From Laughing Stock to Contender By Tyler Wilson and Andrew Hallman (Sabres) On Saturday 26th November 2022 / 10:02pm
Following an impressive offseason in which the Sabres brought in an immense amount of talent to play alongside a relatively strong existing core, the team appears to have righted the ship and are headed in the right direction.
Last season, the Sabres finished with a paltry 56 points going 26-52-4 good for 13th in the East. Through just 21 games this season Buffalo already has amassed 13 wins and an overall 13-4-4 record, good for 2nd place in the East and the Atlantic Divison, which some have pegged 'The Most Difficult Divison in the NHL'.
New additions at all positions are playing key roles in the Sabres turn around
William Nylander - Leads the team in points with 29 and has shown impressive chemistry on either Jack Eichel or Joel Eriksson Ek's wings.
Chris Kreider - Originally deemed a consolation prize during a final cap crunch when Artemi Panarin was shipped out before the season began. Chris has shown his value playing the opposite wing of fellow newcomer William Nylander. Kreider is currently tied for the team lead in goals and is 3rd on the team in points.
Colton Parayko - On a team with Cale Makar on the backend, few projected anyone would be competing with him as Buffalos most valuable defender. Queue Colton Parayko's music. Through these first 21 games, Parayko and Makar are tied with 13 points with Makar averaging 2 more minutes per game.
Connor Hellebuyck - A mainstay true number 1 goalie was much desired by Sabres fans and the acquisition of Connor Hellebuyck has proven to be just that. He is undeniably a top-10 goaltender who the Sabres hope can play at an absolute top level when the games count the most. He has put together a 13-3-3 record with a 2.23 GAA and a .923 SV% to start the season.
Buffalo has also seen healthy contributions from other new additions such as Travis Konecny (2g, 15a) Ilya Mikheyev (3g, 9a) Andrew Poturalski (2g, 8a) and Ben Chiarot (0g, 7a)
And while he is not a truly new addition, Jack Eichel has made his return this season and while some believe he's playing below his potential he has still shown signs of his prodigal self. So far this season Jack has 7g and 10a.
With just over 1 quarter of the Sabres season in the books, things have gone just about as well as could have been expected. The team intends to build on its early success and continue to build the franchise into a perennial contender and compete at the absolute highest level day in and day out.
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|Will Clarke (Islanders) On 1st February / 5:34pm : |
We Still laugh at you, you just have a better team now though
2021 to 2022 trade deadlines for the New York Islanders By Will Clarke (Islanders) On Friday 25th February 2022 / 5:03pm
Last Year the Islanders were sitting in the final playoff spot and at the last minute they decided to trade their teams Inagural captain and star centre Jonathan Toews to the exact team that was chasing them, thus pretty much giving up any hope of seeing the post-season in 2021. Knowing Toews was going to take the next season off to stay in his hometown of Winnipeg to hang out at Whiskey Dix and blast chicks they knew it wasn't going to be worth it to hang onto the last spot just to be knocked out in the first round. The fans still weren't happy, they wanted blood and they wanted to win, owner/GM Will Clarke pleaded to the fans to trust the process and promised it wasn't a sign of things to come, after all in the trade moving Toews out they did bring in the electric Danish forward Nikolaj Ehlers and he was just entering the prime of his career. He wasn't your typical "rebuild' player, this kid was hungry to win now too. It was a tough sell to the fans especially after a couple other deadline deals that sent fan favorite tough guy Radko Gudas and veteran Nick Bonino away for nothing but prospects and picks. The fans weren't buying what Clarke was preaching. Fast Forward to the 2021/22 off-season and especially free agency, Clarke swooped in and made the clubs first big signing (some experts proclaimed it as the best signing of Free Agency) in goalie Jacob Markstrom. Goaltending was the teams most inconsistent issue last year. Koskinen was playing over his head as the starter but backup Malcolm Subban (more on him later) couldn't survive a period. This signing allowed the team to have a true #1 starter and allowed Koskinen to be a top notch backup (take note NHL Edmonton Oilers). Next up was a massive off-season trade which saw top defencemen Esa Lindell shipped out for under rated 2-way center Phillip Danault, next was a move to bring in 2-way forward Andew Copp. Then during free agency Clarke was savy and filled his roster out with some experience on the back end in Justin Braun and Andrej Sekera making up for moving out Gudas. Clarke wasn't done there in free agency and brought in some real toughness up front with Ryan Reeves to pair up with Matt Martin. The 4th line may not score a lot of goals but the plan was in place to make them a very tough line to play against, nothing was going to be easy, every inch was going to be a battle. Now fast forward to the 2021-22 season, the islanders shot out fast and put together a lot of wins. Maybe Clarke was onto something with his moves, the fans were starting to believe but Clarke was trying to be honest with himself though and wasn't fully committed in going for it. That is until the trade deadline of 2022 hit, he realized his team was in a great position and the team had lots of cap room. There seemed to be more sellers than buyers which meant there could be some great bargains out there, he had to go for it he said to himself. The first opportunity came up when the Islanders had a chance to pick up the best 2-way center in the game in Patrice Bergeron from the Anaheim Ducks. Bergeron fit the teams mold perfectly, plays a hard 200 foot game but more importantly he fills the big void Jonathan Toews left as a true superstar. On top of getting Bergeron from the Ducks the gm managed to peel top 6 winger Alex Iafallo in the deal as well. The isles did have to move on from Kapanen but it was a numbers game and with the expansion draft coming up Kapanen might have been the odd man looking in from the outside, Iafallo was a definte upgrade and other than losing Kapanen the rest of the players and picks were expendable. Next up was trying to solidify the back end, Clarke knew he needed to bring in a top 4 defencemen if the team had any chance to really make some noise. The difficulty was to navigate a move that wouldn't leave a defencmen available to the expansion Kraken in the off-season (nothing but crumbs for them is the plan). With Chabot, Pullock, Weeger all locks to being protected Clarke knew this would be the toughest of moves then low and behold Calgary came knocking. There wasn't much time left in the day and both GM's were in a crunch, in the end a deal was struck to bring the perfect rental in Alexander Edler to the Isles and both GM's left happy, Isles got their man for a pick and a prospect and GM Vince wasn't left with an expiring contract. While that deal was being hammered out Clarke was using his left hand to work another deal out at the same time where, i mentioned there would be more on this guy later and here it is, he got rid of last years boat anchor in the net Malcolm Subban. Yes, it was a small deal that only netted a 4th round pick from Minnesota but that pick was used to win a minor bidding war for Tanner Pearson from the Boston Bruins. Clarke packaged up that 4th round pick and added their own 3rd to acquire another quality winger. All in all it was a huge 180 for the Islanders and owner Will Clarke and time will tell if the moves were worth it.