Sartorial Sabres Build A Better Sweater

Guest Post from Pro Stock Hockey

Forget about six years without a trip to the playoffs — suddenly, things are looking good for Buffalo Sabres fans.

Yes, a good chunk of that optimism might stem from hiring a general manager who helped build three champions in 10 years at Pittsburgh. Or the fact that the new GM plundered the staff of the other Stanley Cup finalist for his new coach — who just happens to be maybe the greatest blue-liner in Sabres history.

Yet a rebuild spearheaded by Jason Botterill and Phil Housley might take years before it pays off with as big a win as the Sabres posted June 20, when the NHL debuted new jerseys for its 31 teams with new supplier adidas. Continue reading

Have No Fear, Petersen Decision Isn’t A Sign of Larger Issues

After Jason Botterill’s pre-draft confirmation that Cal Petersen would not be a Sabre, the saga officially came to an end when the goaltender inked an entry-level contract with the LA Kings.

Petersen’s decision to test the open market was rumored going back to the spring and was all but guaranteed when he announced he was turning professional as opposed to signing an entry-level deal with the Sabres in May. His departure is a sore spot for Sabres fans who saw Tim Murray acquire Jimmy Vesey’s rights only for the Hobey Baker winner to test the market last summer.

Petersen is the fourth NCAA prospect in as many years to opt to test free agency as opposed to signing with the team that drafted them. By my count, eight NCAA prospects have opted for free agency since 2008; Blake Wheeler, Justin Schultz, Blake Kessel, Jason Gregorie, Kevin Hayes, Mike Reilly, Jimmy Vesey and Cal Petersen. We’ll see a ninth join the group when Will Butcher hits free agency in August but it’s hard to say how much responsibility lies with the Avalanche for pushing Butcher to free agency.

Note: This doesn’t include players who signed as free agents after the team allowed their draft rights to expire. There may be other prospects who went this route as well, but none that I came across. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.4 – Breaking Down the Sabres Acquisition of Scandella

Jason Botterill made a big move on the blueline today, acquiring Marco Scandella from the Minnesota Wild in a package that included old friend Jason Pominville. Chris and Tyler offer up our thoughts on only dealing Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis to get the deal done and what we think it means for the Sabres plans in free agency and how it affects the outlook for the 2017-18 season.

Even with Ullmark in Hand Sabres Need to Supplement their Goaltending Pipeline

While the Sabres didn’t lose Linus Ullmark to the Vegas expansion draft, Buffalo’s goaltending pipeline remains a weak point within the organization; something that will need to be addressed this summer.

It appears evident that Cal Petersen will exercise his right as a free agent and sign with one of the league’s other 30 clubs. UPDATE: Jason Botterill confirmed today that Petersen will test free agency, adding that he doesn’t expect Petersen to sign with the Sabres.

That leaves the Sabres with only Jonas Johansson and restricted free agent Jason Kasdorf (edit: Kasdorf still has a year left) in the pipeline. With Ullmark set to graduate to full-time duty as Robin Lehner’s backup, the Sabres will need to get to work on finding help in net.

Count on the draft being the first step towards remedying the situation. The Sabres will draft at least one goaltender this weekend and may have been slated to spend a late round pick on a second had they not shipped their sixth round pick to Vegas as part of the expansion draft. Spending a pick on Jake Oettinger or Keith Petruzzelli (profiled in Kris Baker’s draft preview) would provide the Sabres a high value prospect to groom over the next couple of seasons. Both fit the blueprint of a modern NHL goaltender; a big body that can move well and both would instantly upgrade Buffalo’s goaltending depth.

Beyond the draft, the Sabres could use a few assets to take on key minutes in Rochester and to push Lehner and Ullmark. At the very least, the Sabres need to acquire one goalie this summer. Kasdorf is most likely to be shuttling between Rochester and Cincinnati, if not taking permanent residence with the Cyclones after a rough rookie season. A goaltender to work in tandem with Johansson in Rochester, if not a player capable of ascending to a higher level with additional growth, will be needed. Continue reading

Minor Tweaks Equal a Major Win for Sabres Jerseys

The Sabres new uniforms aren’t royal blue and that’s okay. The slight tweaks the Sabres jerseys received in the Adidas changeover drastically improved the overall look of both the home and road jerseys.

In conjunction with Adidas and the NHL, the Sabres took a step away from the grey/silver accents that have graced the uniforms since featuring prominently during the red and black era and being utilized as an accent on the Slug jerseys. Gone are the wildly unpopular apron stripes and arm pit accents.

It’s unfortunate that there was so much hubbub regarding switching to royal blue from navy because it ultimately distracted from what was one of the better redesigns in the entire league. Prior to the rumors and guesswork – some of which I’m guilty of – I think the number one item on almost every fan’s hit list would have been the silver accents. With those two prominent and unpopular features in the trash, the Sabres uniforms are cleaner and simpler and look that much better as a result.   Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.3 – Vegas Mock Expansion Draft Extravaganza

With the expansion draft nearly here we sit down to offer up our own mock drafts before George McPhee announces the Golden Knights roster. We attempted to follow as close to the currently reported deals as we could in order to put ourselves in a similar situation to what McPhee will be facing. Additionally, we break down Buffalo’s acquisition of Nathan Beaulieu along with the other pre-expansion trades that went down over the weekend.

Here are links to each of the mock drafts we put together:

Chris’ Mock Draft
Tyler’s Mock Draft

Housley Hiring Provides a Bright Outlook

It isn’t often you find a pair of management and coaching candidates so universally accepted by a fanbase, but the Sabres have found just that in Jason Botterill and Phil Housley.

You’d be hard pressed to find any significant contingent of the fanbase who didn’t want Housley named as head coach and the Sabres met those expectations with yesterday’s announcement. Housley comes to the Sabres after a successful turn as an assistant with Nashville, a gold medal as the head coach of the USA World Junior Championships roster and a handful of other roles tied to USA Hockey.

Nashville’s talented and active blueline was pretty much the antithesis of the defense corps the Sabres rolled out last season and hopes that Housley’s skillset in managing that group follows him to Buffalo. One of the most attractive things about him as a coach was the continued willingness of Nashville’s defenders to join the rush and push pace through all three zones. It’s a trait that came to define Housley’s Hall of Fame career and it’s something the Sabres sorely missed last year.

Alex Daugherty, co-managing editor of On The Forecheck, the Predators SB Nation blog, noted that Peter Laviolette still maintained a great deal of control over the style of play the Predators exercised while Housley served in something of a support role when it came to dictating the system and pace. What Daugherty did note was Housley’s influence on supporting that system, something that should be very encouraging to Sabres fans. Continue reading