Two in the Mailbox – Nylander Expectations, Analytics and a Very Bad Trade

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

Praise be, hockey is back.  I wrote a really optimistic post ahead of last year’s season opener because I truly thought the Sabres had things figured out. They went on a seven-month death march to the draft lottery instead. I’m certain that this year’s roster is drastically better than the one they iced in 2017-18 but I’m not about to make the same mistake twice. Well, like 25 times.

The Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart line is going to be a ton of fun, I just hope Housley keeps them together for most of the year. I really feel like that unit is going to make some magic. Casey Mittlestadt had a quiet preseason but it seemed like he and Kyle Okposo picked up where they left off in the chemistry department. If they get favorable matchups, that pair could make some noise. Obviously Rasmus Dahlin is going to be a ton of fun to watch even if the rest of the defense corps are a little thin. The one area I’m still waiting to see more from is  in goal. I’ve never been a huge fan of Carter Hutton but he looked pretty strong in the preseason, so I’m at least hopeful that he’ll give them more than what Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson offered last year. Linus Ullmark is going to have an adjustment period so I’m not buying in on the projections that have them getting drastically better goaltending than last year. This duo will certainly be better, but I’m still in wait and see mode.

Playoffs are still a longshot in these parts but I think they’ll at least flirt with the prospect of a playoff spot with an expectation that 19-20 is the year when they really make waves. Now for some questions.

Dan/@thunderousdan – How many games will it take for me to start feeling like a rube for thinking that this year might be different than the last 5?

If last year is an indicator it will be at least two. Maybe three. But I, a stupid person, have yet again bought into the hope tank. I can’t imagine this team is going to be some sort of massive disappointment. The additions of Skinner and Sheary should be especially helpful for a team that was woefully short of talent at forward last year.

However, being Buffalo, we must hedge our bets. I would surmise that after 10-15 games we’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not to bookmark Jack Hughes highlights.

@EffieTW – By the end of the year, what does Nylander need to minimally do to deem this season a success?

At first I was thinking that leading the Amerks in scoring would probably be necessary but maybe that’s too high an expectation. Also, should he be their leading scorer come January he’ll probably get called up to the big club, which would alter his final stats.

I think a decent benchmark would be close to what noted Lottery Toilet Bowl prize Dylan Strome produced with Tucson last season. Strome put up 53 points in 50 games (22 goals) before getting a 21-game run with the Coyotes. If Nylander was producing in that neighborhood he’d be driving play in a number of facets, indicating that he’s made even more progress than was on display in the summer and training camp. That doesn’t necessarily mean a point per game pace but substantial point production should be numbers one, two and three on Nylander’s checklist for the year.

Bob/@BuffaloBobZ – If the team gets off to another slow start, how quickly does Housley get mentioned in “hot seat” articles.

I think I’ve already seen him in at least one or two hot seat articles and the season hasn’t even started yet. Jason Botterill has done enough to show they’re on the right track in building a roster for today’s NHL. I’d say he has at least another year beyond this one before his seat starts heating up. But Housley is the one who was billed as the forward-thinking coach who was going to implement a fast game and turn the defense corps into a marauding group of two-way killers. If they have another dud of a season where they look lost in their own zone and are allergic to scoring he’s going to be in the crosshairs. If they’re terrible in October there will be plenty of attention on his employment status.

Thomas/@bflodukes63 – This is Jacks team, but would we better served by making Berglund
captain? Comes from a winning organization and a veteran who understands what it takes to succeed. Give Jack and Scandella “A”.

I was really holding out on a dramatic captaincy unveiling during pregame introductions tomorrow. So this loses a bit of its luster now that Eichel has officially been named captain. However, we must have content! Thus, the question stays.

Berglund never wore a letter for the Blues, so I don’t think he would have been a natural choice to suddenly wear a ‘C’ here. Besides, it’s Jack’s team. He’s the face of the franchise, the most talented player etc. He’s grown to the point that he’s a leader in the locker room regardless of the letter on his chest. This was just a formality and he’s earned it. Besides, every team preaches having a leadership group. Berglund and Scandella are going to factor into the leadership group even without a letter. There’s no need to over complicate this one. They made the right choice from a PR, marketing and locker room perspective.

@Pkilla_29 – How do I get into analytics and does Manny and Corsica actually do anything or just house data?

I’m a relative neophyte when it comes to analytics myself but I’ve found a few things to be reliable. First, go through a number of sources. You’re bound to find a guy or two whose work you either dislike or that doesn’t make sense. The more sites you check into, the more likely you’ll find the type of data you’re looking for. Corsica is a good source as is HockeyViz. Natural StatTrick is good and you can even find high level stuff on Hockey Reference. Second, the more visualizations, the better. I found the various charts to be far more helpful in understanding what’s what than any glossary that’s out there.

Third, be prepared for frosty tweets. The stereotype that members of the hockey stats community are bull-headed is pretty well founded. Especially if you contend that they should watch the game. Or that you think Rasmus Ristolainen is good. That’s not going to end well. So a friendly heads up there, because it can be frustrating at times when they’re really dug in on a particular subject. Lastly, I can’t recommend enough doing some research and gaining a better understanding of analytics. At the very least you’ll add another layer to how you consume the game. At the worst you’ll drown under a sea of excel sheets and tweets about denying zone entries.

Very Bad Trades

Here’s a very timely doozy from Jassan28. I mean, sure dude. Whatever works for you.

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