The Instigator Podcast 10.37 – Which Eliminated Teams Are Ripe for Moves

With the first round of the NHL Playoffs complete, we look at which teams could be looking to make adjustments this offseason and whether or not the Sabres can capitalize on any such moves. We also touch on the signing of Alexander Kisakov and the latest on the Arizona Coyotes arena saga.

The Instigator Podcast 10.36 – Sabres Hold 9th and 16th Picks after NHL Draft Lottery

The Sabres didn’t see their picks move in the NHL Draft Lottery and they will draft ninth and 16th in this year’s draft. The only first round pick to be determined is that of the Florida Panthers, which will fall between 28th and 32nd depending on their finish. On this week’s show we talk about the lottery results and who the Sabres could be looking at with their top two picks. We also talk about Barry Trotz’ departure from the New York Islanders and run through some of the key talking points from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Instigator Podcast 10.35 – Sabres 2022-23 Season Recap

Another season is in the books and we look back at the way the Sabres played over the course of 2022-23 and what it means for them going forward. While we don’t assign grades to any individual, we break down each of the team’s position groups to see where the bright spots were and where the Sabres need to improve most.

We wrap up the show with a brief conversation on the NHL playoffs and which early storylines in the postseason stand out most to us.

The Instigator Podcast 10.34 – Which Player from 05-06 or 06-07 Would You Plug Into the Current Sabres Roster

It’s another Ask Instigator version of the podcast as we answer a number of listener questions on everything from trading their first round picks and what a lottery win would mean for the Sabres to which player from 2005-06 or 06-07 would we pick up and place on the current iteration of the Sabres roster.

We also touch on Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka’s All-Rookie Team nomination in the AHL and discuss Vegas impeding elimination from the NHL playoff race and how that affects the Sabres in the draft.

The 10 Best Sets of Sabres Goalie Equipment

Another season is winding down and the future in net for the Sabres is up in the air once again. That’s exciting for a few reasons. First and foremost, the opportunity to improve in net opens the door for the Sabres to take a big step back to respectability as they work through this rebuild.

Second, and most importantly, a new goalie (or goalies) means new goalie gear.

Thanks to the Sabres rich history in goal, there have been buckets of goalies whose mask design or gear choices have been terrific. With the 2021-22 NHL season ready to wrap up, it felt like a good time to look back at 10 of the best sets of goalie gear in Sabres history.

You’ll notice that no one from the era of vintage pads did not make the cut. That’s simply because vintage pads are quite ambiguous. There’s nothing that really sets Roger Crozier apart from Gerry Desjardins or Gary Bromley besides their masks (and we’ve already ranked those). Those terrific vintage sets all have their place in history, but when it comes to the best looks in team history, they can’t compare to the way more modern pads pop with different color combinations.

This isn’t a ranking so much as a collection of the sets I feel look the best. So, the list isn’t in any particular order. Though I did save the best for last.

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Answering the 10 Big Sabres Questions from the Preseason

Entering the year, the Sabres were very much in a state of flux. Jack Eichel hadn’t been traded, nor had he gotten the surgery he preferred. Buffalo’s offseason pointed towards another difficult season as the team continued to rebuild. With so much uncertainty surrounding the on and off-ice business of the team, I put together a list of 10 big questions that would likely define the 2021-22 season.

As the season wraps up, I wanted to take some time to look back on each of those topics and see just how they affected the Sabres as the season progressed.  

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The Instigator Podcast 10.33 – Owen Power is Right at Home in Buffalo

Owen Power’s NHL career is a week old and we spend some time reflecting on his strong play through the first four games he’s appeared in. We also touch on how he and Rasmus Dahlin are rounding out a formidable top-four for the Sabres.

Also on the show is a discussion over Devon Levi and Erik Portillo each returning to school and how that affects Buffalo’s decisions in net for the offseason. We wrap up this week’s show talking about the introduction of ads on NHL jerseys.

The Instigator Podcast 10.31 – Reflecting on RJ Night and Devon Levi’s Decision

The Sabres celebrated Rick Jeanneret on Friday night and they put on quite a show in the process. We talk about the whirlwind evening and many of the highlights of the team’s impressive pregame ceremony, decisive win over the Predators and touching post-game tribute.

We also touch on prospect Devon Levi and the news that he will be returning to Northeastern for his junior season after finishing 2021-22 as a Hobey Baker finalist. Levi isn’t the only collegiate goalie the Sabres need to be tracking, as there are signs that Erik Portillo could qualify as a free agent as early as the 2023 offseason. That, plus Levi’s return likely puts him front-and-center to the Sabres plans to ink their collegiate prospects.

For RJ

Somewhere in my parents house is a red Fisher Price tape recorder. You know the one, it had the little mic and you could record and play on cassette tapes. That recorder holds a tape with recordings of my friends and I doing our best Rick Jeanneret impressions.

That was just standard practice as a 90s kid. I suppose the same goes for children of the 80s, 2000s and 2010s as well. It makes sense given how transcendent Jeanneret is to this franchise. Beyond the crossed swords and charging bison, I can think of few things that represent the Sabres more than Rick Jeanneret.

I came to the realization in college that Buffalo isn’t unique when it comes to beloved sports broadcasters. Mike Lange, Dom Emrick, Bob Miller, Pat Foley, hockey is filthy with play by play voices who transcend the team they cover. While we may not have been the only town with an announcer we adored, we were the only one with someone as magical as RJ.

Friday and these last few games will be immensely bittersweet. I’m sure we’ll see RJ now and then for the odd game, especially when the team gets over the hump and back into the playoffs. But saying goodbye to this seminal figure of our youth is devastating in so many ways. We are so much richer for the gifts he has given us over the years. Now that the time has come to part ways, it’s getting much harder to say goodbye.

It’s easy to take for granted just how deeply ingrained he is to the Sabres. When I think of my favorite moments of franchise history, RJ’s call is the first thing that bubbles to the surface. The jovial, bombastic calls are naturally what makes him so special, but I think it’s his ability to elevate a moment that sets him apart. Anyone can explode after a big goal or save, Jeanneret was one of the few who could immortalize those moments.

I was lucky enough to be witness to one of those moments in 2011. For a while I did stats for TV broadcasts. The Bandits, Knighthawks and MLL games mostly. The odd Bills preseason game. It’s easy money if you can land it. What’s better than getting paid to go watch a game? I got a call from the Sabres saying that they needed a stats guy for the game the next night. RJ’s usual guy had a conflict, could I do it?

The Sabres were in the thick of a playoff race, so getting paid to go watch that game was the only offer I needed. To work with RJ for the night was icing on the cake.

So for three hours on April 8 I hung out in the booth with RJ and Harry Neale as the Sabres came back to tie the Flyers and clinch a spot in the playoffs. They’d finish the job in overtime for good measure, punctuating a thrilling victory which featured a vintage Jeanneret call of Nathan Gerbe’s tying goal.

It was a surreal experience, working beside two giants of hockey broadcasting. I’m not ashamed to admit I broke from professional standards and asked each for an autograph after the game. I figured he only had a couple years left in the booth. I would’ve never guessed he’d still be at it 11 years later.

Thank goodness he did.

I know my relationship with the Sabres won’t change after Jeanneret is gone. He’s a big part of why I fell so deeply in love with this big, dumb hockey team in the first place. RJ has narrated a lifetime of memories for us and I doubt any of us will be forgetting a single one.

Thanks, RJ.

Offseason Offers the Sabres a Path to Improve in Goal

As the season heads into its final month, one of the biggest holes on Buffalo’s roster for the offseason is in net.

The Sabres are currently set to the summer with no goaltenders under contract and a lot of questions over what the future in the crease looks like. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is a restricted free agent and is the only sure thing the Sabres have in terms of playing games in either Buffalo or Rochester in 2022-23. Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot.

Buffalo will need to acquire a minimum of two goaltenders this summer. One to play the lion’s share of the games in Buffalo and the other to share time in Rochester (ideally with one of Buffalo’s promising young collegiate prospects).

Any assumption that Luukkonen should be stepping in as Buffalo’s starter for the 22-23 season is premature to me. Luukkonen has played only 13 NHL games between two seasons and he suffered an injury in each of those runs. Even taking into account the poor play in front of him in Rochester, his resume isn’t that of a goalie who is ready to step into an NHL starter’s job. I think it would be far more appropriate for Luukonen to play somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-to-35 games behind a steadier veteran presence.

Bringing Craig Anderson back has been a popular refrain as he’s offered a reliable option since returning from injury. There’s a reason the Sabres odds against Winnipeg tonight are only +140 at Betway and not much steeper. There’s also a reason that the over/under of 6.5 for tonight’s game is a good bet of late. Anderson has been a big reason the Sabres vibes have been so good. However, his numbers this year are still quite average. He’s sporting a -5 goals saved above expected and his .901 save percentage falls in line with the downward trend of his last few full seasons in Ottawa.

Consider as well, he is 41 years old and missed a significant portion of the season to injury. Does he fit the profile of a goalie who can help the Sabres take the next step?

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