Tom Golisano will always be remembered as the man who saved the franchise from bankruptcy after the Rigas scandal in the mid-1990s. He will also be remembered as being an invisible man in terms of hockey operations during his tenure as the owner of the Buffalo Sabres.

As a result, minority owner Larry Quinn is in charge of hockey operations; a fact that the media and fans have many complaints about.

Golisano’s business venture may come to an unexpected close, as The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell has reported that billionaire Terry Pegula has signed a letter of intent to buy the Sabres for around $150 million.

Terry Pegula has numerous credentials besides being about twice as wealthy as Golisano. Pegula is married to a Western New York native and has recently donated $88 million to Penn State in order to establish a Division I hockey program.

This guy loves hockey and he has strong ties to Western New York, a veritable hockey hotbed.

He started his love for hockey with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s, who were known as the “Broad Street Bullies”. He moved to Western New York and became a Sabres fan. He was in the middle in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals between Buffalo and Philadelphia

Rumors have been swirling about a potential franchise in Hamilton, Ontario, which could take away revenue from the Sabres. Golisano has remained steadfast that he will only sell the team if it will stay in Buffalo.

With an owner like Pegula, that seems to be the case.

There could be a change of culture when Pegula takes the reins of the franchise. He may be not so lenient if the Sabres continue to miss or struggle in the playoffs under general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff. Players may be actually held accountable, and there could be a shedding of dead weight, such as Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford to name a few.

Pegula also has more bargaining power to bring in top flight free agents to the team. As a business man, as well as having a mind for hockey, he will give money to players who deserve it and not ones who are one-year wonders.

The most important thing to be gained under Pegula would be an established identity of the Sabres.

That not only means a halt to jersey changes every four years, but an identity on the ice. The Flyers are tough, the Devils are all about defense and the Capitals and Penguins are high-flying offensive teams.

Those teams, with the possible exception of the Devils, are perennial Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference just because they have a defined identity and employ systems that reflect that identity.

They also draft players that fit in the system, not just players who put up good statistics in junior.

This is a new era in the history of the Buffalo Sabres, and a change at the top could put the team on top in the NHL.

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A five day break between games may be just what the Sabres need. Now is a good time for them to fix up all the problems on and off the ice.

With a slow start to the season, the Sabres have a lot of work to do in order to make the playoffs. There are quite a few problems that need to fixed before the team goes anywhere. Here are their biggest concerns as they head into December.

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The Buffalo Sabres came out of the locker room sporting their vintage third jerseys, but as the players looked up in the stands, there was a good chance they were seeing just as much blue and white as blue and gold.

The Sabres put on a solid performance for their fans, defeating Toronto 3-1 Friday at HSBC arena.

The fans were easily drawn into the game early on, due to the high-intensity action.

Patrick Kaleta drilled Nikolai Kulemin into the boards and then got into a scrap with Luke Schenn. Just 30 seconds later, Colton Orr began a line brawl by jumping Paul Gaustad. Orr received six minutes for roughing, giving the Sabres a four minute power play.

The Sabres defense continued to help the offense, just as is have been doing all season. Buffalo capitalized with Jordan Leopold’s sixth goal of the season. With the goal, the Sabres have scored on their first shot in two of the last three games.

Just over a minute later, Vanek ripped a shot past Jonas Gustavsson, putting the Sabres up 2-0. The goal now ties Derek Roy for the team lead with nine.

The Sabres outshot the Maple Leafs 16-5 in the opening period. However, the first period was no indication of how the rest of the game would go.

The Maple Leafs played a much better second period, outshooting the Sabres 15-5, but couldn’t get the puck past Miller.

Toronto had plenty of opportunities in the second and third periods, but couldn’t capitalize on any of five straight power plays.

Instead, Patrick Kaleta put home a rebound, scoring a short-handed goal and giving Buffalo a 3-0 lead.

The Leafs got a shorthanded goal of their own, breaking Miller’s shutout. Phil Kessel beat Miller to get Toronto on the board late in the game, but it was too little, too late for the Leafs.

Buffalo managed to hold off Toronto’s late surge and earned the two points. With the victory, the Sabres gained on every team in the Northeast Division. Boston, Montreal and Ottawa all lost on Friday, as well as the Leafs, obviously.

Miller improved to 11-1 in his last 12 games against the Leafs.

“I’ve been trying to calm my game down a little bit,” said Miller. “Earlier in the season, I expected myself to be perfect every night. You can’t do that unless you’re relaxed and in better position.”

Miller returned to net after missing two games with a groin injury and improved his career record to 23-8 against Toronto.

Head coach Lindy Ruff liked what he saw in Miller’s game.

“He looked comfortable, in control,” said Ruff. “He made those breakaway saves look easy.”

The Sabres will head to Montreal to take on the Canadiens on Saturday. Montreal will be looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to Atlanta, while the Sabres will search for their second straight win.

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He may have the wrong-colored pads, but rookie goaltender Jhonas Enroth is making his case as the new backup goaltender of the Buffalo Sabres.

Enroth will get the nod tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it is becoming obvious that head coach Lindy Ruff has lost faith in Patrick Lalime. Ryan Miller is currently sidelined with a nagging groin injury, which gives management and fans a chance to evaluate the backup goaltenders.

Lalime’s costly giveaway to Adam Hall in a 2-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning provides an overview of Lalime’s career as a Sabre. He shut down the high-scoring duo of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, but all of that is overshadowed by his grievous error. The team in front of Lalime has often been accused of not playing for him while he is in relief of Ryan Miller. In the five games Lalime has played this season, the Sabres scored a total of eight goals and were shutout in a 4-0 loss in Dallas.

In his career as a Sabre, Lalime has played in 45 games, posting a 2.99 GAA, a .902 save percentage and has had no shutouts. But the number that stands out most is his win-loss record which is an abysmal 9-25-5.

Lalime has yet to win a game this year, but Enroth has posted two victories in four games, both in shootouts. He also has an overtime loss that counts as one point in the standings. Enroth is the first goalie in NHL history to win his first two games in a shootout. Statistically, Enroth (3.42 GAA, .876 SV%) has worse numbers than Lalime (3.03 GAA, .891 SV%) this season. However, wins are the only thing that matter in the end.

Drafted by the Sabres in the Round 2 (46th Overall) in 2006, Enroth was touted as the best Swedish goaltending prospect since a guy named Henrik Lundqvist. Despite his small stature (5’10”, 170 lbs.), Enroth put up great numbers in the Swedish Elite League (27 GP, 2.13 GAA, .932 SV%). He has played the past two seasons with Portland of the AHL, posting a 54-41-7 record along with eight shutouts.

The main thing going against Enroth, a highly-touted prospect, becoming the full-time backup on the team is that the first-string goalie is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier will have a tough decision to make if Enroth continues to win games, whether or not to keep him on the big club or get him more experience in the AHL.

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Take a deep breath Sabre fans, the answer is “Yes.” 

The injured list for the Sabres was beginning to look like the Black Friday line outside of Toys ‘R Us.  Forwards Drew Stafford (upper body) and Rob Niedermayer (knee) are on injured reserve while Jochen Hecht (minor upper body) and Tim Connolly (groin) are hurting as well. 

Monday night, the Sabres announced that they have recalled forwards Luke Adam and Colin Stuart from the Portland Pirates (AHL) to help fill the gaps left by Stafford, Niedermayer, Hecht and Connolly.  Adam is presently the Pirates’ leading scorer with a total of 18 points, while Stuart is third with 13. 

Also, out is goaltender Ryan Miller with a groin injury that apparently occurred in the third period vs. the Los Angeles Kings last Friday.  

Miller rested on Saturday and Sunday and was on the ice participating in full practice on Monday.  Miller was quoted as saying, “(The injury) is nothing I’m worried about, just want to play with the guys and play at a high level.”  

When asked if he would be back on the ice for Wednesday’s home encounter with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Miller wasn’t quite ready to commit to a time frame but did say that he felt good.  If we don’t see him in the net on Wednesday, it will probably be a sure bet that he will be ready Friday vs. Toronto

Niedermayer, out with a knee procedure, will be out for a few weeks at least.  Hecht and Connolly should be ready for Wednesday’s game but will probably see limited ice time. Stafford did skate in Monday’s practice but is not expected to be ready until Friday. 

Barring any new injuries, with the exception of Niedermayer, hopefully we will see the team back at full strength by the weekend.  After Friday’s game vs. Toronto and Saturday’s vs. Montreal, the Sabres will have five days off to rest and most likely have a belated Thanksgiving with their families.

Here’s to hoping that turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy will be the cure-all going into December with the Sabres scheduled for seven games (four home, three away) in 14 days.

In that time frame, we should see No. 20 back on the ice as well—an early Christmas present indeed!

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The Buffalo Sabres are about 20 minutes from the start of their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at HSBC Arena. However, it will not be Ryan Miller facing the red hot Steven Stamkos tonight.

The Buffalo News reports that Miller will not start tonight, and that Jhonas Enroth has been recalled from Portland. Patrick Lalime will start for the Blue and Gold.

Will Miller’s sore hip be a problem all season?

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With the 2010-11 NHL season in full swing, it is never too early to examine some of the NHL’s best and what makes them so.

Sports is often like high school: There are people you love, people you hate and people that are just there.  Just like those friends that made high school special, there are certain athletes that have that special quality that makes them endearing, even to rival fans.  

Ryan Miller is certainly one of those players. 

First, as an athlete, he is arguable the best goaltender in the NHL.  This 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner was still in the womb when the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team pulled off their miracle on ice in Lake Placid, NY, not too far from Ryan’s present home in Buffalo.  Yet his heart and love for the game is reminiscent of another goalie that the nation fell in love with that cold winter 30 years ago, Jim Craig.

As fate would have it, Miller would follow in Craig’s crease 30 years later as he lead the US Olympic Hockey Team to a Silver medal in Vancouver this past February.  As many in the hockey world will tell you, it was the Olympics that showcased Miller to many American hockey fans and his performance in British Columbia was one that hockey fans fondly remembered once the NHL season picked up again after the February Olympic break.

On March 3rd,  the first game after the Olympic break, during player introductions in Pittsburgh (nope – not a typo), fans gave Miller a standing ovation in honor of his Olympic performance.  Even on that day, the US fans were more than willing to put NHL team loyalties aside in the name of the red, white and blue. 

Miller was born in East Lansing, Michigan into what can only be described as a hockey family.   His brother Drew, four years his junior, is presently a winger with the Detroit Red Wings and both brothers can boast three cousins on the Miller side who also played in the NHL.  To say that hockey is in this family’s blood would be an understatement.

In youth hockey Ryan started out as a forward and after winning a bet with his father, who was also his coach at the time, Miller moved to goal and, thankfully for Sabres fans, has been there ever since.  

While in goal for Michigan State Miller began compiling impressive accolades. After setting an NCAA record with 26 shutouts in his collegiate career he also was awarded the Hobey Baker Award (2001) for having lead the nation in wins, winning percentage, save percentage, goals-against average and shutouts. 

After three years at Michigan State, Miller joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans and has spent his entire professional career in Western New York State eventually earning the starting goaltender position for the Buffalo Sabres at the end of the 2005-06 NHL season. 

Often soft spoken and controlled yet, when need be, Miller can effectively be like a lion just let out of a cage. His strong words after the boarding penalty that put fellow Sabre Jason Pominville out of commission for a few weeks last month got a lot of media attention.

Why? For the simple fact that when Miller speaks out passionately about something, people listen. 

Off the ice, Miller is just as effective at making a statement.  In 2006 Miller established The Steadfast Foundation to assist children suffering from various forms of cancer after being directly affected by his cousin Matt’s battle with the disease.  Matt sadly passed away after complications from bone-marrow surgery at the beginning of the 2007-2008 NHL season.  

Today, Miller works tirelessly with his foundation and the events that their organization sponsors are simply amazing.

On November 21st, the 5th Annual Catwalk for Charity will take place featuring Miller and his fellow Sabres dressed in 70s and 80s garb participating in a fashion show of sorts all in the name of The Steadfast Foundation.  

Aside from receiving the Vezina Trophy this past season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that the other award he was presented, the NHL Foundation Player Award, for his work in the community, is the most coveted of the two.

He continues to honor his cousin with the words “Matt Man” displayed on his goaltending helmet and something tells me that he always will.

He is a class act, a great role model for kids and with his unique grace and always giving his best both on and off the ice; it is no real surprise that everybody loves Ryan. 

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As of November 12, 2010 the Buffalo Sabres sit with a 5–9–3 record after 17 games, or just over 20 percent of the season schedule. This puts the team ranked 26 out of 30 league wide. It is equally disturbing conference wise as they sit at 12 out of 15. Not the start to their season the organization had envisioned, we are all sure of this.

It is on the aforementioned information that we get a clearer picture of not only the needs this team has, but also the ability of management to fill those needs. Questions to be asked and answered are merely a few, let’s take a look at the options and potential most likely answers, starting with Darcy Regier and his track record.

Identifying Our Needs and Reviewing Our Potential Commodities

There are rumors of Regier speaking with the likes of CalgaryLos Angeles and even Anaheim, but before we dive into what the possibilities are, a quick review of identifying the teams needs combined with what assets will truly be available need to be addressed.

Abundantly clear this far into this fiasco of a season the glaring holes in this roster are there for all too bare witness too. Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek need a true big bodied with scoring touch Right Winger to complete them. Although Roy and Vanek have played well with youngster Tyler Ennis, the lack of size on that line is very evident along the half walls and down low along the boards as they struggle to maintain puck control.

Another position is the scoring line second center position. No one is doubting Tim Connolly isn’t a 65 point a season player (when he shows up), but since we’ve targeted Connolly as one of the assets to move, it too, will need to be addressed.

Luke Adam brought in from Portland (I wouldn’t want to bring Luke up until next season)? Jochen Hecht at Center (where, for the past two games he has played as the regular) or another, yet unknown commodity at that position?

Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford and one of the young defensemen (Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera or Mike Weber) are the obvious choices. I do not believe the following list of youth are to be dealt, in effect, labeling them “untouchables.” Luke Adam (C), Tyler Ennis (LW), Zack Kassian (RW) and Jhonas Enroth (G).

Given the past track record of Darcy Regier and his mantra of “build from within,” a large trade or a trade of high-end caliber players seems unlikely.

Now that we have identified some viable needs, some commodities to utilize to fulfill those needs, we can discuss which way Regier will most likely go. At this point and time in the season, this one question must be answered before the Sabres can move forward.

Trade for the “Win Now” Mode or Trade for the “Build for the Future” Mentality?

I firmly believe given Regier’s track record that this team is in the “build for the future” mentality. I cannot see Regier squandering assets like he has in the past (see Briere and Drury). He has learned that lesson the hard way. We must look at this objectionably with eye toward the next two to three seasons.

Draft picks or prospects will be deals to be made. These deals will most likely come at the trade deadline given the effect it has on maximizing a return value on a trade. The Sabres are sure to be sellers, and as such could greatly benefit from moving Connolly, Stafford, 1 of the young defensemen and perhaps another roster player.

Connolly could fetch a second and third round draft pick at the deadline. Stafford could fetch a second rounder on his own, but packaged together with one of the young defensemen, could very well garner a 25 to 30 spot first rounder.

Teams in the hunt will pay handsomely for what they want. Regier merely has to make it happen. By garnering draft picks Regier solidifies the future of the club in youth. Parallel to this course of action, prospects may be considered as well. Either way, it reduces stress on the salary cap situation and allows for future development and a run at a championship in a mere couple of seasons.

Conversely, Regier could opt to choose for the “Win Now” mode. In which case, a secondary scoring trade will not help this club. He would need to go big or go home. In that case, any number of players may fit the bill, but, no team is going to give up one of their primary assets this early in the season without a hefty price tag attached. Regier has no incentive to “trade the farm” now for an impact player given his job is secure.

Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pomminville, Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold and Ryan Miller are here for the duration. If changes are going to come, the decision must be for outside help or, the organization can wait and bring in Luke Adam, Zach Kassian, Mark Mancari and Jhonas Enroth to fill some of the holes for next season.

Upon review of what can be done to save this season combined with known behavioral patterns of General Manager Darcy Regier It is my opinion this organization is going to maintain the “status quo” and become sellers at the trade deadline in an effort to maximize the future success of this club.

So Buffalo Sabres fans. What are your thoughts on the play Darcy Regier is going to make?

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There is no doubt that the Buffalo Sabres need a spark to save their season. There have been complaints of lack of leadership and inconsistency. Craig Rivet was recently a healthy scratch in back-to-back games, and it seems that the team just fails to show up some nights.

The longest tenured GM-coach relationship in North American sports, Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff, is on the hot seat, and something needs to be done in order to save their jobs.

First off, you will never find a more ardent supporter of the two men at the helm of the Buffalo Sabres. To do what they do with such a limited budget and in a small market is genius. Changing that will not help the Sabres.

What needs to change is the faces in the locker room. Tim Connolly is a great hockey player. Drew Stafford is a great hockey player. But they do not fit in this kind of system, and we need a change.

It hurts me to say this about Connolly, because I believe one of the worst days in Sabres history is when Peter Schaefer (then of Ottawa) knocked Connolly out in Game 2 of the 2006 playoff series between the two teams. Connolly was coming into his own and was our best player then and there.

Had he been there the rest of the playoffs, things could have turned out much differently. The point is, that concussion knocked his career off track. He can still play, but he is not the player that Darcy keeps telling himself he is.

Stafford, although off to an OK start, is prime trade bait. He’s sticking around because Darcy likes to see his homegrown prospects develop into everyday NHLers. The only problem is, Stafford needs a change of scenery. He has always been underachieving here, and it’s not a lack of effort. A fresh start could jump-start this kid’s game.

If I was GM for a day, I would try something that may be very rash, but it may be just what the Sabres need. I would offer Connolly (4.5 mil, last year then a UFA), Stafford (2.3 mil, last year then a RFA) and perhaps young D-man Chris Butler (.850, last year then a RFA) to the St. Louis Blues.

Why do the Blues need this package?

The Blues cannot ride the stellar play of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak much longer. Their power play is in a horrid slump, and they are 21st in the league in scoring, only averaging 2.5 goals per game. Connolly and Stafford may be able to spark an offense that lacks any names that jump out as big-time threats (besides maybe Brad Boyes).

The Blues have a bright, young defensive corps in Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo. Butler would make this defense young and exciting, and he is a restricted free agent at the end of this year, which is very appealing to a GM who would want to retain rights. He’s dirt cheap, too, right now, at under a million on the cap. The Blues could use this to build a solid defensive base for the future. And for what it’s worth, Butler is from St. Louis.

Now what should the Sabres get in return? Again, if I were GM for the day, I would be hunting for some type of toughness that can score and lead, someone to set an example. I believe that is what David Backes is.

He was selected for the U.S. Olympic team last year, and in order to set the fire between Canada and the U.S. rivalry, he fought (in the weeks leading up to the Olympics) Canadian Olympic players Corey Perry, Jonathan Toews and Rick Nash. He does what he needs to in order to win.

He’s at $2.5 million, and this is his last year on contract with the Blues, set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. If the Blues don’t think they can sign him, why not trade him? This would bring some much needed passion to the Sabres’ locker room.

The Sabres defense has been lacking of late. When you lose Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder (Tyler Myers’ mentor) you have to expect a decline. Steve Montador has been strong, though. Shaone Morrisonn was a so-so signing, and Jordan Leopold has been playing great. Tyler Myers is not playing well, Rivet is old and slow and has been slacking on his leadership duties, and Andrej Sekera is average.

The Sabres should take a run at D Barret Jackman (two years left, then UFA, $3.65 mil).

The former Rookie of the Year was recently placed on IR with a knee injury, which would hinder the idea of trading for him right now, but that may be a blessing for the Sabres, in the fact that they would be permitted to wait a bit and see if things work themselves out (Darcy’s favorite thing to do).

A healthy Jackman, Leopold, Montador, Myers, Morrisson and Sekera/Rivet is a good enough lineup for me. Ryan Miller would appreciate it as well, seeing as he hasn’t been playing well as of late either, and a stronger defensive corps in front would help.

This trade could help both teams, and seeing that Darcy really has nothing to lose, this may be an option. Money wise, the Sabres gain a bit of cap space, and the Blues would lose about $2.5 million in space, which they can very much afford with a current space of $12 million.

I think you would also have to throw a draft pick in there coming from the Blues, maybe a third-rounder. It may be crazy, but that is why I am not a GM.

Connolly, Stafford, Butler for Backes, Jackman and a draft pick.

Let me know what you think.


Brian Speers contributed to this article.

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The Buffalo Sabres are working hard to complete a deal that could be announced as early as Tuesday morning.

The Buffalo Sabres have started very slow this year and the media vultures are circling. 

Sabre Nation is demanding a call to action.  Firings or trades!

Lindy Ruff will be behind the bench for his 1,000th game as the head coach of the Sabres, this week.  The long time coach has led the team to a Stanley Cup final and been nominated for multiple Jack Adams awards as NHL Coach of the Year.   He took home the hardware in 2005-2006.  

Darcy Regier joined the Sabres almost the exact same time as Lindy as the general manager.  Well respected around the NHL the long term Sabres executive is still to blame for failures more than successes.  Darcy’s roster changes including letting Chris Drury and Daniel Briere test the waters of free agency and getting nothing in return, stand as his legacy.

I believe the Buffalo Sabres will make the decision at some point before July 2011 to fire Lindy and probably clean house ending Regier’s reign in Buffalo.  Before that will happen, Darcy will be encouraged to make the necessary changes fix the 2010-2011 campaign.  Typically a reserved executive on a modest team, Regier believes in building from within.  It’s time for Darcy to show he can bring in a game changer.  It’s about results.

This week the Sabres elected to sit their captain, Craig Rivet, as a healthy scratch in hopes to either motivate him or send a message to the team that changes are coming.

The losses keep coming; so will the changes!

The ideal trading partner for the 2009-2010 Northeast Division winning Sabres will be a struggling team from the Western Conference.

Now for the biggest splash in Regier’s tenure in Buffalo; Darcy is focused on Jarome Iginla!

To make this move happen, obviously a few large pieces need to change hands.  If Calgary intends on getting good value for their star, the time to move him is now. The Sutter’s and Jarome have had a few issues of late and the writing appears to be on the wall.

For Buffalo to land Iggy, they will likely need to send out a few pieces to the Flames. 

Drew Stafford, prospect Zack Kassian and, to balance out the Salary Cap issues, Tim Connolly.

This deal has many potential obstacles to surpass before it can happen

I usually write about the Anaheim Ducks so it should be noted that my Ducks research lead to this HUGE trade rumor.  The starting point was from a smaller trade involving Anaheim sending Jason Blake and a fourth round pick to the Sabres in exchange from Craig Rivet.  This deal, which is also still possible, was connected to the Sabres naming Paul Gaustad as their next Captain.

As many speculate Calgary is shopping Iginla, I find it interesting that Buffalo is finally more than just a wall flower.  Can Regier get this deal done? His job may depend on it!

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