The Sabres Observer
From Mike Schopp of WGR-550 in Buffalo,
Despite the incessant ink-stained protestations that have hassled them for months, the Sabres greet this day in prime position for a rise to power. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't popular, but they did exactly what they should have done: take it down to better build it up.
They've had their fleet of futures standing by, and now they can name their headliner: Jack Eichel, the Boston University superstar they were tracking toward all along.
Like many, I dreamed of Connor McDavid, a junior with such a lofty skill set that he almost doesn't make sense. But that's fine, I've never been the cool kid anyway. McDavid is off to Edmonton, where to us and maybe most hockey fans he'll be a ghost.
Eichel reads nothing like a consolation prize, with comparisons to some of the greatest in the game and raves about his demeanor, work ethic and upbringing.
I'll take it.
Scott McLaughlin of WEEI in Boston is reporting that Boston University forward Evan Rodrigues will sign a free agent contract with the Buffalo Sabres, according to sources.
Ted Nolan has coached 471 games in the NHL. But not one single time has he ever stood behind the bench of a Stanley Cup contender.
How would Nolan do with a supremely talented team?
Chances are we'll never know, because his NHL coaching career is likely over.
When was it clear that his latest gig in Buffalo wouldn't last? For me, it was at prospect camp last summer, when I couldn't help but notice that Tim Murray and Nolan were watching the action from the same section in the 200 level, yet they were seated five rows apart.
Buffalo's 4-2 loss to Columbus last night, which assured them the rights to one of the McEichel brothers, officially ends possibly the most tumultuous and surreal period in Sabres history.
And now, after all the suffering of the past two agonizing years, fans and media who engaged in heated debates over the process the Sabres took to get him will come together in the coming months to give the new face of the franchise the most raucous and celebrated welcome an athlete has received in this city since Jim Kelly's black stretch limo arrival in 1986.
I walked into the locker room last night and made a hard stop when I got within ten feet of Mike Weber, who was doing his postgame media scrum.
I wasn't getting any closer.
It was nothing more than a natural reaction. The Sabres defenseman was fuming, angry and bitter at Buffalo's home crowd for cheering for the Coyotes.
While I subconsciously knew it wouldn't happen, Weber looked upset enough to randomly take a swing at someone, and I didn't want to be the guy making the headlines.
Arizona won 4-3 in overtime, and the gap between the guarantee of a McEichel brother and 29th place, to the delight of most Sabres fans, now stands at six points.
Yesterday, I asked a question on Twitter to gauge where Sabres fans are at emotionally as they watch their team play out the stretch with a possibility of lining up a guarantee to get either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the draft.
If you want to know just how big this has become for a lot of fans in Buffalo, the responses will give you an idea. Some of them even surprised me.
Not much remains of the heated debate among Sabres fans about the morality of rooting for their team to lose.
That's probably because most of the anti-tank crowd have emotionally checked out for the season and are no longer watching the games.
But for the rest of us who understand what's at stake and what's most important, there's reason for concern.
The Coyotes are making a serious no-holds-barred run for it.
What will the 30th-place Sabres do on Monday?
Part of the fun ahead of time is the speculation, so let's get to it.
Tim Murray has stated that he won't allow unrestricted free agents to leave for nothing, and he has eight of them: Stewart, Neuvirth, Mitchell, Meszaros, Benoit, Strachan, Ellis and Lindback.
Not that it should come as a big surprise, but the agent for Michal Neuvirth says there have been no contract extension talks with the Buffalo Sabres.
While some Sabres fans are ready to pop open their McEichel champagne bottles, be warned that it's still way too soon.
The Sabres trail the Oilers by six points and tonight face a weary Rangers team that's seriously considering giving someone you've never heard of his first NHL start in net.
The "race" for 30th isn't over. Any analytics expert using Buffalo's possession numbers to tell you otherwise is not really an analytics expert.
About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]