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Bob Matthews' Column

Sabres And Amerks Limping To The Finish Line

 
Sabres And Amerks Limping To The Finish Line

 

SABRES AND AMERKS LIMPING TO THE FINISH LINE

 

When multi-billionaire Terry Pegula purchased the NFL Buffalo Sabres in February 2011, he boldly proclaimed winning the Stanley Cup was why he bought in. He thought it would be a three-year process.

 

Pegula bought the AHL Rochester Americans  a few months later. He predicted big things for the Amerks, too.

 

Hockey fans throughout western New York were filled with optimism, with visions of Cups (Stanley and Calder) dancing in their heads.

 

The third year for Pegula’s pro hockey organization is nearing the finish line and it isn’t a pretty picture.

 

The Sabres are by far the worst team in the 30-team NHL. The Amerks, crippled by a trade of their best defenseman, injuries and recalls to Buffalo, are in danger of missing the playoffs.

 

The Sabres were in a 1-9 slump entering Thursday night. They were outscored 28-11 during that span.

 

Rochester lost 3-1 to Milwaukee Wednesday night at home. The Amerks are 0-6-2 in their last eight games and have a total of seven goals in their last seven games.

 

The playoff woes for the Sabres and Amerks pre-date the Pegula takeover. Buffalo last won a playoff series in 2007 and will fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third straight year. Rochester last won a playoff series in 2005 and missed the playoffs three of the past six seasons.

 

The two best reasons to expect a dramatic turnaround for the Sabres is Pegula’s desire to win a Stanley Cup and his willingness to spend to the max to get the job done. Trading most of the team’s best players for draft picks figures to pay off in the long run. Hopefully, sooner than later.

 

Improvement of the Sabres should mean improvement in Rochester, too. The stronger the NHL roster, the longer top prospects can develop in the AHL. Pegula has the cash to complement the young talent in Rochester with top-grade AHL veterans who know what it takes to make the playoffs and challenge for the Calder Cup.

 

MAGAZINES MAKE TIGERS, CARDS, DODGERS UNANIMOUS PICKS

 

Here are pennant picks by seven prominent Major League Baseball publications: Athlon, USA Today, Sporting News, Lindy’s, ESPN The Magazine, Harris and Sports Illustrated. 5 points for a first-place pick to 1 point for a fifth-place pick…The higher the total, the better:

 

AL East

 

Tampa Bay 1-2-3-2-1-1-1 – 31 total points

 

Boston 2-1-1-1-2-3-2 – 30 points

 

New York Yankees 3-4-2-4-3-2-3  – 21 points

 

Baltimore 4-3-4-3-5-4-4 – 15 points

 

Toronto – 5-5-5-5-4-5-5 – 8 points

 

AL Central

 

Detroit – 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 – 35 total points

 

Kansas City 2-2-2-2-2-2-2 – 28 points

 

Cleveland 3-3-3-3-3-4-3 – 20 points

 

Chicago White Sox – 4-5-5-4-4-3-4 – 13 points

 

Minnesota – 5-4-4-5-5-5-5 – 9 points

 

AL West

 

Texas 1-2-1-1-1-4-2 -- 30 total points

 

Oakland 2-1-2-2-3-2-1 – 29 points

 

Los Angeles Angels – 4-3-4-4-2-1-3 – 21 points

 

Seattle 3-4-3-3-4-3-4 – 18 points

 

Houston 5-5-5-5-5-5-5 – 7 points

 

NL East

 

Washington 1-2-1-1-1-1-1 --34 total points

 

Atlanta – 2-1-2-2-2-2-2 – 29 points

 

New York Mets 4-3-3-5-3-4-3 – 17 points

 

 

 

Philadelphia 3-4-5-3-5-3-4 – 15 points

 

Miami 5-5-4-4-4-5-5 – 10 points

 

NL Central

 

St. Louis – 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 – 35 total points

 

Cincinnati 2-2-3-2-2-2-2 – 27 points

 

Pittsburgh 3-3-2-3-3-3-3 – 22 points

 

Milwaukee 4-5-5-4-4-4-4 – 12 points

 

Chicago Cubs 5-4-4-5-5-5-5 – 9 points

 

NL West

 

Los Angeles Dodgers 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 – 35 total points

 

San Francisco 3-4-2-2-2-2-2 – 25 points

 

Arizona – 2-3-5-4-4-4-4 – 16 points

 

San Diego – 5-5-3-3-5-3-3 – 15 points

 

Colorado 4-2-4-5-3-5-5 – 14 points.

 

Detroit, St. Louis and the Dodgers are unanimous picks to win their divisions.

 

World Series winner picks:

 

Detroit – Athlons, USA Today, Sporting News, Lindy’s, Harris

 

Tampa Bay – ESPN The Magazine

 

Washington – Sports Illustrated.

 

BILLS HOPE THESE DRAFT GRADES ARE WAY OFF

 

ESPN.com’s Mike Sando this week graded the 32 NFL teams on their moves in free agency. Buffalo Bills fans should hope Sando and his cohorts don’t what they’re talking about.

 

The only team to receive a grade of A was Tampa Bay. The others:

 

B+ Arizona…Denver…New England

 

B Chicago…New Orleans…Jacksonville…Miami…Philadelphia

 

B- Baltimore…Minnesota…San Francisco…Seattle

 

C+ Atlanta…Green Bay…Indianapolis…Kansas City…New York Giants…St. Louis…Washington

 

C Cincinnati…Cleveland…Pittsburgh…San Diego…Tennessee

 

C- Carolina…Houston

 

D Buffalo…Dallas

 

F Oakland.

 

Notes on the Bills: “Lost best young player (Jairus Byrd)... paid a relative premium for players such as Chris Williams, who has not been a consistent player…they also continue to operate without a viable veteran quarterback behind EJ Manuel while other teams scrambled to sign the few available candidates…The No. 2 quarterback is a top-30 position on a 53-man roster.”

 

There is a chance that the critics are wrong and Thad Lewis is considerably better than they think he is.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

Bruce Koch, one of this area’s all-time best combination golf/bowling athletes, died this week. He was a former Oak Hill champion and a member of some of the area’s best teams when bowling was huge in Rochester. He was known for his smooth swing on the links and delivery on the lanes. He was the golf-bowling writer for the Democrat and Chronicle for decades.  He is a member of the Rochester Bowling Hall of Fame and Frontier Field Walk of Fame.

 

Thumbs up to Time Warner Sports Channel 26 for providing much-appreciated coverage of local pro and amateur sports. For example, TWSC will carry Friday night’s Amerks game, Saturday night’s Knighthawks game and Sunday afternoon’s RazorSharks game.

 

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren this week asked Governor Cuomo to provide $100 million to help build a downtown performing arts center. I’m asking for $100 million to build a state-of-the-art arena for sports and concerts.  I believe many more people in the region would use a multi-purpose arena than a performing arts center. I believe a city with high hopes to grow should have an arena it can be proud of. Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial was built in 1955 and a subsequent expansion/renovation was an upgrade but does not measure up to the arensa in other similar-sized cities.

 

The passing of Buffalo Bills owner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ralph Wilson Jr., probably means Lou Saban will finally be elected to the Wall of Fame at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Saban coached the Bills to their AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. In his second stint, he coached O.J. Simpson. Saban quit the Bills twice and Wilson, a man of principle who highly valued loyalty, let Walk of Fame voters know that Saban would never have a spot on the Wall of Fame until Ralph died. Now they’re both gone. I believe Wilson deserved to make Canton before he was elected in 2009. I believe the Wall of Fame lacks complete credibility without Saban. I think the Wall of Fame committee will select Saban for his long overdue honor, but out of respect for Wilson’s feelings and memory, it probably won’t happen as soon as it should.

 

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