Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Goon Quotient: Results You'd Expect

This morning I've been fooling around with some stats; specifically with penalties.  NHL.com essentially breaks down penalty data for us; but I wanted to measure the goons; those teams with the most grit.  Half of me wanted to see if the stereotypes rang true ("Habitants?! More like Pussitants! AMIRITE!", "BURY GILLIES!"), the other to see if there was any sort of correlation between success and perceived "grit".

So, I made up the MIN-MAJ Ratio; the Goon Quotient; the BizNasty Postulate; whatever the hell you want to call it.

Essentially; all it takes is the total number of minor penalties for any given team; then divides that by the combined number of Majors, Misconducts, and Match penalties.  You've got 2 spectrums, the BizNasty Postulate and the exact opposite; the Pinko Frenchie Don Cherry Exponent.

For whole teams; both stats work well, you can really see the attitudes and behaviors of each roster, mostly because of the larger scale of the data.  On the personnel side, only the BizNasty Postulate is worth looking at.  And we will, oh we will.  Off to the data.

Team Major/Minor Ratio

The data speaks for itself.  Tell me when you think of "soft" teams, you don't immediately think Detroit, Nashville, Florida, Buffalo, etc.  Go right down the line.  Now count the goons on each team.  Wings? Nope. Predators? Tootoo. Phoenix? BizNasty. Tampa? Nope. Florida? Hordichuk. Buffalo? McCormick.  I'll stop.

Of teams in the bottom 10 (top 10?) of the Goon Quotient; only Phoenix (3rd. BizNasty 13), Buffalo (6th. McCormick 18), Carolina (8th. Troy Bodie 10), Minnesota (9th. Brad Staubitz 17) and Chicago (10th. John Scott 10) have roster players with more than 10 combined Majors, Misconducts, and Match penalties.  That's 10 teams, 5 players, 68 penalties assessed.

Now, of teams in the top 10 in this here Goon Quotient; 22 players have over 10 combined Majors, Misconducts, and Match penalties.  That contrast is stark.  Boston (1st. Shawn Thornton 16. Adam McQuaid 13. Greg Campbell 11), the Islanders (2nd. Zenon Konopka 31. Matt Martin 16. Trevor Gillies 15), St. Louis (3rd. BJ Crombeen 17, Cam Janssen 17, Brad Winchester 10), Pittsburgh (4th. Derek Engelland 15, Mike Rupp 13, Eric Godard 10) lead with 3 guys with at least 10.  Anaheim's then got Parros, the Rangers bring Avery and Prust into it, Edmonton has Theo Peckham and Zack Stortini, Dallas brings Steve Ott and Krys Barch to the bloodbath, and finally the Kings have Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth.  So that's 10 teams, 22 players, 342 penalties.  A stark difference? You betcha.

So what does this stat really tell us?  Boston is a disciplined team, taking few minors, but willing to stand up for itself if the need arises? Pittsburgh is undisciplined and goonish? Buffalo acts a fool but forces poor Cody McCormick to answer for it?

So is there any correlation between goons and success? Being Charmin soft and making the playoffs?  Well; of the top 10 in goon quotient (so the gooniest, I'm not convinced one way or the other is better) 5 teams are currently in playoff spots, in the bottom 10, 7 teams are holding playoff positions, while 4 middling teams do as well.  Interesting eh?

Well what about just the majors themselves; screw the Quotient.  Well; the 15 teams on the softer side; well 9 of them are in playoff positioning.  The 15 on the goon side? 7 in playoff positioning, naturally.

Separate it further.  The Soft 10; 7 playoff teams, the middling 10; 5 playoff teams, the Goon 10; 4 playoff teams.

Ok; so how does that change when you factor in all penalties; minors plus majors, misconducts and match penalties?  Well; it does go about a minor change.  The 10 least penalized teams have 5 playoff teams, the middle 10 have 7, while the most heavily penalized 10 rosters have 4 teams in playoff positioning.

Is Damien Cox right?  Are goons irrelevant, detrimental even, in today's NHL?  Seems to be moving that way. Someone do a historical analysis.

BizNasty Postulate

BizNasty FTW! Let's be honest here; this is a who's who list of goons in the league; only towards the bottom of this 30 most majors in the league list do you start to see some players who can contribute in other areas as well.  The increase in minors directly coincides with increased ice time or in Steve Ott's case; how big of a douche he's being on the ice at any given time.

So congratulations Paul Bissonette; you have exactly 0.230769 minor penalties for every Major.  Fourth line for life.

Pinko Commie Don Cherry Charmin Soft Theorem

I don't particularly care for the reverse goon quotient if only for the fact that you can't divide by zero.  But what exactly does Victor Hedman having 31 minors and no majors tell us?  That he needs to move his feet more?  Whatever.

You know what is interesting about this list, which is the top 30 players in assessed minors?  Look at the trend down the line...soft, soft, soft, soft, agitator, agitator, douchebag, terrible reputation players, Captain Elbows Jr., Worst person on the planet, Matt Cooke, then gets into some of the goons.  

Key to this list?  Notice all those guys who're assessed tons of minors...P.K. Subban, Ruutu, Cooke, Neil...but don't answer the bell.  Tsk, tsk fellas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

DC Jersey Foul - Extreme!

Words cannot describe this foul. Took this picture last year at the Caps rookie camp and forgot I even had it. Good thing jersey fouls never get old!

If you can't see it because my posting skills are lacking...it reads "XTREMIST". Only in DC. The Red Jnco Jean pants complete the outfit though. Nice touch.

And the Most Dangerous Team in the East is...

Well since every other blogger is examining the current playoff picture, why should we be any different?

Here's a look at the East. I refuse to post the West because to be honest, there are just too many "what if" scenarios over there. Shit be crazy.

From TSN:

Your usual culprits at the top of the standings. But we as hockey fans know that we have the best post season tournament in sports. And one of the main reasons is because it is unpredictable. Any team can win Cup. It's not a 1 vs 16 seed in the first round. It's 1 vs 8. Best of 7. And the drop off between the teams is usually not too great. See one Capitals, Washington circa 2010 vs the Montreal Canadians.

Every year though, there is that one team in each Conference that you just pray your team won't have to face. Up until this weekend, everyone in the East feared the Devils. And for good reason, they went on an unbelievable run to push for the playoffs, but in the end, the hole proved to be too deep.

The East playoff picture is pretty much set, and when I look at it, there is one team that I'd want nothing to do with, especially in the first round, and it's all because of this man:

He's just so dashing!

In all honesty though, the New York Rangers had, and probably glad they did, been lost in the shuffle due to New Jersey's ridiculous streak. But now that the Devils know they'll be hitting the links in April, the Rangers emerge from the fog as one of the NHL's hottest teams.

The Rangers are 8-1-1 in their last 10. I know they've been up and down all season, but the scary part is that Lundqvist has been carrying the team for most of the 2nd half of the season, and he just now seems to be hitting his stride. He recorded 3 of his NHL leading 11 shutouts in the Month of March. He's 4th in Save % (.924) and 5th in GAA (2.24). For a team plagued with inconsistent play all season, now is as good a time as ever to really mesh as a team. I'm too lazy to look past the last 2 seasons, but think about the Flyers and Penguins and their Cup runs. The Penguins had to go on crazy run to just make the playoffs and ended up winning the Cup. The Flyers needed a shootout victory over the Rangers last year to even make the playoffs, and they rode that momentum all the way to the Cup finals. It's all about which team is playing the best...and what team is housing the hottest goaltender when the playoffs start.

Let's assume the East stays the way it is right now, which I think it will. We'll be left with:

(1)Flyers vs (8)Sabres
(2)Caps vs (7)Rangers
(3)Bruins vs (6)Habs
(4)Pens vs (5)Lightning

Boy, for a Capitals team that has been struggling to find the back of the net all season, a first round match up against the Rangers would be mighty tough. Not saying...just saying.

What's the point of this article? I don't know. Basically I'm just saying that the Rangers scare the shit out of me as a potential first round opponent, and I'd want nothing to do with them based on their goaltending and recent play as a team.

Honorable Mention: Gotta represent Vance's Sabres here too. I think we all know that Ryan Miller can win a series on his own just based on his Olympic resume. And that little midget Gerbe is pretty shifty. Connolly sucks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mark Pysyk Is Goal Oriented

To the uninitiated, and by uninitiated I mean non-Buffalo Sabres fans, the name Mark Pysyk may not mean too much.  The Sabres 2010 1st round draft pick has set his short-term goals pretty lofty; becoming really good friends with Taylor Swift.

Originally pointed out (to me, at least) by ScottyMCSS of Buffalo74; Pysyk has been on a 2 week crusade to charm the pants off the country star who writes a song about every guy she ever let get to 2nd base (Isn't that a warning Mark?!).  By the way; have I mentioned that this has gotten absolutely hilarious?

My favorite?

Or maybe...

No Mark, it's not creepy, it's hilarious.  You have to check out the rest of his feed.  Chirping Bieber is a ballsy move, but Pysyk pulls it off.

The whole hockey thing has been well to Pysyk too.  Putting up 40 points (6 G + 34 A) in 63 games, good for 5th on the Oil Kings Roster, an all around strong showing from a guy known for his prowess in his own end.

You really do need to follow Mark Pysyk, Captain of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings here.

BanginPanger Does A Podcast

So last night the guys over a HockeeNight invited me on to talk a little about everything including but not limited to banana hammocks and Matt Cooke, to my hatred of Nicholas Cage and Brendan Fraser and Corner Bakery.

Enjoy or not.  I think I should start my own.  That would be fun.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Breaking Down the East; One Last Time

I've about worn this topic down to the ground; but one last mega-stats post before we hit the final 10 game stretch seems appropriate.  Let's break this bitch down.

First off; I just pasted images of my Excel files in here, too much of a pain to do through tables, so you get pictures, get over it.  There's two different sections; on the left is the remaining schedule with opponents current records then their combined winning percentage.

On the right is the current season series between each team and their opponents, then the goals scored for and against during those season series.  The two final stats then are the franchise's winning percentage against only their remaining opponents, then the goal differential of them as well.

7th Place: New York Rangers

  • Rangers have, by far, the easiest schedule heading through the stretch, with their opponents combined record 34 games under .500.  I use true .500; get over it.
  • Goal differential is bloated due to the thrashing they gave the Islanders this year, en route to a 4-1-0 record.  They scored 4, 6, 2, 7, and 6 in their 5 games against the Isles.
  • The Rangers are the only team with a record over .500 during the season series' against their remaining opponents.  Only the Leafs are at least .500.
  • Only 2 of the Rangers 16 wins came in OT against remaining opponents; they did not lose any games in extra time.
  • Only 3 of 8 remaining opponents are in division.
8th Place: Buffalo Sabres

  • The Sabres have the 3rd easiest remaining schedule, with remaining opponents a mere 3 games over .500; yet against that schedule they have the 2nd worst record during their season series.
  • Of 10 remaining opponents; the Sabres only outscored the opposition in 3 of those season series, with the Columbus "series" being a sole game.
  • 6 of the Sabres 14 wins against remaining opponents during their season series' came in OT/SO.  They lost 3 as well.
  • Only 2 of 10 remaining opponents are in division.
9th Place: Carolina Hurricanes

  • The Canes remaining opponents are a combined 4 games over true .500.
  • The Canes dominated the Isles and Thrashers; but were dominated by the Caps and Canadiens.
  • All 3 matchups between the Sabres and Canes were 1 goal games, 1 decided in OT.
  • 4 of 5 games against Atlanta went into extra time; the Canes won 2 in SO, 1 in OT, and lost another in OT.  Overall they won 5 in extra time; lost 3.
  • 50% of remaining games are in division; 3 with Tampa Bay alone.
10th Place: Toronto Maple Leafs

  • The Maple Leafs combined opponents are a total of 3 games under .500.
  • Of the 13 games they won against their remaining schedule; only 2 were in extra time.
  • Leafs are only 1 of 3 teams (Rangers, Canes the others) that had a positive goal differential against their remaining opponents during their season series.
  • 4 of 9 contests remaining are Northeast Division contests, whereas just 2 of the other 5 are in the rest of the Eastern Conference.

11th Place: New Jersey Devils

  • Devils remaining opponents are combined 35 games over .500.
  • In their season series, 7 of the Devils 13 wins, that 54% there, were decided in OT/SO.
  • A -21 goal differential during their season series' is the worst, as is only outscoring 1 opponent, yet they are "winning" 2 different series.
  • The Devils have the toughest remaining schedule; with only Sabres, Isles, and Leafs below true .500.
  • 5 of 10 against Atlantic, the other 5 against Northeast Division.

12th Place: Atlanta Thrashers

  • The Thrashers have the 2nd most difficult schedule remaining, but matchups with the 27th & 28th teams offset games with the Flyers and Canucks.
  • 6 of the Thrasher's 13 wins in the season series' came in OT/SO, almost 40% of their games against their remaining schedule went to extra time.
  • Just 1 division game remains for Atlanta.
That's as much data mining as you'll get outta me today.  Now armed with knowledge, dominate arguments with Devils' fans who know they'll sneak in the 8th spot.

FrankenJersey Foul: Nashville Statue of Liberties

The title about says it all.  Spotted, via GameCenter, during last night's Sabres - Predators matinee at HSBC arena in Buffalo, a FrankenJersey featuring the away sweater of the Nashville Predators with the New York Rangers Lady Liberty crest.

Well, I assumed it was a girl based on that tacky St. Patrick's Day trinket; but at this point, I think it might be a "Pat."  Somethin' about those fans down south, not sure what it is.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do the Caps Have What it Takes to Win it All?

Uh oh...what's this? Who is this man? Has Vance's blog been hacked? Well, sort of. He made the mistake of starting this blog with me 2+ years ago and I have been MIA. But, alas, I have returned to post about, of all things, the Washington Capitals.

As a Pens fanboy, it pains me to say that I just have this gut feeling that the Capitals actually have what it takes to win the Stanley Cup this year. They just seem to have the characteristics I find to be the most valuable come playoff time. No statistics here (ok maybe a couple)...these are just the traits I think a team must have in order to be successful for the playoffs:

1. Leadership - Guys like Jason Arnott, Matt Hendricks, Mike Knuble, and Brooks Laich exemplify the leadership this team has been missing during their previous playoff failures. OV and Backstrom are great players, and even Semin has his moments, but Boudreau and company brought Arnott and Hendricks in to fill a void that the Caps have been missing for so long (yes I know a 2nd line center was a need). Arnott and Hendricks might not always show up on the score sheet, but what they'll provide this team when facing adversity during the playoffs will be far more valuable. I know it's cliche, but who can argue against it? Leadership is a must for a team to be considered of Championship caliber.

2. Facing and Overcoming Adversity - Every team experiences adversity during the long regular season; but not every team survives it (NJ is trying), and few come out of it a better team. But the ones that do are almost always among the most dangerous in the playoffs. Pittsburgh and Chicago both went through it prior to their Stanley Cup championships; Washington went through it this year, with millions of viewers watching it unfold on television. And as much as 24/7 made Boudreau look like an incompetent ass, you have to credit him and his coaching staff for circling the wagons and having this team steamrolling right into the playoffs and even threatening for another Conference title. Touche Bruce. Touche.

3. Defense - OV and his Caps are doing more with less. Less offense yet a more complete team. While the record may not be as sexy as last season, I think most Caps fans would tell you they feel the most confident they have ever felt with this current team heading into the playoffs. And who can blame them? Their penalty kill ranks 4th ( 85.5) and GAA is 4th (2.38). Their offensive stats are down, yes...but so what? How many games in the playoffs are high scoring? Not many. You win Cups based on defense first. You win cups by winning 1 goal games and defending leads. This Caps team can do that. Past ones could not. And any team with the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin shouldn't be worried about offense. They'll get theirs.

4. Grit/Toughness - See one...Matt Hendricks. Look, this team just sucks to play against. It isn't all about a race to 10 goals anymore. You pay a price now for having the puck...and sometimes even when you don't (I had to). Bottom line is this: The Caps are a nasty, mean bunch. They've learned that it's too difficult to try and just switch gears from happy-go-lucky highscoring touts in the regular season to down-in-the-trenches, physical games come playoffs. So they changed their regular season mentality around January, and you can rest assured that they'll be a better team for it come playoff time.

5. Capable Goaltending - One thing we've learned in recent seasons is that you don't have to have a Hall of Fame goaltender between the pipes to win a Cup ( I still refuse to believe Chris Osgood is a Hall of Famer). The Caps are young in net, yes, but Neuvirth and Varlamov should be good enough to make the saves this team needs to win close games. Not having the experience is no longer an acceptable excuse; Varlamov has Game 7 experience. If they can minimize their gaffes, and just make the saves they are expected to make, I like their chances.

The Washington Capitals and their fans have been waiting many many years for Lord Stanley to find a home in the Nation's capital. And while I'll be rooting for another early round exit for these guys, I would not all be surprised to see Bruce and OV eating Haagen Das out of Stanley's Cup this summer. They just seem to have the "it" factor that's been missing for so long.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Looking at the Eastern Race. Again.

I'm going to throw you Leaf and Devil fans a bone here; an updated "Combined Remaining Opponents Win Percentage" graphic with Toronto, New Jersey and Atlanta included.  They join the Rangers, Sabres, and Hurricanes on it.  I'll include the numbers to make it a little easier to read.

Maple Leafs

So, if you'd recall, that's calculated by taking their remaining opponents combined total wins, divided by that same number plus total losses and Overtime losses, aka true 500.

I noted this on Twitter; but if you don't follow (how come not?) take note of this.  The Devils do currently have the weakest remaining schedule overall...at this point.  Over their next 5 contests, their opponents combined win percentage is a mere 37.38%, then over their final 12 games, that number will jump to 52.66% (as it stands now).

But man; poor Thrashers; with 3 contests remaining against Philadelphia (and a matchup with the Canucks); you can see why their number is so much higher than the rest.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Breaking Down 7 - 9 in the East

Last night's Rangers - Sabres tilt was pivotal in terms of closing the gap between the 7th and 9 place squads in the East (it's no Western Conference, but I don't give a rats ass about the West so you can do your own work). Hell, SportsClubStats now has all 3 clubs, Rangers, Canes, and Sabres with over 50% chance on making the playoffs (not sure how that works). I may not be able to predict the future; but we can definitely take a look at the schedule to see how it could all play out.

First off; the first of many charts clocking an interesting piece of data; a real-time look at the each of the Rangers, Canes, and Sabres remaining opponents win percentage; calculated as Wins/(Wins+Losses+Overtime Losses).

Here's how it sits now.

  • The Rangers' (with 17 games remaining on their schedule) opponents have a win percentage of 48.92%, the combined record at 525-427-121.
  • The Hurricanes' (with 18 games remaining) opponents have a current win percentage of 48.76%, the combined record being 553-435-146.
  • The Sabres' (with 20 games remaining) opponents have a win percentage of 49.96%. Their opponent's combined record is 632-482-151.
I'm going to keep a running tab on this (Excel rules) and move forward posting how it changes daily.  There should interesting to see how it changes with hot teams (Islanders, Sharks, Bruins) leaving the data, and how easily statistics can change from day to day.

Here's some other factoids that might just interest you in the race for the 7th and 8th seeds in the East.
  • The Hurricanes and Rangers both have 6 games against seeds 1-6 in the East (in 18 and 17 games, respectively) while the Sabres have 7 (in 20 remaining games).
  • Each team has 3 games left against the Western Conference.
    1. 1. The Rangers have the Wild, Ducks, and Sharks.
      2. The Canes get the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, and Red Wings.
      3. The Sabres have the Wild, Predators, and Blue Jackets
  • The Rangers and Sabres have 1 more contest remaining, the Rangers and Canes do not play again, while the Sabres and Canes play 3 more times this year.
  • The Rangers have 5 games remaining against division leaders: 2 with Philadelphia, 2 with Boston, and 1 with San Jose.
  • The Canes have 4 games remaining against division leaders: 3 with Tampa Bay and 1 with Detroit.
  • The Sabres also have 4 games remaining against division leaders: 2 with Philadelphia, 1 with Tampa Bay, and 1 with Boston.
  • The Rangers record against their remaining opponents this year is 21-25-1; including going 0-4 against Philadelphia, whom they play twice.
  • The Hurricanes record against their remaining opponents is 20-16-5; including going 0-3-1 against the Caps (2 left) and 1-1-1 against Tampa (3 left), 4-0 against Atlanta (2 left), and 0-1 against Buffalo (3 left).
  • The Sabres record against their remaining opponents is 26-22-3; including 0-2 vs Philly (2 left), 3-1 vs TOR (2 left), and 1-0 vs CAR (3 left)
I can't imagine there's anything left I could possibly could cover here.  Now with all this knowledge; who you got making it?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Focus is Key to Mastering the Art of Goaltending

The greatest of goaltenders are masters of their own mind, controlling their emotions, their highs and lows, to remain focused and intent on the task at hand. This kid isn't quite there.

Somebody call 911 indeed.

The Keys to the Sabres Transition Plans

February 28th was supposed to mark the dawn of a new era in Buffalo Sabres hockey.  A change in how the GM's office operates, an altered view point from Darcy Regier's desk, but now that day came and went.  Melodrama aside, what we saw from Darcy Regier and the Sabres' front office yesterday, and the days before it, was a fundamental shift in philosophy in the organization's standard operating procedures.  It started with the acquisition of Brad Boyes; the penultimate goal a Stanley Cup.

The Newest Buffalo Sabre: Brad Boyes
You heard it in his comments leading up to the deadline; you heard it echoed in the Buffalo News and blogs; the Sabres were buying, the shackles off, the checkbook only needing a signature.  So what are the next steps towards building that Stanley Cup Champion the city of Buffalo was promised?  Ingenuity, objectivity, and patience.

Let's start with ingenuity.  GM Darcy Regier has shown his prowess before in finding the right fit for his roster (under far different constraints than now).  As Bucky Gleason noted, taking on a contract like Brad Boyes would never have happened BP (Before Pegula); take for example the trade that brought Daniel Briere to the Sabres.  Regier shifted a heavy contract in Chris Gratton to the desert for the undersized but shifty Briere; shipping out salary while bringing in talent.  He's now in a situation where he's able to, if required, to take on salary without giving up his own assets.

In that regards I believe we may see the Sabres active in shopping for restricted free agents on and around the draft.  There are going to be a number of kids available, for the right price, based on other teams' salary cap issues or non-willingness to commit to a prospect.  Do I think offer sheets are a possibility? No, not really.  It's not his style after Kevin Lowe's potential poaching of Thomas Vanek.

But I do think there will be guys like Zach Bogosian of Atlanta, Ryan Callahan in New York, Setoguchi in San Jose, Michael Frolik in Chicago, even a Zach Parise in New Jersey, all of whom could be had based on their potential raises and cap inflexibility with their current franchises.  Regier has stated he wants to bring on long term assets, not rentals and 1 year veterans.  A RFA deal could be route he takes towards reaching that goal.

The problem of course is Darcy Regier's ability in looking at his current assets objectively and realizing that to get one must give.  Many of Darcy's prior moves BP have always been hamstrung financially and he's always had an unwillingness to part with his prospects.  The Sabres have always been a home grown team; that reliance on the draft and building a core through it, in theory, can be tempered by Pegula's willingness to spend.

As long as Regier is capable of looking at a deal and realizing the worth in the move.  In today's NHL no GM can fleece their 29 compatriots in each and every deal; you can only make your roster better one player at a time.  Would Regier ever have the cojones to pull off a deal like the one between Colorado and St. Louis? Like the one between Dallas and Pittsburgh? Before Pegula no, I don't think he would, nor would he consider it.  It's these kinds of adroit moves that keep franchises moving forward; deals that Regier may need to look in to.

Finally, patience.  Regardless of what the fans may clamor for; regardless of what the Buffalo News may suggest; there's no reason to overpay or pull the trigger on a deal that doesn't move the franchise forward.  Look at the 2011 unrestricted free agency crop; who realistically fits the needs of this Sabres team?  There certainly is the temptation to make that immediate splash; to put your stamp on the franchise; to let the rest of the League know that you mean business.  But in no way, shape, or form does that mean overpaying in a weak free agency class.

Honestly; in terms of UFA's available July 1st, who would you set your sights on?  Right now CapGeek estimates $18.558 million in salary cap availability for next season. Assuming Connolly, Grier, Niedermayer and Lalime are gone, while re-signing, with modest raises, Steve Montador, Cody McCormick, the Sabres will have perhaps $16 million for the RFAs and other signings.  Let's assume the Sabres re-sign Stafford ($4), Sekera ($1.5), Enroth ($1.5), Gerbe ($1.5), and Weber ($2); that takes them to $5.5 million in cap space availability.  Add in Zack Kassian's entry level deal and you're looking at around $4 million in cap space.

The need? Well; the roster flexibility amongst a lot of Sabre forwards is unique, allowing Lindy Ruff the ability to mix and match his lines.  Jochen Hecht can play LW or C.  Tyler Ennis the Same.  Newly acquired Brad Boyes can play RW or C.  Cody McCormick has played all over the 4th line this year.  So do the Sabres need a 2nd line LW to allow Hecht to be more comfortable in a 3rd line checking role?  Do they go after another C and keep Ennis on the sidewall?

As for defense; assuming Montador and Sekera are re-signed, and they let Butler walk, they'll go into 2011 with 6 signed D.

So looking back at that free agent crop; who is there that sticks out at you as a true fit for this roster? Brooks Laich? Ville Leino? Curtis Glencross? Jamie Langenbrunner? Joni Pitkanen? Christian Ehrhoff?  Truly slim pickings in the UFA bunch.  Is there a single free agent worth overpaying for?  That's the call that will drive Regier through the Summer as he tries to revamp this franchise into a true contender.

As for me?  This is what my starting lineup would look like come October 2011.

Thomas Vanek
Derek Roy
Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis
Brad Boyes
Zack Kassian
Jochen Hecht
Jamie Langenbrunner
Jason Pominville
Cody McCormick
Todd Marchant
Pat Kaleta
Tyler Myers
Shaone Morrisonn
Kevin Bieksa
Jordan Leopold
Steve Montador
Mike Weber
Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Paul ByronAndrej Sekera

Yes; I'm trading Paul Gaustad for something, anything. He may be the only guy on the roster that can win faceoffs with regularity, but that's all he can do. I would rather have Jamie Langenbrunner, with his intangibles and experience, centering the 3rd line than what Gaustad currently brings.

I'm also trying to bring in a Kevin Bieksa type defenseman, seemingly not in the plans for Vancouver if not for their penchant for injury at the blueline, he could potentially be pried away.

I have Kassian making the starting lineup; why? He's the bang that the little skilled forwards need. Pairing him up with the likes of an Ennis and Boyes; both highly skilled guys with a penchant for avoiding the corners; the physical Kassian is exactly the type of player that they need to play alongside.

As for Todd Marchant, that's the veteran type presence that Ruff and Regier love to bring in.

Is this a cup contender?  No, probably not.  That'll take patience and a deft hand to make that happen.
Fact: BanginPanger is not meant as an insult to the one and only Darren Pang, nor do I claim to be him. The views and opinions presented on BanginPanger are of my own, and no other namesake of the site, the NHL, Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals, or anyone else.