contributed next to nothing (or, actually, nothing) in the post season.

That’s also going to kill you, every time.

Players who did impress include, of course, Ryan Miller. He is the real deal, and will be for years to come. That’s awesome. Mike Grier was clearly the missing piece as he returned to the Sabres after two years in San Jose—two years that the Sabres did not make the playoffs. Of course, it apparently wasn’t quite enough. But he was fantastic.

The two Tylers were very impressive. Myers and Ennis both will be fixtures on this team, as well as perhaps Nathan Gerbe, who despite his (super) diminutive stature, was winning puck battles, hitting guys all over the ice—including 6’9″ Zdeno Chara!—and was rewarded with a goal in the final game.

Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman played well. Thomas Vanek even played really well while he was in there. (Was out for three and a half games.)

Overall, the Sabres really don’t need to be disappointed with their effort this series. Of course they wish they were still playing, but they, as a team, really did compete hard, and this season, they had grown accustomed to Ryan Miller being spectacular enough to pull out such close games in the end.

Sadly, his counterpart was equally (if not more) amazing.

Bruins advance 4-2. They’ll face either Pittsburgh or Montreal in the next series. (If Montreal beats Washington.)

As the Sabres advance to the offseason, it’s time to move on from a few experiments. Please, Sabres GM Darcy Regier, start moving these guys off the team. If you can find a willing partner, trade Tim Connolly, Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford immediately. If no one will trade, then cut them. Now.

Similarly (but oppositely) it’s time to re-sign Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, Adam Mair, and Mike Grier. Bring in more scoring, and guys who know how to play in the playoffs like Boston’s Mark Recchi.

After all, isn’t that all that matters?

Where did our #3 seed season get us? An early offseason. That’s where.

The Sabres have a good team. They’re fun to watch. Cut away the dead wood. Prune the branches. And next year we won’t have to shave our playoff beards so early!!!


Thoughts on the Buffalo Bills 2010 Draft

Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller and Roger GoodellYou really never know right away how well a team fared with their draft selections. There are some who love every pick, some who love a few, and of course, many who hate everything about the picks. And all this despite the fact that you rarely know how a draft actually pans out for at least two or three years. It never matters, we all feel the need to “grade” or in some way rate the picks of our favorite teams.

Apparently, I am no different. 🙂

I was never on the “draft-a-QB” bandwagon. So that was not a disappointment to me, as it seems to be to some Bills fans. (Even though we DID draft a quarterback in round seven… that was not the guy most anyone wanted us to draft.) I was a bit surprised—though I should not have been—that they passed up some of the lineman that seemed like great choices, and were available at spots where they were selecting.

But overall, I really like it.

C.J. Spiller -  Buffalo BillsHere’s the list of the 2010 picks:

  1. RB C. J. Spiller
  2. DT Torell Troup
  3. DE Alex Carrington
  4. WR Marcus Easley
  5. LT Ed Wang
  6. DE/LB Arthur Moats
  7. DE/LB Danny Batten
  8. QB Levi Brown
  9. G Kyle Calloway

Spiller, a running back, was a surprise to some, since the Bills have two better-than-average RBs already, but first, coach Chan Gailey has already said they wanted to add a third RB, and second, this guy is exactly what they were looking for. More of a “home run hitter” so to speak. He’s been compared to Reggie Bush and Chris Johnson. He compares himself to Warrick Dunn. And from the sounds of things, this guy will at the very least be exciting. His numbers are impressive (the only comparable player in the NCAA record books is Reggie Bush. That’s good company.

The first pick was not what many were expecting, but I think Spiller will be what the Bills were looking for: a TD scorer.

(I also think it may spell the end of Roscoe Parrish’s Buffalo Bills career… Spiller is also a kick returner with a record-tying 8 return TDs in his college career.)

The next two picks are not the DLs that most expected the Bills to draft, but both are rated fairly highly by scouts. They both also have experience and the skill set to fit into the new 3-4 defense that the Bills will be running in 2010. That was clearly a big consideration in drafting Troup and Carrington.

Marcus Easley is another tall, fast receiver. James Hardy was drafter a couple years ago. This offseason we signed free agent Chad Jackson from the Denver Broncos, another tall receiver. And of course there’s Steve Johnson who has shown some promise in the limited action he’s seen.

With Owens and Reed (and even Justin Jenkins) all allowed to go on their way this off season, that leaves the Bills with a rather inexperienced (though quite tall) team of receivers. After Lee Evans—whom some would call and “all pro”—the Bills have (in order of experience): Roscoe Parrish (5’9″), Chad Jackson (6’1″), Steve Johnson (6’2″), James Hardy (6’5″), and Felton Huggins (6’2”). That’s a fairly tall receiving corp. Aside from Parrish, whom I still feel is going to be expendable, with the addition of Spiller.

The Bills finally addressed their offensive line needs by drafting Ed Wang to fill the LT position. They are rather thin at that spot with Demetrius Bell being the “incumbent”. Wang is a big dude, with good “feet” (according to Bills’ GM, Buddy Nix) and should compete for the starting LT spot.

Moats and Batten are a couple more 3-4 defense guys, whom the Bills have been seeking out in their transition to the new defense. They are listed in some places as LBs, and in some places as DEs, so I’m not sure exactly what role they Bills drafted them for, but it was definitely for the 3-4 defense. And, apparently, special teams. (Check out this glowing review of the Bills draft from the NFL Network guys.)

Finally, in the seventh round, the Bills drafted their quarterback. There were some rumors that the Bills were trying desperately to trade up to get Tim Tebow in the first round, as the Denver Broncos did. However, the Bills deny this, and as was apparent from their passing up of both Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy, they really had their sights set on Levi Brown, their eventual 7th round pick.

Brown was the top player in his conference last season, and definitely comes from a winning program, which is something that has been lacking in recent QB selections by the team. But, it’s fairly rare to find a starting QB in the final round of the draft! (Many like to remind nay-sayers however that Tom Brady was a 6th round selection. Bills fans, though they may not much care for Brady, would love to see a similar outcome for their final-round pick.)

Gailey has already stated that Brown will be allowed to compete for the starting QB position along with the three incumbents from last season. Should be an interesting competition this offseason.

Lastly, the Bills drafted an OT whom I have read they intend to move to guard. Calloway may or may not make the team—the Bills drafted two (starting) guards in the 2009 draft—but it was good to see that six of their nine picks went toward linemen, offensive and defensive. (Due to his size, 6’7″ 323 lbs, I’m not sure about that move to guard. So perhaps he will compete more at the RT spot.)

The Bills did not select the players that anyone expected them too. Not even Spiller, whom some are calling the “best player in the 2010 draft.” However, they really did address all of the positions that they needed to. If the guys they got—whom they say are all guys they had targeted—turn out to be viable NFL players, well, then they did an excellent job!

But, that’s the thing. That’s the part we don’t know for a couple of years.

There’s some who think Spiller could be in the running for Rookie of the Year, based on his talents and work ethic, but of course you can’t really predict such a thing. If that’s the case however, then the Bills definitely already improved their team.

Overall, seems like a great job by the Bills! (How often do we Bills fans get to say that???)


Buffalo Sabres: 2010 Northeast Division Champs

Buffalo Sabres LogoI would like to acknowledge the recent accomplishment of my favorite hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres: winning the Northeast division of the Eastern Conference! Nice job, guys!

For the past two years the Sabres have been just outside the top eight teams that make the playoffs (only missing by a few points!) and so this is not only a return to the playoffs, but complete with a large exclamation point!

They have three games left—all against playoff teams, and all on the road—and a good shot at claiming the second seed in the conference.

The star of the team this year has been their goalie, who became a bit more famous with his MVP play in the Olympic winter games. Ryan Miller has won 40 games this season, and a lot were certainly credited to him. He’s been fantastic.

Add some key young guys to the mix this year: rookies Tyler Myers, and lately, Tyler Ennis, and a veteran player on his second stint with the team: Mike Grier, and apparently you have a pretty good recipe for a victory.

Thankfully, they do not play their nemesis in the first round, the Ottawa Senators. So far this year the Sabres are 0-5-0 against them. (Yikes!) They have one more chance this weekend in Ottawa to at least beat them once in the 2009-2010 season.

Likely first round opponents would be Montreal or Philadelphia. There’s an outside chance that Boston or even the NY Rangers could move up to play the Sabres, but my guess is Montreal. (With the Sabres getting the #2 seed.)

Eventually, they may have to get past Ottawa, though. That will be the true test of this team, I suppose.

Looking forward to the playoffs… starting next week! Go Buffalo!

Personal Sports

Basketball Solitaire?

Everyone is talking basketball these days. It’s March Madness time. Most brackets have been thrown in the trash. Four teams fans are still happy for now. (Including me! Go State!)

Well, I guess I’m getting in on the action. After a couple years “off”, I found another friend (with at least a slightly flexible schedule) who can play basketball with me some mornings. We’re getting a very slow start to our new routine (we’ve only actually done it once in the past three weeks) but it is going to be a good thing once we DO get to it! 🙂

Today, however, my friend wasn’t able to make it, so after 15 minutes of shooting around I decided that since I came to get a workout, I would to do try my basketball solitaire game. It’s quite tiring, actually! Full court, one person … non-stop running.

I could definitely tell that it’s going to take a few more weeks to get back into any sort of (good) shape!

But, next time you have a gym to yourself, perhaps you can get a good workout and try to beat today’s score? (51… not too shabby after a few years on the shelf!)