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Bills Report

Center Ice Club Launches
9/10/04

Local business leaders have announced the launching of a grassroots initiative to assist the team in rebuilding their corporate fan base. The Center Ice Club will be headed by three WNY business leaders, Jordan Levy, Bill Colins and Paul Vukelic.
The Center Ice Club will lead the charge to involve local businesses in the support of the Buffalo Sabres from ticket sales to a fans advisory group. The founding members of the group account for over $4 million in annual support of the Sabres and are looking for businesses and individuals to help support their initiative.


7/8/04

The Buffalo Sabres announced a reduction to season ticket pricing in the 100 and 200 levels for the 2004-2005 season. The reduction, between 12% and 28%, is the largest one-time reduction in the organization's history. The Sabres will now sport the lowest average ticket price (approx. $35.00) in the NHL.

In addition to the cost savings, the team announced a new variable pricing plan for all individual games. The plan calls for a designation for each game, ranging from gold to value. There will be 7 Gold games, 11 Silver games, 11 Bronze games and 11 Value games. The prices for Gold games will be the highest and decrease towards the Value games which will be priced the lowest.

For more information on the Buffalo Sabres announcement, visit sabres.com


The Buffalo Sabres selected RW Drew Stafford from North Dakota of the WCHA with their first round pick (#13 overall) in the 2004 NHL Draft. Following is the complete list of Sabres draft picks:

#13 Drew Stafford, RW, 6-1, 202 lbs.
#43 Michael Funk, D, 6-4, 199 lbs.
#71 Andrej Sekera, D, 6-0, 187 lbs.
#145 Michal Valent, G, 6-2, 176 lbs.
#176 Patrick Kaleta, RW, 5-11, 195 lbs.
#207 Mark Mancari, RW, 6-3, 225
#241 Mike Card, D, 6-0, 201 lbs.
#273 Dylan Hunter, LW, 5-11, 198 lbs.



Sabres 2003-2004 Year-In-Review

It doesn’t seem that long ago when teams like the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks were the doormats of the league while the Sabres prepared for the post-season. These teams rebuilt their programs while the Sabres will be searching for answers after failing to reach the playoffs for the third straight year.

In the first 50 games of the season the Sabres record stood at 19-25-5-1 – mired low in the standing. Despite Buffalo's surge in March, they still finished last in the Northeast Division.

Now that the Buffalo Sabres will be watching the playoffs at home, how long will it be before the fans forget:

1. The two shutout losses in first 2 games of the season
2. Losing 4 of the first 6 games
3. The two losses to end the season.
4. Rotating Miller-Biron-Noronen until March 2004
5. The line juggling searching for the right combinations
6. “We gotta make the playoffs” reported statements
7. The 7 game losing streak in December (8 winless)
8. The 4 game losing streak in late February
9. Being swept by the New York Islanders – outscored 18-5
10.Failure to holding third period leads
11.The overtime losses to the Boston Bruins
12.Being under .500 from Dec 6th through February 14
13.Two losses & a tie to the lowly Pittsburgh Penguins

As they have in the 3 non-playoff seasons, the Sabres finished strong after poor starts. After each of these seasons, the words were the same “We’ve got to get off to a better start.” That didn’t happen. It’s likely those words will be repeated during the next training camp (whenever that may be.)

NOTE; Has anyone noticed that the Sabres played their best hockey of the season in March – WITHOUT Alexei Zhitnik? Fans will question why the Sabres didn’t make a move to improve the team with trades before the March deadline while other teams improved themselves. Zhitnik is an unrestricted free agent.

Searching for answers to what went wrong, and how to improve, will be the focus of the Sabres front office in the off-season. Certainly they will look at the positives in March when:

1. The Sabres played like playoff contenders
2. Biron played like a #1 goaltender should play
3. The Sabres won 9 games
4. The Sabres gained 22 of a possible 30 points
5. The Sabres added Brad Brown, Mike Grier and Jeff Jilsson
6. Lindy Ruff staying with the same lines and lineup until the last game.

Looking ahead to the next season (whether it will be in October or however long a strike or lockout will linger) the Sabres management painted a positive attitude in a post-season press conference. Fans also noted some good things achieved in the last 5-6 weeks of the season:

1. The emergency of Chris Drury as a true captain.
2. The “Energy Line” of Roy-Afinogenov-Bartovic
3. The great play of Daniel Briere
4. The additions of Brown and Jillson to the blueline
5. The continued good play of Kalinin and Dumont
6. Added toughness with Peters-Brown-Mair-Boulton
7. A much better record than 2002-2003

The question marks will center on:

1. The Goaltending. This will be the biggest question mark. Certainly the goalie rotations employed in the first 50 games didn’t work. Biron played very well down the stretch – Noronen didn’t. And there's Ryan Miller. Is he the heir apparent?
2. Will the Sabres trade one of the netminders
3. Will Zhitnik return to the Sabres considering his huge salary?
4. Status of Miroslav Satan ( led team with 29 goals)
5. Will the draft produce an impact player

Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier will be back next season. Ruff is a good coach and he had his Sabres playing to the end – they didn’t quit when everything looked bleak heading into March. Yet, it's been three years without post-season play. Regier has been on the hot seat for the past two seasons. His contract was renewed so "What you see is what you get." There will be questions for the next season:

1. Will the Sabres open up with more offense and better start?
2. How will Eric Boulton fit in now that Peters has been the tougher policeman?
3. Will Taylor Pyatt finally utilize his size and strength to greater potential?
4. Will Tim Connolly return and be a better player than he exhibited before his injury considering his puck-handling skills?
5. Will Ruff name a permanent captain?

The core, as of now, will be Drury, Dumont, Briere, Hecht, Roy, Afinogenov, Bartovic, Satan. Certainly Mike Griere proved to be a good addition for the March push. The question mark will be Ales Kotalik who had a lingering injury. He played in 62 games scoring 15 goals.

On the farm in Rochester, Jason Botterill received some NHL experience. Norm Milley’s stock diminished. Chris Taylor may be on the bubble depending since he was a call-up following the injury to Kotalik. Defenseman Doug Janik was an emergency call-up.

On defense:

Kalinin, McKee, Brown, Tallinder should be the top four blueliners with Rory Fitzpatrick and Jeff Jillson sure to stay. Brian Campbell fell out of favor toward the tail-end of the season, yet he has offensive ability.

The big question marks will be placed on James Patrick and Alexei Zhitnik. Patrick is over 40, bruised but still has competitive juices in him. As for Zhitnik, his salary might pose a problem considering he was absent during the March push AND – he was still a minus 13 (second on the team to Satan.) However, Ruff has indicated he would like Zhitnik back since he logs a lot of ice time.

Certainly Sabres fans will be making many suggestions to the front office on how to improve the team so that the team will get off to a much better start - and finish - than they have in the past three years.

The biggest concern will be what happens in the off-season. The NHL may be facing a lockout or strike if the NHL and players don’t reach an accord on a Collective Bargaining Agreement. Will Bettman & Company hold the line and demand a salary cap and revenue sharing? Will the players balk at any proposal that would be different from what they now enjoy? Uncertainty hangs over the NHL and fans won’t know until training camps are scheduled to open whether there will be a season in October.

The leading scorer for the Sabres was Briere – 28 goals – 37 assists – 65 points.
The leading goal scorer was Miroslav Satan – 29 goals
The leaders in assists - tie between Briere & Hecht - 37.
The leading plus/minus player was Hecht with a +17.
The player with the worst plus/minus was Satan with a –15
Leading in penalty minutes was Andrew Peters with 151.

Six players were on the minus side of the +/- while only 6 were on the plus side.

Biron - 52 games - 26-18-5 - GAA 2.52 - .913 save %
Noronen-35 games- 11-17-2 - GAA 2.57 - .906 save %
Miller- 3 games - 0- 3-0 - GAA 5.08 - .795 save %

Sabre fans will now await all the developments during the off-season. Enjoy the summer.

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