Over-Thought: Wading into the Offseason Rumor Mill

Depending how things shake out over the next few days, Jason Botterill will have just missed out on having an awfully busy month of May. The Sabres’ head coaching vacancy has been filled by Ralph Krueger, Buffalo made their first free agent signing of the summer and reports indicate that Botterill is inching closer to an agreement with Jeff Skinner on a contract extension.

The scouting combine ought to help push trade negotiations further ahead and that’s with one potential blockbuster already hanging out there. The most recent 31 Thoughts blog offered up plenty of juicy talking points on trade rumors and more. Check it out here if you haven’t already. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.22 – NHL Trade Deadline Breakdown

The bonus extension of the deadline podcast looks at some of the biggest trades that went down at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. We look into all of the moves made by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the arms race out West. Specifically the deals made by Nashville, Winnipeg and, of course, Vegas.

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Over-Thought: Sabres Need to Shop for College Free Agent Goalies

The final weeks before the deadline always seem to drag. Probably because the same rumors keep getting recycled, debunked and then re-reported. This week’s edition as rumor-heavy as you might expect two weeks out from the deadline, but I suspect next week’s will be chock-full of rumors.

Check out this week’s edition of 31 Thoughts here.

  1. One GM who could change the market over the next few days? Minnesota’s Paul Fenton. His team is still clinging to a playoff spot, but Mikko Koivu is out for the year. Ownership always pushes for the playoffs, but what do the Wild honestly think about their situation?

The Wild are bobbing in and out of a wild card spot and they’ve spent the last number of seasons as a playoff club unable to get over the hump. Having to get through Chicago or Nashville or the Blues at the height of their powers certainly didn’t help.

But now Minnesota’s core is beginning to age. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are both 34 and still have six years left on their deals, Jared Spurgeon is 29, Devan Dubnyk is 32 and Mikko Koivu is 35. They already parted ways with Nino Niederreiter and there have been rumors that Charlie Coyle may be on his way out. Both were already inching to their late-20s and both Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund are in the same spot. Coyle, Granlund and Zucker are hardly long in the tooth, so don’t misinterpret this as all doom and gloom for the Wild, but they’re probably approaching a period of transition. They’re not completely cooked when it comes to prosepcts but they’re not flush with young talent either. They always feel close but unable to push the right button to bring it all together. If they miss the playoffs this year I would suspect they’d be in the market for some fairly significant change come the summer. Continue reading

Over-Thought: Rumor Season is About to Hit Full Throttle

Doing a breakdown of Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts is hardly an original venture but it was something I did every now and then for Dave Davis and The Buffalo Star. In an attempt to get some more content on the site I thought I’d resurrect this feature here at 2ITB for your reading enjoyment.

A primer, for those who may not be familiar with the practice: I’ll take a handful of topics from the most recent 31 Thoughts published by Sportsnet and offer up a few additional thoughts and opinions on the news of the week. The original text will be bold.

If you haven’t read this week’s edition yet, you can find it here.

  1. On Burakovsky: The Capitals have asked for a couple of mid-to-high round draft picks in exchange (seconds and thirds would be a good get) for him. That would give them more flexibility and assets to chase what they need. Even with a seven-game losing streak, absolutely no one is writing them off.

The Sabres haven’t been directly connected to Burakovsky yet but he’s better than at least five of Buffalo’s current wingers. If they plugged him into a top-six role, there’s reason to believe he’d surpass the production he’s had the last three years in Washington. He’d certainly be more effective than he’s been in Washington this year considering he’s struggled to crack the Capitals’ lineup.

That he’s been unable to cement a regular spot is disconcerting. He’s a quality player with elite skill, someone I’ve personally been a fan of going back to his time with the Erie Otters. However, he’s bordering on project territory and that’s not something I’d be too keen on seeing the Sabres take on. Luckily the expected price on Burakovsky is pretty low. A second and a third round pick would be pretty affordable and it could dip lower if his production stays stagnant leading up to the deadline.

If the Sabres could somehow leverage the Capitals to move Burakovsky for less than a 2nd and a 3rd (perhaps they’d like the added depth Nathan Beaulieu would offer along with a draft pick) I’d be very pleased with acquiring him. It’s a situation worth tracking as the opportunity to pair Burakovsky with a more aggressive deal to add young talent at center would represent a strong step towards remaining in the playoff conversation in 2018-19. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.13 – Catching up on NHL Expansion

We didn’t get the chance to discuss the big news of last week, the NHL’s expansion to Seattle, so we backtracked a bit in this episode to discuss just what adding a 32nd team means for the NHL and where the league heads from here. Not only do we talk about which cities may be on the league’s radar for relocation now that expansion seems settled for the time being.

Among the expansion topics relevant to Sabres fans, missing 2020 as the expansion puts the Sabres at a slight disadvantage when comparing who they would need to protect in 2021 as opposed to 2021. A slight difference but a difference nonetheless. We also touch on some of the big trade news that hit the wires this week as Elliotte Friedman shed some light on the Sabres plans while Jeremy Rutherford uncorked a doozy as it pertains to the St. Louis Blues.

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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A Canada-Team North America Summit Series would be a Gift to the Hockey World

There’s a hint of irony that the orange color used on the Team North America jerseys is referred to as solar red given the team’s supernova-like short but brilliant run at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

What could have been.

Team North America’s stay may have been but they made a lasting impact due, in large part, to their thrilling final game against Team Sweden. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s a terrific oral history of that game written by Craig Custance on The Athletic. It’s a terrific retelling of their final game, the wire-to-wire banger against Sweden and a wonderful reminder of how much fun they added to the tournament.

Despite topping the top team in their group, North America failed to advance to the knockout round of the tournament due to a 4-3 loss to Team Russia that featured nearly as much action as the win over Sweden.

Unfortunately, that loss to Russia deprived the hockey world of any more hockey from the U-23 squad. Including a semi-final matchup with Team Canada. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.30 – The Vegas Juggernaut

After a little time off we’re back with a slightly different approach to a Cup Final preview. Given that game one went down the day before we recorded, simply offering up a preview would be dirty pool. So instead we opted to discuss just how difficult this Vegas team is going to be to knock off. While Tyler isn’t as confident as I am that Vegas is fated to win this series, we revisited their roster construction and just what’s working for them as they steam towards a championship. We also hit on the recent signings by the Sabres and how Lawrence Pilut, Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund will affect the team’s pipeline this coming year.

The Instigator Podcast Interview Featuring Rob LaLonde of Buttendz

As a Good Friend of the Pod™ Rob LaLonde basically has an open invite to come on the show and talk hockey and I was really excited to get him back on after he spent the winter traveling to the 2018 Winter Olympics and the Let’s Play Hockey Expo at the Minnesota State Tournament. 

Rob and I discuss a host of topics including the impressive growth of Buttendz around the NHL, how influencer marketing has been such an effective tool for hockey companies like Buttendz, Warrior and others. We also discuss how the sport is growing in new markets like Korea, Japan and China and the work Rob has done with youth teams in those countries.

The Instigator Podcast Interview Featuring Matt Keeler of Just Dishin Hockey

Matt Keeler started Just Dishin Hockey in his dorm at St. John Fisher and has grown the company over the last few years into a full hockey lifestyle clothing brand. We talked about how Just Dishin came to be, the way Matt has grown the company and some plans he has for the future. While discussing some of the challenges he’s faced in finding new partnerships we hit on opportunities for growth within the game of hockey as new nations start to produce talent and the women’s game continues to explode. All of that and more in this edition of The Instigator Interview.

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Early Results are Making Vegas Tough to Bet Against

You’d think the regular season might have taught us something about the Vegas Golden Knights. Thought of as a ragtag bunch of cast-offs which could have been a far more talented team given the players selected in the expansion draft, the Golden Knights promptly defied all odds and even looked like a President’s Trophy candidate for long stretches. 

 They were driven by a number of career-high performances, including a few staggeringly good shooting percentages, that were still widely believed to peter out at some point. So even with all the head turning performances from the regular season, it was still easy to bet against Vegas as they entered the playoffs.

 Questions about their game translating to the postseason, how would they handle a traditionally excellent possession team in their first foray into the playoffs, could the astonishing offensive numbers by their team leaders carry forward? There were a lot of doubters that the Golden Knights could even get out of the first round. All they did was sweep the Kings, shutting them out twice and nearly silencing their offense altogether.  Continue reading