Long Term Outlook Should Shape Decision on Ullmark

No team wants or plans to lose their starting goaltender, certainly not on the first day of the regular season. But that was precisely what the Buffalo Sabres had to deal with when Robin Lehner went down just a period and a half into the 2015-16 season.

Chad Johnson stepped into Lehner’s role shortly after the injury but it’s been the play of Linus Ullmark that has spurred the Sabres push from 2-6 to a .500 record. Ullmark is just months removed from double hip surgery and is playing in his first season in North America, making his impressive play something of a surprise.

Ullmark has played inspired hockey, compiling a 4-2 record, 2.45 GAA and .924 SV% through six starts. He was 1-2-0 with a 2.72 GAA and .932 SV% in his brief spell with Rochester prior to being recalled. Ullmark’s play has shown fans and the organization what is coming to them in the near future between the pipes while stirring a debate whether or not he should remain with the team long term once Lehner returns.

We’ll likely see at least two more weeks of Ullmark in a Sabres jersey while Lehner finishes his recovery, so a decision isn’t imminent. Not only does Lehner have a couple more weeks until he’s healthy, but there’s a good chance he’s sent on a conditioning assignment before returning to the Sabres full time. This affords Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma a little more time before making a call on their young netminder. Continue reading

Instigator Podcast Episode 44 – Sabres Starting to Roll

Tyler and Chris are back after their European hiatus to chat about the improving fortunes of the Buffalo Sabres and the hot button issue of goalie equipment and NHL net sizes.

The Instigator Podcast Episode 44 - Sabres Starting to Roll by The Instigator Podcast on Mixcloud

Celebrate Ryan Miller’s Return with Highlights

The inevitability that Ryan Miller was going to be traded two seasons ago was something I was aware of even before the season had begun. A looming UFA, Miller held value across the league as a quality starting netminder and didn’t fit well with the Sabres rebuild.

That didn’t make it any easier the day he was traded.

Miller received a fair dose of criticism during his time in Buffalo and, to this day, I don’t understand how he was so under-appreciated. Perhaps it was because he was living in Hasek’s shadow for many fans. Maybe it was simply because a “Ryan Miller Shoutout” was unacceptable for some. Either way, when I look back at his time two years removed from his trade, I appreciate the talent we had even more. The post-Briere and Drury years were rife with under-achievement and, frankly, wasted some of the best hockey of Miller’s career.

By no means do I think the Sabres should have kept him, however. Tim Murray made the right decision in moving Miller when he did. It was the right move for the Sabres and it was the right move for Miller as well. I’m glad to see that Miller is playing well in Vancouver and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the ice at First Niagara Center once again.

Perhaps this period of Sabres hockey in which the answer in goal is somewhat cloudy will help clarify Miller’s worth to the organization during his tenure. In the meantime, enjoy this collection of Miller highlights. Continue reading

Double Minors: Replay Derails Sabres Comeback Against Sens

For a few fleeting moments on Thursday night, the plan had fallen into place perfectly. Evander Kane had shoveled a puck home from beside the net, DJ Kool was blasting throughout the arena and the momentum had fully shifted as the Sabres had tied the game.

However, Ottawa successfully challenged the play as the Sabres were deemed to have been offside on the zone entry and the score reverted to 2-1. While the Sabres still had a firm control over the game, they were unable to score another tying marker.

For the record, the Senators and the referees made the right call. The play was just ever slightly offside and the review showed that. So twice in two nights the new NHL review system worked as planned. It will be a hard pill to swallow for Sabres fans but it was the right call. Continue reading

Projecting the Sabres Roster on the Eve of Final Cuts

The Sabres begin the season in four days, and some question marks still remain as to who will be part of that opening night roster against Ottawa. The organization has made quite a few cuts over recent days that have answered some questions, such as sending Cal O’Reilly down to Rochester. There’s still a handful of decisions to be made in the next 24 hours, or so, with the roster currently sitting at 28 players and only enough room for 23. Here’s how I see the Sabres’ roster looking to start the year. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast Episode 43 – 2015-16 Season Preview

Tyler and Chris are back after summer break and we’re talking about the outlook for the 2015-16 Sabres season. We spend some time looking at some question marks surrounding the defense corps, just how long of a look Brendan Guhle will get and realistic expectations for this year’s team.

Instigator Podcast Episode 43 - 2015-16 Sabres Season Preview by The Instigator Podcast on Mixcloud

Remember #GaslightForGoalSong When You Vote for the Sabres Goal Song

The Sabres are hosting a little contest to determine their goal song for the upcoming season and the #GaslightForGoalSong campaign is one step closer to being realized.

The Sabres have eight choices for the new goal song in total that range from truly dreadful to more than acceptable. Highlights include something horrible by Pitbull, Swords of 1,000 Men (which already had a short-lived run as the goal song) and Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool.

I have, at times, offered up my thoughts on certain aspects of game presentation at Sabres games. For the most part I’m relatively indifferent to what they do until I see a promotional game befit for minor league baseball or just terrible, awful music being played. So game presentation is hardly a hill I’m willing to die on. I do, however, wish the Sabres had a better goal song. Continue reading