The Instigator Podcast 6.18 – New Year, Same Sabres

We had a brief holiday layoff and it appears the Sabres did as well. Chris and Tyler are back to discuss the dust-up between Justin Falk and Evander Kane at practice today. We also touch on Jack Eichel’s All Star nomination, Zach Bogosian’s injury and the recall of Brendan Guhle and Linus Ullmark.

Guhle, Ullmark Recalls Indicate Botterill is Sticking to His Plan

For all intents and purposes, the Sabres season has been rendered irrelevant for weeks. Their slow start has pretty much stretched the entire course of the year and they’re looking at another year in the league’s basement, hoping for some lottery luck.

Preseason chatter had the Sabres as a dark horse playoff contender, a team that may have had the pieces necessary to snag one of the wild card spots in the East. You may have even found a sports betting site like Betulator.com to place a wager or two on the Sabres outlook. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be money well spent.

The Sabres rebuild has stalled and stalled in a bad way. Unfortunately we’re left looking to the pipeline once again, wondering where the help will come from after seeing the organization’s lack of depth serve as a major speed bump to the post-2014 building process. A deeper dive on exactly where things went wrong will be coming in this space soon, so stay tuned for that.

Jason Botterill’s decision to recall Brendan Guhle and Linus Ullmark may strike some fans as a sign that things are finally changing, that the Sabres are committing to their youth and finally attempting to inject the lineup with young talent. I’m not quite so optimistic, but not because I think either of these two prospects are lacking in skill or potential, but because Botterill told us how he wants to play his hand and pulling two of Rochester’s top performers is counter to his strategy.

Getting a look at Guhle and Ullmark prior to Buffalo’s bye and at a time the Amerks have a light schedule does follow that process, however. Continue reading

Road to the Winter Classic Reax – Episodes two and three

Because I can be a procrastinator at times and due to taking some vacation time around Christmas, I didn’t get a chance to offer up any sort of reaction to episode two of NBCSN’s Road to the Winter Classic.

My laziness was probably for the best though as episode two and three offered up improvements from episode two but maybe didn’t feature enough meat to justify a full review. So I’ll roll each of the last two episodes into a single blog post as we look ahead to Monday’s Winter Classic.

The first episode of Road to the Winter Classic really lacked the punch that the pay cable versions offered. Simply having to censor the show was going to limit some of the color the Winter Classic’s behind the scenes predecessors had; attempting to completely avoid any obscenities – which appears to be what NBCSN has chosen to do – takes away a majority of the locker room and on-ice content. Naturally, that’s typically some of the best stuff the show offers. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.17 – World Junior Championships Outlook

Finishing minutes before Alex Nylander was officially loaned to Team Sweden by the Sabres, Chris and Tyler discuss the outlook for this year’s World Junior tournament. We offer up some thoughts on the medal favorites while also providing a few games worth circling for the upcoming tourney.

WJC Thoughts: Officially Incorporating Area Bars Would Have Been a Huge Win

With the World Junior Championship just days away, the Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment have released additional details on the attractions they’ll be offering to fans outside the 31-games at HarborCenter and KeyBank Center.

Chief among them is the Championship Village which will occupy space in Canalside directly adjacent to HarborCenter. Dotting the cobblestone streets will be a large, enclosed tent sponsored by Labatt Blue, a warming area sponsored by Zippo, food trucks, a sledding hill, frozen jerseys, a hockey skills area and some sort of snowglobe attraction. It’s a nice offering even though it appears a little thin when viewed on the map tweeted by the main PSE account handling the event.

The sledding hill will fill most, if not all of the block bounded by Lloyd, Prime and Hanover Streets, so the final product will be more robust than the graphic may illustrate. Although I’ve been left wondering if there is a missed opportunity to incorporate more of the international flair offered by an event like the WJC. Continue reading

Best Value Games for the 2018 World Junior Championships

Things are going to be quite a bit different in Buffalo when you compare things to the last time the World Junior Championships came to town.

Downtown is far more vibrant, Canalside is slightly more developed and HarborCenter will serve as the second home for the tournament. No more jaunts to Dwyer Arena to catch the secondary matchups, which not only means that the corner of Perry and Washington will be home to more action throughout the tournament, some of the intriguing non-marquee matchups will be easier to access.

You can get an up close look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for single digit prices at this year’s World Juniors.

The WJC will always have a handful of can’t miss preliminary matchups and this year will be no different. The outdoor game between the US and Canada, which is reported to have a surprisingly low attendance number (paywall) at the moment, is the obvious headliner, but Russia-Sweden, USA-Finland and Canada-Finland will be well worth the cost of attendance as well. What fans in Buffalo should be aware of are the slate of games lacking headliners which will be both affordable and appealing from a Sabres-fan perspective. Continue reading

First Road to the Winter Classic Episode Shows it Needs Cable to Thrive

Expectations for this year’s version of Road to the Winter Classic needed to be tempered right from the get-go. The transition from Epix to NBC Sports was going to dull the product a bit as you’d expect when switching to basic cable from a premium network.

Even with the understanding that the NBCSN version of what Epix inherited from HBO is going to be diluted, the first episode failed to deliver many thought provoking insights from either the Sabres or the Rangers.

The first episode wades through the typical introductions and scene setting you’d expect. We get bite sized tidbits on Michael Grabner, Henrik Lundqvist while hearing from Alain Vigneault and Jimmy Vesey. Not Liev Schrieber then touches on Sabres veterans Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane before circling back with Buffalo mainstays Jason Pominville and Kyle Okposo. That’s right, second-year Sabre, Kyle Okposo is a mainstay.

Most of the Sabres off-ice action is focused on the team’s Bowl-A-Rama event where Zach Bogosian and Okposo are able to show some personality. The highlight of the segment being when Okposo has his bowling ball slip out of his hands. You can save your “he’s as bad at bowling as he is at hockey” jokes, I’m certain I’ve heard/seen them all. Continue reading