The early portion of the 2001-02 schedule has seen the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and their AHL farm team, the Rochester Americans, leading parallel lives. Both teams have been flirting with the .500 level all season, seemingly stuck in an endless "win one, lose one" loop.
The reasons both teams are struggling are similar, as well, with both Buffalo and Rochester faring from mediocre to poor on special teams and in goal. The Sabres and Amerks, in fact, may well have the worst power play organization-wide, as both teams are at or near the bottom their of respective league rankings in that category. The end result is that both teams are currently wallowing in last place in their respective divisions, with tough road schedules looming just around the corner.
Focusing on the Amerks, a quick look at the team statistics tells this tale of mediocrity. Rochester currently sits in last place in the Central Division of the AHL’s Western Conference. Their record is currently 6-8-4-1, with their record over the past 10 games being 4-5-1- truly consistently inconsistent. The Amerks have netted 47 goals, while giving up 58 markers. They have a losing record both at home and on the road, with the aforementioned league-worst power play being a major factor in Rochester’s struggles. The penalty-killing unit has struggled, as well, hovering around the middle of the pack, with their current AHL ranking being 19th overall.
Rochester’s struggles are not a complete surprise, as coach Randy Cunneyworth has had to use many 1stRead more»
Back in the early days of the Sabres franchise, former Buffalo GM Punch Imlach used his top pick in both the ’70 and ’71 drafts to select offensive stars from the Quebec League. Those two selections, C Gilbert Perreault and LW Rick Martin, went on to form 2/3 of the high-flying French Connection line that terrorized NHL goaltenders throughout most of the 70s.
Recent incarnations of the Sabres have been about as offensive as a Disney animated feature, so it is no surprise that current GM Darcy Regier placed an emphasis on offense during the 2001 draft. One of those ’01 selections, RW Jason Pominville of the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, is bringing back memories of those early draft successes, perhaps signaling an end to the Sabres’ long search for a sniper.
Jason is off to a blazing start this season, as his 34 points in 15 games will attest. Pominville has scored 15 goals and added 19 assists, which is good enough to make him the Cataractes’ leading scorer, while leaving him second in scoring in the QMJHL. 7 of Jason’s goals have come on the power play, while 4 goals have been game-winners, both totals being an indication that Pominville has a knack for scoring important goals. In one early season contest, Jason racked up 7 points (4G, 3A) in a Shawinigan victory.
Shawinigan is currently tied for first overall in the "Q" with Rimouski, although the Oceanic are the higher-ranked team in the CHL rankings. The Cataractes are currently ranked 9th in the CHL.
Jason’s fast start is most Read more»
The Buffalo Sabres have whittled down their 2001 training camp roster, and are now preparing for their October 4th home opener vs. the Atlanta Thrashers. While there has been a profound change in the team with the departure of Dominik Hasek, the fact of the matter is that the personnel has changed very little from last season to the new season.
From the prospect ranks, one player has managed to make the team, while another could stick once he recovers from an injury. Right wing Norm Milley, a ’98 2nd round pick, showed great hustle and grit in both the camp scrimmages and preseason games. His dogged style of play made it impossible for Buffalo’s coaching staff to send Norm to Rochester, but it remains to be seen how much ice time Milley will see once they start playing the games for keeps.
The injured prospect is ’97 2nd rounder Henrik Tallinder. The big Swede defenseman had a very promising start to his camp, but suffered a knee injury on the 3rd day of camp. In spite of Tallinder’s short span of time on the ice, he was singled out by coach Lindy Ruff as a player who is definitely going to push for a spot on the roster. Ruff liked Henrik’s size, as well as his steady play in the defensive zone, while also pointing to Tallinder’s ability to make a good breakout pass.
Tallinder’s injury will keep him on the shelf for at least another week, but it’s uncertain what will be done with Henrik when he returns to the ice. Henrik signed a contract that would allow him to return to TPS Read more»
Once the Sabres send their junior prospects back to their respective teams, the club then decides which players need more seasoning in the minor leagues. Some of these demoted players are career minor-leaguers, but there is usually a handful of prospects that possess definite NHL potential.
The first 14 players sent to Rochester’s camp from Buffalo included the following: goaltenders Tom Askey and Reg Bourcier; forwards Milan Bartovic, Alan Fyfe, Ales Kotalik, Jaroslav Kristek, Karel Mosovsky and Andrew Peters; and defensemen Doug Houda, Mike Hurlbut, Doug Janik, Mario Larocque, Luc Theoret and Brad Williamson. The Amerks later cut Fyfe and Williamson.
The players in this initial grouping that garnered the most notice from Buffalo’s coaches were Bourcier, Bartovic and Kristek. Goaltender Reg Bourcier is a free agent who last season played for Mobile of the ECHL (37 GP, 14-9-5, 3.53). Reg is a smaller goaltender who relies on his quickness and good positioning to stop the puck, skills that were in evidence during the camp scrimmages. Given the fact that Mika Noronen and Tom Askey will most likely be the Amerk’s goaltenders, Bourcier will probably provide further depth for the Buffalo organization as a backstop for the South Carolina Stingrays.
Bartovic and Kristek are two right wings that saw their first AHL action last season. Milan didn’t join the Amerks until shortly before the playoffs, but he impressed in his short audition by displaying his great speed and offensive skills. Kristek’s season ended early due to dual shoul Read more»
Following the initial portion of the Buffalo Sabres’ 2001 training camp, the club began to whittle down the number of players on the camp roster. This process is no doubt excruciating for both players and coaches, alike, as it places players on the outside, away from their goal of being on the inside as a member of the Buffalo Sabres hockey club.
As is usually the case, the first players to be dropped from the camp roster are the players still possessing junior eligibility. The prospects returned to their respective junior teams from this year’s camp include Gerard Dicaire (Seattle-WHL), Paul Gaustad (Portland-WHL), Ryan Jorde (Tri-City-WHL), Sean McMorrow (London-OHL), Jason Pominville (Shawinigan-QMJHL), Ghyslain Rousseau (Baie-Comeau-QMJHL), Derek Roy (Kitchener-OHL) and Chris Thorburn (North Bay-OHL).
In addition to these players, Marek Dubec and Calle Aslund have apparently returned to Europe. Calle has returned to Sweden, and is playing for Huddinge of the Swedish junior league while he considers his options. Marek has most likely returned to the Czech Republic, but I have not found his name on any roster.
From these youngsters, the player that clearly stood out during training camp was RW Jason Pominville, a 2001 2nd round choice. Jason possesses good speed and strength, as well as a scorer’s touch and the knack for being around the puck. Pominville lined up with C Tim Connolly and LW Stu Barnes for most of the camp scrimmages, with Jason being on the receiving end of several deft passes from newcomer Connolly. Jas Read more»