The Instigator Podcast Episode 10.1 – Previewing the Sabres at the Prospects Challenge

We’re kicking off season 10 of the podcast by breaking down the roster and outlook for this weekend’s Prospects Challenge. We take a look at some of the bigger names on Buffalo’s roster for the event and who we’re excited about seeing on Friday and Saturday. We discuss some of the tournament invites and if any of them could challenge for a contract in the future. We also touch on the new COVID mandates announced by the Bills and Sabres and how that will affect things moving forward this season.

Jersey Concepts for the Sabres Hypothetical Heritage Classic

It sure sounds like the Sabres and Maple Leafs are lining up a potential Heritage Classic in Hamilton on March 13. Right now the game is still firmly a rumor, but there’s a whole lot of smoke that points in the direction of a Sabres/Leafs outdoor game.

The lack of confirmation on the game likely stems from the ongoing uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the impact that has on opening the USA-Canada border and the ability to continue hosting large events such as an NHL outdoor game. So, while the next iteration of the Heritage Classic hasn’t been officially confirmed, it seems as if all parties are aware of the intention to play the game barring any unforeseen hiccups.

That the league held off on announcing this game along with the other three outdoor game announcements made at the Stanley Cup Final tells me there’s still a fair bit of doubt surrounding the game. If I had to guess it rests mostly with any potential restrictions that could be put in place by Health Canada and the Ontario government between now and March. The border will be another issue, but a lesser one in my opinion as capacity restrictions would have a larger impact than the ease of border crossings.

Even with some of the question marks surrounding the immediate future of the event, the potential for another Sabres outdoor game is exciting. Not only is this much closer than Citi Field, but it more than likely means the Sabres will be getting another special uniform for the event.

Knowing that the Heritage Classic is an event that always draws on throwback designs for the participating teams, I’d expect something cool for the Sabres come March. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the team take the ice in a uniform that draws beyond the precise history of the Sabres franchise. Calgary, for example, wore a uniform derived from the 1924 Calgary Tigers. And given the Sabres current uniforms are a terrific homage to the uniforms they wore from 1970 to 1996, drawing inspiration from elsewhere might just offer the best possible design for fans to gobble up at the merchandise stands.

I’ve put together four jersey designs which differ from the team’s current uniforms while drawing from different vintage aspects and the larger hockey history of Western New York.

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The Definitive Hockey Jersey Number Rankings

What number you wear can often be a big part of a player’s hockey identity. Some players care more than others about the number they don, but even for those who are indifferent to them, those numbers help connect players with young fans and can even have sentimental value. Like it or not, numbers are a big part of what can make this game great.

Of course, some numbers are better than others. This is especially true in hockey where the history of certain numbers carries with it a certain folklore that others lack. Think of Vladislav Tretiak and his disciples wearing 20 in the crease or how number 19 became synonymous with Steve Yzerman and Hockey Canada. Hockey numbers are part of the sport’s lore and the good ones deserved to be honored.

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The Instigator Podcast 9.36 – The NHL is Returning to the Olympics

The NHL will be back at the Olympic games for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. We chat about the return of NHL players after missing the last cycle and what this means for the league. We talk about the pros and cons of the agreement and what long term opportunities are being missed due to the limitations in place between the NHL, IOC and IIHF. We also touch on the new contracts for Casey Mittelstadt and Henri Jokiharju and wrap up the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet saga.

The Instigator Podcast 9.35 – Agents of Change

We’re back in the podcast saddle and tackling the news of Jack Eichel’s agency switch. We discuss the implications of Eichel switching agents to NHL power broker Pat Brisson last week. Also on the docket is the Carolina Hurricanes offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi and how the Canadiens may handle that situation. We wrap up with a Bills stadium update as more news broke on that front as we recorded.

The Instigator Podcast 9.34 – Bills Stadium Negotiations with Tim Graham of The Athletic

Tim Graham joined the show this week for an in-depth conversation on the state of the Bills stadium negotiations and where the process will be headed in the coming weeks and months. We touch on the public statements and reports coming from both sides of the process along with offering up some thoughts on how the process is going and how messy it’s been. We even have a little fun discussing the future of the project and what features may or may not make the cut when the new building is complete.

The Instigator Podcast 9.33 – Waiting on an Eichel Deal

There was another twist in the Jack Eichel saga this past week as his agents issued a fairly strong statement and his doctor made an appearance on the 31 Thoughts Podcast. We dive in on where the trade winds are pushing Buffalo’s captain and try and handicap the current teams thought to be in the race.

We also look into Buffalo’s free agency spending and what sort of outlook the team has in the wake of a fairly active, but low-spend opening day of free agency.

The Instigator Podcast 9.32 – Breaking Down a Wild Draft Weekend

We’re back with a longer episode this week as there was a lot of action from the draft to dig into. Not only do we discuss Buffalo’s picks but offer up our favorites of Kevyn Adams’ class of 2021. The big topics were the pair of trades the Sabres made; sending Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers and Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers. We provide a quick update on where the Eichel sweepstakes stand and close the show with a bit of conversation on free agency.

The Instigator Podcast 9.31 – Expansion and NHL Draft Breakdown

Sandwiching this episode between the Expansion Draft and NHL Draft left us with quite a bit to talk about. We break down Seattle’s selections and their lack of side deals. We also run down the players the Sabres will have under consideration at first overall but also at the top of the second round. We close up the show with a brief Jack Eichel update and a quick rundown of Thursday’s trades.

Listen to “The Instigator Podcast 9.31 – Expansion Draft and NHL Draft Breakdown” on Spreaker.

Building a Seattle Expansion Roster

The benefit of Vegas and Seattle’s entry to the league (besides the $500 expansion fees) has been the added intrigue they bring to the offseason. The debate over Carey Price has dominated the conversation over the past week, but there’s plenty of intrigue to come as Seattle makes their selections on Wednesday.

Like every other person who has access to Cap Friendley and discusses hockey on the internet, I took a shot at my own Seattle expansion roster. This is not a mock expansion draft in the truest sense of the world. I didn’t draft this from the perspective of what I think Seattle will do, so don’t interpret this as predictive. I built this roster as I would if I were running Seattle’s draft, with a couple of notable exceptions (Chris Driedger, for example). A couple of additional notes. First, I didn’t take into account any expansion deals that may be struck between Seattle and other teams. I didn’t want to go too far into fantasy land, so I left out any of those side deals which may protect some notable players that have been left exposed. I will add some notes along the way where I feel side deals could be struck, however. This is just how I’d draft for Seattle given the players that were left exposed around the league. I also followed the rules set forth by the league for the draft. That means 30 selections, a minimum of 14 forwards, 9 defensemen and three goalies and all between 60 and 100 percent of the cap.

My aim was to craft a team that would have the talent to compete early, and with a little luck pull off something close to what Vegas did in 2017-18. But I also worked to select younger players who were still bordering on prospect status. Specifically higher draft picks who haven’t popped at the NHL level yet but can still offer some longer-term promise. In the end I wound up with 15 players age 25 or under, a cap hit of $63.4 million prior to free agency and roughly $17 million to re-sign RFAs and make other moves down the line.

The picks are arranged by team, alphabetically.

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