Sabres fire Ted Nolan, but don’t blame the coach for not making lemonade out of a lemon tsunami

Adam Proteau
Ted Nolan (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Buffalo Sabres fired head coach Ted Nolan early Sunday evening, ending the former Jack Adams Award-winner’s second stint with the organization after nearly two full NHL seasons:

The 57-year-old’s Sabres squad was the NHL’s worst team this season with a 23-51-8 mark, but pinning all or most of the blame on Nolan for that would be like faulting a NASCAR driver for not being able to steer a shopping cart to a championship title. Some coaches can make lemonade out of lemons, but Nolan was made to stand in front of a lemon tsunami and asked to compete as his 29 other NHL colleagues do. Read more

Islanders push hard-luck Penguins to one deciding game

Josh Elliott
Ian Cole and Ryan Strome

Oh boy.

After 81 games of futility and losing, the Buffalo Sabres can suddenly play a huge role in shaping the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

They can beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Buffalo, and in doing so, they may help knock the Pens out of post-season contention.

The Sabres have already clinched worst overall in the league, but if anything can get this downtrodden squad up for a game, you’ve got to think this would be it.

The Penguins lost a huge home game to the New York Islanders 3-1 on Friday, blowing their chance to clinch a post-season berth and leaving them open to missing the playoffs if things go badly on Saturday.
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Sabres create scholarship fund to honor Steve Montador

Jared Clinton
Steve Montador (Bill Wippert/National Hockey League)

Steve Montador’s tragic death at age 35 shocked the hockey world, but the Buffalo Sabres are doing their best to make sure the blueliner who played with the club for two seasons isn’t forgotten.

Friday morning, the Sabres announced the launch of the Steve Montador “Dream Big” Scholarship Fund, which has a $50,000 goal that will be crowd-funded and go towards making a young person’s dreams come true. To kick things off, the Sabres donated $10,000 with help from the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, Alumni Association, current and former minority owner Larry Quinn. Read more

Hurricanes’ Patrick Dwyer dances past pair of Sabres defensemen, scores gorgeous backhanded goal

Adam Proteau
Patrick Dwyer (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes and Patrick Dwyer don’t have a lot left to look forward to this season, but the Canes and the veteran right winger received a boost of confidence Monday night when he craftily stickhandled around a pair of Sabres defenders and scored a beautiful backhanded goal on Buffalo’s Anders Lindback.

The Canes were down 4-0 in Buffalo late in the second frame when Dwyer – who had scored only four goals and 11 points in 67 games heading into Monday’s action – picked up the puck along the boards in the Sabres’ zone, danced between two Buffalo players, then roofed a backhander over Lindback’s right shoulder: Read more

Denis Leary making new hockey-themed TV series – & here are 12 NHL-themed shows that should be next

Denis Leary (Mychal Watts/WireImage via Getty Images)

News Wednesday that actor and famous hockey/Boston Bruins fan Denis Leary was producing for IFC a new series centered around an amateur hockey team should inspire puck fans to pitch more hockey-themed shows to TV networks in the hope they might get picked up and put on air. Here, I’ll show you what I mean, using titles of TV series as examples:

The Walking Dead An outbreak of a mysterious virus ravages the Sabres, Coyotes and Maple Leafs and leads to locals staggering aimlessly and dead-eyed in the streets in Buffalo, Arizona and Toronto. While death sometimes seems to be a merciful option for our heroes during such a bleak time, they bravely continue to search and hope for a place to settle and grow. Read more

Ducks and Sabres polar opposites, but face similar vexxing question

Ken Campbell
Ducks and Sabres

The Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres are at polar opposite ends of the NHL standings, but they might have more in common than you’d think. After all, despite the fact the Sabres are at No. 30 in the standings and need the Hubble telescope to see the No. 1 Ducks, they face a similar conundrum. And that is: how does a team balance the players’ hard-wired philosophy of trying to win every game every night with what’s best for the organization.

There are no easy answers to that question for either team. There’s no right answer either, which is why it’s a little harsh to be piling criticism on Sabres fans for cheering against their team at this point in the season. After all, it’s absolutely undeniable that the best thing for the Sabres would be to finish 30th in the league and have a 100 percent chance of landing either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the players and coaches not caring about where the team finishes and doing everything in their power to ensure the Sabres have the best chance to win every game. And there’s nothing wrong with the fans who pay for tickets wanting the team to finish 30th. Read more

Don’t blame fans for Bizarro World “tanking” cheers; they show how savvy the modern NHL fan actually is

Buffalo Sabres fans have a mixed reaction to their 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs Wednesday in Buffalo.  (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Sabres and Maple Leafs clashed Wednesday night – OK, “clash” is probably too strong a word, as it’s commonly associated with the word “titans” and an excellent band you young punks should get into if you haven’t already, and we don’t want to sully either of those things by linking them to these two teams – we saw another instance of the Bizarro World phenomenon that occurs when fans obsessed with winning the upcoming NHL entry draft lottery cheer for the opposing team to beat their own organization.

Some NHLers have all but dry-heaved after the indignity of performing in front of their hometown fans and being subjected to cheers for the visitors. That’s certainly understandable, as it runs contrary to every instinct we have about pro sports. Playing on the road should put the fear of the hockey gods into players, not wrap them in blankets and give them a nice hug and a cookie. But players and team executives shouldn’t see this as the fault of fans. To the contrary: they should appreciate a fan base that recognizes the best way to build a Stanley Cup contender under the league’s current collective bargaining agreement is to do what teams like Toronto and Buffalo are doing: by tearing it all down, taking your lumps like a grownup and building slowly. Read more

Prospect Hot List: Zach Senyshyn running with the big dogs

Zach Senyshyn (photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The Frozen Four tournament may be the most deadly in hockey. It’s not long, but that’s the danger: it’s one-and-done, so even titan teams can get grounded in the first round, as top seed MSU-Mankato found out against RIT. But in the end, we have two teams from the two best conferences in the semifinal: Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota from the NCHC and Hockey East’s Providence College and Boston University. Major junior playoffs are in full swing now too, so let’s look at the kids making noise in the prospect world right now.

Zach Senyshyn, RW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

They’re going for it all in the Soo this year and with the team adding players such as Justin Bailey, Anthony DeAngelo and Nick Ritchie before the trade deadline, it’s almost easier to name the Hounds who haven’t been drafted by NHL franchises at this point. Senyshyn is one, but that’s because he’s not eligible until this summer. In the meantime, he’s been happy to soak up lessons from his elder peers.

“It’s a great learning process every day,” he said. “Working with guys like Jared McCann and Darnell Nurse in practice is a special experience.”

This is actually Senyshyn’s first full year with the Hounds. The skilled, swift skater played most of last year with the Jr. A Smiths Falls Bears near Ottawa. He had his eye on playing NCAA, with Penn State, Princeton and nearby Clarkson all on his radar. But the siren sound of the Hounds drew him to the OHL and he signed with the squad in December, playing a handful of games before returning to the Bears to work on his defense and round out his game. There was a Hounds-Bears link, too.

“The assistant coach in Smiths Falls was Walt Dubas,” Senyshyn said. “He’s Kyle Dubas’ uncle. It’s pretty cool the way things worked out.”

Kyle Dubas of course, was the Hounds’ GM last year and now works for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But it’s a member of the Colorado Avalanche that Senyshyn counts as a role model.

“I’d say Matt Duchene,” Senyshyn revealed. “He plays the game at such a high pace and uses his creativity to create offense.”

With three points in his first two playoff games, Senyshyn’s not doing too bad in that category himself. Draft eligible in 2015.

Michael Mersch, LW – Manchester Monarchs (AHL)

The former University of Wisconsin Badger tied a franchise record by notching five points in a win over Hershey on Friday, but he didn’t stop there. The sturdy Mersch, who doesn’t mind heading to the front of the net, also collected points in his next two games. Drafted 110th overall by Los Angeles in 2011.

Nicolas Roy, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)

When you’re 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, it pays to use your frame and that’s what Roy has been doing in the Sags’ first-round series against Moncton. Despite being the underdogs, Chicoutimi has the showdown tied 1-1 in part due to Roy’s four points. Defensively responsible, it’s good to see his offense busting out. Draft eligible in 2015.

Mike Robinson, G – Lawrence Academy Spartans (Mass. HS)

A big goaltender who comes in at 6-foot-4, Robinson had to stop a lot of pucks for the Spartans this season and even though it didn’t result in team success, he did catch the eyes of scouts. Along with his size, the University of New Hampshire commit has great technique and quickness. Draft eligible in 2015.

Travis Konecny, RW – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

The 67’s got Konecny back from injury right in time for the post-season and he has rewarded them with his presence. The highly skilled heart-and-soul captain has come out guns a’ blazing with seven points in the first three games in what has been a high-scoring affair versus Niagara. Draft eligible in 2015.

Joel Ek Eriksson, C – Farjestad (Swe.)

A 200-foot player with size and a good shot, Ek Eriksson couldn’t get Farjestad past the quarterfinal in Sweden’s under-20 playoffs, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. The big pivot had five goals and 10 points in six games for Farjestad, who dropped their second post-season series to Djurgarden. Draft eligible in 2015.

John Quenneville, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

The Wheaties have aces all through their lineup, but early on in Brandon’s playoff series against Edmonton, Quenneville has been a driver with five points in three games. The sturdy pivot has a great shot, skates hard and really competes. Drafted 30th overall by New Jersey in 2014.

Jake Walman, D – Providence College Friars (Hockey East)

The Friars had the benefit of playing their regional games in Providence, but they still had to beat two very good NCHC teams and Walman was key against Denver in the final. The offensively talented blueliner notched three assists in the 4-1 win over the Pioneers. Drafted 82nd overall by St. Louis in 2014.

Nick Boka, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

A noted gym rat, Boka has pretty good size ay 6-foot-1, 197 pounds and generally plays a physical, defense-first game. But the University of Michigan commit can also wheel when he wants to and has a nice offensive upside, even if it’s not his go-to skill. Draft eligible in 2015.

Vaclav Karabacek, RW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

Baie-Comeau has taken care of business at home, winning both games in their opener against Saint John, with Karabacek doing a lot of damage. The gifted Czech, who plays at a high pace and has some dazzling skill, has four assists already in the series to lead the Drakkar. Drafted 49th overall by Buffalo in 2014.