Let me start off by apologizing on behalf of myself and the rest of the DGWUS crew. The last few weeks have seen us fall off the map when it comes to following our favorite bumbling Buffalo squads. Between the inactivity of the offseason and the activities of our daily lives, we've been unable to find the time to get caught up.
With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to go a little more in-depth with my coverage of all the things we missed. 'Attempt' being the key word...
Last weekend, Bills' owner Ralph Wilson Jr. and former defensive end Bruce Smith were inducted into pro-football immortality as their busts entered the Hall of Fame in Canton. The event had a definite Buffalo vibe to it as many Western New Yorkers made the drive to Ohio to witness the two mens' induction.
Wilson was introduced by ESPN personality Chris Berman. (The Buffalo News has a transcript of Berman's speech.) Berman praised Wilson for his vigilant protection of small market teams over the years and lauded his impact on assisting with the NFL/AFL merger.
"Two AFL leaders were already enshrined here in Canton," Berman said. "The late Lamar Hunt and Al Davis. They certainly had two different styles, and they drove the merger from the AFL side. But they would have been the first to tell you that the quiet force that never looked for headlines, the man that just wanted to get it done was Ralph Wilson Jr., because as the established NFL quickly found out, if he gave you his word, that's all you needed."
After Berman's speech, Wilson took the stage. I would like to tell you that he eloquently discussed his many years of ownership, the success of the early AFL teams, the tough times of the 70's and early 80's and the difficulty of losing four Super Bowls. Instead, as 90-year-old men tend to do, he slowly rambled his way through a 15-20 minute speech. He talked about the process of obtaining a team, the tough early days of the AFL and the teams the Bills trotted out in the early days of the merger. (The Buffalo News has a transcript of Wilson's speech and you can also see a video of it on NFL.com. I recommend going with the transcript ... it's a really slow speech). I would've liked to have seen him thank Marv & the gang seated behind him, but instead he went out of his way to thank the very polite Hall of Fame staff. Oh well...
For his induction into the Hall of Fame, Bruce wanted his former coach Ted Cottrell to be the man to introduce him. Cottrell talked about Smith's tremendous talent and work ethic. He also said Bruce "loved his teammates. And he knew what their contribution and all phases meant to the success of the Buffalo Bills." (transcript of Cottrell's speech)
Then Bruce took the stage to a very warm reception, sprinkled with the sound of "BRUUUUUUUUUUCE". Smith gave an excellent speech about his years as a player, his respect for Ralph Wilson and his love for his family. He also went down the list of teammates, coaches and management members that helped him along the way and thanked them for their support.
Throughout his speech, Bruce spoke about the importance of hard work, discipline and perseverance. In closing, he said, "If there were anything that I could share or report that I've learned over the course of my career, it would simply be one's value in life is not determined by accolades or worldly success. One's worth as human beings resides in our willingness to gladly extend ourselves in service to our fellow man. It is in this greater spirit of humanity that I shall carry forward."
(transcript of Bruce's speech / streaming video at NFL.com)
But Lamoureux went undrafted in the NHL, so, disappointed, he went to the ECHL's (East Coast Hockey League) Alaska Aces. During the regular season, he played very well putting up the best record in the league (33-16-2), breaking the league record with eight shutouts and posting the second best GAA in the league at 2.29.
Then this off-season, Lamoureux was invited to the Sabres' development camp this past month. Obviously Lindy Ruff and the rest of the coaching staff saw enough potential to sign him to a one-year deal. He'll most likely start the season with the Portland Pirates, but if Lalime's woes from last year carry over, I would bet the Sabres wouldn't hesitate too long before calling Lamoureux up.
The 26-year-old center spent last season with the Colorado Avalanche where he racked up eight times as many penalty minutes as points. The Avalanche drafted McCormick in the 5th round in 2001 and over the last 5 seasons he's amassed 250 penalty minutes and 30 points.
From the sound of things, this signing means the official end of Andrew Peters' tenure with the Buffalo Sabres. I, for one, will not be disappointed to see him go. He couldn't skate, couldn't handle a puck and couldn't throw a punch to save his life, which adds up to pretty much useless in the world of professional hockey. Good luck out there Andrew. Try not to get bitten again.
On August 5th, Numminen's agent confirmed that he was officially going to retire. He will join the Finnish national team as a scout for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with and against the best players in the world for so many years," Numminen said in a statement released by the NHL Players Association. "I want to thank my teammates, coaches, fans, and the media for all the great years."
Teppo retires as the record holder for the most games played by a European-trained player with 1372, including 212 with the Sabres. Over that time, he collected 117 goals and 520 assists. He is also the last man standing from the 1986 Entry Draft (he was picked 29th overall by the Winnipeg Jets).
Numminen will obviously be best remembered as a Sabre for returning to the team after undergoing heart surgery in September of 2007. Numminen recovered and made it back for the last game of the 07-08 season and then played in 57 more this past year. According to Numminen's agent, that was an important time for the 41-year-old.
"There's no question coming back from that surgery and playing the one game at end of the proceeding year was a huge lift for him to continue his career," Baizley said by phone from his Winnipeg office. "To then come back and get another season under his belt and not end his career with his heart situation was really wonderful."
In the end, I think it's safe to say that Numminen will be remembered fondly by Sabres fans for his defensive contributions to the playoff runs from '05-'07 and his courageous return to the ice.
Grier has spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Sharks after the Sabres let him go after the aforementioned '05-'06 season. Grier contributed 111 points over 221 games for the Sharks. Last year, he missed 20 games due to a knee injury, but before that he had averaged 77 games played over 11 seasons in the league.
On a personal note, I've missed Mike Grier ever since they let him go. The loss of him along with Dumont and McKee were the early blows to the team's leadership before Drury & Briere had even thought about leaving. While he'll never dazzle anyone with his ability, he hustles as hard as anyone on the ice and contributes well in the trenches.
Clearly this move and the move for McCormick were more signs that Regier felt the team needed even more grittiness entering the 2009-2010 season. These signings coupled with Joe DiPenta, Matt Ellis and the evolution of Tyler Myers should mean a much more physical team chemistry in training camp. It'll be interesting to see what the lines look like on opening day.
In other news, restricted free agent Drew Stafford remains unsigned. Apparently there's a rumor swirling around that Regier might try to deal Stafford to the Florida Panthers for Nathan Horton. Also, former forward Maxim Afinogenov remains unsigned as well. According to Bucky Gleeson, there are very few teams that have any interest in the erratic former Sabre.
Apparently the team isn't too concerned about him missing practice time as they wait to see what sort of deals the picks around Maybin (taken 11th overall) sign before they settle on a number for him. Last Friday, the 12th pick in the draft, Knowshon Moreno, signed a five-year deal worth $23 million, including almost $13 million guaranteed. Then yesterday, the 9th pick in the draft, B.J. Raji, signed a five-year, $28.5 million deal with just under $18 million in guaranteed money. So as we speak ... well, as you read, I'm sure Russ Brandon & Co. are haggling on a pair of numbers that hover somewhere in between those two deals.
Now I don't generally believe any attention should be paid to preseason football, so I waited until the end of the post to talk about it. And for the most part I feel there shouldn't be too much taken from the Bills' 18-21 loss to Tennessee. But I must say I'm worried to think what fancy plays Fisher plans to spring on us when we play him in a game that actually matters in week 10. [It can't be overstated how brutal our schedule looks.]