Two in the Mailbox: Quarantine Partner, Center Targets and Ryan Miller’s Gear

Quarantine life has us all a little wacky, so it felt like a good time to roll out another mailbag post. Below are questions about who I’d want to be quarantined with, GM candidates and my personal favorite, goalie equipment.

Mike/@mike_mckinnon22 – What was your favorite Ryan Miller setup?

Tough call on this one. Miller wore a really unique set of pads for a number of years that you couldn’t get at retail. They were a combination of a handful of different products that included the old Koho 580s, Vaughn Vision and Heaton 10s (among others). The pads got updated with different graphics over the years so that CCM and Reebok could advertise new retail models, but the pad itself was a unicorn. They were fairly old fashioned, featuring not just knee rolls but shin rolls as well but there was a level of nostalgia that they offered.

Picking my favorite set up of Miller’s is tough since my favorite mask of his debuted in 2011-12 when he added the Buffalo script to the chin of his iconic bison head mask. He had an awesome set of Vaughn V6 pads in 2014 (when he finally abandoned the Frankenpads) and his Koho 580 set from early in his career was elite. However, my favorite is pictured here. The Vector graphic he picked up towards the end of 2005-06 looked awesome in Buffalo’s red and black and remains a cool pad graphic to this day. It wasn’t the greatest retail pad and the graphic looked better on Miller’s pads than at retail, but the arrow graphics played well in the Sabres color scheme. It also looked pretty close to the mismatched RBK Premier blocker he started to wear after breaking his thumb. So that’s my choice.

Coby/@hatzappar – Which member of the Sabres’ front office would you choose to be quarantined with? No cop outs. You have to pick someone.

Does Brian Duff or Marty count? They are listed on the administration page on the team website. Since I assume they don’t really count as an answer to this question, I’ll take Jason Botterill or Steve Greeley. Even if you aren’t a big fan of Botterill, getting to hang with an NHL GM would be a good time. I figure that after a couple weeks of quarantine you’d be able to fish out some inside info. Trades that weren’t finalized, signings they just missed out on, that sort of stuff.

Andrew/@eternalrhino15 – Where do you get classic #Sabres gear like a goathead starter jacket?

My Cuzin Vintage on Elmwood seems to be the place for this. They have a massive selection and they often advertise their wares on Instagram as well. They have a ton of vintage Sabres and Bills merch to choose from, though their prices are pretty high. Your best bet if you’re on a budget is to scour eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for stuff to pop up, but you really need to be vigilant if that’s going to pay off.

Hannah/@hburrito92 – Let’s pretend for a minute that the Sabres fire Botterill, who would you want for GM?

This probably deserves a full blog but there are a few names out there who would be decent additions, for varying reasons. One thing I’m not overly keen on is going with a retread for this hire. The Sabres haven’t hired a retread for GM in quite some time (decades actually) but I don’t think there are too many former GMs out there who would inspire a lot of confidence when compared to someone who could bring some new ideas to the position.

That being said, Mike Gillis has been getting some love as of late after his time with the Canucks. He was the architect of their Cup team and has since been lauded for digging in to how analytics can help shape a team’s decision making.

I’m a little dubious of those type of claims, but if you take it at face value there’s reason to have some confidence that Gillis would offer the Sabres a different approach than they’ve taken since before Terry Pegula ever launched a bid for the team.

Chris Drury is another name that’s going to come up for obvious reasons. The nostalgia factor would play a large role in his candidacy and he’s working on his chops under Jeff Gorton in New York. Maybe he’d have some of that Yzerman magic and give the Sabres a fan favorite who also has an eye for talent. You can debate whether or not he’d come until you’re blue in the face but simply from a perspective of identifying a candidate, Drury would make the list.

Miro Satan is another name I’ve seen which intrigues me to a certain extent. He’s been filling various management roles for the Slovakia federation, giving him some background that might eventually lead to an NHL front office job. His playing history is different than that of a lot of general managers around the league and I’d be curious to see what kind of approach he’d bring to the table. I’m not sure his resume is strong enough to justify a NHL GM’s job right away, but he’s moving in that direction.

Brendan/@brendan1423 – The new BB&G brought up the story of Drury getting traded here & putting up pics of the Cup everywhere in the facilities. Is there a player who the Sabres could target who would be the Drury to Eichel’s Briere? By that I mean a talented proven winner/leader to supplement Jack.

I tend to think that chasing this type of thing is more of a boondoggle than anything else. Ryan O’Reilly’s leadership skills weren’t exactly lauded going back to Colorado. Yet now that he’s a Conn Smythe Winner everything has changed. Determining whether culture leads to winning or if winning leads to culture is next to impossible. If you’re more of an old school thinker, you probably feel that developing a culture will lay the foundation for success. New school thinking says almost the exact opposite.

I feel that developing that foundation is important but you can’t just drop players in an expect them to take root immediately. Just look at Buffalo’s recent history. Craig Rivet had been around the league and worn a letter with some very good teams. He became the captain here once he arrived but whatever he was able to impart on the locker room didn’t put them over the edge. Steve Ott was and is described as a character guy. Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges filled leadership roles for the most storied franchise in the league. Yet, they came here and their impact was fairly minimal.

To me, Drury was something of a unicorn. And I think some of the mystique around him had to do with narratives related to the Little League World series and other such things. But he certainly fit the leadership role incredibly well and the Sabres haven’t really been able to replicate that. As for adding someone, does Joe Thornton check the box? Ryan Getzlaf? I think you’re more likely to solve the problem by establishing an organizational standard for success – and that included everything from the roster, to equipment staff to the ticket office – than trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a trade or signing.

Joseph/@jpitirri – What do you think happens with winter sports? Finish the season, just playoffs or cancel and start the new season? I think cancel and start the new season. The logistics of the other 2 just don’t make sense.

I have to think the leagues find a way to at least award their championships. The NBA is rumored to be looking into some sort of single-city tournament and now the NHL is said to be looking into neutral sites for games. There’s no way the regular seasons are played at this point and I think the momentum is pushing towards a potentially expanded playoff field being trashed as well. That being said, I think it’s possible that a slight return to normalcy at some point in May would allow the NHL (or other leagues) to start playing games in empty arenas to try and finish some semblance of a postseason without interrupting the 20-21 season. 

JThrill/@passoffpads – Who do you feel should be the realistic number one off season target for the Sabres via either free agency or trade?

I’d still like the Sabres to pursue Nikolaj Ehlers and given rumors that they were very close to acquiring him last summer, he’s still on my wish list today. That being said, the most pressing need for the Sabres is a center. It’s been their number one need for well over a year and will remain their need until they find a solution.

I’m going to give you a few names that all fall somewhere in a scale of low, medium, high in terms of how realistic it would be to acquire them and how much they’d help the Sabres.

Nick Bjugstad and Dylan Strome strike me as two of the most attainable players who should be available. Elliotte Friedman told The Instigators that he believes Strome to be available and at a price that isn’t prohibitive. He’s hasn’t lived up to his draft status and this would be his second trade, but his offensive production is strong enough that he’d help buoy Buffalo’s middle six. Bjugstad was banged up most of this season and is only signed through the end of the 2020-21 season, but he’d be a quality stop-gap. The Penguins will still have some cap they need to shed and the Sabres could provide that space by getting Bjugstad at a slightly lower price.

My personal favorite is Toronto’s Alex Kerfoot. He’s a player I hoped the Sabres would covet prior to his trade in the summer of 2019. The Leafs are rumored to want defense and the Sabres have a surplus. Kerfoot’s name has been floated as bait to acquire that help on defense. Set aside any concerns over trading within the division for a moment as the two sides have a need where the other has a surplus, so they should have a mutual interest in getting a deal done. Whether they actually do is another story. But it would be ideal to drop a 25 year old center with three more years on his contract into Buffalo’s lineup.

I’ll still toss Vincent Trocheck out there as there were some whispers at the deadline that the Hurricanes may have been trying to turn him into blueline help. Assuming those rumors are true, the Sabres could still land the player they missed on at the deadline and plug in a former 70-point center into their depth chart.

The last name I’ll toss out there is a pipedream but it’s rooted in some reporting. As Calgary’s season bbed and flowed, there were some rumors that they’d potentially shake up their core. Obviously Johnny Gaudreau’s name was out there a fair bit but Elliotte Friedman also mentioned that he wouldn’t be surprised if they shopped Sean Monahan. Monahan would cost the Sabres a pretty penny, possibly even their 2020 1st round pick depending when negotiations began. It would be an extremely difficult deal to swing, but he’s an outstanding talent who would once again give the Sabres a pair of excellent centers at the top of their lineup.

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