While I was away...

July 11, 2018
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I was on vacation last week, but that didn’t mean the sports world stopped. With that, it's time for me to get caught up with some opinions and observations:
 

  • Ryan O’Reilly traded

No surprise here.

The O’Reilly trade speculation morphed from if to when over the course of the offseason. While some Sabres fans didn’t understand why the worst offensive team in the NHL would get rid of one of its better point producers, it's clear O’Reilly was viewed as part of the problem and not a solution in terms of “fixing the room”.

As far as what Jason Botterill got in return, I wasn’t doing handstands nor was I disappointed as I was with the trade day return for Evander Kane. I was hoping for more of a proven top-six forward commodity like a Jeff Skinner or a Max Pacioretty. Even though there were multiple parts, I wouldn’t call it a haul either.

The reports on Tage Thompson were very positive at last season’s Blues training camp, but he went back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL last season. If he pans out, the Sabres will have improved their skating and scoring off the wing.

I was happy the return included a first round pick, and it's possible the Sabres will have three picks in the first round next June, but Sabres fans don’t want to hear any more talk about an arsenal of draft picks. Patrick Berglund is a good piece in the short-term, but he is 30 so it's not like he is part of the future core of the team. It sounds like Vladimir Sobotka is a player the Blues were just trying to unload.

Since February, the Sabres have parted ways with O’Reilly, Kane and Robin Lehner. It makes me wonder how much management thought those guys were responsible for any internal issues last season.
 

  • Sabres sign Carter Hutton

The Sabres needed a veteran goalie who can at least compete with Linus Ulmmark, if not take over should Ullmark not be ready for the work load of an undisputed No. 1 guy. The Sabres also bring in a player who is said to be a good “team guy”, and it didn’t really cost much. The average annual value of $2.75 million isn’t much, which is why the three-year term shouldn’t be a problem.
 

  • Sabres development camp

That was fun.

Between the practice I was at on Thursday of that week and the 3-on-3 tournament, it was an enjoyable Sabres experience. As you know, we haven’t used enjoyable and Sabres experience in the same sentence too often in the last five-plus years.

Watching Rasmus Dahlin will be a lot of fun, and there was definitely a buzz in the building whenever he was on the ice. But there were other players who should also be here contributing this season that performed well like Casey Mittelstadt and Brendan Guhle.

There were reasons to be encouraged about some futures like Rasmus Asplund and Victor Olofsson, and of course there was Matej Pekar. A fourth round pick last month, Pekar was a smash hit in the 3-on-3 tournament with his get under your skin style of play. He looked like he could be a clean version of Brad Marchand.
 

  • John Tavares signs with Toronto

UGH!!!

That was the only team among his finalists where I did not want Tavares to end up. The Leafs are depressing enough with how they blew by the Sabres in the rebuild. As annoying as Boston sports fans have become and Yankees fans are, I shutter to think how unbearable Leafs fans would be if their franchise finally won its first Stanley Cup in 50 years.
 

  • My beloved New York Mets

It was an interesting week.

I was in Toronto on Tuesday to see them blow a 6-1 lead to the Blue Jays in the 7th and 8th innings. But the Mets' season effectively ended by Memorial Day, so I could sit there and laugh it off as opposed to losing sleep.

They tried to make up for that on Friday night. I was at Citifield for personal baseball history. In all my years of going to games, major league and minor leagues, I had never seen a walk-off grand slam in person until Jose Bautista sent a ball into the upper deck in the bottom of the 9th to beat Tampa.

I felt bad for Jacob deGrom though. He is having a Cy Young type of season, but gets no offensive support from his teammates. deGrom actually lowered his earned run average from 1.84 to 1.79 that night, but didn’t figure into the decision. All that 1.79 ERA has gotten him this season is a 5-4 record.
 

  • The worst part of my vacation - The morning of the fourth of July.

Memo to the tree service company that showed up on my block and fired up the wood chipper at 7 a.m.: DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!!!!!