06.03.2014
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Tom's Blog

New entry: March 6 2014. Thomas talks about his trade to the Montreal Canadiens.

March 6 2014
Today I write to you as a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization for the first time. To be honest, I’m really happy, that I’ve got all the trades behind me for now. It was a tough year for me and my family. First, the trade from Buffalo to Long Island and then the uncertainty in the last few weeks when it was already forseeable that I would get traded again at the deadline. I’m all the more exited now to focus solely on hockey again. I’ve never ever experienced anything like the last month before…

It’s super exciting that I’ve got a shot at the play-offs again. The Stanley Cup still is my biggest goal and as the last years showed, once you’re in the play-offs all bets are off and anything can happen. That’s what we play for the whole year, that’s why we grind our way through the long regular season. But things really start to get interesting once the post-season starts. I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere in the Bell Centre, which is already without comparison in the regular season.

The last few hours were pretty hectic for me. I had to take the conference call with the media, had to get my employment papers for Canada and – of course – I had to make my way down to Phoenix to meet up with my new team. I already texted with Danny Briere and Brian Gionta and it’s pretty cool for me to meet an old colleague in Danny with the Canadiens.

February 10 2014
A first hello from Sochi! Michael Grabner and I have arrived in the Olympic city, along with all the other NHL-Players. It’s a bit odd to imagine that there ale Olympic Wintergames held here, because it has 15 degrees Celsius. But the atmosphere is great. I haven’t seen a lot because right after we arrived we had to get our official wardrobe and that took some time to fit perfectly.

I’m looking forward to our first practice with the team. From now on the focus is completely on our games against Finland, Canada and Norway. Even if our chance is next to zero, we won’t go down without a fight. We certainly have one of the strongest teams in recent years – but, then again, the same goes for all the other countries who have their NHL players in the lineup. I know that we won’t have a lot of puck possession. So it’s even more important that our goalies will have good games and we also convert our chances on the rush. We will leave it all on the ice for Austria, that much I can promise.

January 8 2014
Many people are asking me, where the difference between today and a few weeks ago is. That’s pretty easy: now we score and win, while in the weeks before we always found ways to lose a game. Hockey can be a pretty simple game, there’s nothing much more to say.

I’ve moved out of the hotel in the meantime and rented a small townhouse. My family visited me over the Christmas holidays and that was really great. They will come back at the end of January. They can’t come for a longer time because Blake is still at school in Buffalo and we don’t want to put him into a new school during the year. It’ll be great that they’ll see our outdoor game. I can still remember my first Winter Classic in Buffalo. That was a brutally long and cold day, but a day you won’t forget. It’ll be even greater that we will play the Rangers at Yankee stadium.

I’m really getting comfortable with the Islanders now, the line chemistry is getting better from game to game. It’s great to play with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. I’m only seeing how good John plays now. Before, I only knew him as an opponent. Now, that I see him in practice every day I really start to appreciate his skills. He definitely belongs among the world’s best players. Our line works so well, because we create space for each other. John and Kyle profit from that, as do I.

Right now, the Olympics aren’t too big of a topic, there’s still too much hockey to play in the NHL, but of course the anticipation is already growing. I was a bit surprised when I saw our Olympic roster and it was a surprise that Peinti wasn’t on it. After all, he was the one who scored the goal to get us to Sochi in the beginning.

The most important thing for us will be the performance of our goalies. Of course, Bernd Starkbaum is our number 1 goaltender, but I don’t get it why Matthias Lange hasn’t made the roster. He’s showing great performances week after week for the Iserlohn Roosters. Instead, there are two goalies from KAC nominated. That’s surprising. Well, or not… Just to make it clear: I’ve got nothing against Swette and Weinhandl, but Lange is playing in a tougher league. I know that Manny Viveiros has some tough decisions and he is doing a great job. That's why I don't want this to be taken as criticism but my personal opinion. It's no different with Team USA where Kyle Okposo and Bobby Ryan will not be in Sochi, or Team Canada where Thornton and St. Louis, who belong among the best for me, will be on the outside looking in.

Well, that’s it for this time. For now, all focus is on the Islanders and getting us back into playoff-contention.

October 28 2013
For the first time I’m writing from Long Island tonight. The last 24 hours were a real whirlwind for me. I think I didn’t get more than two or three hours of sleep. I got the call shortly after eight in the evening on Sunday that I was traded. I was in shock. Of course, I knew this would happen sooner or later, but when it happens… In the meantime I’m really looking forward to my new team and our first game against the Rangers.

I didn’t have much time after the call. I had to do some laundry, pack my bags and shortly after four in the morning I started the journey down south. When I arrived on Long Island, I didn’t have much time again: I had the usual medical checkup, got on the ice for practice, met the reporters down here for the first time etc.

Right now, I’m staying at a hotel, but I’m going to look for a house in the next weeks, whenever our schedule lets me take a breath and has room for things like this. My family will stay in Buffalo for now, while we see how things play out.

The most important thing for me right now is to be on a good team – and I really think that the Islanders are such a team. I’m looking forward to having a chance to play with John Tavares. I also know a few players on the team – Okposo, for example, and of course Michael Grabner. It’s pretty cool that there are now two Austrians on the same NHL team. That hasn’t happened before! I really hope that we find some chemistry right from the start. If so, I think this team can go a long way. You could see it last season, when the Islanders got on a run to close out the season.

Saying farewell to Buffalo wasn’t easy, however. I had some great times there and met a lot of nice people on and off the ice. I have to start from scratch here. In the end, it’s all a business and I’m going to give my best for the New York Islanders now.

September 5 2013
Summer is over and a new season is about to start. I’m back in Buffalo for about 2 weeks now and I’m really looking forward to the start of the season. We had some strong drafts in the last years and I’m really excited to see how the youngsters will do on the ice. Of course, we veterans are now also asked to step it up and lead those young players.

So, everybody wants to know how my future looks. As I said multiple times before, let’s wait and see. I really want to see our talents perform and what perspectives there are. My summer was pretty quiet and I could completely focus on my training. I never thought about a possible trade, simply because I have no say in this matter. I’m still very happy to live my dream and play in the NHL, that’s what counts most and will always stay that way. It’s going to be exciting to work together with Ron Rolston, who did a marvelous job, in my opinion, last season. Now he has the team for a full training camp and I think he has really deserved his chance as head coach.

Just a quick look into the future. I’m so looking forward to the Olympics in Sochi. That’s going to be such a great thing for our national team. That we even qualified was such a big surprise… But now we want more and show some good games in Russia. Until then it’s all about the Sabres. We want to prove to our critics that our team is not as bad as some want to make it out.

April 24 2013
Now it’s set – I will play for Austria at the World Championships. I talked to General Manager Darcy Regier during our trip to Pittsburgh and he gave me the OK. I will travel directly to Helsinki next Thursday, that leaves about 2 days to get accustomed to the team.

I’m really looking forward to the national team. I had a few phone calls from head coach Manny Viveiros and I’ve heard that a lot of things have changed. Most important for me is that we have only players who are in it with all of their heart. We are the big underdogs and in such a situation everybody has to give his best. Looking at the current roster I’ve got a really good feeling.

Of course, our first goal has to be to stay in the top division. We can’t allow ourselves to think that we could keep up with the big nations like the US or Russia. In those games we’ll have to play a sound defensive game and use the few chances we’ll get. Against smaller hockey nations like France we should be able to play our own game. The key to success – like so often in the NHL – will be great goaltending. Just like Bernd Starkbaum gave the team during the Olympic qualifiers.

I really don’t want to talk too much about our season in Buffalo anymore. It was disappointing. We got the points against the top teams and lost too many points against the teams from the Southeast. Those games ultimately cost us our chance to make the playoffs. I really don’t know why we played so badly against those teams. Maybe we had the wrong mind-set going into those games. I could compare it to the national team: We played very disciplined and stuck to the game plan against the top teams. Maybe we tried to do too much against the South and were wide open at the back end.

It doesn’t really matter now, anyway. The season is over and we’ll never get it back. But, a lot can happen over the summer and we’ll see in the fall where we stand then.

April 22 2013
It’s a shame that the our season is already over. Ultimately, we just weren’t good enough. Now we want to get the last few games over and do so professionally. Before it’s off into the holidays and already start preparation for the next season, I really, really want to play for the Austrian national team at the world championships. I’m still waiting for clearance from the Sabres but I’ll talk to them today and after that all should be ok.

The goals with the national team are quite clear: Above all, stay in the top division – which could be a bit easier with the new modus – and, secondly, maybe upset one of the big nations.

April 8 2013
The season is drawing to an end and I hope that I will be ready to go as soon as possible, maybe even Tuesday for the game against Winnipeg. It’s not easy to watch helplessly from the pressbox in these difficult days and not be able to help on the ice. But my body just wouldn’t let me play in the last 2 weeks. Everybody who knows me knows that I am one to always swallow the pain and give my best for the team. But this time… it just wouldn’t do and wouldn’t make the team better. It could be seen often enough in the past how well it works out to not play at nearly 100 percent…

That also goes for the Austrian national team. I want to make it clear here and now that I’m more than willing to participate at this year’s world championships. At the same time, it has to be clear that it is most important for me right now to get fully healthy again and to make the playoffs with the Sabrers. The chances are slim, but they are still there and we firmly believe. We all want to give our best to make the postseason. Only when we are eliminated from the playoff race will I think about the world championships.

January 14 2013
Finally, there’s Sabres hockey again! Well, the first day of our short training camp is over and I’m feeling quite good. Of course, I’m not in the same shape as I was after my stint with Graz, the break until now was just too long for that. But we’ve been practicing hard in Buffalo in the meanwhile, though there’s simply no substitute for a real team practice or games. Nevertheless, nothing was hurting when I got up today, so that shows that my basic fitness is still there. It’s also cool to practice in your own arena and have your own locker room again, where you can stash all your gear.

There’s no bad blood between the players and the club. The Pegulas simply care too much for us. That’s why I also don’t think that there’ll be any problems in the future.

It’s true that I said I think the lockout was just stupid. On the other hand, it was necessary, as strange as that may sound. I know quite well that I’ll never earn the money I’ve lost in the last months, but that wasn’t the point. The star players will always get the big bucks, but we wanted to secure the money for the “middle class” and the fourth line players. I could have been egoistic and said take the offered money in October and run, but in the long run, that would have been bad. In the end, it was important that we got the pension in the CBA and that there are no more re-entry waivers. Until now, some players didn’t get a chance to play in the NHL because the clubs were afraid to recall them, in case the player would have been claimed off re-entry waivers. This won’t happen anymore.

The goals for this season are the same as every year. I want to get the Stanley Cup. But to be realistic, first we have to make the playoffs. The Kings showed last year what can happen. They squeezed into the post-season at no. 8 and won the whole thing. This short season will be a trial of strength. No team can allow itself to slip up, you always have to be mentally ready. In the end, the most important thing will be which team will stay healthiest. I’m sure that it will be a great season for the fans. There are only games against the own conference, so every point counts. There are no “free points” like in the other years when you can make up ground by making points against the West.

The new players fit in pretty well. I’ve played a lot against Steve Ott way back when I was in Rochester and he’s a player you know exactly what he’ll give you. John Scott – well, it’s important that we got this kind of player again. I can’t really say much about Grigorenko, as we only had one practice. But what I can say is: Boy, is he big. And he can move! It’s like watching Tyler Ennis skate, only four heads bigger. I’m sure he’ll be a great asset in the future.

It looks like I’ll start the season with Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville. I’ve always played well with Pominville and I ended the last season with Hodgson on a pretty high note. He’s a right hander, but can dish the puck to both sides great. I’m really glad that I have him back as center.

So, I can’t await the start of the season. I’m really looking forward to the fans. They showed up in the hundreds already last week when we were practicing privately at the Norththown Center. The fans in Buffalo are just great and I’m really looking forward to enjoying the atmosphere at FN Center against Philly on Sunday. Let’s go Sabres!

November 5 2012
Time to say good-bye. I had a great month in Graz and want to thank the fans, the players and the officials. It was a blast playing these 11 games.

Of course, I would have liked to play more games, but the EBEL is a good league. That’s what I said before I played my first game here and I say it again now. There’s good, fast hockey played here in Austria. My decision to come to play here was the right one.

I really don’t know how things are going to unfold in the next weeks. First of all, I’m on my way back home to Buffalo and my family now. I missed Ashley and the kids a lot. I get asked if I’ll return after the international break all the time. That may well be, but certainly not right after the break. I want to wait how the negotiations between league and PA are going. It seems as if things are going forward a bit.

Also, it would be unfair to other players who I would take a roster spot away from, if I return to Graz, because the tryout-phase ends after November 12 and it’s not so easy anymore to change players.

What I certainly will not miss are the referees. Their performance was… well, let’s just say that I’d rather forget about them.

So, once again: thank you very much for your support. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I will never forget this month. Now it’s cross your fingers so we have NHL hockey back soon!

October 9 2012
Well, I’ve „survived“ the first few days in Austria. I was really surprised by how many fans and media people came to see me. I really never in my life would have thought that so many people would show up.

The first two games showed that I’ve still got some ways to go, especially where the goal-scoring is concerned. Then again, it wasn’t too bad, given that those were the first two meaningful games in 6 months for me. Of course, I’m not happy about the game against Innsbruck, where I missed on a handful of good chances. On the other hand, I have to say that goalie Patrick Machreich did an awfully good job and was standing on his head. A lot of journalists want to know if I have a kind of penalty-shot-trauma because I missed on three consecutive ones. All I can say is that you have good days and you have days that are not so good. Also, a penalty-shot in hockey is a different thing from a penalty-shot in soccer.

The important thing for me was to get the jetlag out of my legs and some good practices with the 99ers. It’s good that our next game is on Friday, until then the chemistry with Wren and Latendresse will only get better.

Today, I’m really looking forward to the autograph session with my team mates. I hope that a lot of fans will come to see us.

October 4 2012
For the first time in many years I write to you from Austria. What a day this has been. I arrived in Austria in the morning and – more or less – went directly to the rink. The first practice with my new team went pretty good. As always, the big ice surface needs some getting used to. The practice itself wasn’t so different from those in Buffalo – a bit of passing, a bit shooting, some powerplay moves etc.

It was funny when I came into the Liebenauer rink for the first time in 14 years, because nothing whatsoever has changed since then.

As I knew before, the first day was pretty exhausting. I went back to my parents for only a few minutes to grab a bite and change my clothes before I had to get to the press conference. I knew, that there was a kind of hype in Austria the last few days but the enormous media run on the press call still surprised me. I really don’t need such a hype, I always said so, but then again: If I have to do it, I do it. In the end, it’s for the good of Austrian hockey.

There’s not much more to tell. After the press conference I went straight home and now I only want to get to bed and sleep. And so I will only say: Good night!

PS: One more thing: I’m really anxious to play tomorrow night. The last meaningful game is 6 months back.

September 24 2012
Hello! I’m still in Buffalo and practicing for the new season (whenever it will start). However, after the various media reports in today’s Austrian newspapers, I have to rectify a few things: Yes, it is correct that I have talked to Philipp Pinter, because he is a good friend of mine. However, it is not true that I said I would play for Vienna. Vienna is one possibility of many. Graz and other Austrian clubs are also still a possibility for me.

I’m afraid Philipp was a bit too rash. I honestly haven’t decided where to play and it also wouldn’t be right to awake hopes in certain fan groups now which would later on be disappointed. And that’s it already. Let’s just hope, that this lockout will end soon.

September 14 2012
I returned from New York yesterday. The meeting there was amazing. There were 300 players who usually play hard against each other. Only this time we were united and stood as one. It’s a pity the NHL doesn’t take our proposal serious. I’m convinced that everybody would profit from it now and in the long run.

Today I cleaned out my locker at FN Center before we get locked out on Saturday. It’s really frustrating. Seven years ago the owners already got all they wanted and now they want it all again. We even proposed to start the season under the old CBA and keep on negotiating. But all of a sudden the owners aren’t willing to operate under “their” CBA anymore.

We’re extremely happy with Don Fehr and his handling of the negotiations. He is very open, honest and always keeps us up to date on what’s going on. We get daily e-mails and have our say in the negotiations. That’s not as easy as it sounds as there are over 750 players in the NHLPA.

Well, there’s still some time until camps are slated to open and we haven’t given up hope. It’s just a bit strange when Terry Pegula will not be allowed to communicate with us. Last Monday we had our annual charity golf tournament and everything was as always, no talk of bad blood. Terry is the best owner you could hope for and maybe he can move the other owners a bit. He sure doesn’t want to miss too many games. In the meantime we’re about 15 Sabres players who practice together. Add some AHL-players and you get a pretty good group.

If the lockout is drawn out a lot of players will go to Europe. When that happens, a good practice will be harder and harder to get. If things don’t get any better until the end of September I will have to think of going to Europe myself. I can definitely imagine playing in Austria! The biggest problem wouldn’t be the salary. No, the biggest problem usually is the insurance. That’s something that’s not talked about often but always can be a hindrance (like when players want to play for their national squads). Just for which team would I play? Well, we’ll see when that time comes. I really don’t know right now.

April 9 2012
First things first: I have to decline the invitation to join Team Austria for the Division I championship. There are too many little injuries that hamper me. My chest’s been hurting since January, I have an ankle-sprain and the shoulder’s also not completely a hundred percent. I’m just glad that I don’t need any surgery, but I do need a few weeks away from the ice to let all those little nagging injuries heal themselves. I had some good talks with head coach Manny Viveiros and he understands me. He’s been a player for a long time himself. I really have to say that the communication with Manny was the best I’ve ever had with a head coach from Team Austria. In the end it would be the same as a few years ago at the championships in Switzerland. I came to help the team, but my jaw fracture hindered me too much. Coming this year I would only take away a roster spot from a healthy player who could help the team much more than I could.

Today’s locker clean-out day was solemn and hard just like all the years before. I will stay in Buffalo for the next days and I don’t really have a plan yet, when I will go back to Minnesota. That’s not the first priority. I just want to spend as much time with my family as possible as we were on the road a lot in the last six weeks. Then there are also a few meetings with team colleagues etc.

The season in review? We had too many ups and downs. We started off good, but it all went downhill in December and January. The twelve consecutive road losses really put the nail in our coffin. When you’re down like this it’s like a downward spiral. You lose three or four games and all of a sudden everybody holds back and just tries to avoid mistakes instead of taking the fight to the opponent. Then there were all the injuries. When we were all back and somewhat healthy things trended up again and we were one of the best teams for the last two months. It’s all the more disappointing now that we didn’t make the playoffs.

March 30th 2012
Sorry that I didn’t write in quite some time, but our concentration in the last few weeks was completely on making the playoffs. We had a real great run but we haven’t achieved anything yet, if we can’t keep up the good play in our last 5 games. If we do, than we have really made a great comeback.

But what this blog is really all about is the national squad and the Division 1 championships. I had some good talks with head coach Manny Viveiros in the last days and I have a really good feeling about the national team. And yes, I said I’d be willing to help the team. BUT: there are some things to consider. So, I’ll come over to Europe if...

-          - ...we don’t make the playoffs, but I don’t believe in that scenario.

-          - ...I stay healthy and I’m near 100 percent. Otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense as I would only take away the roster spot from someone else who can go full throttle.

-          - ...the Sabres say it’s ok for me to join the team. Honestly, I haven’t even talked to the club about going to Europe for the Division 1 championship yet. Everybody is concentrating on making the playoffs and nobody is really interested in thinking about national teams or giving me approval to come over.

Ok, that’s it for today. Cross your fingers that we have a good final run in the next week. Everybody here is really looking forward to making the post-season.

Feb 9th 2012
That was a cool game against Boston. Finally, we’re on the right way again, the pieces of the puzzle start to fit. We now have the so important secondary scoring, Ryan just can’t be beaten in goal and we also stand up physically to our opponents. This season is not over by a long stretch. We still believe in our playoff-chance. We did it last year, so why shouldn’t we this year? There’s a row of home-games now and we’ve 
been playing really strong at home since December. Also, we got back our road-game, so all in all things are looking god for the next weeks.

Sorry, but I can’t tell you too much about my injury. You know how it is, that’s just NHL-policy. What I can tell you is that I’m really feeling better every day, so my comeback should just be a matter of time. Usually, I always play through the pain. But this time the pain was just too big. I got “sandwiched” in Montreal. You either make the play and get hit, or you avoid the check and stay healthy, but you don’t win any games like that. Injuries are simply a part of the game. Just swallow as much of the pain as you can and go on. Only this time, the pain was too big and I didn’t see any chance to help my team. It’s better to take a break than just stand in the way in this case.

I’m really looking forward to playing again now, I can’t wait! Practicing on your own while you are injured is harder and more boring than any normal practice. As a player you always want to have the puck and not just skate round after round or ride the bike. So, keep your fingers crossed and we’ll see how the next months play out for us.

 

Nov 30th 2011
We just can’t get into the groove at home. But really, that’s not a problem we only have this year.  Looking back to last season we also had an abysmal start to the home-portion of the schedule. We just weren’t able to capitalize on our chances against the Islanders and that just won’t do in today’s NHL.

I’ve never experienced a string of injuries as we are having right now. Of course, players get hurt throughout the season but so many in such a short time? Ridiculous! On the other hand, this is a big chance for our rookies to show what they can do. If we play more often like we did against Washington, the wins will come also. Injuries just aren’t an excuse.

I really don’t know why we’re not playing consistently right now. But the league is very  well balanced and every week another team is on a winning streak. The only exception here is Boston. They are unbelievably good. We have to keep on working hard and try to play the simple game that already gave us many wins on the road. Now, we have to translate that simple style also to our home games. We have a lot of those in December and we just have to start a winning streak in our building now.

The same goes for me. Yes, I have gotten points quite consistently in the last weeks, but  the goals just don’t come like they did in the first weeks of the season. Pominville and I don’t feel too much pressure that the team is relying on us to get the goals. Obviously, the other teams are putting out their best players against us but we’re used to that by now. There was also some bad luck lately, but you just have to work through that. Jason and I get along very well and our chemistry on the ice is perfect. I’m not worried, the goals will start coming again soon.