hr4

Have you ever wanted to participate in a HR Derby? Now is your chance. On Saturday August 13th fromthe300level is sponsoring the first ever HR Derby at Sheridan Park in the Town of Tonawanda. Open to all ages, boys and girls, men and women. For $20 you are invited to take 20 swings to see how many times you can crack a baseball over the fences.

Trophies for all divisions will be handed out after the final rounds for each age bracket. There will also be an Open Men’s Division where the big hitters from WNY, Southern Ontario and Rochester, NY will be looking to win a $250 cash prize.

In addition to the competition we will have MEntertainment on the Emcee and playing music. The Men’s Open Division will be held “Under the Lights”.

We will also have Food trucks!!!

Divisions and Start Times

Boys/Girls 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, High School Varsity, Open Men’s Division

10U –  1030pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

12U  – 1230pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

14U  – 1430pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

16U – 1630pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

High School Varsity  500pm on Sheridan Diamond 1

Open Mens Division 800pm on Sheridan Diamond 1

Entrants can bring their own pitchers!

Baseballs and “L” Screens Available

All Entrants MUST Sign a Waiver.

***Times Subject to Change***

Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and come out and enjoy a great night that will help support local baseball teams.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/300level-hr-derby-tickets-26379220960

Once again former Sabres left-winger Dave Andreychuk didn’t receive the call for enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The all-time leader in power play goals (274) will have to wait another calendar year before the Professional Hockey Writers review his credentials.

Andreychuk played 23 seasons in the NHL with 6 teams including two stints in Buffalo. He retired as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning and was the team’s captain in 2003-2004 when they won the Stanley Cup. In 2014 the Lightning unveiled a statue of Andreychuk just outside their home arena.

Only five players appeared in more regular season games, Chris Chelios, Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Mark Recchi and Gordie Howe. All but Recchi have been inducted into the HoF. Andreychuk finished with 1639 total games, registering a total of 640 goals and 1338 total points.

Andreychuk played in one of the most brutal era’s of hockey, when going to the front of the net was like walking into a lion’s den. My argument to the point is simple, he was 6’4 and weighed 230 pounds. When the going got tough in Boston or Montreal during the Sabres worst playoff droughts he played like he was 4’6 and 180 pounds. He was missing in action when the Sabres needed him most.

The team dealt him to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 92-93 season where he finished the season with a career high 54 goals. He had a huge impact in the post season as well, helping Toronto advance to the Western Conference Finals. It was the first time Andreychuk got out of the 1st round. He played another two seasons before he was traded to the New Jersey Devils. Andreychuk spent three full seasons with the Devils. He then split a season between the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche before rejoining the Sabres for a full year.

He left for Tampa Bay in 2001 and called it a career in January of 2006 after the team put him on waivers.

He played in two all-star games (1990 and 1994), and led the league in PP goals twice (1991-92 and 1992-93).

Andreychuk was a nice player. Not a Hall of Famer. The voters got it right today, once again. The HoF is for the elite, the game changers. I’d argue that Andreychuk was never a Top 5 left-winger during any of his 23 seasons. In his most productive year, 92-93 he was tied for 10th in goals with 54 and finished 22nd in total points with 99. 21 players recorded 100 points or more, it was a feeding frenzy.

I don’t want to talk down about Andreychuk because he had a hell of a career and by all accounts probably has the numbers to at least consider HoF praise. I’d argue longevity contributed to his numbers more than proficiency. I grew up a Sabres fan, I appreciated Andreychuk’s knack to score the goals from in tight quarters.

I happen to believe that a player should dominate his position for a period of at least five years and Andreychuk just does not fit that criteria. He made the Sabres Hall of Fame in 2008 and that’s about as far as he should go. If he wants into the Hockey Hall of Fame up in Toronto, he’s going to have to use the same entrance as you and I.

 

For more NHL news follow me on Twitter: @wolf3328

 

The Buffalo Sabres surprised no one when they chose Jack Eichel as the number 2 overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. After losing the Draft Lottery for the second consecutive season, the entire hockey world knew that Eichel was going to Buffalo. However, what the Sabres did just seconds after selecting Eichel caught many people by surprise.

The Sabres sent Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, JT Compher and a second round pick to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly. The move received mixed reviews on the Sabres home front. Some fans called the move brilliant on GM Tim Murray’s behalf. Grigorenko was discontented with his role on the team at the time and was threatening to leave for the KHL and fans praised Murray for getting something for the Russian while he still could.

However, many fans also criticized the move, stating that Buffalo gave up two valuable young players with eons of potential in return for two older players who weren’t very well known. In other words, “Colorado stole one”. Entering Jack Eichel’s first professional season, Buffalo did not know what to expect and if Murray’s gambit would help the team or destroy it.

One year has passed since the Draft-day trade and the move has conversely appeared to be a steal for Buffalo. Ryan O’Reilly immediately established himself as the core of the team’s offense, leading Buffalo with 60 points (21+39) despite missing 11 games with a lower body injury.  Jamie McGinn also fit in immediately and provided consistent two-way play and physicality before the team traded him to Anaheim at the deadline (McGinn is a UFA this summer and the team could possibly re-ink him). O’Reilly also established himself as a leader in the lockerroom and was credited with helping Eichel and Sam Reinhart’s rookie seasons go so well (56 and 42 points, respectively).

On the Avalanche side, the trade did not work out as well. Many people initially called Colorado the winners of the trade, but neither player made lived up to that. Grigorenko posted only 27 points in 74 games and Zadorov spent more than half the season with AHL San Antonio.

Yes, Manigen, it’s only been one year and Grigorenko and Zadorov could lead the Avs to a Stanley Cup this season for all we know. But, this Sabres team appears to be quickly on the rise and could turn many heads in 2016-17. Murray made the trade to help the Sabres win immediately, and it has worked out in the form of a player who paid immediate dividends and could be the franchise’s next Captain. Colorado can’t say the same about the return they received from Grigorenko and Zadorov.

Let’s recap: Buffalo’s end of the trade led the Sabres in scoring in his first season. Colorado’s end combined for just 29 points. Who won the trade? Buffalo, by a lot.

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

The Buffalo Sabres have traded D Mark Pysyk to the Florida Panthers along with the 38th and 89th picks in this year’s draft. In return, the Sabres received D Dmitry Kulikov and the 33rd pick, which the team used to select Swede Rasmus Asplund.

Sabres GM Tim Murray said that this summer he would be looking for a young left-handed defenseman who is capable of moving the puck up the ice from the blue line. Kulikov fits all of those criteria.  At 25, Kulikov is a year older than Pysyk but was also a first round pick (14th, 2009). Pysky was selected by the Sabres 23rd overall in 2010.

Kulikov posted 138 points (28+110) and a +/- -38 in 460 career games with Florida. Pysyk had 26 points (5+21) and was -15 in his 125 career games with Buffalo. Pysyk was plagued by injuries throughout that time that limited him to only 125 games out of a possible 328 over four seasons.

Rasmus Asplund will come to Buffalo from Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. He recorded 4 goals and 12 points in 46 games with them last season.

“I’m so happy right now, I can’t describe my feelings right now,” the 18-year-old said to Sabres.com after being selected. “I’m excited to be a part of this organization to come and compete for a spot on the roster.”

@Wolf3328 is covering the draft at KeyBank Center in Buffalo. Keep up with him for all the updates and action!

Matt Morris: @Flat_Manigen74

For the 3rd time in franchise history the Buffalo Sabres are the proud hosts of the NHL Entry Draft. The past two seasons Buffalo had the No. 2 selection picking Sam Reinhart in 2014 and Jack Eichel in 2015. Both players made impacts in their rookie campaigns last year. The question on most everyone’s mind heading into this year’s draft was whether or not GM Tim Murray would make more bold moves to help reshape his roster. Earlier in the week Murray dealt a 3rd round pick to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Jimmy Vesey, a player he believes is a top 6 forward.

There were rumors that the Sabres were eyeing up a few defensive prospects from the OHL in Jakob Chychrun, Olli Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev. When Buffalo was on the clock, Juolevi had already been selected. The Sabres surprised some and took LW Alexander Nylander from Mississaugua of the OHL

Nylander has a healthy bloodline of NHLers, his Father Michael played 920 games as a member of several clubs including the Calgary Flames. Brother William was drafted last year by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both Alexander and William were born in Calgary.

The 1st pick of the draft belonged to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Buffalo crowd drowned out the cheers from the Toronto fans that made the trip across the Peace Bridge. Tickets went for $30 at the box office and the event had been sold out for months. Scalpers were asking for $200 a pop.

With the 1st selection Toronto grabbed the top rated prospect in Auston Matthews.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula kicked off the event with a brief opening statement, thanking all the clubs and NHL executives for selecting Buffalo as the host city. The ovation for Pegula was as loud as you could imagine. It was his vision and marketing skills that helped put Buffalo, NY back on the map.

Speaking of Bettman, this poor guy isn’t liked in any NHL city. You couldn’t hear anything he was saying, the boo’s were incredible. The noise level went down a tad when Bettman spoke about the Combine experience being a great success. The event will return to Buffalo next summer for a 3rd straight year.

15 players were selected from the Canadian Hockey League while 4 were selected from the US National Development team and another 3 from the NCAA. An incredible accomplishment for USA Hockey. 20 forwards and 10 defensemen were chosen.

Round 2 begins at 10am Saturday with the Leafs on deck at pick 31. Buffalo has the 38th pick and then three in the 3rd round.

For more coverage of the 2016 NHL Draft be sure to follow @wolf3328

 

Hockey and basketball are both done and now baseball has the spotlight all to itself. The 2016 season has been somewhat of a wild one as it nears the midway point. Many teams have defied exepctations (Boston, Washington), some teams have underwhelmed (Houston) and some have been just downright abysmal (Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego). It’s very tough to talk about postseason predictions before the All-Star break, but that’s exactly what we’re going to try here. You’ve seen Dan’s piece on his picks for the NL, now I’ll try to do my best for the Junior Circuit.

AL East Winner: Boston Red Sox

Wild Card Teams: Baltimore Orioles

Am I biased because I’m a Red Sox fan? Absolutely. I know that may seem like the only reason I’m picking them in the East, especially when they are one game back of Baltimore as of today, 6/21. But, with that having been said, I truly believe the Red Sox have the better line up for a pennant race than their foes in Charm City. Boston has a deeper line-up 1-9 than Baltimore, guided by Big Papi David Ortiz, who is putting together what may end up being the greatest final season in MLB history. Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr are also righting the ship in Beantown after an abominable 2015.

Baltimore does boast the extremely talented Manny Machado, and we all know how lethal Crush Davis is when (not if) he heats up. But that is truly all the Birds have. Alongside their lack of depth at pitching when compared to Boston’s David Price, Rick Porcello and Stephen Wright, the Red Sox look like the more likely team to take the AL East crown (there has also been scuttlebutt that Boston has made inquires into Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole). The O’s will take the Wild Card, but based on their penchant for “folditis”, I don’t see Baltimore doing much. Toronto does not have the depth at pitching to keep them in it, and the hapless Tampa Bay Rays aren’t in the picture at all. Look for the Sox and the Orioles.

AL Central Winner: Cleveland Indians

Wild Card Teams: Kansas City Royals

Dave (@YagaBomb24) could probably explain much better than I what the Tribe is doing differently this year. But, whatever that may be, it has paid off ten-fold and the Cleveland Indians are atop the AL Central. Led by an infusion of upstart youth like Francisco Lindor and Danny Salazar, as well as resurgences from Mike Napoli, Josh Tomlin and Rajai Davis, Cleveland at this point in time looks like a very, very good team and I do not see them giving up their lead any time soon. You can bet your horses that the Tribe will be looking for a World Championship this fall now that the Cavaliers are NBA Champions.

Kansas City has struggled at points this season but have righted the ship recently and are looking more like the team that was atop the AL all last season. Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer have shouldered the weight of a team that hasn’t been as lethal offensively as it has in the past, but the Royals are a gritty and resilient team that have turned heads and made many people who counted them out look stupid (a la the past two seasons). The White Sox were white-hot at one point, but have stumbled and fell since and do not look threatening. Detroit isn’t much more of a threat than Minnesota is, as much as the MLB Network panel tries to convince you otherwise.

AL West Winner: Texas Rangers

It blows my mind that the Rangers are performing as well as they are because, when you look at their roster, this team really isn’t anything super stacked. Ian Desmond, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Elvis Andrus are all the team boasts offensively, and some of those guys aren’t performing well at all. But, much like the 2013 World Champion Red Sox, this team is well rounded and is full of characters that support each other and fill their roles. Colby Lewis and Cole Hamels have been stellar on the mound and the incredible story of Matt Bush is just beginning. Led by its pitching, Texas may be beginning a run-away with the AL West. Seattle was hot for a while but have cooled off and are falling out of contention. Houston had lots of expectations in 2016 but have underwhelmed massively, despite Jose Altuve’s best efforts. The Angels and Atheletics are down and out and don’t appear to be getting up either. The West is all Texas this year. Their lead over the second place Mariners is currently 9.5 games and that number may grow even larger.  The crown is the Rangers’ for the taking.

Agree, disagree? All of these could end up not coming true, that’s the beauty of baseball. Be sure to tell me how much of a genius/idiot I am on Twitter.

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

Just like the 2004 Boston Red Sox, the curse that has plagued the city of Cleveland, Ohio’s sports teams was not going to end without an exorcism. Before the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series over St. Louis to finally end the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino, they had to comeback dramatically against their arch-nemesis the Yankees after being down 3-0. The Sox at long last expelled the demons that had for so long held them back, and they achieved baseball’s pinnacle.

So, it is very fitting that the Cleveland Cavaliers at long last won the NBA Championship in the way they did. After Game 4, LeBron, Kryie and company were staring a 3-1 deficit in the face at the hands of Stephen Curry and the Warriors, the very team that added to Cleveland’s anguish last season when they handed the Cavs a heartbreaking loss in the NBA Finals after a season with so much hope. Cleveland jumped right back up on the horse they had been knocked off of and returned to the Finals to face Golden State once again, the rematch that everyone wanted to see. But, I can’t imagine many people thought that the series was going to end in the fashion it did.

The Cavs rallied to force Game 7, becoming the first team since the 1966 LA Lakers to rally for a seventh game after being down 3-1. Heading into Game 7 all the momentum was with Cleveland and all the pressure was on Golden State, but still not many believed Cleveland could pull it off (we asked you our readers your predictions, 59% of 27 voters picked the Warriors).

Game 7 in a nutshell was a see-saw battle. The Warriors and Cavaliers traded the lead 20 times and were tied at 11 different points of the game, but the Warriors held a 49-42 lead at halftime. Was this historic comeback by Cleveland all for naught? The team’s big 3 refused to let that happen. The Cavaliers came back with a vengeance in the second half, holding the lethal Curry and the Warriors pointless for the game’s final 4:39. After a sensational block on Andre Iguodala by LeBron that may have saved the game for Cleveland, with 53.9 seconds left, Kyrie Irving dropped a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 92-89 lead. James was fouled and made one free throw to keep Golden State out of reach. The clock ran down, and the Cavaliers stormed the court of Oracle Arena to celebrate its exorcism and victory. The suffering of Cleveland is over, and the Cavs are NBA Champions for the first time ever.

Regardless of what you think of LeBron James (named unanimous Finals MVP) or what side you were rooting for, I really think you have to tip your cap to the Cavaliers. Facing tons of adversity and being called choke artists by nearly everyone, the team took control of its fate and gave the city of Cleveland something to smile about for the first time in seemingly forever. No quote after the game was more poignant than when LeBron shouted “Cleveland, this is for you!” LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014 with the promise of making the dreams of the city come true. He has made good on that promise.

Congratulations to the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland. You have more than earned it.

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

nhl draft 2016

***This is the first of five articles previewing the NHL Draft beginning Friday at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY***

Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals (Finished 1st Overall in 2016)

The Capitals have 6 total picks heading into the draft starting with the 26th overall. They’ll then select 117th in the 3rd round followed by two selections in the 5th (145, 147), and one pick each in the 6th (177) and 7th (207). After finishing first overall in the division, conference and the league Washington entered the post-season as a Stanley Cup favorite. The eventual winner the Pittsburgh Penguins sent the Caps home after a 2nd round match-up.

The Caps have a solid foundation starting with Braden Holtby in goal up through Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom up front. Defensively they have a great mix of youth and experience, power and skill. Evgeny Kuznetsov is a great, young talent on offense and led the team in points during the regular season. He had a rough playoff performance but gained considerable experience. Along with TJ O’Shei and Justin Williams the Caps find themselves in great shape up front but could use some more youth considering the age of these vets.

Look for Washington to add a skilled winger or centerman with their 1st pick and try to add more picks in the early rounds. Not having a 2nd in this years draft isn’t ideal but it’s the price you pay when building a winner. Mortgage the future to win now, the Caps are long overdue.

Players that could be available when the Caps are on the clock at 26 are center Logan Brown (OHL), Alex Debrincat (OHL) and Yegor Korshkov (Russia). Brown would have to fall, he’s expected to go in the top 20 but stranger things have happened. He’s the son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Brown. Debrincat is finishing up another strong season with the Erie Otters and played with Connor McDavid. He isn’t a big player but has great hands and can score. Korshkov is known as an elite skater with excellent playmaking ability, he was a standout at the WJC last winter.

Pittsburgh Penguins (Finished 2nd in Division, Won the Stanley Cup)

Pittsburgh has just 5 picks in the draft and none in the 1st round. What can you say, they just won they’re 2nd Stanley Cup in seven years. They can thank the youngsters for that. Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust scored big goals this post-season and goaltenders Jeff Zatkoff and Matt Murray got the job done between the pipes. And it looks as though this roster will stay in tact heading into 2016-17.

With that in mind the Pens could go in any direction at the draft. They have the 55th and 61st picks in the 2nd round. Who could be available then, most anybody. Center Oskar Steen (Sweden) brother of Alexander (St Louis) and son of Thomas (Winnipeg) or William Bitten (OHL). The real question Pens fans will be asking this off-season is whether or not the team should move goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. My guess is they keep him and try to move Zatkoff instead.

New York Rangers (Finished 3rd in Metro)

The Rangers have serious cap issues heading into 2016-17. Surprising right? That’s the mark of a championship organization though. That’s one of the reasons I have always respected the Rangers. They go all out every season. They don’t waste a cent in trying to bring a Stanley Cup home. Of course, the practice hasn’t worked since 1994 but kudos for trying.

The Rangers have just 5 picks in the draft, none of which are in the first 2 rounds. Rumors are swirling that Jeff Gorton (GM) is looking to move forward Rick Nash who is a $7.8 million-dollar cap hit through 2017-18 in order to obtain a 1st or 2nd round selection. That’s a hard sell but for a team that might be a player away from making a Stanley Cup run, they may bite. Perhaps the Florida Panthers or even the Colorado Avalanche would entertain the thought.

Should there be no takers for Nash, I have a feeling the Rangers will be forced to mortgage future draft choices in order to obtain a 1st round pick in this year’s draft. NY traditionally drafts well. There is a plethora of prospects that have flourished on Broadway and elsewhere over the years. They have a fantastic scouting department.

Where could NY use help? Henrik Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger. Antti Raanta is a quality back-up, worthy of an opportunity to play somewhere. There is a chance another team approaches the Rangers about his availability. I wouldn’t be surprised if “King Henry” himself isn’t being considered as a moveable object. He’s another player with a huge contract and I’m not sure he hasn’t already reached his peak. He turned 34 this past March.

The Rangers are a great team, top to bottom and should compete for a spot atop the Eastern Conference next season, even if they don’t make major changes. At the draft, they need picks more than prospects. Look for NY to acquire early round draft choices and look for Lundqvist’s replacement.

The Rangers first pick comes in the 3rd round, 81st overall. I whole-heartedly expect them to deal themselves into the 1st or 2nd and grab a defenseman. In the 3rd round though I have them taking a hard look at goaltenders Joseph Woll (USHL, US U18) or Filip Larsson (SWE).

New York Islanders (Finished 4th in Metro)

The Isles reached the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 1st time since 1993. John Tavares a former No. 1 draft choice was at the center of the excitement after scoring the dramatic double-overtime winner over the Florida Panthers. Islanders fans have been patiently waiting for Tavares (’09 1st RD, 1st) and other former top picks such as defenseman Travis Hamonic (’08 2nd RD, 53rd) and right wing Kyle Okposo (’06 1st RD, 7th) to lead them to greatness.

The truth of the matter is the Isles have been drafting well, and the results are starting to show. Calvin de Haan, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Ryan Pulock, Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey all played big roles this past season. In the pipeline are four former 1st round picks in Michael Dal Colle, the flashy Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier are all widely considered NHL bound within the next two seasons.

The Isles could be in very good shape for years to come. They will however need to continue drafting well if they want to re-build the dynasty for a new generation of fans. Heading into the 2016 draft the NYI have just a 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th round selection to make. Not having a 2nd or 3rd round pick will hurt but I expect GM Garth Snow to move some veteran pieces around in order to acquire additional picks in this year’s draft, perhaps even mortgaging future draft year selections.

The question remains though, where do the Islanders need help? Are goaltenders Thomas Greiss or Jean-Francois Berube capable of playing in big games? Can Jaroslav Halak rebound from his most recent surgery and play like he did while a member of the St. Louis Blues? These are all questions that cannot be answered with a resounding yes. So, this is an area I expect the Isles to address. Multiple mock drafts have NY selecting a defenseman with their 1st pick. Every team is looking to add depth at the blue line and this draft isn’t as rich as in years past, especially in the later rounds. Goaltenders are like franchise quarterbacks. They don’t grow on trees and at the end of the day, you aren’t winning without an elite netminder.  The Isles need to address this issue, the other pieces are in place to make a run.

At 19, the Isles should be in great position to address this need. I like goaltenders Filip Gustavsson (SWE) or Tyler Parsons (OHL).

Philadelphia Flyers (Finished 5th in Metro)

The Flyers are an interesting story heading into the draft. You have to respect what GM Ron Hextall has done with his club. Last off-season he made headlines for hiring Dave Hakstol, out of the University of North Dakota to be the teams head coach. It was a surprising hire considering the number of head coaches with NHL experience available. Hakstol repaid his GM with a stellar rookie season behind the bench and in my opinion deserved serious consideration for the Jack Adams award, traditionally given to the league’s best coach.

The Flyers earned a playoff berth after a disappointing finish in 2015 where they selected 7th overall in the 2015 entry draft. This time around, and thanks to the Nashville Predators exiting after the 2nd round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Flyers will select 17th.

The past three seasons the Flyers drafted defensemen with their first pick. It should be noted that not one Flyers draft choice from the previous three drafts have appeared in an NHL game yet. In fact, only six have appeared in an NHL game since 2010. That does not reflect well on the scouting department. However, one thorn in the cap for the scouts is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, drafted 78th overall back in 2012. Gostisbehere put together one heck of a rookie season. He’s the front runner to win the Calder Trophy this year as the league’s top rookie.

Couple “Ghost” (his locker room nickname) with 2015 1st round selection Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim (2014), Sammy Morin drafted in 2013 (11th overall) and Radko Gudas (free agent signing) and it would appear Philadelphia has the makings of a stellar defensive unit in the making.

Like the Islanders, the Flyers need to look at goaltending in order to contend long-term. Steve Mason was ok during the regular season but looked really bad in the post-season. Michal Neuvirth played well in reserve but has trouble staying healthy. Expect the Flyers to take a serious look at Anthony Stolarz (2012, 45th pick) in training camp and select another goaltender or two in June. The Flyers historically draft the best available player, so we’ll see where the chips fall in June.

Philly has 10 total picks in the draft and five in the first 3 rounds. They have the 18th selection in round 1 and they could be looking at two Swedish centerman, Linus Lidstrom and Jonathon Dahlen, however if defenseman Mikhail Sergachev is there for the taking, he is there man.

Carolina Hurricanes (Finished 6th in Metro)

The Hurricanes missed the playoffs once again. They made news last week in acquiring Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for draft picks, including a 2nd rounder this year. That means the ‘Canes have their 2 picks in the opening round and three in the 3rd, then a 4th, 5th and 6th round selection. GM Ron Francis has a grocery list a mile wide. “Just because we’ve done this one deal, it doesn’t mean we’re sitting tight,” Francis said. “We will still be working the phone lines and exploring what’s out there. I’m not saying we will get something done, but I won’t say we’re not trying to do something either.”

Cam Ward signed a two-year deal Friday, he’s a Stanley Cup winning goaltender and still capable of playing in big games. Prior to last season they brought in Eddie Lack from Vancouver but the jury is still out on him. Carolina will most likely address the offense or lack thereof. They have the 13th and 21st picks to start. The reality is that nobody outside the top 4 picks will see much time in the NHL this season. Still Carolina isn’t in a position to give up these picks and are in full rebuild mode. No UFA is going to sign there while this transition is going on. I don’t expect Francis to bring in any top talent on July 1st, if they happen to land a free agent it will be 2nd and 3rd tier guys, most likely players like Nathan Gerbe and Riley Nash, players who know the system, still young and just played out their current contracts.

They can’t afford to pass up on center Logan Brown if he’s there.

New Jersey Devils (Finished 7th in Metro)

The Devils will enter June’s NHL Entry Draft with nine picks, a 1st, 2nd, two 3rd and 4th round picks, and 1 each in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds. The Devils have a couple of solid prospects that are close to playing in the NHL. Pavel Zacha (1st, 6th Overall 2015) had a great season with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting and was called up late last season. He appeared in one game with the Devils and registered two assists. He’s an 18 year old with incredible upside. The other prospect is John Quenneville (Coach John Quenneville’s 2nd cousin and Johnny Boychuk’s nephew), a dynamic forward currently with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Zacha and Quenneville are expected to push for roster spots in 2016.  After Zacha and Quenneville though the Devils prospects start too thin out.

With plenty of cap room heading into 2016-17 I expect Shero to be active in free agency. Currently, the Devils are set in goal with Cory Schneider as the starter and Ken Appleby (Undrafted) and Mackenzie Blackwood (2015, 2nd Round) waiting in the wings. Offensively, New Jersey needs support. Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique are top 6 forwards on most NHL clubs and locked up with long-term contracts. Patrick Elias has a year left and quite honestly, a lot closer to retiring than signing an extension. Kyle Palmieri has a year left on his original deal and the Devils should be looking to extend him. On the blue line they have Andy Greene, Adam Larsson and John Moore. After that, I’m surprised I didn’t see my name listed.

Shero has big holes to fill and the Devils do not have a lot of prospects capable of making an impact anytime soon, besides the two I mentioned earlier. I expect them to stockpile weapons on offense, specifically on the wings. Either way, the Devils cannot afford to waste any picks this June. They’ll have 9, one in each of the 1st two rounds and then two each in the 3rd and 4th rounds respectively.

The Devils have the 11th pick in the draft, either defenseman Olli Juolevi (OHL) or center German Rubtsov (RUS) is a good start.

Columbus Blue Jackets (Last in Metro)

Columbus has the 3rd overall selection and rumors are swirling that they could trade out with either Buffalo or the New York Rangers. The Sabres have plenty to offer including NHL ready defenseman, something the Jackets can use immediately. Rick Nash is on the table and there is no secret the Rangers are looking to jump into the 1st round. I don’t believe Columbus would be serious about acquiring the former Blue Jacket Nash but stranger things have happened. Stay tuned to this one.

The Blue Jackets made news last off-season in acquiring forward Brandon Saad and then again during the season when they dealt center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for defenseman Seth Jones. Columbus severely underachieved last year. Injuries and a coaching change didn’t help matters. Fans were expecting a lot more especially with the way things had ended in 2014-15 when they marched into the 2nd round of the playoffs.

If I’m Columbus trading out of the 3rd spot for a player that can help you now and more picks this year is the way to go. They currently have 5 total. The Sabres can send them a player like Mark Pysyk and they have four (4) selections in the 3rd round alone, they would be the ideal trade partner for Columbus.

For more NHL news, be sure to follow Frank Wolf on Twitter @wolf3328

wolf fwolf@fromthe300level.com

 

Fall Classic Friday returns! After a year off, we will be continuing our series of analyzing the best World Series of all time. We bring it back today to the legendary Series that has its 30th anniversary this fall, 1986.

1986_World_Series

Combatants: (AL) Boston Red Sox vs (NL) New York Mets

Dates: October 18th-27th 1986

Venues: BOS: Fenway Park, NYM: Shea Stadium

Managers: BOS: John McNamara, NYM: Davey Johnson

Game Log:

  1. Red Sox 1- Mets 0 @ New York
  2. Red Sox 9- Mets 3 @ New York
  3. Mets 7- Red Sox 1 @ Boston
  4. Mets 6- Red Sox 2 @ Boston
  5. Red Sox 4- Mets 2 @ Boston
  6. Mets 6- Red Sox 5/10 Innings @ New York
  7. Mets 8- Red Sox 5 @ New York

The Victor: New York 4 games to 3

MVP: Ray Knight (NYM)

The Curse of the Bambino. It’s a term that for 86 years was commonplace in Boston. Some people believed it was a serious superstitious matter, but many fans used it merely in a facetious manner. Regardless of this, it was a real thing to New Englanders. Red Sox fans for years really wondered if there was a curse on their team that started when Harry Frazee sold the Babe to the Yankees in 1919.  The Red Sox had come oh so close but no cigar for years, 1946, 1967, 1975. But, in 1986 the planets seemed to align and fans were convinced that this was the year it was going to end. Everyone believed that after 68 years the Commissioner’s Trophy was finally coming back to Beantown.  The New York Mets were the far better team than the Sox had been in the regular season that year; the Mets were 108-54 whilst Boston had been 95-66.  The Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East by 21.5 games that season and beat the Houston Astros in the NLCS 4-2.  The Red Sox beat the Yankees for the AL East by 5.5 games and grinded past the California Angels in the ALCS thanks to the guts and grit of the team’s veterans. It could be argued that Boston was deeper and more talented than New York, especially given the Mets clubhouse problems all season that caused Manager Davey Johnson a great deal of trouble. Though they were considered the underdog, the Red Sox and their fans remained cool and confident entering the 1986 Fall Classic, and it showed immediately.

To the surprise of the entire MLB, the Red Sox came out of the gates swinging against the Mets and jumped out to an early 2-0 series advantage, Game 1 1-0 and Game 2 9-3.  But then again, the ’86 Mets win column was in triple digits at season’s end and the team decided to show everyone why, turning the tables limiting the Red Sox to just three runs over the next two games to tie the Series. In Game 5, the Red Sox once again showed resolve and edged the relentless Mets 4-2.  As the Sox now had a 3-2 lead, all of New England agreed, it was time for the past to be put away.  Game 6 wound up being one of the most legendary in the history of the World Series, but not in the way the Red Sox wanted it to be.

Dwight Evans and Marty Barrett struck in the 1st and 2nd respectively to put Boston up 2-0 in the blink of an eye. The Mets’ Ray Knight sparked a rally that tied the game in the 5th, but he later committed an error in the 7th that gave Boston the lead back, 3-2.  The wolf was at the door for New York in the 8th with Dave Henderson on second with only one out and Roger Clemens at the plate. However, a very controversial decision by Red Sox manager John McNamara pulled Clemens from the game, despite the gem that The Rocket was in the midst of. Pinch-hitter Mike Greenwell struck out and Clemens was done. McNamara explained his actions by stating that Clemens asked to be removed due to a blister on his right hand, but Clemens vehemently denied this and stated that McNamara pulled him despite his pleas to remain in. Boston’s skipper then decided to go to his closer, Calvin Schiraldi, for a six-out save, but Schiraldi allowed the Mets to rally and a Gary Carter sac-fly tied the game at 3.  It went to the top of the 10th.

New York had managed to dodge bullets throughout the contest, but Rick Aguilera gave up a solo shot to Dave Henderson and an RBI double to Wade Boggs to give Boston the lead once again, 5-3. This set up the inning that will be frozen in time forever in MLB history. Similar to 1967, many critics and fans considered the Red Sox march to the Series in 1986 to be a miracle run, with the team defying all odds along the way and pulling out win after win by never saying die. In the bottom of the 10th of Game 6, it all ended.

Schiraldi came out for an unprecedented third straight inning and sound defensive first baseman Bill Buckner also remained in the game. Schiraldi retired the first two men he faced on consecutive fly outs. The Sox were one out away.  It was at this time that beloved Sox OF Dwight Evans admitted to seeing the message “Congratulations to the 1986 World Champion Red Sox” flash quickly across an outfield scoreboard. Evans said he didn’t think anything of it (at the time).

Gary Carter then singled. Rookie Kevin Mitchell came through with a pinch-hit base hit, and Ray Knight followed with one of his own after being down to his last strike. His last strike.  This moved scored Carter to make it 5-4 and moved Mitchell, the tying run, to 90 feet away. Out of nowhere, the Sox appeared to be unraveling and McNamara went to Bob Stanley, a move that didn’t exactly scream victory. Speedy Mets CF Mookie Wilson came to the plate.  Stanley had had success against Wilson in the past and tied him up with fastballs for a 2-2 count. On the next pitch, Stanley lost control of one that Wilson barely dodged, allowing Mitchell to score the tying run, 5-5.  On Stanley’s next pitch, Wilson hit a grounder off the end of the bat. Bill Buckner, aware of Wilson’s speed, rushed into position to field it, but he didn’t open his glove wide enough and the ball passed through his legs. A delirious Ray Knight came to the plate to force Game 7 and send Shea Stadium into a fracas. They were a strike away, how did the Sox blow it?

Boston was on the cusp of victory again in Game 7 with a 3-0 lead, but gave up the lead (again in the late innings) and wound up losing 8-5. Mets closer Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett for the final out and the Mets rushed the mound in celebration of the franchise’s second World Series championship. The Red Sox could only walk away, wondering how they blew it.  New York’s Ray Knight was named MVP of the Series after batting .391 and hitting the series-winning home run in game 7.  Did the Mets snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Or did the Red Sox snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Was this yet another manifestation of the Curse of the Bambino?

The legacy of this World Series is obvious. The Red Sox were a strike away from winning the World Series and ending what was at that point a 68 year drought. One strike! Instead, the Red Sox and their tortured fans would have to wait 18 more years for that to happen. It’s funny to note that the Curse of the Bambino was 68 years old in 1986. When the Red Sox finally ended it in 2004, it was a swapped 86 years old.

Life for Bill Buckner did not get better after and he became the textbook definition of a scapegoat after the Series. Fans all over Boston and the MLB blamed him solely for the loss, even though Bob Stanely’s wild pitch was what tied the game and the Sox blew a 3-0 in Game 7 . Certainly within reason, Buckner dodged the spotlight for years and years and didn’t publicly return to Fenway Park after he retired until Opening Day 2008, when the Red Sox celebrated their 2007 World Championship. It was clear then that all was forgiven, as a teary-eyed Buckner received a standing ovation from the crowd and threw out the first pitch to his friend and teammate Dwight Evans.

Though for Red Sox fans it evokes nothing but memories of heartbreak and anguish, the legendary occurrences and totally unexpected outcome of this Series helped make this Fall Classic one of the best of all time. It’s been 30 years since, but regardless of being a Mets, Sox, or any kind of baseball fan, no one has ever forgotten the 1986 World Series.

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

It’s insane to think about, but the baseball season is already more than a third of the way through. And pretty soon, baseball will be the only one of the four major North American sports still playing their season. We’ve all reveled in Stephen Curry’s uncountable amount of three’s and LeBron’s gallant fight to bring salvation to Cleveland, as well as Sidney Crosby’s return to the summit of hockey, but nothing screams summer like baseball. So while the sport is enjoying the limelight of ESPN’s cameras and midsummer sun, we’ll predict the division winners and wild card teams based on the season thus far. First up is the National League.

NL East Winner: Washington Nationals

Wild Card Teams: New York Mets

All of the pundits were saying this division was the most top-heavy in the game. And while the Phillies and Marlins have tried their darndest to change that fact, there is no denying that the two teams at the top are the class of the division. Daniel Murphy is probably the current favorite for the NL MVP and Steven Strasburg is rewarding the teams’s show of faith in him (he recently signed a 7-year contract extension) by going 10-0. They have the second-best record in the League and they probably have the second-best roster on paper. When, not if, Bryce Harper heats up, this team will run away with the division.

That’s not to say that the Mets are pushovers. Their rotation is still the best in the league (sorry Cubs) even sans Matt Harvey, who’s picked it up in his last few starts. They are a little reliant on La Potencia himself Yoenis Cespedes, although Neil Walker has been a better offseason pickup than expected. They’ll most likely get to the Wild Card Game and most likely win that, because who wants to face Noah Syndergaard in a win or go home scenario? The Phillies were competitive for a bit but overachieved massively, so the only threat to the two top dogs is the Marlins. If Giancarlo Stanton ever picks it up, they might have the best outfield in baseball. Christian Yelich will be the next Marlin superstar that will most likely leave the team, and Jose Fernandez is back among the elite pitchers. The team has no depth though, so my plaudits go out to the Nationals and Mets.

NL Central Winner: Chicago Cubs

Wild Card Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

No team in recent memory has looked as good as the Chicago Cubs have this season. They were on a historic pace that had the same vibe as the 2001 Seattle Mariners, and while they probably won’t make it to win number 116, I think they have a better shot than the M’s to make some noise in the playoffs. Their depth is astounding and word is they might be in for a Yankee reliever, either Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller. Both will cost them, Miller more so, but if they pull the trigger on a frontline relief pitcher, no team will be close to touching them. They have the best manager, one of the best rotations, the most well-rounded lineup, the best stadium and the hungriest fan base. The rest of the season will essentially be exhibition games until the playoffs for them. So, onto the rest of the division, and probably the most controversial prediction in this article.

Why would I go against the hottest team in the league, one who’s been the most successful team in the NL the past decade, for one who didn’t even make the playoffs for more than two decades and one who’s bowed out of the playoffs after one game for the past three years? There are a few reasons. For one, I’d take Gerrit Cole over any of the Cardinals starters and Mark Melancon over any of the Cardinal relievers. I trust Gregory Polanco and Starlin Marte’s hot starts over the starts of Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz. Andrew McCutchen always starts off slow and will eventually get himself back to elite-level production. And I feel like the Cardinals’ hot streak is just the crest on the wave of a season full of cycles, and the Pirate’s miserable weekend was just a trough. I could be miserably wrong and the more reliable Red Birds could run away with the wild card, but it seems like a baseball tradition for the past few years to watch the Pirates carry a city’s worth of hopes into the playoffs only to run into the buzz saw of an opposing team’s ace in the wild card game. Plus, I had to put my neck on the line in at least one of these predictions.

NL West Winner: San Francisco Giants

 

There’s no doubt about it, the Giants are by far the best team in the division. It’s pretty close on paper between them and the Dodgers, but Los Gigantes have more spirit, bite, passion and experience than any of the boys in blue. They always turn up in even years, they have mounds of playoff nous gathered from the past few years and they have a frontline starter in Madison Bumgarner that can rival anyone. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have a payroll as large as the GDP of a small European country and still can’t find a way to make it to the World Series. On top of that, they have the best pitcher on a planet. Clayton Kershaw’s WHIP is 0.65. (The next closest is John Lackey’s at 0.93) and the team still can’t manage to make it out of the NLCS. Their inability to retain Zack Greinke was the first harbinger signaling that their window to win a championship is closing soon. And while they’ll probably avoid a fate like the mire that was the late-Frank McCourt era, they’ll soon have to cash in on aging stars like Adrian Gonzalez and wait for the maturation of prospects and youngsters like Julio Urias, Joc Pederson and Corey Seaeger. They still stand the best chance of taking over the Giants, however. The Rockies are hitting like they usually to, which is to say producing a lot of long balls, and pitching like they usually do, which is to say giving up a lot of runs. The Padres are a dumpster fire. Paul Goldschmidt is heating up and Jake Lamb is appearing to be a viable replacement for A.J. Pollock, but even one of the crowned “winners of the offseason” Arizona Diamondbacks look lost. Zack Greinke as pitched a lot better recently, but is he worth the money they’re paying him? And the Shelby Miller trade looks like an unmitigated disaster. All of this considered, they’re a 99 percent chance the Giants run away with the NL West.

It’s not even the Mid-Summer Classic yet, so all of these predictions could easily be foiled come playoff time. But, if we had to go based off of what we’re seeing in the NL today, one of these teams will easily be representing the NL in this year’s World Series.  Let me know your opinions!

Dan Leopold @Leopold_Dan

Dan Leopold
@Leopold_Dan