THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Buffalo Sabres

The Hockey News
Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 21-51-10, 16th in East, 30th overall

Acquisitions: Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson

Departures: Matt D’Agostini, John Scott, Kevin Porter, Cory Conacher, Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Sulzer, Ville Leino

Top five fantasy options: Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Sam Reinhart

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario:

Boom: Just when we all thought the Sabres were going to “McSuck for McDavid” or “Play like Robert Reichel to get Eichel” they went out on a spending spree that should at least make them a tougher out than they’ve been in the past. Read more

Top 5 potential mid-season NHL coaching replacements

Rory Boylen
Dan Bylsma

There will be at least one NHL coach fired during this season, of that we are sure. So who are the lead candidates to take the next job openings?

We look at five coaches who will be considered by NHL teams looking for a mid-season replacement.

1. Dan Bylsma
Fired by the Penguins after another disappointing playoff result, it’s only a matter of time before Bylsma finds his next job. He was in the running for a few jobs this past summer (Florida, Vancouver) but he can afford to wait for the perfect fit. He’s won a Stanley Cup and coached USA at the Olympics last winter, but has come under fire for his tactics and lack of in-game adjustments. Any team that fires its coach mid-season will have a long look at Bylsma. Read more

Why do ex-Flyers personnel succeed in L.A.? More freedom

Ron Hextall won a Cup with L.A., but will he succeed as Flyers GM with owner Ed Snider influencing him? (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The migration of on-and-off-ice talent from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Los Angeles Kings franchise that has won two of the past three Cups is not lost on observers. At various points in the past 15 years, the Flyers (a) employed L.A. GM Dean Lombardi as their western scout, and Kings assistant coach John Stevens as their coach; (b) centered their core of forwards around Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who each have two rings with the Kings; and (c) had Ron Hextall as their director of player personnel before he joined L.A. and was part of their Cup win in 2012.

Hextall returned to the Flyers last summer and will enter his rookie year as Philly’s GM. His best chance to deliver a Cup is if owner Ed Snider leaves him alone to work at it. That hasn’t always been true in the nearly five decades Snider has owned the team. And the success of the Kings – the success of components not good enough for the Flyers – should show Snider the best thing he can do to satisfy his competitive urges is to wall himself off from hockey decisions.

Because in the modern era, it’s a fact: Stanley Cups are won by teams whose owners stay out of the picture.

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Numbers prove hockey has the most action per game

Ronnie Shuker
(Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images Sport)

Sports are like sex: the more action the better. And hockey has the most per game of the five major team sports.

Yes, even more than soccer, according to FIFA. At the 2014 World Cup, the average amount of time the ball was in play was only 57.6 minutes, under two-thirds the length of a game. (Discuss among yourselves how much of that actually constitutes “action.”)

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After six months, Nicklas Backstrom finally receives his Olympic silver medal

Rory Boylen
Nicklas Backstrom

Six months ago, Nicklas Backstrom was gearing up for the gold medal game at the Olympics. Sweden was about to take on Canada for all the marbles in Sochi. Heading into the final, Backstrom had four points – all assists – in five games.

But a few hours before the puck dropped, the IOC announced Backstrom was ineligible to play. They said the 26-year-old had tested positive for pseudoephedrine in a drug test he took a week earlier. The positive was believed to come from the allergy medication that Backstrom had been taking for seven years and prescribed by team doctors. Needless to say, the Swedes weren’t pleased with the way it was handled.

Canada won the game 3-0, but because of his suspension, Backstrom didn’t receive his silver medal with the rest of the Swedish team afterwards. It wasn’t until early March that the IOC decided the one-game suspension was punishment enough and that he could receive his medal.

Today, he finally got it. Backstrom received his medal prior to a Swedish League game between Brynas and Djurgarden. Read more

Coaches and GMs under the gun like never before

Ken Campbell
Brian MacLellan (left) and Barry Trotz (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Around this time of year when we all get antsy for hockey to get going, one of the most popular topics of conversation centers around which coach will be the first to get fired. Randy Carlyle and Paul MacLean look to be the early frontrunners in that department.

And with the average lifespan of a coach running at about 2.4 years, why wouldn’t they be in peril? Carlyle is approaching that with the Toronto Maple Leafs and MacLean has already exceeded that in Ottawa, having been there for the past three seasons. After two seasons in which he could do no wrong, MacLean was blamed for everything from his handling of the Senators goaltenders to how clueless his team was in its own end last season. Read more

What is your favorite hockey picture of all-time?

Rory Boylen
Bobby Orr

There are so many great photos in NHL history it’s hard to pick just one as your favorite. They come from iconic moments, in random game action, interactions with the crowd and more. Below are some of my favorite hockey photos of all-time with a brief description. Do you share my taste? If not, link to or share some of your favorite photos.

Bobby Orr

Heading into the 1969-70 season, Bobby Orr had a Calder and two Norris Trophies already and he’d win the Art Ross, Hart, Norris and Conn Smythe Trophies that season. Whew. His Bruins faced the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup final, a team that reached its third Cup final in a row, but had yet to win a game there (the ’67 expansion teams took a while to become competitive). The Bruins swept the Blues in 1970, but the series was capped off in dramatic fashion. Orr scored 40 seconds into overtime to lead the Bruins to victory after taking a pass from Derek Sanderson in the corner. It was Boston’s first Cup since 1941 and they’d win another two years later.

In the photo, Orr is flying through the air like Superman after he was lifted off his feet by St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard. Read more

The NHL’s 10 worst contracts

Matt Larkin
(David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

It’s not the pre-season, but it’s the pre-pre-season. That means assessing each team’s chances for 2014-15 and beyond, looking their rosters up and down and even checking out their salary cap situation.

When we peruse the contracts on capgeek.com, our eyes bug out of our head from time to time. “They paid how much for how long for that guy? I forgot about that.” Some deals have cumbersome cap hits, others absurdly long terms for players past their primes, and many have no-trade clauses. The perfect storm of bad contracts contains all three, and some of my picks for the league’s 10 worst deals fit that description.

We’ll start with No. 10.

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