Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Officially Entering Evaluation Mode


I have good news and bad news for you guys today. The good news is the Buffalo Sabres truly seem to be taking this rebuild seriously, the bad news we’re going to see a lot of mediocre talent such as Kevin Porter playing with the Buffalo Sabres for a stints of time.

The news that the Buffalo Sabres had sent down Mark Pysyk and Luke Adam to the Rochester Americans was a bit of a shock when it first hit. But with all hockey news, after the initial reaction one has to take a step back and think about the moves from a

different perspective. The Amerks are getting ready to play in the Spengler Cup over in Switzerland beginning boxing day. The Spengler Cup is very prestigious, which is by invite only.

The Amerks will face off against several teams from around the globe who are playing elite level or professional hockey. This is a fantastic tournament for the young players and a great experience for young players like Pysyk, Adam and Johan Larsson.

While the tournament will provide great competition for Sabres prospects, there is a flip side to the equation. For the most part the organization now knows what they have in Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb and Luke Adam. They know they compete and have made a decision on whether or not they will be useful through the rebuild or not.

Over the next few months, if not till the end of the season, the Sabres are going to be recalling a lot of players from the Amerks to see what they’ve got and if they’re worth trading. Pat LaFontaine and the Sabres want to see the talent left in the organization before they take the next step in the rebuild.

Aside from Johan Larsson, Joel Armia, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Mark Pysyk, there really isn’t much future talent down with the Amerks. It’s crucial to have your AHL team full of talent that is developing to one day have a solid role with the big club. Aside from the players I just mentioned, of whom most will be with the Sabres next season, there is very little talent for the future.

Some of the guys are career AHLers, others need a fresh start and many of them could be useful to package into a deal at the trade deadline.

With Amerks being recalled like Matt Ellis, we’re going to see a lot of hard working players battling every night to prove they can still play, which will only help the Sabres. They might be boring but they battle hard every night. While we’re going to see a lot of younger players going up and down throughout the rest of this season, don’t panic. The Buffalo Sabres are just trying to figure out what they have in their organization and determine the right course for the future.

Tags: Amerks Buffalo Sabres Evaluating Featured Popular Prospects

  • JHizzle75

    Everything you say makes sense, but if the last game was any indication I would hesitate to use the word “boring”. I thought last game was one of the more entertaining games I’ve watched this year ( yes, it helps when they win) and our veteran call ups are playing their asses off. I look forward to more of the same this evening. Lets Go Buffalo !

    • Caitlin Campbell

      I don’t think they’re boring, just bringing in the opinions of others I’ve heard through talking to

  • Melissa Kania

    I have several bones I have to pick with this article.

    First: I don’t believe that the Sabres will be recalling a lot of players from the Amerks in the coming months. They may continue to recall the same small group of players (ie. Porter, Ellis, McNabb, Adam), but for the most part, most of the Amerks will stay in Rochester. A lot of those guys are still developing – particularly a few who are just AHL rookies this season – and calling them up to the NHL wouldn’t help anyone. The Sabres would be silly to call up a guy just to see if he’s worth trading; if he flops horribly in the NHL, what good would that do? If they came up and made no impact, people who have never seen an Amerks game may deem them useless and that’s not fair or respectful to the game they’ve been working on in the AHL. And if a guy comes up and has a hat trick in his first game – that’s great, but that still doesn’t mean he’s worth a lot and that teams would be hopping to trade for him.

    There are also several Amerks who can’t be called up because they aren’t signed with the Sabres right now (such as Mike Zigomanis) and players who are doing great in the AHL but
    simply their game as it is right now may not transfer over well to the NHL, or if they were called up, they might see such limited ice time that it would prove challenging to make an impact. (Hey, look at Chad Ruhwedel – called up and then immediately scratched!) That doesn’t mean they aren’t talented, and the Sabres could sign these guys who aren’t currently under NHL contract at any point if they so choose. There are also some players who have yet to reach the AHL that the Sabres need to look at – such as Brady Austin, who is in his final year of OHL eligibility and needs to be under contract with the Sabres by the end of the year or else he’ll become a free agent. That’s the point of scouts and related personnel: so THEY can keep an eye on these players, in Rochester or other places, and report back to the Sabres on their development. The Sabres can figure out what they’ve got in their organization without calling up ALL the young players – that’d be unnecessary and wouldn’t necessarily prove anything one way or another in terms of the worth of those guys.

    There are plenty of players in Rochester who are developing there, and sure, if you don’t pay
    attention to the Amerks, it’s easy for you to say “there is very little talent for the future.” But I’m going to call that one blatant bull, because there is plenty of talent for the future, both in the AHL and otherwise. One good example is Phil Varone, the leading points scorer for Rochester this season so far; he’s led the team in past seasons, too, and he’s a solid center. He’s been on a line with Mike Zigomanis for most of the season with the third part of that line being switched on and off. (Last night, for instance, it was Luke Adam.) Will Varone make it to the NHL soon? Maybe. Maybe not. But don’t put him down by saying there’s “very little talent for the future.” He’s talented. So are players like Dan Catenacci, who is a rookie in Rochester right now. They may still need some time to develop, but the talent is there. Trading them away to
    give them a “fresh start” might only set things back for them, and would put the Amerks out some of their best players right now. There’s also plenty of other talent for the Sabres future that has yet to reach the AHL, but I won’t press on that.

    It’s also unfair to call ANYONE on the Amerks right now a “career AHLer.” The majority of the team is still pretty young, and even those players who are on the older side of things have experience outside the AHL. (I’ll refer back to Zigomanis as a great example of this). Nearly everyone on that team brings something to the table, whether it’s goal-scoring, assists, being able to throw down to defend a teammate (see: Frederick Roy), or just plain old veteran leadership that is crucial to young teams (such as Zigomanis or Jamie Tardif).

    Also, Nikita Zadorov is not with the Amerks, so I’m not sure why he was mentioned along the likes of Larsson, Armia, Ristolainen and Pysyk as being the only talent down in Rochester, because Zadorov’s never played a day in Rochester…..

    • Caitlin Campbell

      fair enough obviously you follow the Amerks much closer than I do… but there isn’t exactly any top “build your team around talent” down with the Amerks. IMO none of them are top line talent and there are lots of players who do fine in the AHL but can’t make it in the NHL.

      Slight over sight with Zadorov being with the Amerks that is all

    • Jes

      Agree with most but about that talent in the AHL part I do not agree with you. We are very slim talent wise in Rochester. I think Caitlin wanted to sort rate the two rosters against one another if that makes sense. Once our UFA’s leave we will be a much worse team even with the players we have coming up. Right now only ones that seem to have any talent in Rochester are Ristolainen, Armia, Larsson, McNabb and to a lesser extent Adam other then those 5 players we’ve got zilch. This years draft and next years draft will sure that up though. Hopefully anyways.

    • Kevin Canessa Jr.

      Hey Melissa. I understand you’re a staff writer on this website as well. Let me ask you this. Your writing is pretty solid.

      But was it always? Have you always been able to write this well?

      Now, would you like it if someone dedicated an entire paragraph of a blog response to your faults? Because frankly, I could sit here and dissect your responses, and I can see at least six things that are grossly grammatically improper, none of which are more obvious than your awful paragraphing.

      You lose so much credibility when you’re trying to argue a point about sports and you make part of the argument about grammar. Very petty and unnecessary.

      Instead of doing what you did here, why didn’t you just write a column of your own? You can do that, can’t you, as a staff writer here?

      Lastly, please don’t mask your diatribe by saying your words aren’t “a personal attack.” That’s precisely what you did just here. And it’s a shame you’d do it to a colleague. God I’d hate to see how you treat non-colleagues if you do this to someone on your own team.

      Can’t wait for this response.

  • Ben Chalker

    Why would they be doing talent evaluations BEFORE the new GM is appointed.
    Doesn’t that seem like the kind of thing a GM would be expected to do as part of formulating their strategies moving forward…

  • liz

    I have more than a few issues after reading your article in full…

    To begin with, if I were the person in charge of this website reading what you’ve put out here, I
    would not be happy in the slightest. While I’ll ignore the complete lack of diligence toward simple things such as basic grammar checks and attention to sentence structure, your writing still lacks proper poise and flow in general. To be honest, I felt while reading this that most (if not all) of your sentences were copied from somewhere else, mildly edited to seem original. The piece is strung together carelessly, littered with your opinions that hold little to no weight in writing. But I guess that’s not important. Still, my biggest issue after reviewing is within your “knowledge” of this team.

    Say what you want about how closely you do or do not follow the Sabres, as well as the Americans. But plain and simple, on many points, you are just wrong without debate.

    I don’t believe that management moving around players such as Pysyk, McNabb, and Adam as of late means they have been deemed “useful” or not during a rebuild. McNabb played over a quarter of the 2011-12 season (aka pre-rebuild), while Adam played double that. I’m close to positive that both of their skill levels were assessed long ago, as opposed to recently much like you implied. However, other than the three aforementioned players plus names like Ristolainen, Ruhwedel, etc., it is highly unlikely that you will see many more moves between Buffalo and Rochester. And in the off case that unrelated players ARE moved, the purpose is not and has never been to “see if they’re worth trading”. Exactly to what depth you fabricated that information could be argued, however, it has been relatively apparent throughout the season that Pat Lafontaine has various other methods by which he can assess the skill within the organization.

    Scouts are sent out at numerous points to CHL/USHL/NCAA clubs in terms of prospect evaluation. While mildly irrelevant, this process still has a large hand in the opportunity to expose more of the incoming Americans players that WILL in fact add to a team that has “very little talent for the future.” Not to mention that Sabres coaches, in addition to upper-level management, have attended numerous Americans games/practices throughout the season to see those players as well. That course involves more of an “evaluation mode” than recalling and exchanging players between the AHL and NHL does, as implied in the title. And before you say it: no, you don’t have to follow the Americans to know this. It has been said many times on Twitter, during Sabres broadcasts, and is just a matter of following the club closely enough to be able to back up the claims you’ve made.

    The purpose of an AHL club is not to be stocked full of potential NHL talent, ready to bring up at any time. That might seem like the idea, but having career AHL players ON your AHL team isn’t as irrational as it sounds. Aside from that, there is no reason to say blatantly that players like Zadorov (who is not even currently playing with Rochester?) or Armia will more than likely be rostered Sabres players next season. Considering your careless error to properly note Zadorov’s current club, I think it would be appropriate to inform you that he has two more full years of OHL eligibility after this season. And to add on that, he and Rasmus Ristolainen were not sent to their respective teams because the organization wanted to see other talent. It was because they were at best, defensive liabilities and were given the chance to develop properly in the minors as needed, much like Luke Adam currently and in the past.

    And while I can’t necessarily argue that your choice of wording calling the Sabres “boring” is wrong because it is merely an opinion, I do have an issue with your praise of Matt Ellis, implying that his recall will somehow strike hard-working ability that even HE does not possess on the whole team. Your contradictory belief that Kevin Porter is “mediocre” but the still Sabres play hard every night leads me to believe that you have watched the last week of games and none other this season. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to summarize that the lack of effort put forth in almost every game this season rivals some of the worst games ever played by any Sabres team.

    The process of rebuilding is exactly that: losing games, assessing the talent within the organization at every level, and making the necessary moves to return to a winning position. However, the degree to which you have the wrong idea about this process is slightly alarming, considering you’re described as not only a “die-hard Sabres fan” but you’re also trusted enough to write misinformed pieces such as this one on a regular basis. My rebuttal is not in the slightest a personal attack on you, not entirely that on your style of writing either, nor do I expect an obsequious response. Regardless, I do think that if you are going to put yourself in the position to receive public criticism, you should at least have the capacity to a.) do some research on the topic you’re writing about, b.) validate your opinions to a less ignorantly biased perspective, and finally, c.) back up what you’re writing. If your claim throughout this whole venture is that you know hockey and the organization you’re discussing, prove it. I can’t stress how much the errors and deluded beliefs in this piece of your writing make it completely worthless in my eyes, as well as probably those of others.
    Ignore this if you choose, but take it as a reminder that people are reading what you write, and not always seeing it in a positive light. And sure, my opinion can mean nothing whatsoever to you, but hey, at least it holds some sort of weight and accuracy.