For those of us counting down the days ‘til puck drop, late June and early July seem to be the official turning point, that “get out of bed, get some Tylenol and eat something” moment the morning after your Stanley Cup hangover.
The NHL Awards bring last season to a close, and – a light at the end of the hockey-less summer tunnel! – next season’s schedule is announced, giving you a reason to make plans. It’s never too early to pencil in a hockey game, folks!
Only a few days later, the draft welcomes a new class of players to the pro hockey circuit; free agency follows shortly thereafter. Then – getting even closer! – we’re talking development camps and optional work-outs. And before you know it, training camp and pre-season are upon us, and it’s October before you know it.
Point being, we’re just at the beginning of that hangover recovery, but there’s already a lot of action. This is going to be a long one, so without further ado, let’s catch up.
Twenty-two sets – 44 games total, just slightly more than half of the season’s 82 total games – of back-to-back games await the Sabres in the coming season.
Even their season- and home-openers are back-to-back: Friday, October 8, against the Ottawa Senators, and Saturday, October 9, against the New York Rangers, respectively.
Other highlights include a Thanksgiving Eve home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a Black Friday home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a New Year’s Day home game against the Boston Bruins.
But it’s those 44 back-to-back games that should be on the team’s mind. It’s going to be hard on all of them, most especially goaltender Ryan Miller, who played in a huge 69 games last season.
A repeat performance could be too big an expectation given the rigorous schedule, and Patrick Lalime’s record from last season suggests he’s not ready for the job.
But those rumors about fan favorite Marty Biron are sounding pretty good.
Miller, Myers Clean Up at NHL Awards
Sabres fans would tell you Miller and Tyler Myers were a big deal in the Sabres locker room this past season, and it seems the NHL agrees.
The Buffalo goaltender and rookie took home a combined three awards and were named to all-NHL teams at last week’s NHL Awards.
Miller won his first Vezina Trophy, which is given to the “goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.” In the voting process, 28 of 30 NHL General Managers named Miller on their voting ballots, with 23 of them selecting him as their first-place choice.
“It’s been a steady progression with learning and evolving as a player, and putting the work into the mental side and the physical side and the time with the team,” Miller told NHL.com of his progression to a top-notch goaltender. “I think it’s definitely something that reflects very well on my teammates and the ability to adapt and grow a defensive game that’s kind of been coming for the last two years.”
The Winter Olympics Team USA goaltender also was awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award, recognizing a player who “applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.” The award comes with a $25,000 check for Miller’s Steadfast Foundation.
Myers took home the Calder Memorial Trophy – essentially Rookie of the Year Award – with 94 of 133 first-place votes and a total 1,178 points, easily eclipsing his competition (second-place Detroit Red Wing Jimmy Howard received 778 points).
“It was a long season,” said Myers to The Buffalo News. “I had a lot of fun with it….I think when the season ended I took a little time to actually start to realize what actually just happened, and it was definitely a year I won’t forget”
The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association also voted Miller onto the First All-Star Team and Myers to the All-Rookie Team.
If you weren’t glued to your television, you were checking the web. If you weren’t checking the web, you were getting updates via text message or smart phone. And if you don’t already somehow know what went on at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft over the weekend – well, here’s a brief run-down.
The Sabres selected:
- Mark Pysyk (first round, 23rd overall)
- Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (third round, 68th overall)
- Kevin Sundher (third round, 75th overall)
- Matt Mackenzie (third round, 83rd overall)
- Steven Shipley (fourth round, 98th overall)
- Gregg Sutch (fifth round, 143rd overall)
- Cedrick Henley (sixth round, 173rd overall)
- Christian Isackson (seventh round, 203rd overall)
- Riley Boychuck (seventh round, 208th overall).
All new picks are North American skaters. Eight are Canadian, one is American.
Thursday Begins Free Agency
As always, July 1 marks the beginning of free agency – an ominous day in Sabres history as of late (see: Briere, Danny, and Drury, Chris, circa 2007).
Seven Sabres are unrestricted free agents, and three are restricted, according to letsgosabres.com. Obviously the biggest names (Miller, Myers, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek) are already signed – a relief, for sure – but there are other (Patrick Kaleta, Tim Kennedy, Tony Lydman, Adam Mair, Henrik Tallinder) key players who could still be lured by other offers.
The salary cap will rise to $59.5 million for 2010-2011, and the Sabers have already spent just over $43 million. Younger players can probably be lured with lower salaries – and thus, more money left to offer elsewhere – but there are some very experienced free agents out there who could also be of assistance to Buffalo (kindly broken down by NHL.com by position).
I hate speculating on these things. The Sabres obviously need a change (i.e., not leaving it up to your goaltender to keep you in the game), and it’s up to their front office and coaching staff to figure out who has been a key in their successes, who they could afford to let go, and who could help them in the future, and act accordingly.
Sabres Development Camp Starts Monday
The Sabres will hold their annual summer development camp next week, July 5-9, at Niagara University’s Dwyer Arena. 42 prospects, including 2010 first-round draft pick Pysyk, will attend.
Players will take part in both on- and off-ice workouts, as well as team-building exercises; some on-ice portions will be open to the public.
“The goals of the camp are to give prospective players the fundamental ideas of the Sabres playing system and conditioning programs of an NHL player,” explains the team’s website. “Camp participants will also study and examine NHL rules and the successful techniques a player must possess to become a professional athlete.”
Development camps are generally invitation-only, and while many attendees are a year or two away from major- or minor-league play, some may make it to training camp in September.
If you’re interested in checking out some of Buffalo’s potential future members, open-to-the-public days and times are listed on the Sabres website.