By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Everyone in journalism, it seems, has some sort of mail column where the reporter answers questions from readers. Except me.
It’s time to join the party. The catch is that I don’t get many questions, so I have to resort to other means.
Therefore, here’s a column filled with the answers to actual questions from imaginary readers. I hate to be on the outside of a party.
Any early guesses about what the Bills’ record will be this season?
This might be the favorite game of local football fans right now as they wait for the season to start. Come to think of it, it’s usually more entertaining than the preseason games.
The Bills have changed much of their lineup for the coming season, particularly on offense. It’s a little troublesome that center Mitch Morse is sidelined with concussion. He was their biggest offseason acquisition among free agents. Morse already has missed parts of a couple of seasons in his career to concussions, so another one is particularly troubling.
On the whole, it was hard to argue with what the Bills did with their draft and with free agency, so they have a chance to be better. Still, it’s the NFL – which means improvement fromsecond-year quarterback Josh Allen is the biggest X-factor as we head into the preseason schedule. He needs to take some steps forward this season, particularly when it comes to accuracy.
It seems like the Bills could be a playoff teams if a lot of things go their way. A 7-9 season seems more likely at this writing. I reserve the right to change it in early September.
Hope you are having a good summer. How do you think the Sabres’ summer is going?
The Jeff Skinner signing was the highlight, of course. The reaction to the big numbers seemed to be better locally than it was around the rest of the league. Let’s just say Skinner had the good financial sense to have the best season of his life just before free agency arrived.
Otherwise, the team added a handful of respectable players in Colin Miller, Marcus Johansson, and Jimmy Vesey. Henri Jokiharju represents the end of the Alexander Nylander Era here, which probably was necessary. I also liked the draft pick of Dylan Cozens, who the experts say easily could have gone third overall. His summer injury probably eliminated his chances of making the opening night roster, but there’s no need to rush him.
There’s quite a crowd on defense, the second line still needs improvement from somewhere, and the team probably needs better goaltending this season from Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark. The team also has to make some moves to get under the salary cap. Right now, it doesn’t look like a playoff team, although a big step forward by Casey Mittlestadt might change my opinion.
Can you explain what the heck is going on in women’s hockey? I sure can’t see how everything adds up.
Me neither. We started with the folding of the women’s league in Canada. That was followed by 200 players from the Women’s National Hockey League saying they wouldn’t play another WNHL season unless the league was restructured. But the WNHL is going forward for the 2019-20 season, and a few of those players have changed their minds. Clearly, this is a very difficult transition period for the league and the sport.
Meanwhile, Pegula Sports and Entertainment gave back its franchise – known as the Beauts – to the league over the summer. The reasons aren’t too clear to me, but there’s a fight between those two sides about such matters as the future name of the team. In other words – there are more growing pains.
The Beauts will play their games at Northtown Center in Amherst, quite a change from HarborCenter downtown. On one hand, the Beauts will be closer to their suburban fan base by playing out there, and it will be an easier, cheaper visit for those supporters. However, the team will not be getting a boost from PSE’s marketing muscle, which made a difference in revenues last season.
At some point, the dust of the explosion will settle and we’ll have a structure in place that has a chance of lasting. I just don’t know when that will be.
What was the toughest decision in your series on trades this summer?
Probably it was where to put the Bandits’ acquisition of John Tavares. On one hand, the Bandits acquired the greatest player in the sport’s history. He stayed for 24 years as a player, and more than anyone else put his team on the sports map in this town.
Still, the trade received no attention at the time it was made, which is part of the judging equation. And the Bandits don’t command the hoopla that teams in the NFL, NHL and NBA receive. I wound up placing it at No. 8, although I can see the arguments to go higher or lower.
By the way, I moved the Ryan O’Reilly deal up 18 spots once his St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup. It might go up higher if I do this again in a few years.
NOW are you convinced auto racing fans are rabid in their enthusiasm?
Absolutely. A simple interview with one of the owners of Lancaster’s track drew more than 500 shares on social media. The old record on this website was something like 170. I continue to be impressed by the racing community’s devotion and enthusiasm.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB. He answers real questions there.)