Archive for November, 2010

Greener pastures ahead for Sabres? (Updated)

November 30, 2010

How does news about a hockey passionate billionaire purchasing the Buffalo Sabres sound? Couldn’t be better! Well what a time for the first Buffalo Sabres’ story on our website.

In the Buffalo News this morning Bucky Gleason wrote an article about the growing speculation that the Buffalo Sabres are for sale. His article talked about how Pennsylvania business man Terry Pegula could be a potential suitor to buy the Sabres. Pegula has ties to Western New York, a boat load of money (#110 on Forbes 400) and a passion for hockey. Sounds like a fit.

Fast forward to about 10 a.m. when a report from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News came out. Campbell reported that Pegula had signed a letter of intent to purchase the Sabres for about $150 million.

Shortly after the Campbell report, Sabres’ managing parter Larry Quinn issued this statement:

“Reports regarding the sale of the Buffalo Sabres tend to surface from time to time. There have been several inquiries in the past few years regarding this subject. Our company policy is we do not comment on them because people make inquiries all the time. Some of these inquiries are serious, some are not, some make the media and others do not.  The report that a $150 million letter of intent has been signed is simply not true.”

Well of course Quinn isn’t going to come right out and say an agreement has been reached, but notice how he says an agreement for $150 million hasn’t been reached. That may very well be the case, but as The Hockey News stated the letter intent was believed to be about $150 million. Maybe they reached a deal for $151 million….Sabres’ fans can only hope.

As of 1 p.m. there hasn’t been anything new to report, but as you can see there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.

From my perspective I would be heavily in favor of Pegula purchasing the team. From everything I’ve heard he sounds like a great guy that has a real interest in the NHL. Pegula, the CEO of East Resources, recently donated $88 million to Penn State to fund a Division I hockey program. I appreciate Tom Golisano keeping the Sabres in Buffalo, but Pegula sounds like the guy that would do anything to get Buffalo a Stanley Cup!

Update: Here is an update of the Sabres potential ownership change.

Campbell of The Hockey News wrote an updated article late Tuesday afternoon explaining the potential sale of the Sabres.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“A source with knowledge of the dealings told THN.com the announcement of the Sabres sale is expected sometime in late December or early January. The fact the Sabres are downplaying the report has to do with semantics. In fact, the source also said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to introduce Pegula to the owners at the Dec. 6-7 board of governors meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.”

 Here is a new article from Gleason today that provides a little more details into the dealings that are going on.

And finally, late Wednesday morning an AP report was released stating that Golisano has not yet decided if he’s going to sell the team, but he’s strongly considering it.

As of right now it looks pretty close to being finalized and it’s just a matter of when, not if. We’ll have more stories in the upcoming weeks on this topic, but it looks like great news for the Sabres’ franchise.

Inside the Blue Zone

November 30, 2010

This is the first installment of Inside the Blue Zone which will feature our thoughts on the previous Bills game. We will post the Blue Zone on Monday night after all the dust has settled from the previous game. Hope you enjoy!

After a long holiday weekend that was capped off at the Bills game, I’m finally able to give my thoughts on the heartbreaking loss. There are so many different things that transpired during Buffalo’s 19-16 loss to Pittsburgh it’s hard to pinpoint where to start.

Well here are some quick thoughts to start things off: Stevie Johnson is human, Kyle Williams is quickly emerging as an elite defensive tackle, Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to thrive in Chan Gailey’s offense, anyone seen Lee Evans?, who knew we have defensive line depth and the Bills once again found another way to lose.

“The drop heard around the world” as I refer to it, has been talked about all over national media today, but not so much for the actual play. After the game an emotional Johnson put a message up on Twitter that many people perceived as him questioning his religious beliefs because of the drop. Everyone has seen what he wrote and heard it being discussed all day so I’m not really going to get into it. I believe the real matter here is how Johnson’s going to bounce back. Every player in the NFL has at one point made a mistake and what separates the great from the good players is their ability to bounce back. This should also serve as a wakeup for Johnson, who was coming off a three touchdown performance against the Bengals. Johnson needs to take a step back, soak everything in and probably change his tune and become “more serious”. Hopefully this can humble him because the sky’s the limit for the former seventh round pick.

Wow! I think that pretty much sums up the way Williams played against the Steelers. 10 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 holding penalties were a direct result of his non-stop motor on Sunday. Williams and his blue collar mentality are a great story on a team that is desperate for some stars.

In his toughest test of the season, Fitzpatrick proved to be up to the challenge as he nearly led the Bills to the win. Although his numbers weren’t as flashy, the Havard grad managed the game and stood tall against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense. With the Bills chances of pulling out  a few more victories this season looking pretty good, Fitzpatrick is in line to be the signal caller next year.

Lee Evans is the Bills No. 2 receiver, end of the discussion. The only time I noticed Lee Evans on Sunday is when he had a crucial fumble on the Steelers’ 19-yard line in the third quarter. Johnson is having a great season, but if it wasn’t for Evans I don’t think he would have the same numbers. That being said, Evans needs to earn his nine million dollars and make some more plays.

Whether you look at the dropped pass by Johnson, or the fact Leodis McKelvin couldn’t “cross” the Moats on the kickoff, the Bills found another way to lose. Yes there were other reasons the team lost the game, but to me these two plays stood out the most. Johnson’s catch would’ve ended the game and the same goes for McKelvin, who looked destined for pay dirt on the kickoff return.

Kudos to the defensive lineman for stepping up with the injury to Dwan Edwards (not counting Maybin). Alex Carrington and Torrell Troup actually made a difference.

Lastly, just how bad is the Buffalo’s run defense? This stat tells it all: Donte Whitner leads the Bills with 104 tackles on the season and he led the way on Sunday with 18. I’d say we could use a few linebackers.

Give Stevie a Break

November 30, 2010

Let’s face it, this Buffalo Bills team was not heading to the playoffs and the loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday did not end their season, so let’s give Stevie Johnson a break for having an off day. Without Johnson’s breakout year this season would be far less bearable to watch, so when he has a bad day like he did on Sunday it’s not the end of the world.

Johnson has quickly become the Bills number one receiver and the most exciting player to watch on offense (sorry Fred Jackson and Lee Evans). He went from virtual anonymity in his first two seasons in the league to having a legitimate shot at making a Pro Bowl this season. Johnson is 12th in the NFL with 59 receptions, 11th in receiving yards with 796 and tied for third with nine touchdown receptions. I’ll admit it would’ve been amazing to see him catch that 10th touchdown pass of the season to take down the juggernaut that is the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. However, it’s not like he dropped a pass in the end zone that would’ve catapulted the Bills into a playoff position. It would’ve made a 2-8 team, a 3-8 team.

It was amazing to see how much that drop effected Johnson at the podium during the postgame. It was great to see that much emotion from a player on a team that has seemed absolutely emotionless for the better part of a decade. Maybe Stevie J represents the turning of the tide in a Buffalo locker room that seems to have more heart and desire than any Bills team I can remember since the late 1990′s. I’ve said on multiple occasions this season that I would rather watch this 2-9 Bills team that any other Bills team in recent memory. They are exciting, they seem to be in every game to the very end and they are playing perhaps the most difficult schedule in the NFL to boot. Not to get off topic but the Bills opponents that they’ve already played this season have a combined record of 72-49. They have played an unprecendented nine teams with winning records and six division leaders. Those are some eye-popping stats for a team that has really only been completely out of two games this year.

These things need to be put into perspective especially for Steve Johnson. Johnson and the Bills have walked through the gauntlet this season, never put their heads down and have made just about every team they’ve played this season sweat it out til the very end. Johnson has had an incredible breakout year and the sky is the limit for this young receiver. Keep your head up Stevie and don’t let this one rough week derail your bright future.

Way to go Joey

November 30, 2010

A few days after Dusty Baker was robbed of NL Manager of the Year honors by Bud Black, whose Padres didn’t even make the playoffs, the Cincinnati Reds were finally rewarded for their impressive 2010 season when Joey Votto nabbed 31 out of 32 first place votes and was crowned NL MVP.

Being a Reds fan, I may be a little bit biased but it was clear that Votto was the Most Valuable Player in the National League this season. The Reds run to their first playoff appearance in 15 years wouldn’t have even been imaginable without Votto’s extraordinary season.

The honor couldn’t have been bestowed on a better person. Votto is a mild-mannered, all business, modest player who avoids the limelight at all costs. He is an unquestioned leader in the clubhouse who leads by his actions. He is also a little more than two years removed from the biggest tragedy of his life when his 52 year-old father died suddenly in August of 2008. Votto didn’t speak much about the tragedy during the ’08 season but suffered from depression and anxiety during the offseason and into the ’09 regular season. During the ’09 campaign Votto was placed on the Disabled List for 21 games because of anxiety issues.

Votto’s personal struggles and bout with depression make his improbable MVP run that much more incredible. Here’s a great article about how Joey’s thoughts were with his father when he heard about the honor.

The “Little Bills” should dive right into free agency waters

November 24, 2010

Coming off two straight wins the Buffalo Bills are clearly becoming an entertaining and likeable team. Honestly what’s not to like? The team is rag-tag group of players (“Little Giants”) that are fighting for their NFL lives.

But even with some light at the end of the tunnel, the Bills are in line for their worst season since 2001 when they finished 3-13. This has led to a lot of early draft talk and speculation about which positions Buffalo should be interested in come April. Yes this year’s draft will be crucial in the turnaround of the team, but adding a few free agents from this year’s crop should be a priority.

Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports recently wrote an article about the top 30 free agents this year and he has them broken down into three groups. The three groups are: players that have been in the league six plus years, five-years and four-years. Because of the current situation with the Collective Bargaining Agreement things get confusing in regards to specific terms of free agency.

2010-11 Free Agency Breakdown:

1. If a lockout occurs there will be no free agency until an agreement is reached (or players could decertify the union to negate that).

2. Owners could negotiate with players during the offseason using the current rules, which means that only players with six or more years of NFL experience are eligible for unrestricted free agency.

3. There could be a strike.

4. An agreement could be reached by March and something similar to the old CBA rules will most likely be put in place. If this happens there will be a salary cap and players with four years experience will be unrestricted free agents.

Obviously I hope the owners and players can come to an agreement by March, because it would add to an already impressive group of free agents.  You can look at the complete list of free agents by clicking the link above, but I’ve decided to list some of the players I think the Bills should target below (The number next to their name indicates which group they fall into).

Free Agent targets for Bills:

1. Barrett Ruud MLB (6+): A steady inside linebacker that is on the way to his fourth straight year with over 100 tackles.

2. Chad Greenway OLB (5): A stud 4-3 outside linebacker. Would he also excel in a 3-4 scheme? I hope so.

3. Owen Daniels TE (5): Daniels caught 110 passes the past two seasons, but has been battling injuries the past year. Certainly an upgrade over anyone that we have if he’s healthy.

4. LaMarr Woodley OLB (4): A quarterbacks nightmare, he’s on pace for his third straight 10+ sack season. Well schooled in the 3-4 philosophy coming from Pittsburgh and would fill an immediate hole.

5. David Harris MLB (4): A tackling machine that has experience manning the middle in a 3-4. Hard to see the Jets keeping him with all their other big contracts.

6. Zach Miller TE (4): A solid receiving tight end that would be an upgrade at the position.

7. Tamba Hali OLB (5): Will fill our need for a pass-rushing OLB in the 3-4. Hali is having another steady year with eight sacks.

8. Matt Light OT (6+): Veteran left tackle that will allow Demetrius Bell to move to the right side. Can take a young tackle in the draft and groom him.

9. Pat Williams DT (6+): This is a real long shot because of his age and the fact the Bills have Kyle Williams. But if they do switch back to a 4-3 it wouldn’t hurt to bring him back for depth and to form the new “Williams Wall”.

I tried to be as sensible as possible with creating this list because let’s face it, Buffalo has been pretty conservative when it comes to signing free agents in the past. Besides the Terrell Owens signing, the last big splash the Bills made was signing Takeo Spikes in 2003.  There are some big names on the list of free agents (Haloti Ngata, Peyton Manning, etc…), but I don’t see their current teams letting them leave nor do I see Buffalo going after them.

A couple of good free agent signings and a solid draft could get the Bills headed in the right direction. Watch out Spike here comes the Buffalo Bills!

Cam Newton a good fit for Bills?

November 19, 2010

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has certainly been in the news a lot lately. Too bad its been for all the wrong reasons.

Newton, who has led the Tigers to the No. 2 ranking in college football this season, has recently been accused of soliciting money from colleges to help sway his decision on where he would ultimately play. Although nothing concrete has come of the allegations it adds to the list of character concerns about Newton.

But even with the off-the-field baggage you can’t help, but consider Newton an intriguing draft prospect. At 6’6″ he can make all the throws and he’s a proven gamer playing in the toughest conference in college football (SEC).

I know it’s still way to early to be linking college prospects with NFL teams, but I stand pat that the Bills biggest need in the draft is quarterback and that’s the premise of this article. I wrote a story earlier this week stating that I want Buffalo to secure the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft and in-turn take Andrew Luck if he comes out. There is a strong possibility, however, the Bills wont have the first overall pick and if Luck doesn’t end up coming out the more good quarterbacks available the better.

Wes Bunting, a draft expert for the National Football Post, wrote an excellent article breaking down Newton as a draft prospect because of all the hype he has been receiving. Bunting posted on Twitter Friday morning that he saw Newton as a good fit for the Bills because of his strong arm and his athletic ability.

I respect Bunting’s opinion of Newton being a good fit for Buffalo, but you could make a case that all of the top quarterbacks (Luck, Locker, Mallet) will all be a strong fit. The Bills need a quarterback plain and simple, but as of November 19 if I could pick one it would have to be Luck. A lot’s going to change between now and April, but adding another talented quarterback into the draft mix wont hurt. Is Newton worth a look if he comes out, I think so.

Next quarterback in

November 18, 2010

“Next Bull In” is the motto of the 2010 UB Bulls football team and their first-year head coach Jeff Quinn. With the disappointing offensive season the Bulls are having, Quinn might want to re-think the saying and call it “Next Quarterback In”.

Quinn, who took over for Turner Gill at the end of the 2009 season, is an offensive-minded coach that likes to spread things out and throw the ball all over the field. He can’t be too pleased with the team ranking 112th in total offense in the FBS this season.

Even with the running game struggling, the root of Buffalo’s offensive woes can be traced to a lack of consistent production from the quarterback position. Sophomore Jerry Davis won the starting job in the offseason and opened the season with four touchdowns against Rhode Island. Davis couldn’t keep the momentum going after his strong start and his inaccuracy led to him earning a spot on the bench. Freshman Alex Zordich replaced Davis in the starting lineup against Temple and has started all the way up until he suffered a season-ending injury against Ball State. With Zordich at quarterback the Bulls’ offense didn’t fair any better and now with the injury, Davis will once again get the call.

The 2010 season is pretty much a wash, but keep your heads up Buffalo fans help is on the way. Quinn’s strong coaching reputation is already showing as Buffalo has two quarterbacks committed for 2011. One of those quarterbacks is Williamsville South product Joe Licata. The 6’2” Licata holds the Western New York record for passing yards (6,472) and touchdowns (86). Licata, who worked in a spread offense in high school, will be a strong candidate to come in next fall and push for the starting job. Tony Daniel from Douglasville, Ga., is the second quarterback in Quinn’s first recruiting class. At 6’5” he has the same size of one of Quinn’s former pupils in Tony Pike.

With one of the stronger defenses in the MAC, Buffalo was expected to be a little better than its record indicates, but with the offense being so poor it hasn’t gone as expected. If this season reveals anything, it’s to show patience with Quinn and his staff. It’s going to take time to bring in the proper personnel to run his spread offense and it starts with this first recruiting class. It took Gill three seasons to turn the program around, but with four quarterbacks in the fold next fall, the 2011 team motto might read “Next Defense Down”.

Donald Trump: the Next Bills Owner?

November 16, 2010

Here’s an article that i read that I thought was pretty interesting. There isn’t much substance to it but hey, a guy can dream right? Check it out here.

Buffalo’s “Luck” may have run out

November 15, 2010

You’re probably looking at this title and wondering what luck I’m reffering to when it comes to the 1-8 Buffalo Bills. Well the luck I’m reffering to is Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who will most likely be the No. 1 pick in this April’s draft.

After leaving the Bills’ game yesterday I had mix feelings regarding the teams 14-12 win over the Detroit Lions. On one hand I was happy to see the team erase any chance of going 0-16, but there was also part of me that was thinking there goes our chance at drafting Luck.

The clear cut favorite to land the first overall pick has to be the Carolina Panthers, who are by far the worst team in the NFL (It doesn’t help that their roster has been decimated by injuries). At this point some of you maybe thinking why would the Panthers have any interest in a quarterback after they drafted both Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike in the 2010 draft? John Fox is counting the days until he is fired at the end of the season and that means a whole new coaching staff will be coming to Carolina. Clausen is the current regime’s draft pick and the new coach will most likely come in and clean house. If Clausen fails to impress as a starter for the remainder of the season, Carolina might not be able to pass on an elite talent like Luck. Many draft experts are already touting Luck as the most impressive quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. That’s saying a lot!

Now if the Bills and Panthers finish the season with identical 1-15 records, that’s where it gets tricky. You would think the team with the harder schedule would get the No. 1 pick, but that isn’t the case. The team with the weaker overall schedule will actually land the first pick. Jeremy White of WGR 550 wrote a great article breaking down the race to the top pick.

I’m happy to see Buffalo erase the goose egg from the win column, but I’m a firm believer that this team needs to hit rock bottom before it can climb to the top again. Getting the first pick and taking an elite quarterback like Luck is what this team needs to get back on the winning track (see the Rams this season).

None of this will matter however if Luck, a red-shirt sophomore for the Cardinal, decides to return to school for his junior season. If that does happen it will certainly sting for many Bills’ fans, but at least we would still have the opportunity to get any player that we want! With the first overall pick, Buddy Nix will have the opportunity to get his guy and he will have no excuses for making a bad choice, because he had his choice at the pick of the litter.

For now I have my calendar marked for January 15, which is the deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the draft.  Lets hope Buffalo can find some “Luck”.

A Tale of Two Teams

November 15, 2010

“At least we aren’t as bad as the Lions.” A familiar phrase uttered by Bills fans over the past decade which no longer seems to ring true.

As the Buffalo Bills take the field against the Detroit Lions on Sunday it seems like a clash of two teams heading in completely opposite directions. Both teams have been rebuilding for the past ten years but the Lions seem to be the squad heading for greener pastures.

At the beginning of the season it was clear that the 2010 Bills were in complete blow it up and start over mode and judging by their 0-8 record at the halfway point, there seems to be little hope for success in the near future. This year’s Lions on the other hand seem to have found there building blocks for a promising future.

Calvin Johnson is quickly becoming the best receiver in the league; Ndamukong Suh is the run stuffing, penetrating force every team dreams of having in the middle of their defense; and Matthew Stafford, shoulder injuries and all, has all the tools to become a stellar franchise gunslinger. With a supporting cast of Jahvid Best and Brandon Pettigrew on offense and the surprising second year ballhawking corner Alphonso Smith (5 picks in ’10) on defense, the future looks bright in Detroit.

The Lions have continually hit home runs in recent drafts with Suh, Best, Pettigrew, Stafford, and up and coming safety Louis Delmas. Paired with solid free agent/trade acquisitions in Smith, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Tony Scheffler the brass in Detroit seem to know how to properly build an NFL team.

The brain trust that Ralph Wilson has assembled seems to have a different plan in mind. The first draft class of the Buddy Nix era is mediocrity personified. With the exception of selecting the flashiest offensive player in C.J. Spiller, Nix focused his inaugural draft on taking chances on the likes of Terrell Troup, Alex Carrington, and Arthur Moats. Of the nine picks taken by Nix in the 2010 draft only three have seen the field, none of which have made a significant contribution. Spiller has shown brief flashes but has not lived up to the hype while Troup and Moats’ production has been laughable, combining for 20 total tackles and a mere half of a sack.

There is some hope on the horizon in the queen city however. Steve Johnson and Lee Evans have begun to form a formidable one two punch at receiver, Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown signs of being a serviceable NFL starting quarterback and the buzz about Kyle Williams being a legitimate All-Pro defensive tackle has begun to spread around the league. These minor moral victories pale in comparison to the star potential of Sunday’s opponents however.

Buffalo’s recent offensive serge may be enough to garner their first win of the season on Sunday but in the larger scope of things it’s clear to see which organization is actually heading in the right direction


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