Instigator Podcast Episode 42 – Brandon and the Sabres

After a short hiatus, Chris and Tyler are back to discuss Russ Brandon’s new position with the Sabres, a quick chat about the Bills entering camp and the NHL’s looming expansion conundrum.

Instigator Podcast Episode 42 - Brandon & the Sabres by The Instigator Podcast on Mixcloud

The Week of Development Camp Could be so Much More

As the Sabres wind down their annual development camp at First Niagara Center I can’t help but think the organization missed a terrific opportunity to draw even more fans down to the foot of Washington Street.

Mid July is an inherently slow time of year in every sense of the word. The NHL calendar is in a bit of a lull after the initial free agent flurry of activity, the Bills are still a ways out from kicking off training camp, and we’re in the midst of the dog days of baseball season. That, coupled with the fact that the area’s children are a few weeks into summer vacation and parents are searching for things to keep their kids occupied, means that development camp is in a great position to fill the void in affordable entertainment.

The week’s on-ice happenings were the lone Sabres related attraction this week, and there were multiple other things that the organization could’ve done in conjunction with the camp to make it a great experience for the fans. The improvements to the week have nothing to do with the on ice activity, but more of the ancillary activities to draw people to the area and keep them there for a few hours. They range from improving things inside the arena during practice to having activities outside during down time. Here are just a few ways to make the week significantly better:

– Make the players available. I count nine players on the Sabres’ NHL roster that are new to the team since the trade deadline; the average fan couldn’t pick Ryan O’Reilly or Zach Bogosian out of a lineup. O’Reilly, Bogosian, Evander Kane, and Robin Lehner are players fans will (theoretically) be watching for the better part of the next decade; it would behoove the organization to let the fans get a glimpse of them and put faces to all the new names. This could be done by having autograph booths, having the players just go section to section, or any other number of ways. It’s not a difficult thing to execute.

– Improve the in arena amenities. I was down at the arena on Monday for the practice and grabbed the last soft pretzel at one of the two concession stands at 1:30 pm. That’s totally fine if the practice wasn’t ending at 3. Having a concession stand open with only half of its menu items available, and having the available items understocked, is pointless. Either open them and do it right or don’t open them at all. There was also nothing to do inside the arena other than watch practice. Having a few interactive activities for fans would help solve that issue, especially when kids get antsy from watching three hours of hockey practice. The Slapshot Accuracy machine, for instance, would be a nice addition that could be run by an intern for the day. Sabretooth was also not there on Monday from what I saw. There were tons of young kids who don’t get to FNC very often, and the team’s mascot was nowhere to be found. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a small thing that goes a long way to improving the experience of younger fans.

– Take advantage of Haborcenter. The facility is open with pregame activities during the season, yet not this week. Having the open skates at Harborcenter (that they do before home games) either before or after the prospects are on the ice would’ve been a nice way for people to make a day out of being at the arena. You could even have a roster player skate around with the fans for a half hour if you wanted to get crazy. Having lunch/drink/happy hour specials should’ve also been a layup. Looking at when the on-ice portion of the camp ends each day, one would think a lunch special makes perfect sense. The organization could even promote some of the new retail shops opening up in the building. It’s yet another way to keep people in the area, plus it’s an opportunity to make some money for the restaurant.

– Street Hockey Fest. This event seems to be an annual thing, although nothing appears to have been released in terms of the event happening this year.

Street Hockey Fest would be a nice addition to Development Camp Week

Looking at the schedule, the Saturday of development camp (an off day for prospects) would’ve been a perfect for it. The team could make a few bucks on team registration fees, kids aren’t inside playing video games, and parents find something to occupy their kids for a day; it’s a win for everybody. Add a few players signing autographs (or guest refereeing?), and perhaps some arena tours, and you’ve got the makings of a great day for fans.

– Utilize Canalside. This is the perfect weekend for a “Sabres Carnival” type event. Hosting the event Saturday during the street hockey tournament and Sunday after the 3 on 3 tournament would be perfect. The team did this a few years ago and even brought in a band (10,000 Maniacs), so there’s precedent for this happening.

All of these suggestions are not incredibly complicated, and some have been done before. With where the organization has been the last few years this week could’ve really served as a catalyst to get fans back into the Sabres and back into hockey. Fans still filled up FNC the last two seasons (for the most part) despite the on ice product being pretty poor, by doing a few little things (like player autographs) the franchise can show its appreciation for those who showed up every night to watch a historically bad team, while also taking a few steps to repatriate some fans who may have been turned off by the happenings of the last couple years.

Development Camp stream would be an easy win for the Sabres

The Sabres are hosting their annual Development Camp this week, perhaps you’ve heard. The week’s festivities will be capped by Friday’s Blue-Gold scrimmage and Sunday’s three-on-three tournament.Development Camp stream would be and easy win for the Sabres

So far there have been all sorts of #fun and #engaging parts of the week as we’ve seen grainy videos shot at terrible angles of prospects doing hockey things. Friday’s scrimmage will provide fans their first chance to see Jack Eichel (and all the other prospects) in game action. It’s a quasi-debut of the franchise-altering prospect and the team is all but guaranteed to out-draw last year’s scrimmage which had fans seated in the upper deck of the arena.

The only way you can see the game, however, is to make your way to First Niagara Center. Tickets are $10 and proceeds are going to charity. All-in-all this is a good way to capitalize on an event that will come with plenty of fan frenzy while giving back to the community. Unlike last season, the Sabres will not be providing a stream for Friday’s scrimmage which has disappointed a fair segment of the fanbase. Particularly those who don’t live in Buffalo.

The reasons for the Sabres failing to stream Friday’s game haven’t been made public. I imagine the reasoning is close to the justification Lewis Black once gave for the lack of a national energy policy.

Because it’s hard. It’s really hard. Makes me want to go poopie. – Lewis Black

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Grading the Sabres: Murray at the Trade Table

There’s no doubt that Tim Murray has put a definitive stamp on the Buffalo Sabres roster in the year and a half that he’s been on the job. He’s managed to proceed with an aggressive pragmatism that has kept the Sabres active on the trade front while maintaining a strong foundation through the draft.

Murray has made 16 total trades by my count since taking over. They range from tent-pole blockbusters to minor-league transactions. But everything has rolled together to get the Sabres to where they are today; on the cusp of leaving the tank in the dust and returning to the ranks of contenders.

They aren’t there yet, however. If they managed to ascend to 10th this season it would be a minor miracle considering their lowly 2014-15 season. However, the last four months have been filled with exciting acquisitions that will affect Buffalo’s on-ice product both in the short and long term.

I’m expecting at least one more trade from Murray before training camp begins at the end of the summer as he’s still lacking a capable top-four defenseman and it appears as if the shallow UFA market is all but dried up. While we wait to see if Murray adds to his lengthy list of transactions, I’ll take a look back at his deals in an all too early ranking of his trades to date. I will rank the trades numerically and on a scale of zero-to-five scowls – since everyone likes to poke fun at Murray’s serious demeanor. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast Episode 41 – Waiting on the Frenzy

Ryan O’Reilly officially inks his deal with the Sabres and we discuss what direction Tim Murray may head when it comes to shoring up the Sabres blueline.

Instigator Podcast Episode 41 - Waiting on the Frenzy by The Instigator Podcast on Mixcloud

Murray’s makeover moves forward with aggressive draft day moves

It was a whirlwind of a weekend for Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s GM maneuvered to acquire a new starting goaltender, a legitimate top-six forward and a potential franchise defining talent with the first three picks at his disposal.

Oh, yeah, NOW you smile. – Terry Pegula.

The selection of Jack Eichel was all but guaranteed the moment the Oilers card was pulled during the draft lottery. But trading for Robin Lehner, David Legwand, Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn was hardly an expectation. The new acquisitions, coupled with this week’s signings, set the stage to push Buffalo’s rebuild forward significantly.

In January I wrote about the arsenal of assets Murray had at his disposal. At that time Murray held five of the first 60 picks in the draft along with a boatload of prospects at various levels of development. Today his roster is drastically altered. O’Reilly, Kane and Eichel are set to redefine the team’s top-six while Zach Bogosian and Robin Lehner will be vital pieces on the backend. Murray’s moves at the draft table completed a vital step of the rebuild and should push the Sabres firmly on the path back to competitiveness. Continue reading

Instigator Podcast Episode 40 – Lehner Acquired Ahead of Draft

Tune in for a final run-through of where the Sabres will go in this weekend’s draft along with a breakdown of how the Robin Lehner trade could work out for the Sabres.

Instigator Podcast Episode 40 - Sabres Acquire Lehner by The Instigator Podcast on Mixcloud