Everything Else

Melissa Burgess is a writer for DieByTheBlade.com. You can follow her on Twitter @_MelissaBurgess.

We’ll start with the franchise, that’s Jack Eichel. For the second season in a row he’s about a point per game, and he’s missed a chunk of time with injury. Is the injury part the only facet that’s keeping him from lifting this team above the morass? Is it more than that?

It’s part the injury, but one player does not a team make. Obviously, and understandably, Eichel is the face of the franchise right now, and the injury has definitely hurt him and the Sabres – but it’s been a tire fire of a season for a while now. Eichel can’t lift this team out of the ground on his own. He needs other players to step up too, and sometimes you get that, and sometimes you don’t. He can only do so much on his own, but he makes other players better – and they make him better, too.

Kyle Okposo with only 11 goals?

Honestly, I’m just glad to see Okposo playing hockey this season. His health issues last summer were disconcerting and you just never know how that’s going to change a guy’s life, and his career to boot. He’s not done a whole lot this season – like you said, 11 goals – and you just hope he’s okay. And now he’s out with a concussion, but skated Friday morning, which again — it’s just good to see. Long-term, though, I’m not sure what happens with him. Obviously his health should be the main priority.

Is Sam Reinhart going to be a part of this turnaround or is he benefitting from getting prominent time because no one else has earned it?

You know, for a little bit there, I thought Reinhart might actually get moved at the trade deadline. I’m glad he didn’t. I think he’s a key part of the young talent on the Sabres, though he’s being overlooked by some people now who are focusing more on guys like Eichel and future guys like Mittelstadt. A lot of guys have seen their roles increased due to Eichel’s injury, their ice time upped, etc. but I think he’s one of the guys who deserves it.

Brendan Guhle was a second round pick three years ago. He barely needed a half season in the AHL before getting called up. Anything here?

I think he’s a special one and definitely going to garner more attention soon. I like his style of playing and I think he’s proven – so far – that he wants to be in the NHL, and that he’ll do what it takes to get there. I like him, and I think we’ll be seeing more of him in the NHL soon, provided there’s a spot for him.

How are the Sabres going to turn this around, finally?

Good question! I wish I had all the answers. I think it’s a combination of getting guys like Eichel, Reinhart, even youngsters like Nylander, Mittelstadt, Bailey, etc. really seasoned in the NHL and figuring out how to best showcase their talents. Getting guys to play with them who can make them better and be improved by playing with them – that’s key. Then you’ve got to fill the gaps with free agents or players who really want to be here and who are going to put in the effort, night in and night out. And of course — goaltending, which I think is something the Sabres still need to figure out. Robin Lehner isn’t the answer, and I don’t think Chad Johnson is, either.. Year after year we hear about the rebuild, we hear it’s another year away, etc. Sabres fans are exhausted.

 

Game #72 Preview

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Douchebag Du Jour

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Lineups & How Teams Were Built

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Sabres 7-17-4   Hawks 12-11-5

PUCK DROP: 7:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THROUGH THE TABLE IN THE PARKING LOT: Die By The Blade

If the Hawks can’t get healthy now, then you might want to abandon all hope. They’ll begin a three-game homestand against the mat-shots of the league: the Sabres, Yotes, and Panthers. If you needed to work some shit out, start to gain a little confidence, and maybe find a slump-buster, you could hardly order this up better.

Once again, the Hawks will be rolling out a new look, including their first call-up of the season if you can believe it. Vinnie Smalls, a.k.a Vincent Hinostroza has come in from the cold, Rockford air to replace Tanner Kero on the roster. He immediately slots into the lineup, though where isn’t exactly clear as he wasn’t allowed to participate in the morning skate. Our best guess has him replacing Hartman at center between Sharp and Panik, but it could be anything. Because god forbid anyone on the juggernaut 4th line, with its 40 CF%, be replaced.

Other changes see Alex DeBrincat move into the top six. Real stroke of genius to get one of the league’s top rookie scorers there. He’ll play opposite Saad and next to Toews, which we’re actually kind of jonesing to see. It would work better if Saad and Top Cat would swap sides, but one thing at a time, people. The Schmaltz-Wide Dick Arty-Garbage Dick line is reunited, because they’re basically Q’s blanky right now. It doesn’t really add up, has its faults, but they did score when together before. And the Hawks need scoring.

Corey Crawford will return to the net, and if you’re thinking, “Man this seems quick,” you’d be right. The word earlier in the week was that he wouldn’t return until Sunday. But throw in a loss that had Q pretty pissed and purple, and suddenly you’ve got a panicky coach. And though you shouldn’t need Crawford against the Sabres, and though Forsberg has been pretty solid aside from one game in Denver and one bad goal in DC, Q isn’t waiting around, even if it shoots Forsberg’s confidence into the moon. Q thinks the Hawks need points and now, and he’s not totally wrong. But if Crow should re-aggravate something badly…

And again, you shouldn’t need major inspiration to find two points against this hillbilly station wagon that constitutes the Buffalo Sabres. This is the league’s worst team, which is a real disappointment for fans that thought they could maybe at least be representative this year. It’s been a mess, no one’s sure Phil Housley has any idea what he’s doing, and if there’s a plan in place no one can identify it. There’s still Jack Eichel, and he’s really good. The Other Asshole Kane is having a career year, which probably will get some team to hold their nose and pick him up before the deadline, and the Sabres had better turn that into assets for now and the future. Rasmus Ristolainen has had an upswing on the blue line this year, but that’s really it. We’ve always loved Kyle Okposo, but he’s on the third line at the moment. Ryan O’Reilly murders the Hawks, but is having a rough go at the moment, as he has two goals since November 11th and two points at all in his last seven. Aside from those names there is just nothing here.

Making it worse is that the Sabres goalies, which were pretty good last year, have not been this year. Robin Lehner has been terrible, and at 26 is running out of runway to claim he’s “The Real Thing.” Chad Johnson has been even worse. The last thing a bad team needs is bad goaltending, otherwise you get this current carcass smell.

Don’t have to overthink this one. The Sabres suck out loud, and theHawks need to get healthy on this part of the schedule. Rack up six of six before having to head to Winnipeg next week. Nothing less will do.

 

Game #29 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Sabres 7-17-4   Hawks 12-11-5

PUCK DROP: 7:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THROUGH THE TABLE IN THE PARKING LOT: Die By The Blade

If the Hawks can’t get healthy now, then you might want to abandon all hope. They’ll begin a three-game homestand against the mat-shots of the league: the Sabres, Yotes, and Panthers. If you needed to work some shit out, start to gain a little confidence, and maybe find a slump-buster, you could hardly order this up better.

Once again, the Hawks will be rolling out a new look, including their first call-up of the season if you can believe it. Vinnie Smalls, a.k.a Vincent Hinostroza has come in from the cold, Rockford air to replace Tanner Kero on the roster. He immediately slots into the lineup, though where isn’t exactly clear as he wasn’t allowed to participate in the morning skate. Our best guess has him replacing Hartman at center between Sharp and Panik, but it could be anything. Because god forbid anyone on the juggernaut 4th line, with its 40 CF%, be replaced.

Other changes see Alex DeBrincat move into the top six. Real stroke of genius to get one of the league’s top rookie scorers there. He’ll play opposite Saad and next to Toews, which we’re actually kind of jonesing to see. It would work better if Saad and Top Cat would swap sides, but one thing at a time, people. The Schmaltz-Wide Dick Arty-Garbage Dick line is reunited, because they’re basically Q’s blanky right now. It doesn’t really add up, has its faults, but they did score when together before. And the Hawks need scoring.

Corey Crawford will return to the net, and if you’re thinking, “Man this seems quick,” you’d be right. The word earlier in the week was that he wouldn’t return until Sunday. But throw in a loss that had Q pretty pissed and purple, and suddenly you’ve got a panicky coach. And though you shouldn’t need Crawford against the Sabres, and though Forsberg has been pretty solid aside from one game in Denver and one bad goal in DC, Q isn’t waiting around, even if it shoots Forsberg’s confidence into the moon. Q thinks the Hawks need points and now, and he’s not totally wrong. But if Crow should re-aggravate something badly…

And again, you shouldn’t need major inspiration to find two points against this hillbilly station wagon that constitutes the Buffalo Sabres. This is the league’s worst team, which is a real disappointment for fans that thought they could maybe at least be representative this year. It’s been a mess, no one’s sure Phil Housley has any idea what he’s doing, and if there’s a plan in place no one can identify it. There’s still Jack Eichel, and he’s really good. The Other Asshole Kane is having a career year, which probably will get some team to hold their nose and pick him up before the deadline, and the Sabres had better turn that into assets for now and the future. Rasmus Ristolainen has had an upswing on the blue line this year, but that’s really it. We’ve always loved Kyle Okposo, but he’s on the third line at the moment. Ryan O’Reilly murders the Hawks, but is having a rough go at the moment, as he has two goals since November 11th and two points at all in his last seven. Aside from those names there is just nothing here.

Making it worse is that the Sabres goalies, which were pretty good last year, have not been this year. Robin Lehner has been terrible, and at 26 is running out of runway to claim he’s “The Real Thing.” Chad Johnson has been even worse. The last thing a bad team needs is bad goaltending, otherwise you get this current carcass smell.

Don’t have to overthink this one. The Sabres suck out loud, and theHawks need to get healthy on this part of the schedule. Rack up six of six before having to head to Winnipeg next week. Nothing less will do.

 

Game #29 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 5:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Frank Sedita Is Corrupt As Shit: Die By The Blade

Because today is the contrivance that is Hockey Day In America, both the Hawks and Sabres will be travelling from the midwest to play a prime-time game rife with manufactured storylines. The one in particular that will get beaten to death will be the return of Buffalo’s prodigal son, one Garbage Dick, as it always does whenever the Hawks play the Sabres. But because the NHL is now a giant warm, flat beer of parity, the Sabres now find themselves threatening for a playoff spot with only the briefest spasm of competence.

Everything Else

Still probably the most metal hockey blog name we’ve encountered. Anyway, Andy Boron is the editor and maven over there, and he was kind enough to take the time. 

We’ll start with something simple: What the hell happened? Wasn’t there supposed to be a move forward after last year?

The short answer is: tons of injuries happened, and to the most important players. It started with Jack Eichel missing the first two months of the season with a high ankle sprain, but other key pieces such as Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Dmitry Kulikov, and Zach Bogosian have missed significant time this year. The team lost their third-line center, Johan Larsson, for the season to an elbow and wrist injury just this week. The Sabres aren’t yet at the point where they have the roster depth to replace that much production lost, and there were times this season where they were forced to play as many as 6 or 7 injury call-ups from AHL Rochester, even dipping into emergency call-ups from juniors for a few games.

The more complicated answer is: We’re not sure if Dan Bylsma is the right coach for this team. Bylsma has been widely criticized for both his constant line shuffling and for the systems he uses. The line juggling this year has been forced upon him by injuries, so it’s hard to complain about that, but the Sabres play a very safe, boring style of hockey many nights that lots of fans blame on Bylsma. The Sabres, especially when riddled by injuries, are not talented or fast enough to hit a stretch pass or secure the puck on the dump-and-chase, which has led to a low offensive output and plenty of one-goal snoozers. Let’s put it this way – it’s hard to think of any move he’s made that has made you say, “Wow, great job by Bylsma there,” but there have been plenty of moves to criticize both this season and last.

Oh, and their penalty kill is maybe the worst I’ve ever seen, and that includes the tank years.

Everything Else

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Garth Snow retired as an NHL goaltender and immediately moved into the GM’s chair on the Island? At the time it just seemed the latest spasm of insanity from a complete basketcase of an organization that the Islanders were under Charles Wang at times. It always felt like something that would be quickly corrected once someone with any kind of sense finally bought the Isles. Well, that took 10 years and Snow is still here (and Wang wasn’t actually the huge goof he played at being when he first arrived on the scene, though he had goof tendencies).

What became even more surprising is that Snow turned out to be not terrible at his job, or at least not every aspect of it. Which was stunning considered he didn’t serve any kind of apprenticeship or training. He basically took off the gear and there was a suit under it.

Everything Else

New York Islanders vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
The Adventures of Young Billy Joel: Lighthouse Hockey

Ahh St. Patrick’s Day. That wonderful holiday where everyone’s a little bit Irish except for the Jig Asshole and the Dropkick Murphys (both of whom are guaranteed to make an appearance tonight at the UC), and white people are allowed to drunkenly piss and vomit and fight with impunity all over major metropolitan across the country. So bust out the Chinese knockoff green Hawks jersey and order an Irish Car Bomb the way a native born Irishman would, and get on down to West Madison for the Hawks and the (not emerald) Isle.

Everything Else

New York Islanders vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
The Adventures of Young Billy Joel: Lighthouse Hockey

Ahh St. Patrick’s Day. That wonderful holiday where everyone’s a little bit Irish except for the Jig Asshole and the Dropkick Murphys (both of whom are guaranteed to make an appearance tonight at the UC), and white people are allowed to drunkenly piss and vomit and fight with impunity all over major metropolitan across the country. So bust out the Chinese knockoff green Hawks jersey and order an Irish Car Bomb the way a native born Irishman would, and get on down to West Madison for the Hawks and the (not emerald) Isle.

Everything Else

AltLogo_medium vs. the+island

PUCK DROP: 6pm Central

TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio

A THREE HOUR TOUR: LIGHTHOUSE HOCKEY

Well, the Islanders are actually leaving the Island in time. Somehow won’t be shocked if it’s next year but it’s scheduled for the one after that. And then being in Brooklyn could very well lead to the most obnoxious fanbase in hockey.

Anyway, the Hawks kick off 2014 after a glorious and somewhat beyond belief 2013 at Nassau County Coliseum, which is probably the opposite of glorious and certainly is beyond belief in the other fashion. Careful in the bathroom is you’re going. They’ll take on a car wreck of an Islanders team there.