The Instigator 2.8 – Cool Draft

Eric and I got together once again for an Instigator Podcast. In this episode we discuss the Sabres decisions at the draft table, the Andrej Sekera trade and whether or not Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek will be on the team next season. As always, we close things with plus/minus.

Have a listen and feel free to share feedback:

Grading the Sabres: 2013 report card, Part II

The defensemen and goaltenders get to share the spotlight in the second portion of my Sabres season grades. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

Tyler Myers: Oh, where to begin? Myers was downright bad to begin the year before leveling out at midseason. He looked out of shape and lost most of the time and his play suffered for it. Considering the salary he is being paid, his contributions are especially frightening. Before his injury he was only okay and you could certainly say the defensive play was better without him. Yikes. Grade: C-

Christian Ehrhoff: Ehrhoff finished off another strong year in which he remained Buffalo’s best defenseman. He hasn’t blown up the scoresheet like some expected, but his powerplay time has changed from the Sedins to any number of players in blue and gold. Still, there’s a lot to like about Ehrhoff and he will be around for a long time. Grade: A-

Andrej Sekera: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Sekera actually wasn’t bad at all this season. He quietly goes about his business and plays steady hockey. I’m not a huge fan of his but I can’t deny that he has been a solid contributor in his own end all year. Grade: B

Mike Weber: Steve Ott’s arrival may just be the best thing for Weber’s career you could ask for. Weber is beginning to evolve into a leader, plays a gritty nasty game that is almost entirely absent on this roster. His puck skills aren’t very good, but as a defender there is a lot to like. He may still be on the rise for this squad. Grade: B- Continue reading

Could defensive depth provide trade leverage?

This originally appeared on Buffalo Wins

With 10 blueliners who played NHL minutes last season, the Sabres have basically become the Costco for NHL defensemen this offseason.

When Adam Pardy came over from Dallas via trade, he gave the Sabres eight NHL defensemen with two more prospects prepared to jump to the NHL this season. Based on the ridiculous level of depth the Sabres have, it isn’t out the realm of possibility to think one or two may be leveraged in a trade that would help the Sabres fill their need at center.

Potential trade partners, the asking price for whoever the Sabres are looking to acquire and the market for the players Buffalo has to offer will have a major effect on what kind of action Darcy Regier can take in shopping these players. In addition, the value of Buffalo’s defensemen varies widely.

Players like Adam Pardy, Alex Sulzer and Mike Weber have such limited upside that they would offer little to a trade than just an extra piece. Given that his cap hit is over $2M and that the Sabres just acquired him, makes Pardy that much more unlikely to be moved.

Robyn Regehr falls into a similar position as Pardy, Sulzer and Weber, but his age and cap hit are two main factors that his departure would be extremely unlikely. Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff are as close to untouchable as you could get. Although, they would each be capable of returning a significant amount of talent. Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: Defensemen part one

My report card for the Sabres defensemen will be split into two five-man groups. Alexander Sulzer and Mike Weber will be in the second group with a trio of prospects. The first group will be the top five, if you will.

Tyler Myers – B

Overall, it was a decent season for the big man. There were times that he still looked lost defensively, but it was fairly obvious that he is a big part of Buffalo’s transition game. His absence often crippled Buffalo’s ability to move the puck and enter the zone.

I actually think there were some stretches that Myers was especially effective in his own zone, showing that two-way game that so many people are waiting to see develop. A healthy Tyler Myers is important for the Sabres. However, based on the last two years, a proper offseason program is what is important for Myers.

Christian Ehrhoff – A

When the Sabres signed Ehrhoff, I was ecstatic. Even though he didn’t go out and score goals like Bobby Orr, Ehrhoff was a very effective member of the Sabres blueline. In fact, he was their most consistent defenseman for the entire year.

While his goal scoring was down, he led all Buffalo defensemen in points, which is what he was brought here to do. What was unexpected was how great he was defensively. If the coaching staff would build their powerplay to better suit Ehrhoff, I think you would see his numbers increase. Continue reading

Mike Weber inserted into lineup, will skate with Regehr

In addition to Ville Leino’s shift to center on Buffalo’s top line, the Sabres will have another lineup change this evening against Philadelphia.

Mike Weber will indeed be inserted in the Sabres’ lineup and will skate with Robyn Regehr, this according to Bill Hoppe. Tyler Myers will skate with Andrej Sekera, reuniting a pair that saw quite a bit of time with one another last season. Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the defenseman who is scratched this evening.

Inserting Weber was likely an easy choice. Not only was Marc-Andre Gragnani not getting results on the power play – the main reason for which he was dressed – but he was also just terrible in his own zone. While Weber won’t man a power play point he will bring plenty of stability to the Buffalo blueline. That stability will hopefully cut down the massive number of shots the Sabres have been allowing lately.

While the issue of allowing countless shots on goal has plagued the Sabres, the only potential solution to the problem – establishing a more responsible in-zone presence – hadn’t been addressed. Dressing Weber addresses the problem. Having Weber skate with the veteran keeps Regehr on a true lockdown pair but adds even more toughness with the addition of Weber.

Moving Myers from the top pairing is somewhat perplexing only because he has been good in his zone with Regehr. While he has had some errant outlet passes, his overall defensive game has been sound. Perhaps Ruff saw too much defense and not enough offense from Myers. Ruff has mentioned he wants to see more offense out of Myers, perhaps in a role where he is “carrying” the pairing Myers will be more apt to lug the puck. That isn’t to say Sekera is chopped liver – he has actually been Buffalo’s best defenseman for most of the year – but based on Myers style of play and their chemistry last year, Sekera may serve as the best partner for Myers for the time being.

How long these pairs last is anyone’s guess. They could remain the same for much of the season, or be changed after one period, that is just how Lindy Ruff operates. Regardless, by limiting the number of offense-first players on the blueline, the Sabres should see positive results from the move.

Buffalo Sabres season preview: The Blueline

This is part two of a series previewing the Buffalo Sabres 2011-12 season. Part two focuses on the defense. Read part one here.

A handful of factors aided Ryan Miller in his Vezina winning season. Tyler Myers’ emergence as a force and his chemistry with Henrik Tallinder created a true lockdown pairing. In addition, Toni Lydman and Steve Montador offered a sound veteran presence to the bottom four that included Chris Butler, Craig Rivet and Andrej Sekera. Add Miller’s exceptional play over the course of the season and it is fairly obvious why he and the Sabres were so successful.

The 2010-11 season was a down season for the Sabres blueline as a whole. The departure of Tallinder and Lydman were filled by Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Weber. An overall average season was capped with the departure of Butler (trade), Montador (trade/UFA) and Rivet (waived). Due, in part, to Terry Pegula’s deep pockets, the Sabres blueline underwent a major overhaul as they enter the 2011-12 season. Continue reading

Sabres-Flames rumors swirl again

As training camp fast approaches the Sabres timetable to get under the cap continues to shrink.

Despite the obvious solution (sticking players in the minors), Darcy Regier continues to stand by his strategy of utilizing trades to clear the necessary cap space. Due to that apparent strategy, the rumor mill is back up and running.

Everyone’s favorite rumor monger, Eklund, floated the idea of a second trade between the Sabres and Flames. While it is an intriguing notion I doubt that either team could find a workable option.

Jarome Iginla is on every Sabres fan's wish list. I say keep wishing.

Buffalo currently sits $3.6 million over the salary cap. The Flames are just about $1.5 million under the cap at this time. Given those numbers, I can’t find a may either team could work the payroll. The Sabres top trade prospects are Brad Boyes, Ales Kotalik, Shaone Morrisonn, Jason Pominville and Andrej Sekera. Sekera is the most attractive option based on his cap hit (2.75) and his skill level. Pominville is a close second based on his scoring touch, but his $5.3 million cap hit would require a lot of tweaking in a potential trade. Brad Boyes has a moderate cap hit and a moderate offense return, I wonder how attractive he would be for teams around the league.

As for the Flames, there are only a few truly attractive options based on the Sabres’ needs and salary constraints. Rene Bourque, Curtis Glencross, Nik Hagman and Brendan Morrison. Certainly Sabres fans are hoping that the white whale, Jarome Iginla, is a target, but there is no way they could swig the trade based on their current cap situation.

Continue reading