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Die by the Blade: Buffalo Sabres Roundtable

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Inspired by the outstanding work done on the SB Nation.com hockey roundtable discussion, we decided to do one ourselves and discuss some Buffalo Sabres topics. The chat featured all five writers and was largely a success except for my personal epic failure. When transferring the chat to a word document I lost half of the original conversation. I will do my best to recreate the first part of the chat and will allow you to read the second half in it's entirety.

The topics we discussed were rivals, Tyler Myers chances of winning the Calder Trophy, the single most important reason for the Sabres success, the trade deadline and Patrick Kaleta.

The Sabres/Leafs rivalry gets plenty of publicity in the media but what team is the team you have a hatred for?

I expected at least one of us to say the Maple Leafs but not one of us did. The most popular answer was the Ottawa Senators. The Senators have been a thorn in the Sabres side for years and of course the Chris Neil hit on Chris Drury just adds fuel to the fire.

Dave Davis went in a different direction with the Philadelphia Flyers. There is a rivalry dating back to the 70's between the Flyers and the Sabres so it's easy to see why he made that selection. The Carolina Hurricanes were also mentioned as a runner up, mostly because of their fans during the 2005-2006 Conference Finals.

 

What has been the most important reason for the Sabres success this season?

This was a consensus pick of Ryan Miller. Any thought of any other reason was quickly shot down and rightfully so. Miller has been unbelievable this season and will garner plenty of attention for the Vezina Trophy.

Tyler Myers is starting to attract national attention for the Calder Trophy. Should he be considered the front runner at this point of the season?

Although it wasn't unanimous there was plenty of support for Myers to be the front runner for the award. Obviously John Tavares was mentioned as a candidate and Matt Duchene and James van Riemsdyk were a part of the conversation as well.

 

The Sabres are obviously making a run towards the playoffs and will be looking to improve at the trade deadline. What do the Sabres need to improve the team at the deadine?

The conversation started with the thought of a quarterback for the powerplay. The name Sergei Gonchar was brought up and that is where we will pick up the conversation.

Rafal: Yes, Gonchar will be an unrestricted free agent.

Rafal: I'm not sure how much cap space we have but I think we'd be just able to afford him.

Dave_Davis: What's with the obsession to change the defense?  Who are you going to sit?

Zach_Z.: I know that this has been shot down a couple of times, but I would consider bringing Kovalchuk to the Sabres if we can sign him long term

Rafal: No obsession, but we need a powerplay quarterback.

Zach_Z.: According to Cap Geek, we can take on a contract of $4.5 million for the rest of the season

David_Oleksy: True but the Pens will be competing for the Cup as well. Would they trade him to a team they will be competing against?

Zach_Z.: Dave is right though, any deal that is made will have to see a handful of defensemen moving in return

Rafal: The rumor was they won't be able to re-sign him.

Andy_Boron: With all the youth and long-term deals we have on the team, I wouldn't want to see them mortgage the future in an all-or-nothing deal for Kovalchuk

David_Oleksy: If you move defenseman it would be risky. We just talked about the system helping Miller and moving those parts could create a bad situation.

Rafal: Who says we have to move a defenseman for Gonchar?

David_Oleksy: We already have eight defenseman. Someone would have to go.

Zach_Z.: The team is carrying eight of them already, we need to move at least one

Zach_Z.: Even if you want to get Weber in the lineup next season, you have to move one.

Rafal: I could see Lydman maybe going in return.

 

David_Oleksy: Going back to Kovalchuk. Didn't he criticize Lindy Ruff for his treatment of Afinogenov? Would he really be able to succeed in the Sabres system?

Rafal: It's hard to say. Kovalchuk isn't exactly a model defensive player and that's something Ruff likes to see from his players. The comments aren't a big deal in my eyes but I couldn't picture it working

Zach_Z.: I think any player with that kind of talent can succeed in any type of system. Bringing him to this team would be contingent on signing a long term deal though which might be hard to do

Dave_Davis: Absolutely 100% no way he ever comes here and it's silly to even discuss it further.  He wants ridiculous money and is in no way a good fit.  Sorry but I cringe every time I hear talk about him coming

Andy_Boron: But with the freewheeling reputation of Russian stars, can he be the cog in Ruff's machine or will it upset the balance? Personally I think it would be exciting but frustrating, much like Max.

Dave_Davis: no, no and no

Rafal: Kovalchuk is no enigma, he'll produce where ever he plays but he doesn't backcheck well and it shows.

David_Oleksy: I agree with Mr. Davis. I can't see him working out in Buffalo. I see a Slava Kozlov scenario all over again.

 

David_Oleksy: We can't have a discussion without talking about Patrick Kaleta. Did anyone picture the offensive output he has given the team this year? Has it been luck or has he improved as a player?

Rafal: He's gotten better and he mentioned his efforts in improving his hands because checking wasn't all he could depend on. I can see him being someone like an Alex Burrows in Vancouver.

Dave_Davis: I remember the first game I saw Kaleta play and thinking about how awful a skater he was.  He's improved a lot in that area and I think that's been the main reason for his improvement.

David_Oleksy: Alex Burrows? Those are lofty expectations. Burrows has become one of the best players on the Canucks.

Rafal: With the help of the Sedins.

Andy_Boron: Remember, dude is only 23! He seemed to have been labeled very early in his career but he still has plenty of time to improve as a player. Also, he has made the most of his limited opportunities.

Andy_Boron: some of his teammates can say

Dave_Davis: But no he's not a perennial 20 goal scorer.  Instead of 4-5 goals he could net 10-15 per year.

Dave_Davis: (Kaleta)

Rafal: Burrows wouldn't be a 20-goal guy without the Sedins. That's my point.

 

David_Oleksy: What about his goal celebration, any thoughts?

Dave_Davis: I think he should lose it.

Zach_Z.: It doesn't bother me in the slightest

Rafal: I could live without it. Frankly, I don't care.

Zach_Z.: It almost reminds me of what Briere would do when he would score

Andy_Boron: I love it, and think it fits his pesky personality. Anything (in good taste) that makes the other team hate him more is fine with me.

David_Oleksy: I read somewhere that he was inspired by Kawicka Mitchell. The two are neighbors and discussed celebrations.

Rafal: I saw that too. I think it was written around the day he scored two goals against New York including the first shorty.

 

David_Oleksy: Since we are concluding the West Coast trip I want to get your thoughts. The games have been great for the site but what are your personal thoughts on the late starts?

Rafal: The only bad start was in Anaheim in terms of the Western opponents. But we came back and a quick whistle cost us a chance at two points.

David_Oleksy: I love the late starts and I always have. I'm not sure exactly why but I love staying up late to watch the games.

Rafal: Oh, i thought you meant late starts in how the Sabres play to start the game.

David_Oleksy: We should probably talk about that as well but we are running out of time.

Rafal: The late starts don't bother me, I'm up for getting a rare look at the Western clubs and their stars.

Andy_Boron: For a guy who usually goes to bed at 10:30 (stupid job) the late starts are kind of annoying. But is has been fun to be in the huge game threads until I fall asleep on the couch.

Zach_Z.: I can't stay up late so I miss most of the game but it is nice to see the West coast teams everyonce in a while

 

David_Oleksy: Which Sabres forward has been the most impressive this season?

David_Oleksy: I have to say Tim Connolly and it's only partly because of his recent streak.

Rafal: A healthy Tim Connolly is a huge boost and it's almost as if we signed a new player with his play and ability to dodge injuries for a change.

David_Oleksy: I always thought Connolly makes everyone around him better and he has done that this season.

Zach_Z.: I think Connolly has always been a great player that has had his fair share of injuries

Andy_Boron: When he's on he's on, but let's all remember those 12 or so games before this where he only had a point or two. Hopefully this streak never ends.

David_Oleksy: Maybe not most impressive but biggest surprise would have to be Patrick Kaleta.

Rafal: Definitely.

Zach_Z.: I'm not sure I'm overly impressed by this offense but I would have to say that the most disappointing has to be Vanek

Dave_Davis: Vanek has to get back to being the top forward or this team won't go far in the playoffs

Rafal: Let's hope he has a strong second half like he did in 2008

David_Oleksy: I think Mike Grier has to be part of the discussion as well. I can't help but wonder if things would have been different if he stayed here in 2006-2007.

Rafal: No offensive problem in 2006-2007 but we could've used him for sure.

David_Oleksy: The offense was there but he brings intangibles that can't be measured on ice.

 

We hope you enjoyed this conversation and we hope you will add your thoughts as well. We will try to do another one of these chats later in the season when there are new topics to discuss.