The Instigator Podcast 8.7 – Sabres Enjoy Strong Early Returns

The first three games of the 2019-20 season are in the books and the Sabres have impressed early on thanks to a pair of wins over Pittsburgh and New Jersey. We run through some of the key factors to Buffalo’s 2-0-1 start, including just what’s working with Ralph Krueger’s system and the players who have impressed thus far. We also offer up a loose prediction for how we think things could unfold if these first few games are an indication of what’s to come.

Two in the Mailbox: The Lines, The Outlook and The Goalies

Another season of Sabres hockey is underway and the 2ITB Mailbag is back for another run. This will be a weekly (sometimes) edition that runs down questions on the Sabres, Bills and just about anything else you can come up with.

I’m also going to use this as a quasi-season preview since I haven’t done one quite yet and it’s worth trying a different approach when it comes to a season preview. Especially when it’s written during the first game of the year and every other season preview is days or weeks old.

This is the first season in quite a while that I didn’t look forward to with some level of optimism. That’s softened a bit after Thursday’s performance, but it was still hard to really get up for the opening of the season with so many of the same faces on this roster. Not only are players like Sobotka, Scandella and Girgensons still around, but they’re all playing prominent roles. Add in the new coach giving them all sorts of love in the press and any frustration from the end of last year comes roaring back.

Sobotka got tons of credit for his play in the preseason, but I saw a lot of the same from last year. A black hole when the puck goes near him and very few positive traits. How he wound up in Buffalo’s top six is beyond me and I can only hope Krueger finds a new spot for him in short order.

It’s nice that Thursday went as well as it did, because that will help stoke the flames of optimism. The Mittelstadt line looked excellent and despite being an island of misfit toys, the Girgensons, Larsson and Okposo line was efficient as well. If there’s one spot on the roster I’m optimistic about, it’s the blueline. And that unit was quite good on Thursday. So, let’s see if they can string some wins together and prove everyone who was doubting their roster decisions wrong.

Now, on to the questions. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 8.6 – Sabres Season Preview featuring Ben Mathewson

With yet another Buffalo Sabres season upon us, Ben Mathewson joins the show to help us share some thoughts on the team’s outlook for the year. We spend a lot of time digging into the forward lines, what doesn’t make sense on the unit and the few things that are poised to work for the club. We touch on the defense corps as well before offering up some loose predictions for the 2019-20 season.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Post-Camp Musings Ahead of Final Cuts

The Sabres are about to get down to playing some honest to god, regular season hockey games this week. Before they jump in to games that count for something, they need to make a few decisions on their roster.

Preseason hockey is tough to take too much information from given the irregular rosters on a game-to-game basis. One night you could see an NHL-heavy roster and on another night you might only see three or four NHL regulars in the lineup. With that being the case, it can even be hard to be impressed by individual performances since the level of competition they can come against can vary so much.

There’s also the Preseason Pledge to consider. You can’t get too high or too low on a player or the team given the volatility of the roster during the preseason. But that can go out the window when Vladimir Sobotka skates on the second line and the coach says a lot of really nice things about him.

On the eve of the regular season opening, there seems to be more concern and annoyance than excitement across Sabres nation. Jason Botterill went out and acquired a handful of players who could really help this team turn a corner this year. Only, he forgot to get rid of anyone from last year’s group. This preseason was thought to be the one where we’d finally see some dead weight stripped off the roster. The likes of Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Marco Scandella have been the most popular candidates in that regard. But with the season almost upon us, that’s looking more and more dire.

I, for one, seriously expected Sobotka to spend the final year of his contract in Europe. I’m glad I attached the caveat to my opinion that we couldn’t take solace in it happening until Botterill filed the paperwork. Given the state of the roster, Sobtoka seems to be safe. It’s disappointing for a number of reasons, primarily because Sobotka is bad at hockey. The silver lining here is that it appears that Sobotka is simply keeping Conor Sheary’s seat warm on the second line. He may just be the extra forward, meaning he’ll spend plenty of time in the pressbox this season.

Still, the fact that he’ll be an option to dress on a nightly basis is extremely disappointing.

I suppose there’s still a chance that we get surprised by the noon waiver notifications. But I’m not expecting any fireworks from the Sabres. That’s not to say they shouldn’t make some noise with their roster decisions. While about two-thirds of the roster was set before camp opened, I think there have been a few eye-opening performances the should have affected Botterill and Ralph Krueger’s thinking on the final 23-man roster. Continue reading

Over-Thought: Seven Days Out and Waiting for Action

It feels a little soon for the Sabres to be playing actual hockey games, but we’re a week out from the start of the NHL regular season and given the Sabres seemingly perpetual state, there isn’t much room for optimism.

There’s still time for Jason Botterill and Ralph Krueger to actually remove some players from the roster that finished in the bottom five last year. It’s just getting harder to have confidence anything substantial is going to happen when all of the usual suspects are still around.

Rasmus Ristolainen is the elephant in the room and his presence on the trade block is a matter of debate. Not only is there debate in the fanbase over whether or not he should be traded but whether or not the Sabres are actually shopping him or if they’re simply taking calls on him. Beyond Ristolainen there’s Vladimir Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson occupying the fan’s doghouse. There isn’t much in the way of Sabres information in this week’s 31 Thoughts (or last week’s) but it’s still going to serve as the kick off to The OT for this season. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 8.5 – Make a Move

Justin Faulk was thought of as a targets for teams sniffing around Rasmus Ristolainen. Rumors that he would be dealt created some concern for Sabres fans hoping to see Ristolainen dealt. But Faulk’s final destination of St. Louis kept the teams reported to have the most interest in a right handed defenseman (namely Ristolainen) in the hunt. We analyze the Faulk deal, what affect it may have on the Sabres and just what’s left for Jason Botterill and Ralph Krueger have left to do in order to sort out their roster.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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The Eight People you Meet on Sabres Twitter

The term “Sabres Twitter” has really become A Thing over the last year or so. Sometimes I have a hard time putting my finger on just what Sabres Twitter is. I tend to think that it’s just anyone who wants to talk about the Sabres on Twitter. I’m not down with the idea that Sabres Twitter or Bills Twitter are some weird, exclusive group that eat at different tables in the lunch room. In other words, I think Sabres Twitter is just an extension of Buffalo Sports Twitter as a whole. If you’re tweeting about the Sabres, you’re contributing to Sabres Twitter.

With that in mind, I thought I’d catalog some of the personalities you tend to run into on Sabres Twitter to the tune of Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Only tongue in cheek and not quite as eloquent. Continue reading