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  1. Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images Sometimes, the Team’s Gambles Have Paid Off Sabres fans love to analyze, agonize and lament over the bad moves Buffalo’s managers have made over the years. It’s understandable. After all, when a team’s been out of the playoffs as long as the Sabres have, it’s a natural reaction. When Die By the Blade recently asked readers which stories they’d like to see, lassathrax responded “maybe do top 10 best and worst (trades) to balance out any negativity”. Since other Sabres pundits have already compiled a list of the worst trades the team has made, this piece will cover some of the best trades Buffalo has pulled off in recent history. 1) Cliff Pu to Carolina for Jeff Skinner On Aug. 2, 2018, the Carolina Hurricanes traded forward Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres for prospect Cliff Pu, a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2020 third and sixth-round pick, respectively. Skinner was a steal from the start, getting points and making plays up and down the ice. While he struggled for a few years, this past season Skinner finally got his magic back. With a career record of 94 goals, 69 assists and 163 total points in Buffalo, Jeff Skinner has become a key part of the team’s offense. No wonder 65% of DBTB’s readers gave the forward an A in a season-ending poll. Cliff Pu, the prospect that Buffalo traded to Carolina, never played an NHL game. Currently, he’s with the Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. His record in 2021-22 was 3 goals, 3 assists and 6 total points. It’s pretty clear who won this trade. 2) Eichel to Vegas For Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs The Buffalo Sabres traded captain Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 4, 2021 for forwards Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs. Buffalo also received a future first and second-round draft pick, giving Vegas a third-round pick in return. At the time, some writers in the hockey world thought that the Sabres were on the losing end of the deal. Alex Tuch was injured and couldn’t play immediately, which seemed to negate any advantage that Buffalo might have gained over a rehabbing Eichel. However, hindsight was 20-20, at least in this case. Tuch and Krebs have proven to be good, reliable players who both contributed to the Sabres’ season-ending improvement. Vegas, meanwhile, looks like a franchise that paid too much for their Eichel roll of the dice. Not only did the Knights fail to make the playoffs, but the team had to trade top winger Max Pacioretty and depth defenseman Dylan Coughlin to Carolina. Vegas couldn’t afford to keep them and pay Eichel’s bloated contract. 3) The O’Reilly Trade Revisited: Tage Thompson On July 1, 2018, Buffalo traded Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues for Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick. Initially, this looked like a lopsided trade that gave the Blues all the advantages. St. Louis won their first Stanley Cup with O’Reilly and he became the team’s captain, racking up points and wins. In recent years, as O’Reilly has aged, his numbers have started to drop. At the same time, Tage Thompson’s have begun to improve. Nobody would dispute that Thompson is now one of Buffalo’s top offensive weapons. Still just 24 years old, the center has a long career ahead of him, while O’Reilly’s is winding down. It’s possible this trade was not the mistake many Sabres fans initially thought it was. 4) Sam Reinhart to Florida for Devon Levi and Jiri Kulich. Sam Reinhart was always a great Sabres player who unfortunately struggled through Buffalo’s prolonged rebuild. When Reinhart went to the Panthers, Sabres fans mourned another loss. In exchange, though, Florida gave up goaltending prospect Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick. I miss Reinhart. I know many fans feel the same way. However, one of Buffalo’s nagging problems as of late has been goaltending. The Sabres haven’t had a goalie who can consistently keep pucks out of the net for any length of time. Levi is a netminder who promises to be one of the pieces in the team’s goaltending puzzle. First-round pick Jiri Kulich, was “the best skater on the ice in every game I have seen so far” according to Elite Prospects. The Sabres need skaters who can outperform their opponents in the rink and Kulich could be part of the solution. 5) Rasmus Ristolainen to Philadelphia for Robert Hagg and Isak Rosen The Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Flyers on July 23, 2021. Philadelphia gave Buffalo Robert Hagg, the 14th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a 2023 second-round pick. Ristolainen struggled during his time as a Sabre, and the Flyers were eager to use him to shore up their defensive corps. Hagg didn’t work out and the Sabres traded him to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick. The Blue and Gold used their 14th overall pick to acquire forward Isak Rosen. Die By the Blade named him #16 in the Buffalo Sabres Top 25 under 25 prospects series. Rosen is known as a dual offensive and defensive threat. Fans look forward to seeing him in a Sabres uniform when the prospect comes to Buffalo. Meanwhile, it appears the Flyers overpaid for Ristolainen, much the way the Golden Knights broke the bank for Jack Eichel. Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher even openly admitted that he “paid a big price” for the veteran defenseman. Risto hasn’t helped the Flyers make the playoffs. If Rosen works out for the Sabres, it could be another successful trade for Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams. Those are my top five best recent trades. What are yours? View the full article
  2. Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images Miller’s number will be retired in a pregame ceremony. The Buffalo Sabres will honor franchise goaltender Ryan Miller on Thursday, January 19, 2023 by retiring his jersey number 30 when the team hosts the New York Islanders. Miller will become the seventh Sabres player to have his number retired. He will also be inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame. For more, check out Taylor’s piece from when the Sabres initially made the announcement. It’s a well-deserved honor for Miller, who played parts of 11 seasons with the Sabres between 2002 and 2014. He leads the franchise in games played by a goalie (540), wins (284) and saves. Miller was drafted by the Sabres in the 5thround, 138th overall, in 1999. He spent three seasons with Michigan State before formally joining the Sabres organization. In the 2002-03 season, he appeared in 47 games with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and made his NHL debut, skating in 15 games with the Sabres. After a few seasons in Rochester, he came to the NHL full-time in the 2006-07 season. After his fruitful career in Buffalo - during which he won the Vezina Trophy - he played for the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks before hanging up the skates in 2021. Individual game tickets will go on sale in early September. Half-season plans go on sale this coming Monday, August 15. More info can be found on Sabres.com. View the full article
  3. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports Spotlight: taking a closer look at the Sabres’ coaching staff During this offseason, Die by the Blade has been looking to our readers for content of interest. Last month, there was a request to learn more about the coaching staff of the Buffalo Sabres. Well, we aim to please. Now that we have taken a deeper dive into learning more about head coach Don Granato (some of you were offended by the use of his nickname, which he himself embraces, but I digress...), it is time to take a closer look at the rest of Buffalo’s coaching staff. Mike Bales, Assistant Coach Before his time with Buffalo, Bales spent four seasons in the NHL as a goaltender from 1992 to 1997 for the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, respectively. He then joined various leagues in Europe, including the British Ice Hockey League and Swedish Hockey League. Following his playing career, he was hired as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltender development coach and scout, but was later promoted to goaltending coach after a few seasons. Since then, he has coached for the Carolina Hurricanes and now the Buffalo Sabres since 2019. Jason Christie, Assistant Coach Christie is an interesting asset to the Sabres in more ways than one. He has incredible experience working in the hockey realm - most impressively as a head coach in the ECHL for 19 seasons, during which he became the winningest coach in the league’s history in 2015 with 667 total wins. Coincidentally, he also played in the ECHL with buddy and colleague Granato in the early ‘90s. The two have coached with each other several times before, including Christie’s most recent job before Buffalo: with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. Christie has helped coach behind the bench, but can also be seen providing input from above the ice throughout the season. Matt Ellis, Assistant Coach One of the more recognizable names on this list, Ellis has been part of the Sabres organization, in some form, for several years. Though he officially joined as assistant coach following Ralph Krueger’s termination, he previously played as a left winger for the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, and, of course, the Sabres. Prior to his time in the NHL, Ellis served as team captain for affiliates in both Portland and Rochester, where he undoubtedly gained more experience as a leader. Buffalo is where Ellis spent a majority of his professional playing time before hanging up his skates in 2016. Since then, he spent four years working for the Academy of Hockey at the LECOM Harborcenter and coached for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. Before his current role, Ellis also briefly served as the Sabres’ director of player development. When asked about his transition to assistant coach, he said “I’d built rapport with the players and new staff members. This was where I needed to be. This was where my purpose was and maybe where I could make a mark on this game.” Marty Wilford, Assistant Coach Though drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, Wilford spent his entire playing career as a defenseman in the ECHL, IHL, and in Europe between 1997-2011. He then spent the seven years that followed as an assistant coach for AHL teams the Syracuse Crunch, Norfolk Admirals, and San Diego Gulls as well as in the NHL for the Anaheim Ducks before making the move to Buffalo. Granato has described Wilford’s experience at varying levels of hockey as “crucial” in building on the progress the team has made the last two seasons. Dan Girardi, Development Coach Similar to Ellis, Girardi is very recognizable in the hockey world, but had a much more successful playing career, which spanned 13 seasons and 927 games. He spent the majority of his playing career on the New York Rangers, but also played for the Tampa Bay Lightning during his final two seasons until 2019. The former defenseman is one of the NHL’s all-time leaders in blocked shots with 1,913 and began his coaching career as an interim assistant coach under Granato until his current role as development coach. He has served as a great mentor for our defenseman on and off the ice and is widely respected by the team and staff. Honorable mentions Though not as visible as the rest of the coaching staff, Myles Fee (Video Coach) and Justin White (Video Coordinator) also play an integral part in the success of the Sabres as they are in constant communication with the coaches - especially in the event that Granato may want to challenge a play during a game. Both have to remain knowledgeable behind the scenes and ahead of upcoming opponents with the best footage to aid in that preparation. Overall, it will be interesting to see Granato’s staff continue to work collaboratively in the upcoming season. As the head coach now has a full season under his belt, fans will be looking for more improvements as all the puzzle pieces (both players and coaches) have begun to fit together these last two seasons. Will this be the year they snap the playoff drought? View the full article
  4. Photo by Andy Mead /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images Will the Buffaslug make its return? The Buffaslug. The goathead. Red and black. Blue and gold. Royal blue. One of the hot topics on social media right now is what each NHL team’s “Reverse Retro” jersey for the upcoming season is going to look like. Icethetics has been providing some hints, and reveals, of what some teams are going to wear. For example, the San Jose Sharks will revive the California Golden Seals look, while the Tampa Bay Lightning will reportedly base theirs on the 1997 third jersey. Rumor has it that the Buffalo Sabres could go back to the oft-despised Buffaslug, but in the proper royal blue & gold. Here’s a mockup of what that could look like: Rumor has it the Sabres RR is royal-blue buffaslug, how would you feel about this ? #Sabres pic.twitter.com/DtxLxaPVT2 — Aaron (@23sabres) August 9, 2022 The Sabres definitely have some options here. Personally, I absolutely hated the Buffaslug and I’m not sure bringing it back in royal does anything to improve it. It still looks like, well, a slug. Last year’s Reverse Retro was fine, a mix of the black & red era third and the current team colors. The goathead is the GOAT, but that’s supposedly coming back as a third jersey. I wouldn’t mind seeing them use the old ‘B’ with a sword style logo in some way - but I am also admittedly not sure of the exact rules & guidelines when it comes to the Reverse Retro and how much they can reinvent the wheel. Throw caution to the wind and revive the old Buffalo Bisons hockey team jersey with the bottlecap. What do you want the Sabres to use as this year’s Reverse Retro jersey? Have you put together any neat mock-ups you’d like to share? Or, alternately, is there a design you’re hoping they stay away from? View the full article
  5. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Peterka’s first season in North America was impressive. What happens next? Buffalo Sabres prospect JJ Peterka is a unicorn. Is that the weirdest sentence you’ve read in a while? Stay with me here. I promise this isn’t some random children’s fantasy book about dragons and castles. Michael Peca, who has served as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and worked with Sabres prospects at the team’s recent development camp, called Peterka a ‘unicorn,’ noting his unique skillset and abilities. “I view him as a unicorn,” Peca said. “I can’t find anybody I’ve ever played with or against, even in today’s game, that resembles the type of player he can become.” Coming from a seasoned veteran who has been around the league since 1993 in various capacities, skated in over 800 NHL games & played with Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Pat LaFontaine & Alexei Yashin and against Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk & Sergei Fedorov, and who won Olympic gold and two Selke trophies.... that’s incredibly high praise. Last season was Peterka’s first in North America, which understandably comes with its own challenges and need for transitioning from the European style of the game. After being drafted in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, Peterka split his post-draft between EHC Red Bull München and EC Red Bull Salzburg. His transition to the North American game in the AHL may not have been the quickest to some, but he certainly got there. Peterka ended the season with nearly a point-per-game average: 68 points in 70 regular season games. It was good enough for 10th among all players in the league in scoring, and top amongst rookies. “JJ took a while,” Peca said. “I think he only had three goals through his first 20 or 25 games. He started to understand the things that we were trying to teach him as a staff, and next thing you know... I think he ended up with maybe four, five or six hat tricks at the end of the season.” Peterka actually had four goals through his first 20 games, and five through his first 25. He ended the season with two hat tricks in the regular season and one more in the playoffs. In the midst of the season, he also got his first call-up to the NHL as a result of several Sabres players going into COVID protocol. Peterka skated in two games with the Sabres on December 29 & 30. He was kept off the scoresheet, but tallied three shots and played just over 16 minutes each night. When Peterka spoke at this summer’s Sabres development camp, he expressed how those two games helped him see the difference between the NHL and the AHL, and where he needed to get to in order to reach the NHL. As a result, his game grew. Prior to the call-up, Peterka recorded 20 points in 23 games, an average of 0.869 PPG. Upon his return to the AHL, he recorded 48 points in the remaining 47 regular-season games, an average of 1.02 PPG. Then, he averaged over a point-per-game in the Calder Cup Playoffs, including a four-point performance in a critical win. “He’s an impressive young man,” Peca went on to say about Peterka. “The thing I spent the most time with him on is just having him understand how much he can impact the game without scoring, without getting on the scoresheet.” “He’s incredibly fast, powerful, instinctual,” Peca added. “He became one of our best penalty-killers. At the start of the season, we never expected him to ever be able to kill penalties. That’s how far he grew in his understanding of how impactful he can be without the puck and without scoring.” His impact was certainly felt throughout the season, even when he wasn’t scoring. Look at it this way: he was involved in 70 of the Amerks’ 254 goals-for, nearly 28 percent. Twenty-six of his 40 assists were primary helpers. Penalty-killing is a harder stat to quantify in the AHL, given the league’s limited public statistics, but as a whole, it’s easy to see Peterka’s skill and depth. “You try and pass that message along. You’re going to be in the National Hockey League. You might have to play on the third line, and you might not be on the power play,” Peca said. “We talked about this, and Donny [Granato]’s talked about this in some of the chats we’ve had. How are you going to impact your team? How are you going to help your team win hockey games? How are you going to stay in the lineup?” “As time went on, they [Peterka, Quinn] slowly started understanding it,” he added. “With JJ in particular, there was a lot of video. Even in games early in the season, he’d be upset and frustrated. But then you show him things that he did, that had nothing to do with us scoring a goal, but that helped prevent one, or helped us win a hockey game. As time went on, he grew and matured and understood those things.” Peterka’s growth over the last year has been clearly evident, and his potential is sky-high. He will undoubtedly make Don Granato’s job difficult in the coming months, as he’ll fight for a well-deserved roster spot in Buffalo at the beginning of the 2022-23 NHL season. Regardless of where he finds himself in the end, he’ll be an offensive powerhouse and continue to grow, mature and get even better in the years to come. View the full article
  6. It’s very quiet out there. We’re into that time of the year where there’s simply no Buffalo Sabres news as everyone’s away enjoying their summer breaks. There’s not been much in the way of news aside from the announcement about the return of the Prospects Challenge, with the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins all visiting, and all the games being played between September 15-19 at the Sabres home, the LECOM Harborcenter. Three Sabres prospects will be taking part in the World Juniors that start this week - Isak Rosen, Linus Sjodin and Jiri Kulich. Use the comments below to discuss goings-on with the Sabres and the rest of the NHL for the week of August 1st. View the full article
  7. Micheline Veluvolu/Rochester Americans What to expect from the team in the 585. As we head into the quiet of August, it’s a good time to check in on the Buffalo Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, and see how things are shaping up for that team for the upcoming season. Last Season Recap Last season saw the Amerks play 76 games, one of a handful of teams throughout the league to do so. They were one of only three teams in the North Division to play 76 games and finished the year with a 37-29-7-3 record and 84 points. The Amerks were an offensive powerhouse; with 254 goals-for, they were the third-highest scoring team in the league. But just as much as they were scoring goals, they were allowing them, too. Their 270 goals-against were second-most in the league, a pretty strong indictment of their goaltending. They were also among the top-ten most penalized teams. After rookies JJ Peterka (68 points) and Jack Quinn (61 points), captain Michael Mersch played a big role in the team’s offense. He recorded 26 goals and added 28 assists for 54 points in 65 regular-season games. On and off the ice, he truly was the heart of the team. It wasn’t an easy path to the Calder Cup Playoffs, but the Amerks made it, partly through their own graces and partly through the misfortune of others. Unfortunately, their inconsistencies eventually stopped them in their tracks. After sweeping Belleville in the two-game play-in series, the Amerks bested Utica in five games. Then they hit a brick wall, being swept by Laval in three games in the division final. Roster Outlook As of writing, here’s what the Amerks potential roster looks like for the 2022-23 season. Obviously there are some players on this list (*) who will fight for a roster spot in Buffalo. Like any AHL team, the Amerks are for the most part at the mercy of their NHL club. Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka and Lawrence Pilut are among those who could start or end the season with the Sabres, but could also play in Rochester. Realistically, I think all three will spend at least a good chunk of the season in Buffalo. Any time they spend in Rochester will simply be a nice bonus boost for the Amerks. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen remains an unsigned RFA. When it comes to the front office, I’d expect Seth Appert to return as head coach with assistants Michael Peca and Mike Weber. Forwards: Brandon Biro* Mason Jobst Sean Malone Michael Mersch (captain) Brett Murray* Kohen Olischefski Josh Passolt Matej Pekar JJ Peterka* Jack Quinn* Lukas Rousek Linus Weissbach Defense: Zachary Berzolla Kale Clague Jeremy Davies Mitch Eliot Casey Fitzgerald* Oskari Laaksonen Lawrence Pilut* Chase Priskie Ethan Prow Peter Tischke Goaltenders: Michael Houser Malcolm Subban* Beck Warm Amerks from last season who won’t be in Rochester: Josh Bloom (will return to the OHL) Aaron Dell (signed with San Jose) Dominic Franco (signed with Charlotte) Mark Jankowski (signed with Nashville) Peyton Krebs (let’s face it, he’s an NHL player. No doubt about it.) Arttu Ruotsalainen (signed overseas) Players who remain unsigned: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (unsigned RFA)* Mark Alt (D, 3-6-9, 60 GP) Nick Boka (D, 3-1-4, 24 GP) Brandon Davidson (D, 1-5-6, 23 GP) Ben Holmstrom (C, 0-6-6, 25 GP) Nate Knoepke (D, 0-0-0, 4 GP) Ryan MacInnis (C, 11-16-27, 49 GP) Jimmy Schuldt (D, 5-12-17, 61 GP) Josh Teves (D, 6-15-21, 72 GP) Brendan Warren (LW, 4-2-6, 51 GP) The Season Ahead The AHL season ahead will be slightly more balanced, as each team is scheduled to play 72 games. The Amerks are expected to play 14 other teams, with most games coming against North Division teams. They’ll play the Syracuse Crunch a whopping 12 times, and the Utica Comets 10 times. Otherwise, the schedule is heavy with Toronto, Belleville, Cleveland and Laval. As usual, it’s a loaded schedule, with 28 back-to-backs in total and five sets of 3-in-3 in the second half of the season. The biggest keys for the Amerks for the upcoming season are to keep up the offense, but work on strengthening the defense and keeping pucks out of the net. As I mentioned in the first two paragraphs, they did allow the second-most goals of any team and then utterly collapsed when it counted against Laval in the playoffs. If you’re building a championship-caliber team, that can’t happen. It’s also critical to have the depth to maintain a strong record even if they lose some of their big-name players to the NHL over the course of the season. What To Expect So - what can we expect from the 2022-2023 Rochester Americans? I asked Steve Lopez (steelopus) to chime in. Here’s what he had to say: The 2022-23 Amerks have a difficult task ahead of them in their quest to build on a surprisingly deep playoff run last season. It’s widely expected that several key pieces will graduate to become near-full time Sabres players, leaving some gaping holes to fill, particularly on offense. There was a little buzz before last season that we might see a breakout from the young rookies, but absolutely no one was predicting the output we saw from Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka; both players had historic seasons for AHL rookies (check the u22 stats in this thread). They’re also losing the output from Arttu Ruotsalainen (Swiss League) and Mark Jankowski (Nashville). Reinforcements will arrive, but no one can expect them to replace what’s been lost. We’ll hope Malone and Mersch can build off their career years last season, and for increased (and more consistent) output from names like Biro, Murray, Rousek, Weissbach, and Jobst as well as contributions from new faces, in particular Isak Rosen and hopefully also Filip Cederqvist, Alexander Kisakov, and Josh Bloom (I am admittedly not 100% sure on the contract rules for all these players). The elephant in the room is that while the Amerks were a powerhouse on offense last season, they were also a sieve in their own zone, and things aren’t likely to get much better, at least not immediately. Fans were hopeful that Ryan Johnson would sign an ELC and join the Amerks, but we know that’s not going to happen at this point as he’ll return to finish his career at U of Minnesota. Mattias Samuelsson can all but be penciled in as a full-timer in Buffalo. The team re-signed assistant captain Ethan Prow after his career-best season. Oskari Laaksonen will return for the final year of his ELC and he will hopefully be trying to prove that his defensive struggles last season were just a blip (unlikely) or that he has made significant improvements in the offseason - remember that he skated in 71 of 76 regular season games for the team last year… and then they made him a healthy scratch for all but the final two playoff games. If that doesn’t light a fire under a young player, I’m not sure what will. It’s good to see Lawrence Pilut back in the fold and I’d assume he spends most of the season in Rochester where he should run one of their two PP units. New names include Chase Priskie, Zach Berzolla, Kale Clague, and Jérémy Davies, who are all basically clones of one another - plug and play bodies for an Amerks team that had difficulty fielding a full roster at times last season. Finally, in goal: the organization said goodbye to Aaron Dell. For anyone who was only familiar with his performance in Buffalo last season that probably doesn’t seem like a major loss, but Dell actually put up respectable numbers in Rochester and bailed them out for a significant chunk of the year while UPL was struggling. UPL did seem to turn things around in the last month of the season before suffering an unfortunate injury in the final week. Most people assume he’ll start the year in Rochester but eventually find a permanent spot in Buffalo, leaving the Amerks with a duo of Malcolm Subban and Michael Houser. It’s far too early to tell how that will work out, but on paper it does sound like a downgrade from the UPL/Dell tandem. I think the Amerks will be fighting all year long to stay afloat in a tough AHL North Division and sneak into the playoffs just as they did last season, but as we recently saw, anything is possible once the playoffs begin. View the full article
  8. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images A Look Back at a Few of Buffalo’s Best This Past Year Recently, Die By the Blade asked readers which stories they’d like to see as we continue to wait for October. Swontfan wrote: “Another possibility is recap of best 5-10 games from 2021-22 season.” I’ll rank my favorite top five, and DBTB’s readers will, of course, have their own opinions. 1) RJ Night: KeyBank Center, Apr. 1, 2022 RJ Night was the evening to celebrate and commemorate legendary Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret. During a season when the home team was lucky to sell more than 8,000 tickets per game, more than 19,000 fans poured into downtown Buffalo to cheer on their hero, RJ and by extension, the Buffalo Sabres. The whole night was magical, from the pregame opening ceremony, when Jeanneret, overcome with emotion, told the crowd “I only have three words: I love you”, to the three intense periods, to Jeanneret’s postgame escort onto the ice: After the @BuffaloSabres' win, the team helped Rick Jeanneret onto the ice to take a photo with him. The sold out crowd gave RJ a standing ovation, too pic.twitter.com/FgdsRZcvgY — B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) April 2, 2022 The Sabres sensed that they couldn’t let down the sellout crowd by losing to the Nashville Predators. Tage Thompson scored two goals in the first period, but as the game went on the Preds whittled away Buffalo’s lead. At one point the game was tied, but fortunately, Victor Oloffson scored the game-winning goal on a power play to give the Sabres a 4-3 victory. 2) 2022 NHL Heritage Classic: Hamilton, ON, March 13, 2022 The Buffalo Sabres haven’t traditionally played well at outdoor games. The Winter Classic in 2008, especially, comes to mind. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the Sabres beat their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, at an outdoor rink on a cold late winter day that felt more like January than mid-March. The matchup was supposed to be a Sabres home game, but you wouldn’t know it watching the coverage. The majority of the fans sported blue and white Leafs jerseys. Brampton Ontario’s own Alessia Cara led the crowd in a chant of Go, Leafs Go! The announcers, with Wayne Gretzky being the exception, had a hard time hiding their pro-Toronto bias. It was nice to see Buffalo go to work and silence the hostile crowd. The Sabres trailed 2-1 in the second period when Vinnie Hinostroza tied it 2-2 and Peyton Krebs got the lead three minutes later. Tage Thompson scored an empty netter late in the third to seal the 5-2 win. The best part of the action, however, was when Dylan Cozens hit Auston Matthews after the Leafs’ forward cross-checked Rasmus Dahlin across the neck: Dylan Cozens lays a clean, hard hit on Austin Matthews #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/pOe2Gr3QhU — Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 13, 2022 Buffalo beat Toronto both on the scoreboard and on the ice. 3) RJ’s Last Hurrah: KeyBank Center, Apr. 29, 2022 Even though the Buffalo Sabres and their fans had honored broadcaster Rick Jeanneret almost one month earlier, RJ’s last call was the final home game of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks. After a scoreless first period, Dominik Kubalik put the Hawks on the board 8:47 into the second. The third period would be busy, with Tage Thompson answering back, Dylan Strome taking the lead for Chicago once more and new d-man Owen Power tying the score to force an overtime. The Sabres and RJ saved the best for last. 2:07 into OT, Casey Mittelstadt got the game-winning goal and Jeanneret made the most of it. The legendary announcer launched into a comment that combined paraphrasing Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poetry, rhyming verse and RJ’s famous elongated words: “Casey, Casey at the bat, Casey Mittelstadt hammers it home and Buffalo wins it in ooovvveerrtiimmee!” After the game, nobody left and RJ came down to the ice a second time that season, to shake hands with a line of waiting people, including employees and support staff. A classic ending from a true class act. 4) Sabres Win Against the Wild in Minnesota, Dec. 16, 2021 One of Buffalo’s best road games this past season came in Minnesota in December. The Wild were a tough team to beat on home ice and the Sabres were playing rookie goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. UPL showed why the team should make another deal with him. The Finnish goalie stopped 30 out of 32 shots, including a shootout, something the Sabres often lose. UPL had some help from a defense and offense that were normally lackluster that December. Dylan Cozens and Mark Pysyk each scored once to keep Buffalo in the game and Tage Thompson got the SO winner. The Sabres didn’t hang back but kept up the pressure, outshooting Minnesota 40-32. The game was a rare treat for Sabres fans that winter. Hopefully it’s the kind of performance Buffalo will repeat far more often this upcoming season. Tage Thompson shootout game winner, 3-2 #LetsGoBuffalo #mnwild pic.twitter.com/otkciDFSIr — Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) December 17, 2021 5) Jack Comes Back and Gets Beat, KeyBank Center, Mar. 10, 2022 Jack Eichel was the Sabres’ big hope in the 2015 NHL Draft. Hockey scouts considered him a generational talent, along with Connor McDavid. Edmonton drafted McDavid, while Buffalo took Eichel. Things didn’t quite work out the way the fans and managers thought. After No. 15 acted like he didn’t want to be in Buffalo anymore, fans soured on the team’s captain. When the Sabres finally traded Eichel to Vegas for Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, many Sabres supporters felt it was good riddance. Jack Eichel came back to Buffalo wearing a Golden Knights uniform on Mar. 10, 2022. Fans weren’t happy to see him and they booed him every time he touched the puck. What made it more humiliating for the former captain and all the sweeter for the home crowd was what happened at the end of the third period. With Vegas trailing the Sabres 2-1, the Knights pulled their goalie. Alex Tuch, one of the players Vegas traded for Eichel, neatly stole the puck from him and skated gleefully down the ice to score an empty netter and seal a 3-1 win: Those are my top five. What are yours? View the full article
  9. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images How much better will the Sens be this season? The NHL’s Atlantic Division is setting up for some fierce competition in the 2022-23 season. While the Buffalo Sabres have made several small roster moves, their divisional rivals certainly haven’t been sleeping this offseason. And while Sabres GM Kevyn Adams seems to prefer to focus on his own team, rather than what other teams have done, it's still a worthwhile venture to check in with the divisional rivals & see what to expect in the coming months. The Ottawa Senators are the first team the Sabres will face in the upcoming season in a game that counts, as the two teams kick things off on Thursday, October 13 at 7 p.m. The Senators have a lot of room for improvement following last season, when they finished second-last in the division. Their record of 33-42-7 and 73 points was a marginal improvement over recent years, but still leaves a lot to be desired. The Senators hold the third-longest playoff drought among Atlantic Division teams, having last made it to the postseason in 2017. The only division teams with longer droughts: the Detroit Red Wings (2016) and, of course, the Sabres (2011). Thankfully (for Sens fans), the franchise does seem to be moving in the right direction, even if it has been a painfully slow climb at times: “There can be no doubt that the team’s roster will be greatly improved, and anything but a substantial change in the end-of-season position will be a disappointment. However, expectations are riding high in the nation’s capital: you don’t shove all of your chips into the middle like Pierre Dorion did this off-season just to miss out on all the fun.” - Nate, Silver Seven Sens On The Roster The biggest free agent signing for Ottawa was clearly the addition of right winger Claude Giroux, on a three-year deal worth a combined $19.5 million. It’s a big splash to add the 34-year-old with plenty of leadership experience. The fact that he had 65 points (21-44) in 75 games last season with the Panthers certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Locking up center Josh Norris, who had 55 points in 66 games last year, to an eight-year contract is another key piece for the Sens. Ottawa’s two other significant moves this offseason has been shedding Matt Murray’s contract, and nabbing an absolute steal in acquiring Alex DeBrincat from the Blackhawks. DeBrincat had 78 points (41-37) in 82 games last season, and 56 in 52 the year prior. For the Sens to not only acquire such an offensive talent, but at minimal cost? Yes, please. Watch as Alex DeBrincat gets a first look at Canadian Tire Centre, and his new threads! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/KKUNdoBLiN — Ottawa Senators (@Senators) July 16, 2022 The Sens have added a lot of offensive firepower, and retained most of their top scorers - Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Drake Batherson. In net, they retain Anton Forsberg, who carried most of the workload last season. Forsberg appeared in 46 games, accruing a .917 save percentage and 2.82 GAA. They dropped Murray (with a little salary retention) and added 35-year-old Cam Talbot via trade. Talbot, who has one year left on his contract, had a .911 save percentage and 2.76 GAA with Minnesota last season. Fun fact: this is the final year that the Senators are going to be paying Dion Phaneuf. He’ll get $354,167 as the last piece of his 2019 buyout. Former Sabres forward Tyler Ennis spent last year with the Senators, but remains unsigned as a free agent as of writing. Ennis had a hat trick and one assist against Buffalo last season. Front Office Happenings The passing of Senators owner, governor & chairman Eugene Melnyk back in March has certainly sparked some change for the franchise. Melnyk owned the Senators since 2003. The team is now currently owned by his estate, and it seems that Anna & Olivia Melnyk (Eugene's daughters) have at least some say in how the team is being run. Both were at the NHL draft earlier this summer and seen chatting with GM Pierre Dorion. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this year that the Senators aren't currently for sale and there's no urgency to do so, but it is at least something to be mindful of. Matchups Thu., Oct. 13, 7 PM vs. Ottawa Wed., Nov. 16, 7 PM @ Ottawa Sun., Jan. 1, 7 PM @ Ottawa Thu., Apr. 13, 7 PM vs. Ottawa View the full article
  10. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Help us rank the 2022 top 25 Sabres players under the age of 25. It’s that time once again: time for our annual top-25 under 25 rankings for the Buffalo Sabres. First up, of course, we have to vote! A combination of fan & Die by the Blade staff rankings will formulate the final list, which will be composed of players & prospects who are under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022. Once voting is complete, we’ll bring you the series throughout the coming weeks. Refresh yourself on last year’s rankings here. Here’s last year’s top ten: 1. Jack Eichel 2. Dylan Cozens 3. Rasmus Dahlin 4. Owen Power 5. Casey Mittelstadt 6. Henri Jokiharju 7. Arttu Ruotsalainen 8. Rasmus Asplund 9. Jack Quinn 10. JJ Peterka Vote by clicking here, now through August 16. View the full article
  11. Just a barren desert out there | Photo by: Jon G Fuller/Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images What’s going on with me? Nothing at all, how about you? We’re into that time of the year where there’s simply no Buffalo Sabres news as everyone’s away enjoying their summer breaks. There’s not been much in the way of news aside from the announcement about the return of the Prospects Challenge, with the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins all visiting, and all the games being played between September 15-19 at the Sabres home, the LECOM Harborcenter. Also, a big thank you to everyone who responded to the call for feedback on what the DBTB crew can work on for the next few weeks for your reading pleasure. There were a bunch of really good ideas in there; we asked, and once again this blog’s incredible readership delivered. You have consistently proven yourselves to be by far the most hockey-savvy, realistic and supportive fanbase there is in the sport and this site is the better for your participation. Give yourselves a big pat on the back! Use the comments below to discuss goings-on with the Sabres and the rest of the NHL for the week of August 1st. View the full article
  12. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Let’s take a closer look at Don Granato following his first full NHL season as Sabres’ head coach This past week, Die by the Blade Twitter asked you, the fans and followers, what content you would be interested in during the final few months of the offseason. While more information on the coaching staff as a whole was requested (we will get to them later, do not fret!), it is important to spotlight the main man behind the improvement - albeit a slow climb - of the Sabres. Yes, they missed the playoffs yet again, but it would be dense to say that they did not show signs of hope during the 2021-2022 season, especially that second half. Following a tumultuous few years with some very poor coaching choices by the organization, it seems the Sabres have finally found a competent leader behind the bench, but...who is Don Granato? Unlike his predecessor, Granato has an extensive background in both playing and coaching hockey, which assumingly stems from his family’s passion for the sport early on. As one of three kids - all of which now have impressive careers in hockey - Granato used to run coaching drills in his basement with his siblings and look to Wayne Gretzky for inspiration. It was very clear early on that the now 54-year-old had the right mentality and knowledge of the sport to motivate a team one day. As they all grew up, hockey stuck with each of them in various ways. His sister Cammi was not only one of the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, she also earned an Olympic gold medal as the captain of the U.S. team in 1998 and then a silver medal in 2002. She is currently the assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. His brother Tony has had considerable experience playing (for the Rangers, Kings, and Sharks, respectively) as well as coaching in the NHL. In 2018, Tony served as the head coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the Olympics. He currently works as the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. Though he did have a few brief stints playing for both the USHL and the ECHL, it seems Don was always destined to be a coach in some capacity when he hung up his skates in 1993 after playing just a few years. Since then, he has held various roles as either an assistant or head coach in the aforementioned leagues as well as the AHL. During his time coaching in the AHL, Granato won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as outstanding head coach of the Worcester IceCats - during his first year with the club - after racking up an impressive 108 points on the season. More recently, Mr. Meatballs led the U.S. National Team Development Program for five seasons, coaching some familiar faces over the years in Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Quinn Hughes, and Matthew Tkachuk, to name a few. Before all of these endeavors led him to the Sabres, Granato also had to overcome quite a bit of adversity with his physical health to get where he is today. As many fans may remember, he fell very ill with pneumonia in 2019, was hospitalized, and quite frankly not expected to live. Prior to that health scare, he battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005 while coaching the IceCats. Health aside, let’s not forget Granato was provided a huge undertaking following the release of former head coach Ralph Krueger: coaching a team that has been tanking for nearly a decade and doing so during a worldwide pandemic. Sounds easy, right? Through all of this, it has felt right to have him behind the bench. And, while his numbers are not all that impressive to tired, restless fans yet, there is hope for a future that includes Jack Quinn and Owen Power in the equation. Though Donnie Meatballs has only been head coach for one complete season, he really does seem like one of the puzzle pieces that has been missing to get this team back on track and, honestly, is just so likeable. His first concert was Elvis Presley and first job was washing beer trucks. The man is already a legend. For more fun facts, do yourself a favor and watch this video: View the full article
  13. Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images Buffalo’s Moves Need to Be Enough to Make It in the NHL’s East Recently, Die By the Blade polled readers on Twitter, asking them which upcoming Sabres stories they’d like to see. One respondent, Zack Holiskey asked, “Where do they stand in the East after all the roster moves? Can the playoff drought finally end?” The 2022 NHL Draft and free agent signing deadlines are in the books, so sports pundits can do what they enjoy most, analyzing them to death. Reaction to the Buffalo Sabres’ moves in the Draft and free agency have been mixed. Corey Pronman of the Athletic gave Buffalo an A-, his third highest grade behind Montreal and Seattle. DBTB readers were mostly pleased with the team’s decision to stick with their draft picks, and 63% of those who voted gave the Sabres an A. However, not everyone in the sports world thought GM Kevyn Adam’s decision to stand pat with his picks and not make any major trades was the wisest decision. Harrison Brown of NovaCaps, scored Buffalo with a C. In his analysis of the Sabres’ moves, Brown wrote, “The Sabres signed a couple depth defensemen in addition to a back-up goaltender and did not lose anyone significant. In an 11-season postseason drought, more action was needed in Buffalo.” To put things in perspective, Brown graded the Leafs not much better, at C- and the Florida Panthers at a D-. Boston and Tampa were also trending down, but still did better than Buffalo, according to his analysis. Detroit, Montreal and Ottawa scored really well, trending up. Other sports bloggers also felt that the Senators and Red Wings are potential up-and-coming rivals. Zach Jezioro of SabreNoise pointed to Ottawa’s big move getting forward Alex DeBrincat from Chicago as something to watch. Detroit is shoring up their roster, as other pundits such as Kristen Shilton noted. Tampa, Florida and Toronto will still be the top three teams in the Atlantic Division, in Jezioro’s estimation. The Sabres aren’t ready to beat these three, but Buffalo could potentially fight the Boston Bruins or Ottawa Senators for a wild card playoff spot. The Sens are doing better, but they’re still in a rebuild mode. The Bruins are not the top franchise they were until recently. Bergeron is out for the next couple of years, Pastrnak is questionable long-term and Brad Marchand’s not getting any younger. The Sabres have youth and depth, which could make the difference in a possible Sabres-Bruins playoff competition. If the Blue and Gold can keep playing the way they did the tail end of 2021-22, the Sabres have a shot at the playoffs. One thing the team lacks is an experienced captain to show a good example and motivate the young prospects. Eichel was obviously not leadership material. Kyle Okposo and Alex Tuch have been floated as potential Cs. Jeff Skinner is another contender. Any one of these guys would make a good captain, and hopefully the team will choose one of them for the upcoming season. Goaltending is another weak spot. Buffalo resigned Craig Anderson, signed Eric Comrie and most likely will make a deal with RFA UPL. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, who wrote that the Leafs fell off the goalie carousel, gave the Sabres possible points for getting Comrie. Are these the right moves? Again, we won’t know until well into the season. The Buffalo Sabres are poised to make the playoffs, if the team can play consistently for more than two months and if the team’s offseason drafts and signings work out. What do you think? View the full article
  14. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images Tournament held in mid-September at Harborcenter. Over the past few years, the Buffalo Sabres have been building up quite the Prospects Challenge, held annually at LECOM Harborcenter. This year, the round-robin challenge continues to expand. Aside from Buffalo, prospects from the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will attend. Per the current schedule released by the Sabres, five of the teams will play three games each. On the other hand, the Penguins will play just once. The Sabres will face the Canadiens, Devils and Senators. Although rosters will be released at a later date, it’s reasonable to expect that players like first-overall draft pick Juraj Slafkovský and other top picks including Filip Mesar, Šimon Nemec and Owen Pickering will be in attendance. Here’s the schedule, with Sabres games in bold. Admission is $10 per ticket. The three Sabres games will be streamed for the local broadcast market on the team’s website - so blackout restrictions may apply. (As an aside, the Devils have typically broadcast their games in this tournament on Twitter.) Thursday, September 15 • Buffalo vs. Montreal, 7 p.m. Friday, September 16 • Boston vs. Ottawa, 3:30 p.m. • Montreal vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. Saturday, September 17 • Pittsburgh vs. Boston, 3:30 p.m. • Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. Sunday, September 18 • Ottawa vs. Montreal, 12 p.m. Monday, September 19 • New Jersey vs. Boston, 10 a.m. • Buffalo vs. Ottawa, 1:30 p.m. View the full article
  15. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Krebs spoke recently about being traded, making the NHL and more. On the ice, Peyton Krebs’ skill visibly sets him apart from others. What isn’t perhaps as visible to the naked eye, however, is his maturity and sense of responsibility. Krebs, of course, came to the Buffalo Sabres organization as a part of the Jack Eichel trade. When he spoke earlier this summer at the team’s development camp, his thoughts about being traded at a fairly young age were particularly wise and contemplative. “At a young age, you think you’re going to be with a certain organization for your whole life,” he said. “A lot of these kids that got drafted this past week probably think the same thing. You don’t know what can happen.” “For me, it’s just, stick to my morals, stick to my values,” he added. “The NHL is a league. It’s a business, and I want to be a part of it. I’ve got to work my brains out every day, no matter where I am. Stay humble, have fun. It’s a business to them, but you’re living the dream, so you can’t complain too much.” During the season, he’s one of the younger players on the ice and in the locker room for the Sabres. During development camp, however, he skewed toward the other side of things, as one of a handful of players with NHL experience, which he knew was valuable to the other prospects. “To have a guy that’s played, NHL-caliber, skate with you, you’re going to see where you need to be and where you need to go to get your game,” he said. “It would’ve been huge for me.” Krebs was unable to participate in his first NHL development camp, as he was recovering from a cut Achilles at the time. “Not all of these guys are going to play in the NHL,” he said. “If I can help one or two make their dreams come to reality, and give them little tips to allow them to maybe get that next jump that they need, that’s huge for our organization & what we need to do to build the franchise.” He spoke it plainly and simply, but I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever heard another player acknowledge that fact. There were a number of players at development camp, but the simple realities are: many of them, most of them, will never play in the NHL, and many of them will be traded at some point. It’s the facts of life, but to hear Krebs speak honestly about them, and his experiences being traded at a fairly young age, it was refreshing and authentic. Of course, Krebs also said he’s trying to get better, too, and used the team’s week-long development camp to get some extra ice, have fun and keep himself sharp. He also spoke about his time in the WHL, where he played with Matthew Savoie, and how he and his team persevered through some bottom-of-the-standings seasons - and how he can take those lessons into Buffalo. “My first year [in the WHL], we won 12 games out of 70,” he said. “It was a tough start... it was just about trying to get better by the end of the season. The next year, we took another step, and the next year, we’re a playoff team. I want to try to help do that here in Buffalo.” Krebs served as captain of the Kootenay Ice/Winnipeg Ice from 2018 until 2021. His leadership skills - and all of his other skills - clearly shine through even to this day, and he appears poised for another solid season in Buffalo. There’s a reason that earlier this year, Tage Thompson called Krebs “one of the smartest hockey players I’ve seen,” noting how well he reads the game, his high hockey sense and great passing ability. Thompson said Krebs truly makes everyone around him better. Victor Olofsson, too, noted Krebs’ maturity and how easy it is to forget he’s only 21. When he eventually joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans for their playoff push, his dominance on the ice was impressive. Regardless of where he plays, he brings an incredible amount of value to the team and should be a key piece of the Sabres organization for years to come. View the full article
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