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POSTED ON Thursday, 11.4.2010 / 1:10 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
-There is a ton of negative out there right now, and it’s easy to understand why.  Four straight losses, a winless home record, and sitting last in the NHL would even have Tony Robbins leaning towards the dark side of the magnet.  So, in an effort to provide light at the end of the tunnel, I give you the speech the late Dr. Frank Krohn delivered on the final day of Marketing Management class, May 1995 (retold to the best of my recollection).

“There was a king whose kingdom was on the verge of despair.  He recognized that from the lords down to the serfs, hope was fading.  The king had led these subjects through tough times before, but sensed he would need a different message this time around that would apply to all under his rule.  So the king summoned the wisest scholars in the land to his court, and gave the men these instructions.  ‘ You must go on retreat for one year, and upon your return, provide me words of wisdom, and they must apply to the old and young, the sick and healthy, and the rich and the poor.  If you fail me, you will be executed upon your return.’  The scholars did as they were commanded and left for retreat.  One year later, the scholars returned to the castle as instructed.  The king asked. ‘Do you have words of wisdom I can deliver to the old and the young, the sick and the healthy, and the rich and the poor?’  The lead scholar answered, ‘Yes your majesty.  The words of wisdom we have found for the young and the old, the sick and healthy, and the rich and poor are THIS TOO SHALL PASS’.  The king nodded and dismissed the scholars. 

You’ll each face most, if not all of these categories in your career and life.  You may be frustrated by lack of opportunity, respect, and money in your youth.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  You may be knocked down by disease, illness, or take your health for granted.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  Wealth or lack thereof can become overwhelming.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  You may be limited by older age, slowed down.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  Remember through the good and bad of life when you leave this college, IT TOO SHALL PASS.  Now go have fun.”

I hope you read that with the same passion Dr. Krohn delivered it with.  The simple meaning is things change in time.  I’ve heard Lindy Ruff say many times when the team has won in the past, “Don’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows”.  I’ve seen that with this team over the last week, especially during practice.  They’re still working and seemingly not too low.  That’s why this losing streak (4 games, 6 on home ice) WILL TOO PASS.
Just don’t ask me when, that wasn’t part of the speech.

-Congratulations to Mike Grier on playing 1000 games in the NHL.  When you consider all the factors against the possibility (injuries, management decisions, fitness requirements, mental fatigue, and family considerations), it’s truly an amazing accomplishment.

-Lindy Ruff enters the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame tonight.  He’ll likely deliver a classy acceptance speech with a sprinkle of humor, despite his team being off to a horrible start and half the town thinking he’s the reason.  For you doubters, he can still coach. 

-Here’s hoping that Ryan Miller’s lower body injury that has him day-to-day, SHALL PASS in hurry!
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.27.2010 / 1:08 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
-There was a lot to like and a lot to hate about Tuesday night’s loss in Philly.  I liked the start of the game, but hated the lack of follow through.  I liked the Sabres grabbing the lead on the power play, but hated seeing the Flyers take it away with the man advantage.  I liked seeing Tyler Myers and Steve Montador scoring goals, but I hated that they were making up for mistakes that costs goals.  I liked how the Sabres got the puck to the net, but hated how tight things were in front to convert.  I liked how Thomas Vanek caught a break with a puck bouncing off his leg, but hated the break Claude Giroux got on the face off in the 2nd period.  I could go on, but you get the point.  Imagine what it must be like for Lindy Ruff and his staff, so many things to like and so many to hate.  I’m sure it’s that way during a win too.

-The good news is the Sabres are only 2 points back of Philly for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  The bad news is the Flyers have a game in hand. 

-Stop crafting the email or FB post; I know that last note is ridiculous.  If you didn’t read it that way, step outside, breath in deeply, and look at all the pumpkins.  It’s not a real problem now, but if the standings are this way when we’re looking at bunny decorations instead of pumpkins, then it’ll be time to worry.

-It’s surprising and perhaps stunning that the Sabres are winless on home ice. There are two others that have also failed to the give the home crowd a win, New Jersey and San Jose.  The Devils are also 0-4-1, while San Jose is 0-2-1 on home ice.  The Sabres and Devils beat each other on the road.  If those victories were reversed (Sabres win at home 1-0 in OT, but lose in New Jersey), would fans in each city feel better? 

- IT’S EARLY, but if you look at the top 8 in each conference, there are eight teams that missed the playoffs last year in the picture now, four in each conference.  In the East, Toronto, Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, and NY Rangers have had nice starts.  Out West, Calgary, Columbus, St. Louis, and Dallas are feeling good right now.  We’ll have to wait and see if it continues. 

-I’m glad that the league is enforcing the rules on headshots and doling out fines for predatory hits.  The players are the games best assets, and time away from the ice hurts everybody.  However, I now look at every hit delivered during a game differently and wonder whether it was “clean” or not, and it’s taken some of the enjoyment out of the good ones.

-If you see me trick or treating with my kids Sunday night, throw and extra Snickers in the bag for me.  They’re still working on sharing. 
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.20.2010 / 1:07 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
- What kind of start was that?  1-4-1 is not how it was supposed to go, especially with 4 games on home ice.  The team does not get a pass for any of those home losses, and I get the impression they don’t want one either.  Players play to win.    Sure the money is great, and that’s what has them hitting the gym and riding the bike in mid-summer heat.  But when each player hits the ice, winning is what comes first.  The fact that the team hasn’t won since the season opener in Ottawa is both frustrating and maddening not only to the fans, but to the players.  How would you like to show up for work (job=work, so yes the games are work for the players) and have five bad days in a row?   Of course you wouldn’t, and my guess is you would do something about it.  It’s time for the Sabres to do something about it, and my hunch is they will.  This team is too experienced and talented not to.

- Perhaps the most surprising thing about the 1-4-1 start is that the last 4 losses have all been by one goal.  That’s how close the NHL is now.  It seems as if most games are going down to the wire with the margin of victory being just one goal.  The Sabres were excellent last season in one goal games, or at least getting to overtime for the extra point.  As I’m writing this I remember one of my blogs from last season was the success of getting the so called “loser point”.  Looking at last season results, in games that ended with a one goal margin of victory, the Sabres were 20-10-10.  Nineteen of those 40 games went to OT, with 10 finishing in the shootout.  So what’s the point?  It’s exactly the point.  If this year’s team is going to lose by a goal, they better do it in overtime as they did vs. New Jersey last Wednesday.

-I’m guessing that Thomas Vanek is as frustrated as you are being without a goal six games into the season.  I was encouraged to see him handle the puck more on the half wall vs. Chicago trying to set up Drew Stafford.  If those 2 can get on the same page, lookout.

Tylery Myers (Getty Images)
- Tyler Myers got a haircut.  He’s taking the anti-Sampson approach to get his first goal of the year.  By the way, the kid couldn’t be handling the team’s (not all him, media and fans) slow start any better.   He hasn’t pointed a finger at anyone other than himself, and hasn’t ducked any questions.

- Sabres fans showed their class once again by giving Henri “The Pocket Rocket” Richard a great ovation last Friday night as he was introduced for the commemorative face-off to celebrate the Sabres 40th anniversary.  Jean Beliveau was ill and couldn’t return to face Sabres original captain Floyd Smith, but it was great to have the winningest player in NHL history (11 Stanley Cups) as a fill in.  Mike Robitaille told me that he was one of, if not the toughest players that he faced.  Roby recalled to me a night near the end of Richard’s career when he caught the great with a hip check that crumpled him to the ice in the first period.  As both teams skated to the dressing room after the period, Richard weaved his way through a few Sabres to hook Roby by the throat until he was pulled away.  Roby added that Richard spent the other two periods chasing him all around the ice, taking any liberty he could, and calling him ugly in French. 

- After seeing the Sabres don their new white sweaters on home ice last Friday, I wouldn’t hate it if the league returned to that standard. 
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.12.2010 / 1:06 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
Buffalo Sabres' Jason Pominville (29) is carted off the ice after a hit during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, Oct. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/ David Duprey)
Niklas Hjarlmarsson can say that didn’t intend to hurt Jason Pominville, but it rings hollow because it doesn’t eliminate his intention to hit Pominville. 

I knew immediately after he was hit that it wasn't clean, and credit to Rick Jeanneret for being all over it on his game call as soon as it occurred. 

After reviewing the video again today, it’s incomprehensible that Hjarlmarsson thought he was about to deliver a legal, clean hit. Pominville didn’t have the puck yet, and his back was turned.  Hjarlmarsson wasn’t going full speed and it appeared he had time to make a decision, obviously the wrong one. 

After the game, he was quoted as saying he thought the hit was shoulder to shoulder.  Really?  Hjarlmarsson’s shoulder made impact between the two and the nine on Pominville’s sweater.  It was ugly all the way around. 

I understand that he’s going to try and downplay it, but don’t add insult to injury by calling it clean.  The interesting side story to the disciplinary hearing for Hjarlmarsson on Tuesday is the fact that the Sabres play in Chicago on Saturday.  The wise choice would seem to be a five-game suspension, but a small part of me would like to see just two games, giving the Sabres a chance to address the situation directly.

On that topic, be sure to check out Patrick Kaleta’s comments following practice Tuesday regarding the hit to Pominville.  As someone that has been disciplined by the league for a hit, Kaleta has the credibility to deliver the comments he did - and that’s not to shortchange Ryan Miller.  The Sabres goaltender had some strong comments on the situation, and he has the clout to have them played in the mainstream media. 

A small part of the picture that really stinks is Jason Pominville’s consecutive games played streak is going to end at 336.  That’s and incredible number in today’s NHL, and a testament to his conditioning and work ethic.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.7.2010 / 1:04 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
Ryan Miller, Tylery Myers (Getty Images)
It’s finally here, the start of the regular season.  The past off-season seemed longer than others, including the two non-playoff seasons in recent history.  Sure the early exit had something to do with it, but I think it’s more of the anticipation to see what this group does to build upon last year.  There was a lot to build on too. In particular:
  • Northeast Division Title
  • Calder Trophy winning Defenseman Tyler Myers
  • Vezina Trophy winning Goaltender Ryan Miller

Those three things are nothing to take lightly, yet the Sabres are not the favorite in the Northeast Division this season (according to prognosticators), and some have them struggling to make the playoffs.  As regular readers of this blog know, I work for the Sabres.  Take that for what it is, but I don’t understand where the naysayers are coming from. 

The team was a 100-point team last season, won a division that produced four playoff teams, has the best goaltender in the league, one of the top young defenseman, and a head coach that continues to prove his excellence in the league.  I’m sure it stems from the lack of splashy moves in free agency or the trade market this summer.  To that, I pose these questions:  Did the Sabres really need to make a splashy move?  How many blockbuster trades actually occurred this summer?   How many trades happened at all?

To answer the first question, not really.  The team has two players that took home hardware in the summer (Miller and Myers), and project to be even better this year, if that is even possible.  The team did lose two quality, experienced defenseman, but added two quality defensemen in the free agent market in Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn

Both appeared to fit in nicely in pre-season play, a surprise to no one.  The Sabres still have enough offense in the lineup, and expect to get more with rookies Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe making the opening day roster.  Both players were surprise contributors during last year’s playoff series against Boston. 

Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford are in contract years, and that usually translates into great numbers (that goes for most players in the league).  Connolly is coming off a career high in points (65), and perhaps will be this year’s Tomas Plekanec, who lit up the scene in Montreal last season in his contract year.  Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, and Jason Pominville are expected to continue to lead the charge in the goal department, with Pominville poised to get closer to 30 this season after a down year with 24. 

Mike Grier (Getty Images)
In the grit department, Mike Grier re-upped for another season, and veteran Rob Niedermayer signed on with a Stanley Cup on his resume.  Cody McCormick makes them tougher and adds some versatility, able to play center or wing.  When you truly look at it, the Sabres are a good team that added a nice mix of experience (Leopold, Morrisonn, Neidermayer) and youth (Ennis, Gerber, McCormick) to a core that is entering the prime of their careers (Miller, Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Hecht, Connolly). 

As for the trade question, how many significant deals actually occurred?  The answer is not many.  Nathan Horton to Boston was attractive and makes the Bruins deeper, if healthy.   The move now looks necessary with the Marc Savard still on the mend with post-concussion issues.  The Chicago Blackhawks had to move several role players from the Stanley Cup winning roster (Byfuglien, Sopel, and Versteeg the most notable), and couldn’t re-sign winning goalie Antti Niemi (now with San Jose).   Vancouver acquired Keith Ballard with Steve Bernier being a key piece to Florida in return.  And Montreal trade Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis after his great playoff run. 

That move and most others were motivated by money (such as the Simon Gagne trade to Tampa Bay).  You can look at all the trades at this link.  Sure there are players there that would be nice to have in the lineup, and I’m sure Darcy Regier explored some of them and will continue to do so during the season, but the point is they didn’t need to disrupt a roster that won the division last year.  Regier needed to add to it, and I believe he did via free agency and natural attrition. 

Some other notes:

♦  I no longer need a calendar or schedule to tell me when it’s hockey season.  My nose knows.  My sinuses are under attack, just like many of you reading this.  I actually don’t blame hockey.  I blame all the kids back at school spreading cooties.

♦  I hope those of you that attended the Power Play Luncheon appreciated Coach Joe Crozier.  Crow was asked shortly before the lunch began to say a few words before Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff addressed the crowd.  It was vintage Crow, a fiery speech to get the troops ready for action.  All of us at HSBC Arena love having the former Sabres coach around the office each day, and a mere hello from Crow picks your day.

♦  It’s going to be demanding start to the season for the Sabres:  six games in nine days, with five against teams that made the playoffs last year.  That includes a home and home with the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.  The good news is four of the six are on home ice. 

♦  Two TV notes for you: 81 of the 82 games will be on TV this year on MSG, VS., or NBC.  All will be available in HD (I hear the collective yeah from WNY).  And, I look forward to having Mike Robitaille back with me Saturday when the Sabres host the NY Rangers.  Roby has worked hard to get back and appreciates all the support he has received. 
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