Two in the Mailbox – No Need to Panic

The Sabres are back and while it’s only been one game but the team, and the fanbase, are up to their old tricks. Given the leadup to the season opener, and the game’s result, what better time than to do another mailbag?

We’ve got jersey numbers, the Jeff Skinner conundrum, coaching and more. Continue reading

Boom or Bust: Five Factors for the Sabres Season

After 300 days the Sabres will be back on the ice this week, kicking off the 2020-21 season. Their lengthy layoff was punctuated by the same sort of turmoil that has followed them in recent years as Jason Botterill was given a vote of confidence before being fired shortly thereafter.

A large chunk of hockey staff were handed their walking papers along with the entire Rochester coaching staff. With additional bad press surrounding ownership due to layoffs on the business side of the organization, they landed on Kevyn Adams as their next GM.

Adams’ first offseason was a bit of a roller coaster. The acquisitions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal were big wins but questions linger over the selection of Jack Quinn at eighth overall and the decision to let Dominik Kahun walk. Meanwhile, the jury is out on the Cody Eakin and Tobias Rieder signings. It seems the offseason was a success for Adams with a few expected hiccups.

Now, on the eve of the season, the Sabres face a tough division and yet another uphill battle to ending their playoff drought. While the East Division may not be as tough as initially thought, the Sabres are hardly a shoo-in for the postseason. But the NHL has produced its fair share of darkhorse playoff qualifiers and with just a few sly moves (and a bit of luck) the Sabres might find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2011. So what are the boom or bust factors for the Sabres in 2020-21? Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 9.5 – 2020-21 Buffalo Sabres Season Preview

As the Sabres prepare to hit the ice for the first time in nearly a calendar year, there is reason for some hope with Buffalo’s outlook for the 2020-21 season. The additions of Eric Staal and Taylor Hall creates the opportunity for the Sabres to ice a more formidable lineup and we discuss how the lines are shaping up and if they are putting the Sabres on a path to success for the year. We also touch on the difficult aspects of the East Division and some of the areas the Sabres may be able to exploit. We also give some love to the Bills as their playoff run shapes up before diving in on Jeff Skinner’s potential usage as the season begins.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped. You can get 20% off and free shipping by using the code 2ITB at www.manscaped.com.

The Instigator Podcast 9.4 – Thoughts on the First Sabres Scrimmage

Sabres camp continued on Monday with the Blue-Gold Scrimmage which featured a number of impressive performances from players up and down Buffalo’s roster. We touch on a few of the stand out performers, discuss which performances may have affected roster battles while touching on some of the weaker showings as well. Also on the docket was discussion over a trio of AHL teams opting out for the 2020-21 season, a World Juniors update and a bit of fun remembering some guys who moved teams this year.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped where you can get 20% off and free shipping when you use the code 2ITB at checkout at http://www.manscaped.com.

The Instigator Podcast 9.3 – Sabres Camp Roster Leaves Minimal Openings for Battles

With only 33 forwards heading to camp and a short run to the start of the regular season, training camp won’t be rife with roster battles. It’s unlikely there would have been many spots up for grabs under usual circumstances given the number of established veterans with the Sabres this season. We discuss the few spots which could be available in camp while also touching on some potential line combinations along with a brief rundown of the World Junior Championships.

No Need to Fret Over NHL Helmet Ads

The NHL took a monumental step in allowing teams to place ads on their helmets for the 2020-21 season.

See, this is fine.

So far, the decision is being described as an effort to make good on lost advertising from the shortened 2019-20 season. The helmet ads are said to be a one-year effort in an attempt to make up lost revenue from last year. Whether that decision holds remains to be seen. It’s hard to imagine the league and teams will happily turn away whatever advertising dollars can be generated by the ongoing placement of ads on helmets.

At the very least the status quo will be different for this coming year. Ads have made their way to the NHL’s uniforms, that ice has been broken, just a few short years after the NBA placed ads on their jerseys. The NHL’s jerseys remain untouched for now and I suspect they’ll remain that way for at least a few more years.

Even if this doesn’t wind up as a one-year trial, the helmet ads ought to satiate the league, owners and advertisers enough that nothing is added to the jersey. Gary Bettman has described the jerseys as sacred and I can take him at his word on that. If helmet ads are the trade-off for the jerseys remaining untouched, possibly indefinitely, that’s a fair trade to take. Continue reading

Sabres Goaltending Depth Chart Aided by Taxi Squad

Under normal circumstances the Sabres goaltending depth chart would have been difficult to navigate this year. Prior to the confirmation that teams would be operating with a taxi squad it was looking like it could be a problem.

While Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark are effectively locked in as the top two goalies, finding appropriate playing time for Jonas Johansson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Dustin Tokarski was going to require creativity. In a typical regular season the Sabres would have the ability to split their minor league goaltenders between Rochester and Cincinnati, easing the burden on the Amerks’ coaching staff to get the right players enough playing time. With Cincinnati not participating this season, the potential for a three-headed monster in the Rochester crease could have been cause for concern.

Aside from finding the right tandem in Buffalo to give the Sabres the best opportunity to end their playoff drought, the most important task with Buffalo’s goaltenders is the development of Luukkonen. It seems unlikely that he would have been destined for Cincinnati given the strides he took last year, though the Cyclones would have been a vital relief valve for the organization to utilize to prevent any one goalie from sitting too long. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 9.2 – Catching a Taxi Squad

The NHL season is just a few weeks away and clarification has finally come down with regard to the league’s schedule and the key dates for the season. This week’s episode touches on the dates for the start of the season, the trade deadline, playoffs, the draft and more. Among the new additions for the season is a taxi squad that each team will be able to leverage for additional roster flexibility. We discuss the most strategic approach for the Sabres to take with the taxi squad and whether or not we envision the group being used as a development tool or for older call ups as the season progresses. We also touch on the helmet ads coming for the 2020-21 NHL season and the outlook for Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens at the World Junior Championship.

The Instigator Podcast 9.1 – Ready to Roll with the 2020-21 Season

We’re back for season nine and we’re looking ahead to what promises to be another unusual year for the Buffalo Sabres and the NHL. With the announcement of the 56-game season and realigned divisions, we discuss the outlook for the Sabres and the path they’ll need to follow in order to break their playoff drought. We also touch on the World Junior Championship and the Sabres prospects who are likely to be participating in the event this season.