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2014-2015 Buffalo Sabres Season +last season, +off-season, +future

I wrote this over the off-season, before the season began. I still have tickets available for upcoming games this season for sale: http://bit.ly/1DwKaka
Here is some information on your 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres with a look back at last season and a look to the future… which is bright (that’s national media saying that).

The outlook for the future of the Buffalo Sabres is HIGH, according to NATIONAL media — not just local media. 
Here’s what national media has been saying:
Holy cow are the #Sabres loaded with brilliant prospects (not to mention the three 1st rounders coming in 2015): http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2140821-ranking-the-buffalo-sabres-top-10-prospects -Jonathan Willis, Edmonton Journal
 
The NHL’s top 5 farm systems – Buffalo Sabres: #1 http://www.si.com/nhl/2014/07/07/top-five-systems -Sports Illustrated
 
Why the Buffalo Sabres will be Stanley Cup champions in 2020: http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/why-the-buffalo-sabres-will-be-stanley-cup-champions-in-2020/ -Ken Campbell, The Hockey News
 
2014 NHL Draft Grades – Buffalo Sabres: A http://insider.espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/11149133/2014-nhl-draft-grades -Corey Pronman, ESPN
 
Organizational Assessment – Buffalo Sabres: A+ http://insider.espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/11149133/2014-nhl-draft-grades -ESPN
 
Remembering Last Season
Remember last year — we had Darcy and Ron Rolston still! Then Pat Lafontaine came in, hired back Ted Nolan and brought in Tim Murray as our GM. Tim Murray is the opposite of Darcy in many ways — he speaks his mind no matter what, something we’re not accustomed to here. Then Pat Lafontaine mysteriously left without saying a word — rumor was he wanted to rebuild around Ryan Miller at the core, but his new GM didn’t feel that way.
Last year we had Vanek, Miller, Ott, Moulson, McCormick, Ehrhoff, Tropp, John Scott, Matt D’Agostini, Jamie McBain, Cory Conacher (Canisius College grad!), Ville Leino, Tallinder, Sulzer, Konopka, Linus Omark, and the Sabres broke NHL records by dressing 9 goaltenders over the course of one season.
Off-Season (and In-Season) Roster Moves
Well — only two of those players listed above you’ll see again in Sabres jerseys. We put Tropp to waivers to move him down to the Amerks — that didn’t work, as the Blue Jackets scooped that beast of a kid up. We used one of our two compliance buy-outs on Leino, as expected — the other was used up on Ehrhoff, which was a bit of a shock. Leino was a flop, but Ehrhoff is still a great defender. The reason Ehrhoff was let go was due to his contract — with the new CBA, the Sabres were at risk of huge cap penalties if Ehrhoff were to retire before the end of his career; it wasn’t a risk Tim Murray was going to take on as it’d effect our team around 2020 when we’re making cup runs. Also we couldn’t trade him, because if he had retired still, the Sabres would be penalized — not any future teams of his from this contract. So we bought Ehrhoff out and he immediately signed a 1-year deal with the Penguins.
Miller and Ott were traded to the St Louis Blues at the deadline — Ott re-signed with them, and Miller signed a 3-year deal with the Canucks (closer to his wife in LA; fun fact: the new GM in Vancouver originally scouted Miller when he worked for the Buffalo Sabres).
Contracts were up for a bunch of our players and we didn’t offer new ones:
Sulzer (he signed 5 yr deal for a team in his home country of Germany), McBain (still a free agent), Konopka (him and his bunny are free agents and spending the first 20 games of next season suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs), D’Agostini signed a 1-year deal in Switzerland, John Scott signed with the SJ Sharks, Linus Omark abandoned the Sabres and fled to the KHL, Cory Conacher was signed by the NY Islanders, Tallinder remains a free agent, and Vanek signed a deal with the Minnesota Sabres — er, the Minnesota Wild — joining former Sabres captain Jason Pominville. Leino remains a free agent.
Chris Stewart came to Buffalo in the trade with the St Louis Blues. This guy is a huge power forward that can put up 20-30 goals a season — that’s Stafford-like numbers, but this guy is big.
Torrey Mitchell came to Buffalo in the trade with the Wild for Matt Moulson & Cody McCormick. You’ll see him on the Sabres this year. He’s 29 and plays wing.
2014-15 New Player Signings
Which brings us to the two players we traded at the trade deadline to the Minnesota Wild — Matt Moulson (who came to the Sabres as part of that deal that Darcy pulled over earlier in the season with the NY Islanders that included NY Islanders’ 2015 1st Round pick and also gave us Matty) and Cody McCormick. The Buffalo Sabres were able to re-sign both of these players — Cody and Matt. Matt Moulson signed a 5-year deal in Buffalo, Cody signed a 3-year deal.
The Buffalo Sabres also signed center Brian Gionta to a 3-year deal. Gionta is from Rochester NY and was the Captain of the Montreal Canadians last year — he’s the real deal. He’s at the end of his career and he’s being brought in to lead and show these kids how to win. If you thought Danny Briere was short (5′ 9″), Gionta has him beat by a couple inches (5′ 7″). Dude is short, but look for him to be the Captain of the Buffalo Sabres in 2014-15. Canadians made a deep playoff-run last season.
Buffalo Sabres also signed defender Andrej Mezaros to a 1-year deal — he’s spent time in Boston, Philadelphia and Ottawa — Tim Murray believes in him and says he told Andrej, “Come here and get back to being the great defender you can be”. Tim Murray says maybe we’ll resign him come the following year, or worst-case we trade him at the deadline during this season. Can you believe a GM says that out loud?! Fantastic Tim!
Sabres made a trade with the Canadians giving up basically nothing to acquire Josh Gorges, whom was an assistant captain in Montreal — with Gionta. Funny thing — Gorges had a limited no-trade clause, so he was able to specify teams he wouldn’t accept trades to. Montreal had a deal in place with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he wouldn’t go there and blocked the trade. He eventually adds the Sabres to his list and we get him — he then says, “I’ve grown to hate the Leafs after Habs rivalry”. Hello spark to the Sabres / Maple Leafs rivalry again. I love this move to get Gorges — I had him fantasy hockey this past year a few times — he’s a “stay at home” defender and he blocks shots like a mofo — he was tied for 4th in the league with most blocked shots. He was paired with PK Subban the majority of his time — he’d stay back and defend, and let offensive-minded defender PK Subban go roam the ice. PK Subban and Tyler Myers are similar defenders — Myers needs someone to stay back and protect, so he can go do his offensive-thing. This is a stretch as anyone in hockey would say, but I don’t see why — I truly believe Gorges is going to help Myers get back to what Myers was in his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season. Turns out Myers and Gorges are also from the same town — they’re just like 6 years apart in age; they already knew each other. Fantastic, go Tim Murray!
Buffalo Sabres signed another defender Andre Benoit that just played last season with the Colorado Avalanche on that young, stocked team that made a playoff run. He’s 31 and I don’t know much more, but Tim Murray has some history with him from his Ottawa days.
Buffalo Sabres signed Tyler Ennis to a 5-year deal, so he’s staying put. Tim Murray has often said how much he likes Tyler’s game.
Random note about a former Sabres prospect: David Leggio of WNY was signed by NY Islanders. Oh, and Danny Briere was traded from the Canadians to the Colorado Avalanche. And Darcy Regier became Assistant GM in Phoenix.
Oh yeah, and look for Patrick Kaleta to be back as a Sabre this year. Last year he tore his ACL.
Tim Murray’s other moves over the season and off-season included trading some draft picks and prospect defender McNabb to the LA Kings for a stud prospect named Hudson Fasching (plays college hockey for the Minnesota Gophers where he just won the rookie-of-the-year award given out by the team — prior recipients include Thomas Vanek, Jordan Leopold, Kyle Okposo, Phil Kessel, etc), as well as Nicolas Deslauriers (whom is a gritty young guy that should start on the Amerks this year, unless he breaks out and makes Sabres roster). An article about Hudson Fasching and his two siblings whom can’t talk and have a very rare disease — Hudson cuddles with them http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?id=6145415
2014 NHL Draft: Sam Reinhart and more
Despite finishing last overall in the entire NHL, the Buffalo Sabres selected 2nd overall at the draft. The Sabres haven’t drafted this high since 1987 when they drafted Pierre Turgeon 1st overall. Since then, the only other top 5 pick they’ve had was Thomas Vanek in 2003. Drafting 2nd overall this year — this is a huge deal.
As you may or may not know, the NHL doesn’t operate like the NFL. If you’re the 30th place team in the NHL, you don’t automatically get the 1st overall pick in the upcoming draft — as witnessed by the Buffalo Sabres this past draft.
We were the last team in the league, but at the draft lotto — the Florida Panthers “won” and selected 1st overall, while we fell to 2nd place overall. Basically all teams that don’t make the playoffs are eligible to ‘win’ the 1st overall selection, with all other teams only moving down 1 position. The Buffalo Sabres had the highest odds with 25% chance of winning the draft lotto, and the 2nd-last place Florida Panthers had the 2nd highest odds (18.8% chance) and the remaining teams’ chances dwindle from there.
It didn’t matter for the Buffalo Sabres, as the Sabres are stocked with young defencemen and the #1 overall pick was stud defender Aaron Ekblad, whom will be a superstar in this league, but the Sabres were able to select the top-rated offensive player in the draft with Sam Reinhart, er rather, Samson Reinhart. He prefers Samson.
Reinhart’s father (Paul) was a hockey player for many many years in the league, and Samson’s two brothers are prospects with the NY Islanders (Griffin, 4th overall 2012 draft) and Calgary Flames (Max, 64th overall 2010 draft).
Kevin Devine, Chief of Amateur Scouting for the Buffalo Sabres, months prior to this year’s draft said that Samson Reinhart was “the best playmaker I’ve seen in 10-15 years”. Hell of a statement. Craig Button of ESPN made a couple comparisons over the year leading up to the draft of Reinhart using Quebec/Colorado great, Hall of Famer, Joe Sakic as a comparable: “Reinhart might not have the same physical edge as Bennett (another prospect from the draft),” said Button, “but he beats up opponents with his mind. If you look at players like Joe Sakic over the years, Sakic didn’t have an edge. All he did was, he had a surgeon’s scalpel. He’d cut your heart out.”
“Star-wise I hear people say David Krejci, I guess I can see some of the similarities. But the guy he reminds me of is Hall of Famer, former Montreal great Jacques Lemaire. Jacques Lemaire didn’t have a lot of flash to him. [He] won eight Stanley Cups. [He] understood where everybody was on the ice. He understood what a player needed, understood when a player needed the puck. He understood how to get the most out of his linemates. He understood what plays needed to be made–offensively, defensively. [There were] so many different things that made Jacques Lemaire an exceptional player. Those are the same things that Sam Reinhart possesses.”
 
There are a lot of hockey fans here who weren’t born, or were too young to remember just what Lemaire brought to the table (although they’re familiar with Krejci.) Button certainly did, as did those who were around the game back then like legendary hockey writer, Red Fisher.
 
Here’s an excerpt from a piece by Fisher, posted in The Gazette, October 9, 2009. He was doing the top-20 players he had covered during a long, distinguished career that began in 1954. 
 
Lemaire came in at #12.
 
“[Lemaire] was the complete package,” wrote Fisher. “always in control of his game, scoring the big goals, making the big pass, always doing the right thing, killing penalties. No player I have known studied the game harder.”
With the Sabres next pick, which was the first pick of the second-round of the draft, they selected Brendan Lemieux. This kid is the son of former NHL’r Claude Lemieux — and he’s just as nasty. Opponents are going to hate this kid — and Sabres fans will be flocking to buy his jersey.
I don’t want to bore you with the rest of the draft, but we’ll know in years to come how many of these other picks turn into NHL players.
Will Samson being playing for the Buffalo Sabres this season? Originally I had high hopes of yes. Tim Murray feels he’s done all he can do in the junior league. And we all know there’s room for a kid on this team. However, I’d love to see us do what the Chicago Blackhawks did with their rebuild — they drafted Jonathan Toews 3rd overall, sent him back to juniors, then the following year drafted Patrick Kane and then brought them both into the NHL that year. Together they came into the league.
Next year we’re going to get a very high draft pick — the hope is we get the 1st overall. Regardless, I’d love to bring Reinhart and our 2015 pick into the league at the same time.
Obviously we’ll see what Tim Murray’s plans are soon enough. Sabres fans do need some players to want to watch on this team, as most fans won’t have a clue of anyone on this team — except for Stafford.
This Coming 2014-15 Season: Connor McDavid watch
So this season coming up has a big focus on the forthcoming draft, which will happen June 26-27, 2015 in Florida. Two “generational” players will be drafted first and second overall in that draft — the canadian Connor McDavid and the american Jack Eichel. Scouts have been watching McDavid since he was like 10 years old and awaiting his arrival to the ‘big show’. Connor McDavid is talked about by national media along the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, and Mario Lemieux. A bit unfair to be saying that already, but that’s what we’re talking about here to give you some perspective.
So how does one get Connor McDavid? You have to “win” the draft lottery.
The Sabres are going to be competing hard this year — you could see it at the end of last season. Ted Nolan has really connected with the players and is making them all earn their roster spots. We’re not going to be great this year, but we’re on a great path for the coming years.
Let’s Go Sabres!
Here are my tickets for sale: http://bit.ly/1DwKaka