The Buffalo Sabres fell down hard into a 4-0 hole in the second period of their game against the Dallas Stars at Traverse City's prospects tourney on Monday afternoon.
After the 7-3 drubbing, Rochester Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy told ESPN 1520's Paul Hamilton that he made a big, bold statement when he decided to bench Sabres D Nikita Zadorov.
Of his benching of the former first round draft choice, Cassidy said;
“It was a coach’s decisions.”
What didn't the Amerks head coach like about the London Knight star's game?
“Effort level, not good enough. We got a lot of guys here trying to make a NHL team in the next week or so and I wouldn’t specifically say he was maybe the only one, but maybe the biggest offender. We just didn’t like his effort and we had to make a decision on it.”
Zadorov has been held scoreless thus far in three games played. He's a -2 with 4 PIMs. He's played a robust and physical style, laying heavy body shots on enemy attackers, however, Cassidy had seen enough of Zadorov's going through the motions so he decided to park the the youngster on the bench.
I'm not sure what the issue is with Zadorov. He didn't exactly light the world on fire July's rookie development camp in Buffalo. If I were to give him a grade on his play in the Blue & White scrimmage in July it would be a B-. He was physical, however, on several occasions he took himself out of position looking to deliver thundering checks on opponents. He's been guilty of the same thing at Traverse City.
What's the problem with Zadorov's game right now?
Just a guess on my part.
Zadorov has added body mass and weight this summer and perhaps he has been having a tough time adjusting to playing at his heavier weight. The 6'5" Zadorov played at 235 lbs. last season. He was an average skater at that weight. He's now going to have a tough time making an argument that he belongs in Buffalo this season and not in OHL London after getting turfed during a blowout loss. Zadorov played for the Sabres at Traverse City last September. He was a team leader and a big contributor to Buffalo's silver medal finish in the tourney last season. He played a dominant, big man role for the Sabres in 2013.
One wonders what is going on with Nikita right now. Zadorov's loss is Jake McCabe's gain right now. Perhaps this benching is the foreshadowing of a Zadorov move back to the London Knights for the 2014-15 season. McCabe played meaningful games for the Sabres last Spring after his University of Wisconsin Badgers were eliminated from the NCAA playoffs. McCabe is looking for a job on the Buffalo blue line as is Chad Ruhwedel. Tim Murray added veterans Andre Benoit and Andrej Meszaros this summer. If a kid is going to crack Buffalo's top seven D corps, he's going to have to earn his minutes. Right now, the only thing Zadorov is earning is a benching and questions about his commitment level.
Its now time to go back to the drawing board for Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray.
His baby Sabres dropped their third straight game at the highly respected Traverse City Prospects Tournament in northern Michigan. Quite a departure for the Sabres who have won this event and finished second out of eight teams in the 2011 and 2013 tourneys, respectively. Heading into the tourney, I fully and completely expected the Sabres to beat the Hurricanes and Rangers. I penciled in a loss to the Stars due largely to the fact that they brought a busload of contributors to T-City who helped them to win the AHL Calder Cup championship last Spring.
The Sabres were expected to return to Tuesday’s championship game by virtue of the tourney-high 10, count ‘em 10 first and second round stud prospects that they brought to compete with at Traverse City.
Only the St. Louis Blues have been worse in goal by allowing 17 goals-against through three games played. The Sabres have allowed 15 goals in their three consecutive losses in Traverse City . They have only lit the lamp 5 times in those games. They broke the bank with the three goals on Monday afternoon, and they had a goal disallowed to boot.
Murray’s prospects were blown out by the Dallas Stars on Monday. The final score was 7-1 and it could have been an even worse result. On Friday, the Sabres were smoked 6-1 by the Carolina Hurricanes. Buffalo’s most competitive game was their 2-1 overtime loss to the NY Rangers on Saturday night.
So, what went wrong?
Poor goaltending. No scoring from its top offensive prospects. Shoddy 5-on-5 D-zone coverage. Terrible special teams.
Andrey Makarov is 0-2 with a 5.45 GAA and a .750 save percentage. Francois Brassard is 0-1 with a 3.59 GAA and a .894 save %. Makarov has made only 27 saves in the tourney while Brassard has made 42 stops. Add it all up, and the Sabres tenders have combined for a 5.00 GAA and a .821 save %. That’s not very good goaltending at all. Too bad Murray couldn’t summon his two super Swedes Linus Ullmark and Jhonas Johnasson from the bullpen.
It took Sam Reinhart, Joel Armia, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe three frustrating game to finally find the score sheet for the first time. Ristolainen scored a nice goal against Dallas, while Reinhart, Armia, and MacCabe notched assists.
As a collective squad, the Sabres are a combined -22 in their three losses. That’s just not good enough to win games. Sure, poor goaltending is to blame for part of it, however, the forwards and D have to own their share of the failure for leaving their goalies to fend for themselves.
The Buffalo PK has been a disaster in Traverse City by allowing 6 PPGs against in 14 PP attempts against. Having a 57% PK is certainly not something that Tim Murray and Chadd Cassidy were expecting. To make matters worse, the Sabres have scored just on PPG in 10 attempts. That’s a 10% success rate, or, a 90% failure rate. To add insult to injury, the Sabres PPers have also allowed a shorthanded goal against. The Buffalo PK and PP are ranked dead last out of eight teams participating at Traverse City.
The Sabres will finish this disappointing tourney on Tuesday afternoon with a consolation game against an opponent TBD.
Losing three games at T-City is a huge chunk of humble pie for the highly-touted Sabres prospects to swallow. Buffalo’s roster is chock full of talent top to bottom which will blossom into an orchard of NHL stars in the future. Its going to take time in order for the kids to become men. Not all Sabres prospects can succeed like Zemgus Girgensons has in his brief NHL career. The 20 year old Girgensons made a seamless transition from the USHL to Rochester and now is a solid contributor in Buffalo. Not all prospects can make the transition that smoothly. The challenge is getting all of that talent in tip-top physical and pulmonary condition. The next step to success is to get each player to play together as a unit of five which requires buying in to the team concept. This Traverse City funk will be a good learning tool for the baby Sabres as they make their ascent to the AHL and eventually to the NHL. It will serve as a constant reminder that individual players can carry their teams on their backs while dominating hockey games in major juniors and in the NCAA. However, playing against one’s own peer group in an NHL prospect camp is an entirely different discipline.
Take Sam Reinhart for example. There has been so much written and spoken about him since he was taking second overall in the June NHL Draft. And rightly so. Reinhart is only 18 years old and this is his first real exposure to pro hockey. So much is being expected from him by Buffalo management, fanes and media. He dominates opponents in junior hockey with his high end skill and off the charts hockey IQ. He struggled to find the hitch in his giddy up at Sabres Rookie Development camp in July. In fact, he was hobbled in the Blue & White scrimmage when he was smashed with a clean body check along the wall. At Traverse City, he’s played top line minutes and has only 5 shots and one assist to show for it all. He’s -2 in the tourney thus far. On Saturday, Reinhart to NHL.com that he's been reminded that mistake can kill at team in the NHL.
"It's exciting to be here; we've felt we've played two strong games and lost both so it speaks to the level of hockey and really the importance of minimizing your mistakes at this level," Reinhart said.
Reinhart feels like he fits in with his teammates and the prospects from the other teams trhat the Sabres have faced thus far.
"I feel comfortable out there," he said. "At this stage in the season I feel really well and I know it'll be a long journey to make this team so this is where it starts for everyone. I've been preparing for this for a long time."
Reinhart isn't the only Sabre to struggle at Traverse City. His linemate Joel Armia, an AHL player, has nine shots and one assist (-2) to show for his Traverse City tourney. William Carrier has five shots, no points and is -2; Dan Catenacci has six shots, no points and is -2; Justin Bailey has 9 shots, no points and is -4; Nikita Zadorov has no points, 7 shots and is -2.
Time now for the Sabres to turn their attention to winning their fourth game. They badly need a win to give themselves something to feel good about. The sting of the Traverse City disappointment will accompany each player with him back to his respective teams in juniors, the NCAA and the AHL.
In pro sports, as in life, you’ve got to lose before you can win.
Montreal Alouettes baller and former NFL bad ass Chad "Ochocinco" wants to play for the Montreal Canadiens so that he can put a hurtin on two of the most hated players in the NHL.
On Monday, Ochocinco called out Milan Lucic, and Zdeno Chara via Twitter.
Dude figures since he's undefeated at NHL 15 that he's ready for the show.
I got news for you, Ochostinko. You wouldn't last ten seconds in the NHL.
Why don't you go with what you know and stick with Dancing With The Stars.
Bruins fans are a jovial bunch. Check out these brutal photo shop depictions of the whoopin' that Lucic would apply to him were he to play in the NHL.