Matthews: Are The Sabres A Prelude For Bills?


The Buffalo Sabres enter this week on a nine-game winning streak and have the third-most points in the 31-team National Hockey League. Their 34 points out of 48 possible points trail pace-setting Tampa By and Nashville by one point.

What’s not to like?

16-6-2 record.

8-2-1 at home and 8-4-1on the  road.

+10 goal differential (76-66).

An NHL-most Nine one-goal wins, two overtime losses and 3-0 in shootouts.

The Sabres have 10-plus of their own draft picks on the roster.  The NHL average is four.

Buffalo has a one-two young nucleus of Jack Eichel on offense and Rasmus Dahlin on defense.

Jeff Skinner looks like a trade steal.

The Sabers have a solid 1-2 punch in goal – Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark (5-0-1 record; all on Saturdays).

The top affiliate Rochester Americans are one of the American Hockey League’s best teams and actually have some legitimate NHL prospects.

On September 11, Buffalo had Bovada odds of 100-to-1 to win the 2019  Stanley Cup. Now the Sabres are 20-to-1.

John Botterill is the early frontrunner for NHL General Manager of the Year.

Departed center Ryan O’Reilly is having a solid season for the struggling St. Louis Blues, but Botterill added three players for depth at the position, plus a first-round pick in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2021. The money he saved in the O’Reilly trade could help sign Skinner to a new long-term deal.

It looks like the Sabres have become the clear favorite in the long-time burning pro sports question in Western New York: Which will happen first – a Stanley Cup for the Sabres or a  Super Bowl for the Bills?

The Sabres might cool off and fail to make the playoffs this season, the team certainly is headed in the right direction and should be very goodr for years to come.

The Bills appear to be headed in the right direction, too. They’ve stockpiled draft picks and have lots of money under the salary cap. The team should be significantly better next season. If all goes well, quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edwards are the football version of Eichel and Dahlin as young pillars of the franchise.


As I settled in to tweet Sunday’s Buffalo Bills versus visiting Jacksonville Jaguars game, my two major thoughts were how much I wanted Bills rookie QB Josh Allen to show some positive signs and how lousy I think Jags QB Blake Bortles is:

“If someone told you when this season started that Buffalo and Jacksonville would have the same record entering this game, you’d probably have been delighted. But 3-7...not so much.”

“Delay of game on Jacksonville before a punt. Not real sharp coaching.”

(On a third-and-one-yard-to-go play by Jacksonville) “Short pass (incomplete) to Leonard Fournette instead of handing the ball off to him – thank you.”

(After a 75-yard TD pass from Josh Allen to Robert Foster to give the Bills a 14-0 lead) “Speed at wide receiver. A novel concept for the 2018 Bills. 14-0 and counting.”

“Ok, I’ll admit it. I root against (Jaguars coach) Doug Marrone. I’m liking this game.”

“Josh Allen is making garbage disposal people look good so far today (Jags CB Jalen Ramsey has called Allen “trash”).

(After Jacksonville cut Buffalo’s lead to 14-7) “Best hope for the Bills is for Fournette’s hamstring problem to act up -- just enough to get him out of the game.”

“We’re hoping Josh Allen is the real deal but he sure looks good in the pocket and when he runs.

(After Jacksonville tied the score at 14-14 on a steady diet of runs by Fournette) “Dear Santa, early Christmas presents please for Bills fans: Some more pass plays for Blake Bortles.”

(On the game-turning play: An apparent TD catch for an short-lived imaginary 20-14 Jacksonville lead) “Great TD catch by the Jags – I think. The skirmish is better.”

(The TD catch was overruled; the Bills held on three tries from the 1-yard line; the Jags missed a short field goal; and Fournette and Bills DE Shaq Lawson were tossed for fighting) “Fournette and Lawson ejected: Advantage to Buffalo.”

(After the Bills took a 24-14 lead) “The Jaguars are falling part and Bortles is their quarterback...He’s absolutely awful right?...How can the Jauguars win minus Fourcette and with Bortles? An interception by Bortles. Well, what did you expect?”

(After TD run by Allen to help seal the victory, with Jalen Ramsey running out of the play) “Ramsey  has called Allen “trash”. What would you like to call Ramsey in response? Fill in the blanks: -- -- -- --.”


+++I thought last Monday night’s 54-51 Los Angeles Rams victory over the Kansas City Chiefs was a classic game and vastly more entertaining than Friday night’s Oklahoma 59-56 victory at West Virginia. Why? Because there wasn’t a lot of defense in the NFL game but there was no defense in the college game. The disparity in talent between Oklahoma’s offense and defense is astonishing.

++I’m making room for Syracuse U. quarterback Eric Dungey on my list of all-time 10 favorite athletes. I can’t imagine a college player in any team sport being more valuable to his squad than Dungey is to SU’s football team. Imagine if he had Josh Allen’s right arm. I hope he gets a shot in the NFL.

+++Syracuse’s basketball team certainly will shoot better than it has so far this young season. And the return of point guard Frank Howard will help immensely. But I hope the centers perform much better than they have so far or that I believe they’re capable of. It’s nice to have 15 fouls to give at the position against quality opponents but SU might need 50 to beat Duke.

+++NFL Most Valuable Player at this point appears to be a two-quarterback race between Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and New Orleans’ Drew Brees. Does Brees deserve extra credit for lifetime achievement? He’s never been league MVP and that could be the difference. Would that be fair?


The two biggest names on baseball’s current free-agent market are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but the most underrated commodity could be J.T. Realmuto of the Miami Marlins. He’s arguably the best all-around catcher in the game and the ever-stingy Marlins are looking for the best deal.

Realmuto is 27, a solid defensive catcher and a solid hitter: .277, 30 doubles, 3 triples, 21 HRs, 74 RBI in 125 games last season.

The most interesting name in the Realmuto Sweepstakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers. How good would be look in an already-loaded lineup? And he’s more reliable defensively than Yasmani Grandal, a free-agent likely to wind up elsewhere?

Realmuto won’t come cheap after CEO Derek Jeter let Miami’s entire 2016 starting outfield get away last offseason: Giancalro Stanton (2017 National League MVP), Christian Yelich (2018 NL MVP) and Marcell Ozuna.

Here’s an alphabetical list of the 10 players the Marlins obtained for Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna: pitcher Sandy Alcantara, OF Lewis Brinson, 2B Starlin Castro, INF Jose Devers,  INF Isan Diaz, pitcher Zac Gallen, pitcher Jose Guzman, OF Monte Harrison, OF Magneuris Sierra and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto.


The Bills have climbed to a 4-7 record with 5 games remaining. Every subsequent victory will look better in the 2018 final standings. But every loss should pay off with better picks in the 2019 college draft.

The rest of the schedule:

Sunday – at Miami (Bob’s win probability 40 percent)

December 9 – host New York Jets (Bob’s win probability 75 percent)

December 16 – host Detroit (Bob’s win probability 65 percent)

December 23 – at New England (Bob’s win probability 5 percent)

December 30 – host Miami (Bob’s win probability 60 percent).


Monday, November 26

Adam Wilcox 26...Kyle Waldrop 27...Avery Bradley 28...Matt Carpenter 33...Matt Garza 35...Chris Osgood 46...Winky Wright 47....Shawn Kemp 49...Jeff Jaeger 54...Mario Elie 55...Chuck Finley 56...Johnny Hector 58...Harry Carson 65...Jorge Orta 68...Roger Wehrli 58...Richie Hebner 71...Art Shell 72...Jan Ste4nerud 75. Tina Turner 79 is invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, November 27

Jimmy Rollins 40...Adam Aruchleta 41...Jon Runyan 45...Larry Allen 47...Tim Laker 49...Ken O’Brien 58...Mike Scioscia 60...Pierre Mondou 63...A.J. Duhe 63...Don Strock 68...Manny Leaks 73. Robin Givens 54 and Caroline Kennedy 61 are invited to the birthday party.

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