Chris Stewart

Is Colorado’s rise a fair example of what might happen in Buffalo?

7 Comments

The Buffalo Sabres are frankly expected to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2014-15. It’s easy to see why: They’re a rebuilding club coming off of a season where they posted a 21-51-10 record. They could have added six wins last season and still finished in last place. For that matter, they could have scored 37 more goals and still ranked 30th offensively.

The short-term situation is so bleak that there are Sabres fans rooting against their team as they’ve already abandoned hope of them being competitive next season and just want them to be able to draft a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Chris Stewart, who came to Buffalo from St. Louis in February as part of the Ryan Miller trade, doesn’t want the fanbase to write the Sabres off.

“Look at the Colorado Avalanche two years ago,” Stewart recently said. “They were a last-place team, and they were arguably one of the best teams in the league last year. So the past is the past. You look at our team now and there are 13 or 14 new faces. So we come in and think of last year as an anomaly.”

Of course you’d be hard pressed to find a player that wants to lose or, for that matter, one that is going to paint anything other than an optimistic picture going into the season, but does Stewart have a point? Does Buffalo have a chance to follow in Colorado’s footsteps?

Let’s move past the obvious answer, which is: Of course. Anything can happen, so obviously there’s a chance that Buffalo will make the playoffs. But is it a big enough one to give Stewart’s argument validity?

Well, first off, he is correct that the team will look very different than the one that opened the 2013-14 season, which right off the bat actually makes this story a lot different than the one in Colorado. The Avalanche team that surprised the hockey world in 2013-14 wasn’t substantially altered from the one finished with a 16-25-7 record in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign.

Additionally, different isn’t automatically better. The Sabres have lost Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek for example and you can make an argument that no one on their current roster is better than those two players — at least not yet as some of their youngsters have high ceilings.

A few things did change in Colorado though. Patrick Roy took over as the team’s head coach and, in addition to giving them new hope, he joined goalie coach Francois Allaire in helping Semyon Varlamov take a huge step forward. Varlamov was at the center of the Avalanche’s success as they were bombarded with shots all season and relied on him to stand tall.

Meanwhile, Buffalo struggled largely in spite of Miller’s goaltending last season so while the new combination of Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth might prove to be solid, the single biggest change that bolstered the Avalanche wouldn’t have quite the same effect on the Sabres.

What Buffalo needs is for its defense to improve, but more than that, they need someone to find the back of the net. Colorado saw its offense improve in part thanks to a strong rookie season from Nathan MacKinnon and while the Sabres have some promising young forwards that might step up, they have a far bigger gap to overcome.

The Avalanche’s offense wasn’t great in the lockout shortened campaign, but Buffalo’s offense last season was statistically the worst of the 21st century.

It’s that gap that will be difficult for the Sabres to overcome in a single campaign. They do have some noteworthy scoring threats such as Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Ennis, but their top two lines don’t look overly promising on paper.

So maybe Colorado isn’t an ideal example for Buffalo, but the thing about a young team is that you never know quite what will happen. It seems realistic to assume that this will be a season of growing pains for the Sabres, but if they find their groove early in the season, then they might surprise people.

Max Talbot signs in KHL

Calgary Flames v Boston Bruins
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Earlier this week, we passed along word that veteran NHLer Max Talbot was contemplating a move to Europe.

On Friday, that move was made official.

KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl announced that Talbot has agreed to a one-year contract. The deal comes after the 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Over the course of his 10-year NHL career, Talbot appeared in over 700 games and established himself as a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net.

He scored double-digit goals four times — including a career-high 19 in ’11-12 — and will always be remembered in Pittsburgh for scoring both goals in a 2-1 Game 7 win over Detroit at the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

 

 

Jets assistant Vincent named AHL Manitoba head coach

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  (L-R) Assistant coach Pascal Vincent, head coach Paul Maurice and assistant coach Charlie Huddy and the Winnipeg Jets look from the bench against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Jets 1-0 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Winnipeg didn’t have to look far to find Keith McCambridge’s replacement for its AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Pascal Vincent, who’s served as an assistant coach with the Jets for the last five years, will become the eighth head coach in Moose history, the club announced on Friday.

Vincent, 44, was one of the original hires when the franchise moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. He’s worked under two different head coaches — Claude Noel and Paul Maurice — and is held in high regard by the organization.

That said, he did face some critiques this year. Jets fans were displeased with the Vincent-led power play, which posted a league-worst 14.8 percent success rate, tying Ottawa for the fewest power play goals in the NHL (38).

With today’s reshuffling, there appears to be a spot now open on Maurice’s staff. The Winnipeg Sun reports that Jeff Daniels — former head coach of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers — could be one to keep an eye on.

Daniels played for Maurice in Carolina, and the pair went to the Stanley Cup Final together in 2002.

Sweden gets Pittsburgh flair as Hagelin, Hornqvist make World Cup roster

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Sidney Crosby #87 and Carl Hagelin #62 after scoring a goal on Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Pretty good 24 hours for Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist.

Last night, the pair helped Pittsburgh advance to its first Stanley Cup Final in seven years.

This morning, both made Team Sweden’s roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Hagelin and Hornqvist joined Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Chicago’s Marcus Kruger, Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg and Colorado’s Carl Soderberg as the final seven players named to the Swedish roster on Friday.

The updated 23-man list, in full:

G Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres *
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

D Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators *
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
D Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning

F Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
F Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
F Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
F Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks *
F Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
F Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks *
F Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche *
F Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
F Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

* named to roster today

As far as “snubs” go, the biggest is probably Dallas blueliner John Klingberg. Klingberg, second only to Karlsson among Swedish d-men scorers this year, was passed over in favor of Ekholm.

Other notable omissions include Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Washington’s Marcus Johansson, Carolina’s Victor Rask, Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm, Vancouver’s Alex Edler and Winnipeg’s Tobias Enstrom.

In goal, Lehner beat out a host of competitors for the No. 3 gig behind Lundqvist and Markstrom. Jonas Gustavsson, Anders Nilsson, Jhonas Enroth and Eddie Lack — who used to play with Markstrom in Vancouver — were likely challengers for the spot.

PHT Morning Skate: What superstition? Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz grab the Prince of Wales Trophy

7 Comments

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Sidney Crosby decided to buck the trend and touch the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Top)

–Former NHLers look back at their Game 7 battles. (Sports Illustrated)

–A Q&A with the newest Panther Jared McCann. (NHL)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Penguins and Lightning:

Joe Pavelski went from not being able to skate and not being big enough to becoming a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite. (TSN)

Bryan Rust accomplished something pretty rare this postseason:

–Some teams still need to sign some of their prospects or risk losing them.