Tag Archives: Buffalo Sabres

January 20 – Day 102 – We ain’t talking about no auto shop

Thanks to a two-goal third period to seal the deal, the Boston Bruins have won their third in a row after beating the Canadiens 4-1 in Montréal in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The only goal of the first period occurred at the 13:08 mark, courtesy of Max Talbot, his second of the season.

The Habs leveled the score at one-all 8:48 after resuming play with Third Star of the Game Mark Barberio’s first goal of the season, assisted by P.K. Subban (his 30th helper of the season) and David Desharnais, but the Bruins were able to take the lead again 3:11 before the second intermission with First Star Patrice Bergeron’s game-winner (his 18th goal of the season), assisted by David Pastrnak and Dennis Seidenberg.

Boston scored their first insurance goal of the evening at the 12:14 mark of the final period, scored by Pastrnak (his fourth tally of the season) and assisted by Zac Rinaldo and Joe Morrow.  The final goal was an empty netter from Brad Marchand, assisted by Loui Eriksson (his 23rd helper of the season), setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Second Star Tuukka Rask improves his record to 16-13-4 after saving 38 of 39 (97.4%), while Mike Condon’s falls to 12-12-4 after saving only 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 43-20-9, favoring the home squad by 31 points over the roadies.

A busy Tuesday schedule makes way for a light Wednesday, as their are only three games taking place today.  The action gets started at 8 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits their old friends in Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS/SN), followed two hours later by Buffalo at Colorado (BELL TV).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern, when Minnesota visits Anaheim (NBCSN/SN).

There are no division rivalries being played tonight, and St. Louis at Detroit represents the only matchup between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While the BluesRed Wings game would be fun for a variety of reasons (Speaking of, I have not featured the Red Wings enough this season… We’ll consider that a note for another day), I’m attracted to another game tonight, as Buffalo visits the Mile High City with a couple of old friends.

Buffalo Sabres LogoColorado Avalanche Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will only be Buffalo‘s second appearance in the Game of the Day series, with their only other showing being a 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on October 29.  Colorado has been featured twice before tonight, and own a 1-1-0 record in the series.  Their most recent game with our attention was 6-3 loss in Chicago on January 10.

With the Sabres visiting Colorado this evening, Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly will be making their first appearances in the Pepsi Center since being traded during the 2015 Entry Draft.

McGinn spent a total of 162 games over four seasons with the Avs, with his best season by far being his 2013-’14 campaign in which he scored 38 points (evenly split between assists and goals) and helped Colorado to their first division title in 11 years, although they could not advance beyond the first round after a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota on home ice.

O’Reilly had a longer career in Colorado, playing 427 games over six seasons.  Similar to McGinn, O’Reilly’s best season was the division championship campaign, where he scored 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points with a 13.9% season shooting percentage, his best to date, although he has the potential to best that stat with a current 15.6% this season.  That strong shooting percentage is what he’s used to lead his team in scoring, with 17 goals to his credit.

The 19-23-4 Buffalo Sabres currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.  Their success has been found on the defensive end, although they are still below-average in that end.

Even with Josh Gorges’ team-leading 98 blocks, Buffalo has allowed 1372 shots to reach 12-12-2 Chad Johnson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 120 goals against, 13th-most in the league.  The first step in improving this defense should be to beef up the penalty kill, as the special teams have only killed 79.28% of opposing power plays for 23 goals against (four below the league average).

The offense has been the main thing holding the Sabres back this season.  Led by Jack Eichel’s 143 shots, Buffalo has fired the puck 1368 times, of which only 7.7% have found the back of the net for 106 goals (led by O’Reilly’s 17 tallies), fourth-fewest in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has not found much success, the Sabres‘ power play has still been strong, scoring on 20.41% of opportunities for 30 goals (led by O’Reilly’s seven tallies).

The Sabres are currently riding two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory in Arizona on Monday.  A win tonight might do more harm than good at this point in the season, as it will take a miracle for Buffalo to qualify for the playoffs.

The 23-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently occupy fifth place in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position.  The Avs play one of the top-five offenses in the league, but have not been able put their opponents away due also having a bottom-ten defense.

Even with Nathan MacKinnon’s 157 shots, Colorado has fired the puck only 1337 times, of which 9.8% have found the back of the net for 131 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 22 tallies), fifth-most in the NHL.  Colorado‘s power play is slightly better than Buffalo‘s, as they’ve scored on 20.89% of opportunities for 33 goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s seven extra-man tallies).  That stat does come with a qualifier though, as the Avs have given up five shorthanded goals this season, two more than the league average.

As good as the offense has been, it’s a shame Colorado hasn’t done much to improve the blue line.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 143 blocks to his credit, 1454 shots have made their way to 16-12-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 130 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The shining spot for this defense has been their penalty kill, as not only have they killed 80.54% for 29 power play goals against, but they’ve also scored four shorthanded goals, led by Blake Comeau’s two.

The Avalanche won their most recent game 2-1 in Winnipeg on Monday.  A Colorado win has the potential to pull them within a game of Minnesota for the first wild card spot, but a regulation loss allows Vancouver to take their spot in the second wild card position.

Some players to watch include Buffalo‘s O’Reilly (39 points, including 17 goals, 10 of which were at even-strength, with the remaining seven being power play tallies [all lead the team]) and Colorado‘s Duchene (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Based on standings alone, you’d like to think the Avs would win this game regardless of location, but that defense does not leave me with a good taste in my mouth.  I think I’ll pick Colorado, but I believe it will be a nail-biter.

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Winnipeg Jets

By: Nick Lanciani

Many teams chose to retire (or honor) jersey numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status. With that in mind, what will retired numbers look like around the league in the future? Let’s explore what each team around the NHL might do in the coming seasons for former and/or current players that should see their numbers raised to the rafters someday.

Feel free to speak your mind and drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

Unknown-3Winnipeg Jets

Current Retired Numbers- None

 

 

 

Recommended Numbers to Retire

37 Dan Snyder/Rick Rypien

There’s no denying the tragic history that followed the Jets from their Thrashers days. Officially retiring number 37 would be a humbling gesture and one of the best things the Winnipeg front office could do to continue to honor Snyder. Although Rick Rypien never suited up for the Jets and was slated to wear number 11 with them (as they haven’t used number 37 while in Winnipeg- it was retired in Atlanta), his last days in the NHL featured the number on the back of his Vancouver Canucks jersey.

All I’m saying is it would truly bring some closure to all the grief associated with the franchise as well as bring light to the issues of speeding while driving as well as the importance of mental health.

16 Andrew Ladd

Ladd became the Jets first captain when the franchise relocated from Atlanta, so it only seems natural that if he spends the rest of his career in Winnipeg, they’ll set aside number 16 in the rafters of the MTS Centre.

9 Bobby Hull

It was retired previously by the original Winnipeg Jets, now Arizona Coyotes- and still remains retired to this day in Glendale. Evander Kane asked for Hull’s permission to use the number during his days at the MTS Centre, but has since been dealt to the Buffalo Sabres. Perhaps it’s time to set number 9 aside officially, as to many Jets fans it already is.

10 Dale Hawerchuk

The Coyotes retired the number once they reached the desert and once again we have a similar instance here. It’s a once famous number of the previous installation of the Winnipeg Jets. Current Jets center, Bryan Little, refused to wear the number out of respect for Hawerchuk and switched to the number 18 when the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg.

Other Notes

I’m sure we’ll see at least one of the names and their corresponding numbers retired by the Jets someday if they do something significant or stay relevant to the franchise for long enough that they are honored for their dedication to the team. Bryan Little (18), Blake Wheeler (26), Dustin Byfuglien (33), Tobias Enstrom (39), or Mark Scheifele (55) could one day become enshrined in Winnipeg Jets history.

With that the “Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters” series has come to a close. I hope you enjoyed all of it, if not your favorite team’s. To catch up on any you may have missed, simply search click on the “DTFR Numbers Game” tag below and find your team.

Colby’s Corner: Flyers’ Goaltender Issues

So I am going to continue with another rant about another Pennsylvania team. This time I’m going to talkPhiladelphia Flyers Logo about the Philadelphia Flyers and the issues they face in the crease. Since the 2012-13 season, the Flyers have had eight different goalies. These goalies are: Steve Mason, Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton, Calvin Heeter, Rob Zepp, and Michal Neuvirth. All of these goalies have played at least one game since the 2012-13 season.

The team currently has two goalies on their roster, Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason. Steve Mason has a goals-against-average of 3.21 and a save percentage of .905 in 10 games started. Mason has a record of 3-5-3 with zero shutouts. Michal Neuvirth has a goals-against-average of 2.08 and a save percentage of .939 in 8 games started. Neuvirth also had two shutouts in his first two starts as a Flyer, with a total of three this season. Neuvirth’s record this season is 3-3-1, losing one of the decisions to Mason when he left the first period against the Bruins with an upper body injury.

Dave Hakstol is backing Steve Mason as the number one goalie even as his numbers continue to drop. On November 9th, Dave Hakstol said “Mase is our No.1” following a practice while Neuvirth was leading the league in shutouts. Since then, Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues has tied Neuvirth for the league leader in shutouts. Many people believe there should be a goalie competition to see who is the better goalie, however Philly is standing behind their man Steve Mason.

My Opinion

Michal Neuvirth (Left) with Steve Mason (right) (USA Today Images)
Michal Neuvirth (Left) with Steve Mason (right) (USA Today Images)

Philly, oh Philly, always dealing with goalie issues. Philly hasn’t had a true number one goalie since the days of Roman Cechmanek, who last played for the team in 2002-03 season. Yes, they had Robert Esche who was number one for a few seasons, but then they had Antero Niittymaki show up and they split time too.

I appreciate what Dave Hakstol is trying to do with backing one goalie and trying to make a clear-cut, number one goalie, however, I think they are backing the wrong goalie in this case. Mason has struggled this year and isn’t an NHL number one goalie. The goal he let in against Tyler Ennis this season from behind the net was one of the worst goals I’ve seen a goalie give up this season, just behind Derek Stepan on Johnathan Bernier from center ice. Neuvirth is the better goalie right now and in general, and given a chance, I feel Neuvirth could win the number one goalie in Philly.

With Neuvirth’s time in Buffalo, I learned that he is a goalie who needs to be played consistently to get the best out of him. Neuvirth is a streaky goalie; when he is hot, he is a dominant goalie. This was evident this season when his first two starts were shutouts and wins for the Flyers. Obviously, when Neuvirth got hurt and was replaced by Mason, his hot streak stopped. Now he is struggling, only splitting games, and he hasn’t found his rhythm. Wednesday, November 18th, the Flyers announced that Neuvirth is day-to-day with another upper body injury. This complicates the Flyers’ situation even more and now we hope Neuvirth returns quickly to help his team.

Dave Hakstol needs to call it quits on Steve Mason and start backing the better goalie in Philly. The Flyers are hoping for the playoffs this season and in order to do this, they need a goalie to stand up and play like a number one, and the team/coach needs to back him up.

October 29 – Day 23 – Back to his Beginnings

I don’t know about you, but yesterday’s Game of the Day did not end as I expected, as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 at the Verizon Center.  Phil Kessel, assisted by Evgeni Malkin and David Perron, notched the game winner at the 3:49 mark of the third period.

Washington waited to open the scoring until the 1:28 mark of the final period.  Karl Alzner assisted Evgeny Kuznetsov to his fourth goal of the season to give the Caps a one-goal lead, but it was short lived – only 24 seconds, in fact, as Nick Bonino and Olli Maatta assisted Beau Bennett to the game-tying goal.  Bonino also scored an empty netter with under two minutes remaining in the game.

Marc-Andre Fleury earned his fifth win of the season by stopping 33 of 34 shots (97.1%) to set his record at 5-4-0, while Braden Holtby takes the loss, his second of the season, after allowing two of 24 shots faced (91.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 13-6-3, favoring the home team by nine points.

Tonight’s schedule is another full one, with a total of eight games on the night.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when three games get started (Carolina at the New York Islanders, New Jersey at Philadelphia and Buffalo at Pittsburgh [Bell TV]), followed half an hour later by Colorado at Tampa Bay.  Beginning at 8 p.m. eastern are two games (Anaheim at St. Louis and Chicago at Winnipeg), followed half an hour later by Vancouver at Dallas.  Finally, the night begins to see its end at 9 p.m. eastern when Montréal visits Edmonton (SN, SN360, RDS).

Of tonight’s matchups, three are divisional rivalries (Carolina at the Isles, New Jersey at Philadelphia and Chicago at Winnipeg) and only one game featuring two teams currently in playoff position (Vancouver at Dallas).

Those games being noted, there is another matchup that strikes my fancy, as it is the first return of an ex-coach to play against his ex-team.  That man is none other than Dan Bylsma, who is featured in the BuffaloPittsburgh matchup.

Buffalo Sabres LogoPittsburgh Penguins Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, we watched Pittsburgh yesterday, but this is a significant return.  Although under slightly bizarre circumstances, Bylsma is the last coach to lead the Pens to the Stanley Cup.  Plus, it’s Game of the Day’s first opportunity to see Jack Eichel in action, so I shouldn’t hear any complainers.

Coach Bylsma returns to the home arena of the team he led to the 2009 Stanley Cup with only 25 regular season games coached after replacing Michel Therrien mid-season.  Winner of the 2010-’11 Jack Adams Award, Bylsma is the winningest coach in team history (252 wins, 20 more than Eddie Johnston), as well as the coach with the highest win percentage (67%).

As we all know, the reason for Bylsma’s departure from the Triangle was not his regular season success, but his post-season letdowns.  Under his direction, the Penguins improved every regular season until the 2013-’14 season, beginning in his first full season with a .616 point percentage that grew to .75 by the time of his release.  However, his postseason win-loss percentage is a different story.  During his tenure the team won the Cup, then fell in the conference semifinals, followed by falling in the conference quarterfinals twice in a row, improving to the conference finals, then finally the semifinals.  While some teams would love to make the playoffs on a consistent basis and make it past the first round most of the time, the Pittsburgh teams he coached were built to win, and only one cup did not satisfy ownership.

The Buffalo Sabres are currently 3-6-0 coming off a 4-3 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday.  While folks in Upstate New York may be excited to usher in the Eichel Era, there have been some growing pains so far this season.  The team has scored four goals less and given up five over the league average.  The offensive production may be more due to bad luck though, as the Sabres have put 283 shots on goal so far this season, 21 over the league average, but only 6.7% of those attempts are finding the back of the net.

Probably the most exciting part about this Sabres team is their power play.  The special teams have accounted for nine goals so far this season (three over the league average) on 36 opportunities, giving them a 25% success rate that exceeds the league average by 6.39%.

Sadly, this positive comes with its own negative, as the penalty kill is vastly inferior to the rest of the NHL.  Buffalo has given up seven power play goals so far on only 23 opportunities (seven under the league average), giving them an atrocious penalty kill percentage of 69.57%, 11.82% under the league average.  Fortunately for the Sabres, they have been limiting penalties to a minimum to avoid man-down situations as much as possible, but penalties do happen and this statistic may be a monkey that hangs on the squad’s back for the entire season.

As explained yesterday, Bylsma’s old team is leaning heavily on Fleury and the defense, and there has been no indication that Jeff Zatkoff will see his first playing time tonight, although I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he did, given that Fleury has played every minute of all nine games this season.

Some players to watch in this one include Buffalo‘s Jake McCabe (two even strength goals [leads team] and 40% shot percentage [leads team]), Ryan O’Reilly (eight points [leads team], five assists [leads team], four power play assists [leads team]) & Sam Reinhart (+2 Corsi rating [leads team] and three even-strength assists [leads team]) and Pittsburgh‘s Malkin (seven points [leads team], four assists [leads team], three even-strength assists [leads team], two game-winners [leads team] and 13.6% shot percentage [leads team]) and, should he play, Fleury (five wins [tied for third in league], one shutout [tied for sixth in the league], 1.9 GAA [eighth in the league] and .936 save percentage [ninth in the league]).

Conventional wisdom points to the Penguins being favored in this one, but I think Pittsburgh‘s poor power play provides the Sabres a way to keep this one closer than expected.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #12- Surprise Surprise, Connor Only Messed Up Once

The Down the Frozen River crew talks about many things as week one (and a half) of the 2015-2016 regular season has gone by. Standings, winners and losers, and a couple of new segments debut in this episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast. Connor only messed up one name and Colby will be back next time.

Surprisingly mentioned this week- Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo. Surprisingly not mentioned this week- Zach Boychuk, Pete Blackburn, DJ Bean.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show! Please interact with us.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #11- The 2015-2016 Regular Season is Underway!

The Down the Frozen River crew talks about the first few days of the 2015-2016 regular season. Also discussed, Milan Lucic and Dustin Brown’s actions, John Tortorella, Raffi Torres, fighting in hockey, Zack Kassian, and some of the matches from week one of the 2015-2016 regular season.

Surprisingly not mentioned this week- Zach Boychuk, Pete Blackburn, DJ Bean, and Brunch. Pardon our slight audio issue, we hope to have that fixed next time. As always, thanks for listening.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show (and we really mean it this time, because we’re going to have a new segment for your thoughts next time)! <– We said that last statement last week but this time we really, really, mean it. Please interact with us.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #9- 2015-2016 Season Preview: Atlantic Division

The Down the Frozen River crew analyzes the offseason moves made by all of the teams in the Atlantic Division and provides their outlook for the 2015-2016 season. Cortana makes a special guest appearance (kind of) in this week’s episode. We’ve got some spaces available in our Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey league. If you’re interested, send us an email to downthefrozenriver@gmail.com, within the next day or two. We’ll be able to squeeze you in.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter- your thoughts might make it on our show!

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Buffalo Sabres

By: Nick Lanciani

My exploration of what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future continues. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

Buffalo Sabres LogoBuffalo Sabres

Current Retired Numbers- 2 Tim Horton, 7 Rick Martin, 11 Gilbert Perreault, 14 Rene Robert, 16 Pat Lafontaine, 18 Danny Gare, 39 Dominik Hasek

Recommended Numbers to Retire-

81 Miroslav Satan

It might be a hard case to make for Satan, but he did have impressive numbers coincide with being one of the faces of the franchise for the Sabres in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Thomas Vanek will always have a special place in Buffalo- respect is mutual between him, the fans, and Sabres management. (Photo: USATSI)
Thomas Vanek will always have a special place in Buffalo- respect is mutual between him, the fans, and Sabres management. (Photo: USATSI)

26 Thomas Vanek

Vanek has spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Sabres so far, so it would make sense for the first Austrian in the NHL to have his number retired by an organization that did so much for his career (and that he did so much for in general).

He graciously left Buffalo in a trade with the New York Islanders- seeking a career move, before spending a brief stint with the Montreal Canadiens. Now a member of the Minnesota Wild, Thomas Vanek is still one of the most popular players in upstate New York.

Vanek is a true ambassador of the game and surely should be recognized as such by the Buffalo community some day.

30 Ryan Miller

Despite how he left the Sabres, Ryan Miller’s number is certainly up for consideration in the future to be retired by Buffalo. Then again, it seems as though with goaltenders you have to be truly extraordinary (like Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, or Martin Brodeur extraordinary) to have your number retired by an organization.

Miller was once loved by Sabres fans all around. Now he is loathed for how he left, the return on the trade to St. Louis, and for signing with the Vancouver Canucks when there was much hype over a possible return to Buffalo.

Now it seems his prime is behind him, while the Canucks are in a turbulent position. Perhaps the only thing he has left to hold onto are his good memories with the Sabres.

29 Jason Pominville

Much like Thomas Vanek, Pominville spent the majority of his career so far with the Sabres before moving on to the Minnesota Wild. Retiring his number might be a long shot someday, but he played his way into the hearts and minds of many Sabres fans, especially longtime Buffalo play-by-play announcer, Rick Jeanneret, who likened the number of goals Pominville scored to “the population of Pominville” increasing.

Other Notes

Zemgus Girgensons without a doubt will see his number retired by the Buffalo Sabres someday if he spends his entire career with them. Maybe even Jack Eichel too.

Talk to me in twenty years about this one, okay?

Monday Roundup- 2015 Offseason Thoughts

By: Nick Lanciani

It’s been a busy offseason around the NHL- and by that I mean it’s been a rather unusual offseason around the NHL.

The Ryan O’Reilly saga finally ended in Colorado and began in Buffalo, but took a side trip into the side of a Tim Horton’s somewhere in Ontario. While the Sabres could use his offense, they could do without his legal offenses (moral of the story, everyone, don’t drink and drive- have a designated driver, be responsible- use common sense).

Mikhail Grigorenko’s been reunited with Patrick Roy in Colorado, although sadly the rest of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Quebec Remparts will not be joining the party in Denver.

T.J. Oshie, Brandon Saad, Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton, Patrick Sharp, Cam Talbot, Phil Kessel, and others have all been on the move as the result of blockbuster trades.

600x400_Sweeney_Development_Camp
Boston Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney (pictured), has been wheeling and dealing this offseason- in stark contrast of his predecessor, Peter Chiarelli (bruins.nhl.com).

Don Sweeney’s been on a rampage (more on that later), Peter Chiarelli’s turned around the Edmonton Oilers in one offseason (at least on paper), and the Toronto Maple Leafs front office might be the smartest guys in the game for the first time in a longtime. Wait, what did I just say?

That’s right, on Thursday, 72-year-old hockey front office legend, Lou Lamoriello, resigned as president of the New Jersey Devils only to join the Toronto Maple Leafs (announced on Twitter a mere two minutes apart) as their 16th general manager in franchise history.

Fun fact: Back in 1987, Lamoriello drafted now fellow colleague, Brendan Shanahan, 2nd overall in his first season as the president and general manager of the Devils.

Now, Lamoriello joins Shanahan in Toronto’s front office. Things certainly are weird right now in New Jersey, in the meantime, by the way- where Ray Shero is currently their GM and Marty Brodeur is, well, among the front office of the St. Louis Blues. Yep, it’s safe to say nobody would have predicted that both Brodeur and Lamoriello would move on from the Devils.

In 2009, Lamoriello praised Shanahan after Shanahan attempted one final go in the NHL, with the Devils, only to decide he would not continue his career and thus stepped aside from playing, retiring before the 2009-2010 season. Lamoriello expressed so much praise, in fact, that he blatantly stated that should Shanahan want a job in the Devils front office, Lamoriello would go out of his way to make it happen.

But here we are in 2015, where Shanahan recently transitioned to the helm of the Maple Leafs front office and instead of going to his former boss for a position, he brought in his former boss.

Brendan Shanahan (left) introduces Lou Lamoniello (right) as the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Brendan Shanahan (left) introduces Lou Lamoniello (right) as the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lamoriello spent 28 years with the New Jersey Devils organization, but now he’s about to embark on his first season with a different organization- just his second as a general manager- the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs, if you recall, hired Mike Babcock this offseason as their latest head coach, by the way. Babcock too, left an organization he spent a lot of time with for the Maple Leafs this summer. Babcock spent the last 10 years with the Detroit Red Wings before joining Toronto.

Both Lamoriello and Babcock have something in common, they both left teams that used red as a primary color for a team that wears a blue maple leaf proudly displayed prominently on their jersey (it’s a bit slow right now in the offseason, cut me some slack).

In other news, the National Hockey League began the formal expansion process this summer, having accepted expansion applications up until Monday.

Two cities formally submitted a bid before the deadline- Las Vegas, Nevada and Quebec City, Quebec.

Las Vegas billionaire, Bill Foley, continues to headman the construction of an arena in Las Vegas as well as a drive for season tickets while aiming to land an expansion team. Meanwhile, Montreal-based media conglomerate, Quebecor, aims to bring the NHL back to Quebec City.

One of Canada’s hockey gods, Don Cherry, has already provided his blessing for a return to Quebec City.

This is the first time the league has formally gone through the expansion process since the late 1990s when the league quickly grew in size adding the Nashville Predators, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Minnesota Wild, and the Columbus Blue Jackets between 1998 and 2000 to become the 30 team league that we all know and love today (with the minor relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg having occurred prior to the 2011-2012 season, of course).

Since the Thrashers relocation to Winnipeg, the NHL has continued to take a firm stance against having to move another team for a while. Prior to the formal announcement of the expansion process being officially explored, the Arizona Coyotes and the City of Glendale, Arizona were at odds with one another.

Despite IceArizona’s firm commitment to the State of Arizona, many thought the Coyotes would be on their way out of Glendale this offseason. Given how a short move back to Phoenix in such a short period of time would not be feasible, speculation led to the Coyotes packing their bags and moving to an NHL ready arena.

Downtown Phoenix does not have an appropriate sporting arena for hockey currently, thereby handing the Coyotes a double whammy when their Gila River Arena lease agreement with Glendale was pulled out from under them by the city.

After threatening substantial legal action, IceArizona and the City of Glendale came to terms on amending their agreement- eliminating an outclause from its initial version and adjusting some revenue sharing between the hockey club and the city (the team will now get a larger share, with the city footing less of the bill).

Again, the Coyotes are staying put. No escape route to Seattle, no move from one desert to another desert (Las Vegas), and no move to Quebec City that would further imbalance the conferences in the league.

But then again, the amended lease agreement is only for two years, so the Coyotes aren’t fully out of the woods yet.

There remains so much yet to be seen concerning the Arizona Coyotes and their strained relations with the City of Glendale. While a short-term deal is necessary for their immediate survival in the market, their ultimate situation is not comforting. Things still could get quite ugly in a couple of years, yet the two sides have something to work with right now and can always chip away at improving viability of the franchise in Glendale.

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The Arizona Coyotes will be debuting new jerseys this season, but their future in Arizona, despite glimmers of hope, is still uncertain in the long run (coyotes.nhl.com).

If not, perhaps the next two years is all the time the Coyotes need to convince Phoenix, Arizona and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns to construct a new- joint- arena that would be suitable for hockey in the desert and a return to downtown Phoenix for the Coyotes franchise. Otherwise, it could be enough for Seattle to scrap together some plans for a NHL-ready arena and sway the Coyotes into relocation.

Or there’s always Quebec City or Las Vegas, that, should either location not see the expansion process include them in the more immediate future of the league, could always have a stronger say in relocation. Both cities have strong interest from potential ownership groups and physical arena’s that are state of the art and nearing completion.

Speaking of Quebec City and Las Vegas, now is the perfect time to reach into these markets. A return of the Nordiques to the hockey crazed Ville de Québec would be a golden opportunity for the league to return the game to where it belongs and can further drive marketability.

For those that are opposed to adding another team in the Eastern Conference, kindly show yourself to the door. Realignment is never a fun topic, but I think we can all agree that sending the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets back to the Western Conference would be a good thing. As fans, we’d see a return of more Detroit and Chicago matchups, providing more fuel to the fire- built into the regular season schedule- when it comes to that longstanding rivalry.

And with the addition of a team in Las Vegas, well, it’s the same old, same old. It’s a never before seen market in all of professional sports and it would balance the conferences under the aforementioned scenario.

REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

So at the end of the day, why disappoint the good people of Quebec City once again, NHL?

Then again, balanced conferences are overrated, aren’t they?

Come to think of it, the European model for professional sports isn’t too bad when it comes to league structure. Yet, the North American model of conferences, divisions, and such makes for a much more exciting game. We’ll never see the NHL switch to a relegation model based upon Premier League association football, but maybe we’ll see the NHL become more at ease with unbalanced conferences.

Hey if the game works in a market, why ruin it by taking it away from that market just to satisfy conference structure? If the owners are going to squabble over that then they really aren’t looking out for the best interest of the league are they? Management’s number one goal is to profit from growing the game.

Without an interest, there aren’t any fans. Without any fans, there aren’t any marketing opportunities from potential sponsors looking to reach fans. Without any cash flow, there is no game. If there’s an economically viable market or situation, go for it.

UnknownLast, but not least, the Boston Bruins have been a busy team this offseason. One can only think that the B’s will make another move or two before training camp in September. Don Sweeney and the Big Bad Bruins front office are in on trying to sign defensemen, Cody Franson, or Christian Ehrhoff.

The Boston fanbase continues to grumble and gripe about the presence of Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg on the Bruins roster. One of the two could be moved before the puck drops in October.

And while we’re still at it, the Bruins still need a backup goaltender. While Peter Budaj or Jonas Gustavsson may not be the first names that come to mind when it comes to free agent backup goalies that are still available and could be dispensable for the Bruins, well, one of them might be all that the Bruins need.

Of course, Ray Emery and Ron Zepp are always still out there, granted Emery is a proven goaltender in the league (well mostly- he could be a backup for Tuukka Rask, but he’s past his number of chances of ever being a number one goalie in the NHL) and Zepp parallels Tim Thomas thus far in his career (minus the two Vezina Trophies, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup championship).

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Beleskey (airborne) has found a new landing spot with the Boston Bruins this offseason. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I’ll go more into detail about the Boston Bruins offseason conundrum in another post prior to the season. Quite frankly, I’m still trying to piece together what their plan might be. For now it looks as though Patrice Bergeron could be set with (a recently spotted dancing in Montreal) Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, with Matt Beleskey-David Krejci-Jimmy Hayes, Loui Eriksson-Ryan Spooner-Brett Connolly, Zac Rinaldo-Chris Kelly-Max Talbot filling out the forward lines.

Their blue line still needs work, but can be corrected within a few seasons. What’s more important right now is that the Bruins sign a top four defenseman and obtain a backup goaltender (or at least, implement a plan for a successful backup goaltender). While not necessarily a problem with an elite starting goaltender of Rask’s quality, the revolving door of backup goalies the Bruins have had the last few seasons is something they must work on for the remainder of Rask’s dominance in net.

Anyway, this ends my stream of consciousness. I’ll go back to waiting for Cody Franson to make up his mind and sign somewhere now.

Sabres, Blue and Gold Scrimmage Entertains Hopeful Future

Down the Frozen River analyst, Colby Kephart recently ventured to the Buffalo Sabres Development Camp and captured some photos, videos, and thoughts related to the offseason experience.

By: Colby Kephart

Sabres prospects await play during the anthems in front of nearly 17,000 fans.
Sabres prospects await play during the anthems in front of nearly 17,000 fans.

All penalties in the game resulted in an automatic penalty shot as opposed to the usual special teams play.

2015 2nd overall pick, Jack Eichel, got things rolling with the first penalty shot of the game on Jonas Johansson (who was selected in the 3rd round in 2014).

Victor Olofsson (a 7th round selection in 2014) converted on a penalty shot against Johansson.

Following the scrimmage, both teams squared off in a shootout, with Sam Reinhart shooting first for the blue team.

Hudson Fasching (blue) and Jack Eichel (gold) also had opportunities in the shootout.

2015 2nd round pick, defenseman, Brendan “GOOO” Guhle, also had a chance in the shootout.

At the end of the day all of the players gathered at center ice to salute the fans in attendance.

A few standout players were center, Samson Reinhart, who had 2 goals and an assist, goaltender, Jason Kasdorf- acquired in the Tyler Myers trade with the Winnipeg Jets- played solid, and Josh Chapman. Kasdorf was calm and kept his net clear in his 30 minutes of play. Chapman, a defenseman, was by far a fan favorite with his a rough and tough stye. During the second period he got in a fight with Justin Kea, trading punches like no other. Chapman also put his body on the line blocking shots and hitting hard. Most of Buffalo believes he will receive a contract and be a part of the Rochester Americans roster in the AHL next season.