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Classic Team Logo of The Day

08 Sep

Logo of an FCS college football team that plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The school played its’ first season in 1894, and from 1973 until 2008 competed in Division III, winning the national championship at that level in 2001. Fighting Hawk alumni who have enjoyed careers in pro football include Jim Kleinsasser, Erroll Mann, Kenny Golliday, Jim LeClair, Chris Kuper and Dave Osborn.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

08 Sep

1991 ProSet football card of former NFL wide receiver Fred Barnett, who played 8 seasons in the league, mostly with the Philadelphia Eagles. Known for his acrobatic catches, he totaled 32 career touchdowns in his 8 seasons, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1992. He briefly dabbled in coaching after his playing days ended, serving as tight ends coach for the XFL’s Memphis Maniax in 2001. His cousin Tim Barnett also had a brief career as a receiver in the NFL with Kansas City.

 

NFL – Buffalo Bills’ 2022 Season Preview

04 Sep

Thirteen seconds. It goes down in Buffalo Bills’ lore along with Wide Right as another huge disappointment for fans of the team. It’s the amount of time they couldn’t hold the lead at the end of their divisional playoff loss to Kansas City last year in what could have been a Super Bowl season. It also will be a prime motivator for the club throughout the 2022 campaign. They are being hailed as title favorites by analysts everywhere, and here is our look at the team entering this season:

 

Front Office/Coaching

Brandon Beane and his staff have done an A+ job of building the Bills into a contender through trades, free agency and shrewd drafting. Joe Schoen, the assistant GM, was lost to the New York Giants, but the quality of the 2022 draft shows that the front office didn’t miss a beat. Head coach Sean McDermott has mostly been solid but he has to take the majority of the blame for the 13 second disaster. His coaching staff will be different, with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson following Schoen to New York. Also, special teams coach Sean Farrell left for Jacksonville. The replacements for those 3 are Aaron Kromer as O line coach, a position he held previously here under Rex Ryan, and a pair of in-house promotions of Matt Smiley as special teams coach and Ken Dorsey from quarterback coach to OC.

 

Quarterbacks

 

QB Josh Allen, MVP candidate

 

Without question, the quarterback position in Buffalo is now set in stone. Josh Allen enters the 2022 season as a solid MVP candidate and the engine that drives the Bills’ offense. The only question going into training camp was who would replace the departed Mitch Trubisky as his backup. GM Brandon Beane went with NFL game experience, bringing in Case Keenum to fill that role. Matt Barkley also returns, albeit to the practice squad, to help out in the quarterback room.

 

Running Backs

 

Starting back Devin Singletary

 

Buffalo’s running back group can be described this season as versatile if nothing else. Starter Devin Singletary came on late in the year to provide a spark to a lagging rushing attack. His forte is racking up missed tackles by defenders. Zack Moss, now fully recovered from injury, is the short yardage and goal line pounder the team will need, while rookie James Cook could be the most well-rounded of all of them. He has one attribute the other 2 lack – breakaway speed. He is also a sneaky tough runner and has elite skills as a pass receiver out of the backfield or spread out wide. How he will be used in the Bills’ attack is one of the most intriguing mysteries going into the season. Taiwan Jones is on the roster strictly for his special teams play.

 

Receivers

 

TE Dawson Knox, an emerging force

 

Buffalo’s receiving corps underwent some changes in the off-season. Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley are gone. Stefon Diggs is the clear # 1 threat, while Gabe Davis, who gained national notoriety in last year’s playoffs, replaces Sanders as the other outside receiver. In Beasley’s slot position, the team has a pair of options in Isaiah McKenzie and free agent signee Jamison Crowder, a seasoned vet who killed the Bills in the past while suiting up for the division rival Jets. They should more than make up for Beasley’s production. Rookie Khalil Shakir turned heads with his play in preseason. Some are predicting that his role may be similar to the one Davis played as a rookie – a solid contributor off the bench in key situations. The final WR of the group is Jake Kumerow, a fixture on special teams and occasional contributor on offense. Buffalo is carrying 4 tight ends on the roster, the best of whom is Dawson Knox. He is the unquestioned starter. Tommy Sweeney returns in a backup role and a spot on special teams, while Quinton Morris, a practice squad member in 2021, fought his way onto the regular roster this year with a solid preseason. The fourth TE is Reggie Gilliam, whose versatility is valuable. He plays tight end, fullback and special teams.

 

Offensive Line

 

Ryan Bates solidified the OL when he became a starter

 

The offensive line play vastly improved late in the season and in the playoffs last year after Ryan Bates was inserted into the starting lineup at guard. The line returns mostly intact, with a couple of minor tweaks that the Bills hope will make them even better. The addition of line coach Aaron Kromer is one change, while the one new starter, guard Rodger Saffold, is a seasoned veteran who should be an upgrade over the departed Darryl Williams. The anchor of the line returns in center Mitch Morse, and the starting tackles are once again Dion Dawkins, who is a borderline Pro Bowler, and young Spencer Brown, who fought his way into the starting role last season as a rookie. The depth along the line is a mixture of returnees in Tommy Doyle and the polarizing Bobby Hart, and free agent acquisitions David Quessenberry and Greg Van Roten. Hart is a whipping boy for the fans, but he has shown improvement, especially when filling in at guard. Quessenberry may be the best swing tackle the team has employed in years, and Van Roten is versatile in that he can man all spots on the line.

 

Defensive Line

 

DE Greg Rousseau is primed for a breakout year

 

In many of Buffalo’s losses last season a glaring weakness in stopping the run was exposed. GM Beane did an extreme makeover of the defensive front in an effort to correct this flaw. Five of the nine D-linemen on the 2022 roster are changes from last year, with the big prize being veteran All Pro end Von Miller. The former Super Bowl MVP is the “finisher” the Bills’ pass rush has lacked, and the attention he will draw from opponents should make life easier for the emerging young pass rushers on the roster – Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa. Former Bills’ first round draftee Shaq Lawson returns as a “new” face to add to the pass rusher rotation. The interior of the line needed some additional beef and Beane provided that with 3 free agent signings. They are DaQuan Jones, who figures to start at one tackle spot, Tim Settle, a potential breakout star who was buried on the depth chart in Washington behind some high draft picks, and another old face returning in Jordan Phillips, who should bring a spark when utilized in the rotation. The lone returning player among the tackles is Ed Oliver. He has improved every year, and could be ready to have his best season with all the new additions around him commanding more attention.

 

Linebackers

 

Tremaine Edmunds anchors the LB corps

 

It was somewhat surprising that the Bills kept 6 linebackers on their final 53 man roster considering they only use 2 on the field most of the time. (The actual number could be 7 if suspended Andre Smith is counted). They have 2 solid starters in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. Both have helped the team rank as a top defense and should be capable of reaching an even higher level with the new extra help around them. Their backups are special teams stalwarts Tyler Matakevich and Tyrel Dodson, with impressive rookies Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector waiting in the wings behind them. All 4 of the reserves figure to have roles on the special teams when all is said and done.

 

Defensive Backs

 

CB Dane Jackson bears heavy responsibility in 2022

 

Always the strength of the team’s top-ranked defense, the secondary is a question mark entering the season. Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White will miss at least the first 4 games while recovering from a knee injury, leaving Dane Jackson and a pair of rookies, Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford, to hold down the outside corner positions. The safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer will be expected to guide the inexperienced new faces on the back end, but both of them missed training camp reps due to injury and could be shaking off some rust to start the year. The slot cornerback position is basically a starting spot on the Bills’ defense, and Taron Johnson handles those duties admirably. The Bills have great depth in their secondary. Backup safeties Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin could start for many NFL clubs, while Siran Neal and Cam Lewis are comfortable playing both corner and safety. As with a lot of the backups on the roster, all of the secondary reserves are special teams contributors.

 

Special Teams

 

Punter Sam Martin seizes an opportunity

 

Coach Sean McDermott puts extra emphasis on the bomb squads, and that is evident in the amount of players who stick on the final 53 almost exclusively for use on those parts of the team. They include Taiwan Jones, Jake Kumerow, Tyler Matakevich, Tyrel Dodson, Damar Hamlin, Reggie Gilliam and of course, long snapper Reid Ferguson. Kicker Tyler Bass is one of the NFL’s best. At punter, the Bills endured a major hiccup with the Matt Araiza allegation fiasco, but in the end may have actually upgraded the position when vet Sam Martin was cut by Denver and fell into their lap. In the preseason the identity of who will fill the roles as punt and kickoff returners wasn’t evident. Candidates include Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir and possibly James Cook.

 

Here’s your annual song to get psyched up for the upcoming season, the Bills’ Shout song:

 

 

 

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

04 Sep

Not an official logo of the team, this was a logo used on the 1968 and 1969 set of Topps football cards of Buffalo Bills’ players. Being that the NFL and AFL had agreed to a merger by then, the set included cards of players from both leagues. The Bills fell on hard times at this point after being a top club in earlier AFL years, and the fact that all other teams had their regular logos used on their cards was just another sign of disrespect Buffalo’s team had to endure.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

04 Sep

2003 Bowman football card of former college and pro quarterback Ken Dorsey, who played 6 years in the NFL with San Francisco and Cleveland. Despite a stellar college career at Miami that saw him break school passing records and win a national championship in 2001, he spent his entire pro career as a backup. Dorsey’s post-playing days have evolved into a successful 9 year coaching career in Carolina and Buffalo. He is currently the Bills’ offensive coordinator.

 

Buffalo Sabres’ 2022 Off-Season Summary

18 Jul

The work of improving the Buffalo Sabres’ fortunes in the 2022 off-season really began during the season for general manager Kevyn Adams. He was patient and eventually completed the blockbuster trade involving the team’s former captain, Jack Eichel. The disgruntled center was shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for a couple of NHL-ready players – Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, and a pair of high draft picks. Last off-season, Adams had the Seattle expansion draft to deal with, and the team was lucky enough to win the draft lottery and made the most of the top pick by selecting big defenseman Owen Power, who will be a cornerstone going forward. Don Granato is now firmly entrenched as the head coach, so this year’s summary has only 3 categories – potential trades, the entry draft and free agency. Here are our opinions on how Adams did or should handle those:

 

Potential Trades

Most observers expect any trade involving Buffalo will be for their biggest position of need, goaltender. The goalie trade merry-go-round is already in full swing, with Colorado and Detroit swinging deals. Adams tried to swap for Ottawa’s Matt Murray, but he refused to play here and is now off to Toronto. The Sabres seem to have been a step behind other clubs in the goalie market, and may have to look to free agency to fill that need now. There was a rumor, put out in the media by coach Don Granato’s brother-in-law Ray Ferraro, that the Sabres could be considering trading for Chicago’s Patrick Kane, a Buffalo native. At 33, he’s not exactly a good fit for the team’s rebuilding youth movement, but on the other hand he would be a valuable asset for however many years he has left in a couple of different ways. First, in helping the young players learn how to win, and secondly, in helping sell tickets to a fan base exhausted by all the recent losing.

 

Entry Draft

The Sabres collected 3 first round picks with their own and through the trades of Eichel and Sam Reinhart. They chose skilled centermen with all 3, beginning with Matthew Savoie at pick 9. His strengths are his speed, skating ability, and stick-handling. He was projected as a possible top 5 pick so Buffalo was smart to grab him at 9. With the 16th pick, Swedish centerman Noah Ostlund was the choice. His scouting report is similar to Savoie’s in that it stresses his speed and skill. Finally, Buffalo chose Czech Republic center Jiri Kulich, also known for his speed but one of his strengths is his goal scoring ability. The Sabres pulled a mild surprise when they used their second round pick on a goaltender, the enormous Topias Leinonen from Finland. He’s 6’5 and 233 lbs. Despite his size, his scouting report says he is athletic and quick. One other pick with interesting hockey bloodlines is 4th round defenseman Mats Lindgren Jr., whose father had a long NHL career. With 22 selections in the last 2 drafts, Adams has fortified Buffalo’s pipeline of young prospects heading into the future. Here are the rest of the 2022 picks:

Victor Neuchev (winger from Russia, 3rd round)

Vsevolod Komarov (Russian defenseman who played for Quebec in junior hockey, 5th round)

Jake Richard (forward who played for USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, pick 6A)

Gustav Karlsson (forward from Sweden, pick 6B)

Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson (forward from Sweden, pick 7A)

Linus Sjodin (forward from Sweden, pick 7B)

 

 

Free Agency

There were no big splashes for the Sabres in the early days of free agency. As expected, the team inked a goaltender, Eric Comrie, formerly of the Winnipeg Jets. He’s 27 and has been with 3 different teams, mainly with the Jets. Adams is banking on potential with this signing, as he showed some flashes in 2021 while backing up Connor Hellebuyck. Buffalo also brought in a veteran defenseman from Toronto who plays a somewhat physical style in Ilya Lyubushkin. Buffalo signed 3 more little-known defensemen to two-way contracts (Jeremy Davies, Cale Clague and Chase Priskie) to bolster their defensive depth in the organization. Lawrence Pilut, once a promising prospect who bolted to Europe a couple years ago, was re-signed, along with some important pieces of the current team in Victor Olofsson and Vinnie Hinostroza. With Dustin Tokarski signing in Pittsburgh, Adams re-signed goaltender Malcolm Subban, likely with the idea that he will man the nets in Rochester.

 
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Posted in Hockey

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

18 Jul

Logo of a Canadian minor hockey team of the past, the Moose Jaw Canucks. They were founding members of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League, beginning play in 1966. The franchise disbanded when the Winnipeg Warriors moved to Moose Jaw in 1984. Notable former Moose Jaw alumni include Larry Popein, Al Rollins, Willie DesJardins, Fred Sasakamoose and Chris Chelios.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

18 Jul

1999 Opeechee hockey card of former NHL center Mats Lindgren, who played 9 injury-plagued seasons in the league for 3 franchises. Despite being a high draft choice due to his offensive skills, he never lived up to his potential, with his highest single season goal total being only 13 while playing for Edmonton. He represented Sweden in the 1998 Winter Olympics. His son Mats Jr. was recently drafted by the Buffalo Sabres.

 

Reviewing The Buffalo Sabres’ 2021-2022 Season

07 May

Buffalo has always been an important franchise in the NHL, despite their recent long string of losing seasons. With the club finally showing signs that they might be ready to be a competitive team next season, we here at Rayonsports have decided to do a year end review of the team for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

 

Front Office/Coaching

 

It’s been musical chairs in both the general manager and head coaching positions with the Sabres during their long non-playoff drought, but it’s possible that owners Terry and Kim Pegula have finally hit on a winning combination with GM Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato. Adams was patient in dealing with Jack Eichel’s situation and did a great job of prying the best deal possible from the Vegas Golden Knights when he landed Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs and a pair of draft picks for his disgruntled star. The jury is still out on the draft picks he has made but it was a no-brainer in grabbing Owen Power at the top of last year’s draft. As for coaching, there’s no denying the work Granato and his staff have done in both developing young players into the best versions of themselves (Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin), and in turning around the careers of supposedly overpaid veterans who previously underachieved (Jeff Skinner, Kyle Okposo). The next challenge will be turning the progress made into an actual winning season in 2022-23.

Forwards

 

The Sabres made the transition from a forward group led by offense-only Eichel and Sam Reinhart to a more well-rounded and versatile unit this season. Thompson’s emergence and the addition of Tuch were 2 examples of this. Both were key power play pieces and also top contributors on the penalty kill. Skinner’s revival into a 30+ goal scorer and Okposo banking 20+ while also being a locker room leader were priceless. Okposo is a prime candidate to take on the captain’s role next season. Granato was patient with Victor Olofsson and was rewarded when the young winger produced after being fully recovered from an injury to also score 20+. Casey Middlestadt has suffered setbacks in his development due to injuries but when healthy he looks to be an important player going into the future. Dylan Cozens continued to develop and although he still has the potential for more growth in his game, he is a solid teammate who can be counted on to stick up for his fellow Sabre players. Krebs is still raw but he shows flashes of possessing some impressive skills and looks to be a major part of the team’s future. Zemgus Girgensens is another veteran role player who figures to stick around and provide important minutes on a third or fourth line. Vinny Hinostroza was signed to a one year free agent contract, and his play earned him a future here. Adams should make him a priority to re-sign. John Hayden was signed to a similar deal to add some toughness to the lineup. He was scratched from the lineup most nights but always ready when called upon. The rest of the forward group could see some shuffling next season. Rasmus Asplund and to a lesser degree Anders Bjork have shown they can be contributors, but it will likely be the end of the line for veterans like Cody Eakin and Drake Caggiula, a forgotten piece who was injured most of the year. All of the bottom-end forwards will be challenged for roster spots by the young bucks coming up from the AHL, including Jack Quinn, J.J. Peterka, Arttu Ruotsalainen and Brett Murray, among others. There are also top players in the pipeline, most of whom will need to mature and develop in the junior ranks, college and minors.

Defensemen

 

This unit going forward will be led by a pair of top draft picks of recent years, Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power. Their games are not necessarily the same but they already appear to be headed toward being the best at their position. Dahlin has developed nicely under Granato’s tutelage, earning his first All Star game appearance, while Power jumped straight from the college ranks into the lineup and never looked out of place or intimidated. When the season concluded, the remaining top 4 defensemen were a combination of speed and puck-handling ability in Jacob Bryson and Henri Jokiharju, and size and toughness in Casey Fitzgerald and Mattias Samuelsson. The rest of the D corps consists of veteran journeymen Colin Miller, Mark Pysyk and Will Butcher. It’s unlikely all of them will be back in 2022/23. The only AHL prospect who might make the leap to the Sabres’ roster next season is Oskari Laaksonen. Ryan Johnson, a first round draft pick from a couple of years ago, is returning to college for another season.

 

Goaltenders

 

This is the team’s top area of concern going into next season. They will have to make a move here if they expect to compete for a playoff spot. Craig Anderson was a warrior as the top netminder this year, but he is 40, injury-prone and an unrestricted free agent who isn’t sure whether or not he wants to continue to play. Dustin Tokarski did about as well as expected when he had to play, but he is an AHL goalie if truth be told. There has to be an upgrade made here. In the system, the other options are Malcolm Subban, another AHL-level goalie, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who was to be the goalie-in-waiting but can’t stay healthy and Michael Houser, who played in the ECHL with Cincinnati this year and probably belongs there. A pair of top-fight prospects who should eventually compete for the #1 goaltender spot for the franchise, Devon Levi and Erik Portillo, both decided to remain in school for another year, and aren’t ready for the NHL yet anyway. Whether Anderson returns or not, there is a crying need for a legitimate NHL-caliber bridge type netminder to hold the fort until Levi and Portillo are ready.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

07 May

This is the iconic logo of an original six National Hockey League team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Founded in 1926, the franchise has won a total of 6 Stanley Cup championships over the years, with half of those coming in a 5 year span from 2010 to 2015. The Hawks boast an amazing 51 Hall of Fame inductees, including such luminaries as Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, Chris Chelios, Denis Savard and Marion Hossa.