Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reason #528 the Sabres are good

How heady is it that the Buffalo Sabres organization has the top team in not only the NHL, but also the AHL?

The combined record of the Sabres and their affiliate, the Rochester Americans, is 36-8-3 on the year, which means GM Darcy Regier (seen at right) and Co. haven't really had too many let downs through the first quarter of 2006-07.

What's even more impressive is how heavily the Sabres have relied on their farm system — nine players currently on Buffalo's 22-man roster have played full-time on the Amerks since 2004-05 — and been able to continue to win by plugging holes with youngsters from the farm. Already this season, Jiri Novotny, Drew Stafford, Daniel Paille, Nathan Paetsch, Michael Funk, Michael Ryan and Mike Card have made the jump. (And if you think that sounds like an awful lot of inexperienced bodies for a first-place team, you're absolutely right.)

Anyway, that's all I've got on the subject... it's really rather impressive and I haven't heard it brought up nearly enough. Discuss amongst yourselves — and keep in mind some blasted the Sabres for scaling back their scouting staff the past few years.

UPDATE Tom Luongo offers his thoughts on the matter at Sabre Rattling today.



At 10:08 a.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger The Forechecker said...

Especially in the salary cap era, there's genuine opportunity to build a competitive edge in the area of player development. Being able to fill a handful of roster spots with productive, inexpensive young players can free up more cap space for that key free agent or trade acquisition. You'd think the big-market players like the Rangers and Leafs would press their financial advantage on that side. Until then, teams like Buffalo can use it to generate replacements for players that leave for bigger paydays, like McKee and Dumont.

At 10:22 a.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I know I'd pay $25 to read a smart, intelligent book on how they operate.

At 10:23 a.m., December 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Sabres have another potential gem in Rochester by the name of Mark Mancari. 21 years old, and a product of the Ottawa 67s. He's a big, physical power forward type who skates pretty well for a big man. Kind of a young Todd Bertuzzi, except perhaps without quite the offensive upside Bertuzzi had. He would be an ideal third line winger, and would bring some size and grit to any lineup. I expect that he'll make the Sabres roster by camp next year.

At 10:54 a.m., December 05, 2006, Anonymous showtyme said...

And now you can see the possibilities of Washington following suit. They've got an excellent team in Hershey who have done quite well in the past couple of years.

I thought of this last night when I was hearing how well Rochester has been doing for the past few seasons. I began to think of the definite advantage a player has being able to experience winning. I think that this attitude can allow some players to overachieve and continue that attitude of winning.

In the cap era, maybe the best thing is to develop your farm team to win in the AHL, and then focus on winning in the NHL... just a thought.

At 11:10 a.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger BlackCapricorn said...

James- kudos for giving my Sabres more props. Many people forget that the Sabres have built a lot of their team from the inside instead of a big Proinger-type free agent pickup. They are built for now and for the future. Darcy has done a great job (except letting Larry Quinn get away with that logo)!

At 11:33 a.m., December 05, 2006, Anonymous Joe said...

And now you can see the possibilities of Washington following suit.

When pigs fly. George McPhee has demonstrated time and time again that's he's a truly abominable judge of talent. Maggie the monkey could have taken Ovechkin at #1, but besides AO, the only impact player that organization has drafted in a decade is Semin. His first round in 2005 was truly a gong show. Or should I say a goon show.

Your point about winning attitude filtering up in organizations is a good one, though. I think it definitely an advantage to have your kids thinking "we can win together" as early as they can. Better than having one or two of them score 100 points on an awful team.

At 11:49 a.m., December 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Forechecker,

The Leafs have actually spent a lot of money under the JFJ regime to increase amateur scouting and to try to replicate the apparent success of the Sabres.

The one thing I would wonder is if the cutbacks that you mentioned came before or after all of these players were drafted? That effect would probably be felt further down the road. This is actually kudos for the past years work.

And Grabia, I would guess the book would probably be $40 hardcover but probably still worth it.

At 12:15 p.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Many people forget that the Sabres have built a lot of their team from the inside instead of a big Proinger-type free agent pickup.

Oh, so since you feel Buffalo has been slighted by oversimplified generalizations, you can apply the same thinking to the Ducks?

At 12:54 p.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger Tom L said...

Along with fostering a winning attitude in Rochester there's also the point that the Sabres have tried to draft guys with a winning pedigree. Campbell and Roy are Memorial Cup winners. Vanek and Stafford have Nat'l Championships under their belt. Paille was Capt. of the Canadian National team... that's not even mentioning Miller.

Bringing those guys into the organization helped tremendously. So many of their drat picks from the past few years had the 'potential captain' label associated with them.

Mix that in with the stability brought with Golisano's ownership has allowed them to look at affording and keeping more picks per draft year.

The pool in Roch is pretty thin after McArthur though. There's been a pretty steep drain from them. Nexty season though, Mancari, Sekera and possibly Zagrapan could be ready to jump up to the next level.


At 2:48 p.m., December 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was about this time last year that everyone was comparing the Senators to the 1976-77 Canadiens. And we know how that turned out. Just saying....

At 3:06 p.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger Jeff J said...

From the horse's mouth:

"We were pretty honest about what our team is and was. We didn't realize this was going to happen. We had a good skating club. What became clear when we started playing was, mobility was going to be at the forefront of our game and we have benefitted from that. Part of that is good fortunate, part of that is just luck. I once asked Al [Arbour], what's the secret to building a team? He said no secret, it's not complicated, get good players."

At 4:06 p.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger Tom L said...

Darth Regier was on WGR550 in Buffalo the other day reiterating that exact same point in relation to having to bring up Stafford and Paille. his weekly 15 minutes with Schopp and the Bulldog are usually worth the tim, even if those two morons aren't.


At 10:06 p.m., December 05, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I'm more in tune with Regier's explanation than with James'. "Good team chemistry," "knowing how to win," and "doing all the little things that don't show up on the scoresheet," are code phrases for, "This team is doing better than we expected, and we don't really know why."

It's not that I don't think that intangibles exist, because I do. I think that they are vitally important. However, I also think that people inside an organization have, at best, a vague idea of how the intangibles fall into place, and those of us outside the organization have less than that.

Take "good team chemistry," for instance. What is it? I ask, because one thing winning teams seem to have in common is that they have very different personalities. On some of them, everyone loves one another. On others, personal rivalries make sitting in the locker room an ordeal, but lead to winning.

It's an ex post facto explanation. A team wins, so it obviously has good chemistry. That's not very helpful. So far as I can tell, everyone agreeing in September that a team has good chemistry has absolutely no predictive value for whether or not they are going to be winners. Instead, it's basically used as a tautology.

I'm particularly dubious about the whole "they learned how to win while together in the minors" argument. As a University of Minnesota fan, I'm very fond of Thomas Vanek, but his value has nothing to do with having learned to win while he was here; he was an ungodly good player the moment he stepped onto the ice for the Hall of Fame Game his freshman year. Johnny Pohl learned just as much about winning here as Vanek did, and that isn't going to make him a key component of a Maple Leafs Cup run.

At 1:20 a.m., December 06, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm more in tune with Regier's explanation than with James'.

The funny thing is I don't even offer an explanation for any of this... I'm merely pointing out their development system has produced a lot of players and the teams are both winning.

At 1:53 a.m., December 06, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

The funny thing is I don't even offer an explanation for any of this... I'm merely pointing out their development system has produced a lot of players and the teams are both winning.

You are correct. I mixed up your post with the first few comments. My apologies.

At 1:56 a.m., December 06, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I only say that as a response because I know when I wrote the post that I was careful not to draw that correlation between playing together and winning in the NHL. Frankly, I don't know if there is one — but regardless, it's impressive that that kind of drain on the development system hasn't slowed the Amerks down (although I should have noted that Buffalo shares the affiliate team with the Panthers).

At 10:20 p.m., December 06, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I don't find it that surprising. While a good minor league affiliate can be a positive sign for the future of a team, there are plenty of times it's completely unrelated. A lot of good minor league teams win games because their roster is filled with fringe major league veterans who are better right now than the kids other teams are putting out there, but don't have nearly the same upside.

The correlation between minor league success and future major league success has broken down as minor league teams have become more viable as independent businesses. They tend to put a higher premium on winning themselves than they used to, and are less interested in being just a development site. It still happens, of course, but there are more factors in play.


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