Tag: Colin Stuart

Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth

Columnist: This might be the worst Sabres team in a decade


With the Sabres nine points out of a playoff spot and riding a 11-game road losing streak, Buffalo News scribe John Vogl is wondering if this team is as bad as the one he started covering 10 years ago.

“I’ve been covering the Sabres for a decade,” he writes. “The worst team was the first team. This year’s squad is giving that one competition.”

The 2002-02 Sabres went 27-37-10-8, good enough for 12th in the East and 26th in the NHL.

The current Sabres are 19-23-5, good enough for 11th in the East and 23rd in the NHL.

Vogl goes on to highlight several similarities between the two teams. Both had troubles scoring goals and equal trouble preventing them; both lacked, as Vogl puts it, an “embraceable player to latch on to, the kind you believe can carry a team by himself.”

Another similarity between the 2002-02 and 2011-12 Sabres is the reliance on minor league call-ups. The 02-03 Sabres featured appearances from the likes of Norm Milley, Jason Botterill, Jaroslav Kristek and Doug Houda (okay, Houda only played one game) while the 11-12 Sabres have been forced to call up the likes of Derek Whitmore, Joe Finley, Colin Stuart and Paul Szczechura due to a myriad of injuries.

That said, there is one key difference between the two teams. Owner Terry Pegula spent big bucks assembling the current Buffalo squad and expectations were sky high coming into the year.

The bar for the 2002-03 team was set much lower.

There was little hope. Bankruptcy was coming, and no one knew who’d be in control of the team.

At least in 2002-03, the Sabres knew they were bad. They traded Chris Gratton, Stu Barnes, Vaclav Varada and Rob Ray to try and build for the future. One prize was Danny Briere, who did indeed help the future.

This year’s squad keeps saying it will be better when healthy. There’s no talk of building for the future.

Vogl warns of what’s to come should the Sabres fail to improve when they get healthy.

“If they don’t,” he writes, “the question of the worst team in a decade becomes a no-brainer.”

Vanek injury could be killer for Buffalo

Thomas Vanek

In a season marred by injuries, the Sabres might’ve suffered their worst one yet.

Leading goalscorer Thomas Vanek didn’t leave the dressing room after the second intermission of last night’s 3-2 loss to Toronto. He finished with just 10:50 of ice time and didn’t record a shot on goal for the second-straight game — evidence the upper-body injury that’s kept him from practicing this week is a significant issue.

“It’s the same thing he’s been nursing. He couldn’t go,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Vanek leaving the contest. “He’s missed two practices. We didn’t have a lot of options. He tried to get through it and wasn’t able to.”

Nobody’s sure when or how Vanek suffered the injury, though there’s plenty of speculation trying to pinpoint it. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News notes Vanek took a hit from Pittsburgh’s James Neal just prior to scoring on Saturday; Vanek wouldn’t specify the injury, but did say he got hurt during the Penguins game.

Vanek leads the team with 17 goals and has 36 points through 34 games. Should he miss any (more) time, he’ll join Tyler Ennis, Colin Stuart, Jochen Hecht, Corey Tropp, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, Brad Boyes and Ville Leino as Sabres currently out because of injury.

Thursday’s small-time deals: Wings add former Penguin Chris Conner and more

Chris Conner

Free agent signings aren’t always going to grab you by the face and make you pay attention to them. Sometimes we have to grab you by the face and make you take notice too. Hey, not everyone is going to be an NHL superstar signing and after the list we showed you this morning about who is left, the pickings are already slim.

That said, here are a few signings that came down this morning that might affect these teams later down the road or, at the very least, in the AHL.

Red Wings signs former Penguins forward Chris Conner

Chris Conner was the Penguins’ good luck charm last season. No, really as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh pointed out via Twitter, the Penguins went 39-14-7 when Conner was with the team and 10-11-1 when they were without him. With Pittsburgh, Conner scored seven goals and added nine assists. It’s also a bit of a homecoming for him as he hails from Westland, Michigan and played college hockey at Michigan Tech. The Wings are just hoping his good luck charm can change cities.

Vancouver signs defenseman Alexander Sulzer and goalie Matt Climie

Alexander Sulzer was once a promising defenseman in the Nashville system but he was sent packing to Florida last season for a conditional seventh round pick. So much for all that promise. In Florida he didn’t do all that much there either and now he heads to Vancouver to provide them depth. Matt Climie signing a deal in goal doesn’t mean that Cory Schneider’s got anything to worry about. Instead, Climie will head to AHL Chicago and work with prospect Eddie Lack in goal.

Buffalo signs goalie Drew McIntyre and forward Colin Stuart

Drew McIntyre escapes the Atlanta system and heads to Buffalo where he’ll likely get to play a ton in AHL Rochester. Colin Stuart is a depth forward who has seen a handful of games played in the NHL over the last three years with Atlanta and Buffalo. Stuart spent most of last season in AHL Portland as part of the Sabres system.

Montreal signs Brian Willsie, swings minor league deal with Columbus

Brian Willsie has been making his bones in the AHL for the better part of his career that’s seen him go from Los Angeles to Colorado and then to Washington. Back in 2005-2006 he scored 19 goals for the Capitals but since then it’s been life in the minors. He signs on with Montreal to try and crack their lineup but will most likely spend his days in Hamilton in the AHL. There he’ll get to meet up with newly acquired forward Mike Blunden who the Habs acquired in a deal with Columbus in exchange for forward Ryan Russell.

Oddly enough for Russell he’ll join his twin brother, defenseman Kris Russell, at training camp. If Ryan can make the Jackets roster out of camp we’ll have two sets of twin brothers running amok in the NHL. Good luck broadcasters.

Winnipeg signs forward Jason Gregoire

Jason Gregoire made a name for himself at the University of North Dakota as the team captain and source of inspiration for the Fighting Sioux and now he gets to go back home again. Gregoire, a Winnipeg native, signed a deal with the Jets to join their organization and maybe someday join them in the big leagues. Gregoire was a solid scorer in college and now the Jets will hope he can translate that play to the pros. Having a goal of playing in front of the hometown fans should motivate him plenty. Gregoire did belong to the Islanders but thanks to CBA loopholes, he became a free agent this summer. Fortunately for him his hometown just got an NHL team back.