The Instigator Podcast 7.3 – Reinhart Bridge

With Sam Reinhart’s contract finalized the Sabres have their complete roster at training camp – save for a couple of injuries – and are full steam ahead to the regular season. We discuss how Reinhart’s deal could set the table for another team-friendly AAV once the two-year agreement expires in the summer of 2020. William Nylander’s contract negotiation comes up as does some brief reactions to Buffalo’s first two preseason games.

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Sharing Some Thoughts on Last Night’s Sabres-Related Outrage

The Sabres opened their preseason schedule last night in Minnesota with Jack Eichel dazzling in his first game action against NHL veterans, perhaps you heard. You may have also heard that the game wasn’t on television.

There has been a fair bit of outrage on the Twitterverse due to this development. The lack of streaming content for last weekend’s Prospects Challenge has left a hockey starved fan base without much to hang on as the regular season approaches. Last night’s game wound up bringing various fan complaints to a head. It was underscored by the adorable Tweet pictured here.sabres

Now, the Sabres have traditionally kept preseason games off television. My understanding from when I was with the Sabres is that it’s a relatively fruitless venture which puts an undue expense on the broadcast arm of the team. This makes a lot of sense when you consider your typical preseason game roster is filled at least halfway with players who won’t be with the club during the regular season and the viewer base isn’t nearly as invested as they would be for a regular season game.

I pointed this out on Twitter earlier in the day as the fervor over the lack of TV or a stream began to ramp up. At the very least, the precedent has been a relative lack of TV games in the preseason. So it’s not as if this was a massive change from the past. Also, from my perspective, I wasn’t overly concerned that the game wasn’t on TV.

What seems to have led to the collective outrage over last night’s game is a combination of poor outreach via social media and the swell of frustration surrounding streaming (and not streaming) the prospects games this summer. Continue reading

Five Storylines to Watch as the Sabres Head to Camp

Sam Reinhart- This is the obvious one; expectations are sky high for the Sabres’ highest draft pick since Pierre Turgeon in 1987. By all accounts Reinhart played well in Traverse City despite not finding the back of the net. Reinhart will obviously face a step up in competition as he heads into his first NHL camp. The rookie will most certainly get his shot at the beginning of the year with his nine game pseudo tryout before a decision must be made on his future. All eyes will be on him as he attempts to force his way into the Sabres’ top six forwards, but looking at the Sabres’ roster make up, don’t be shocked to see Reinhart headed back to Kootenay for another year.

The Defense- Only seven, maybe eight blue liners will be on the roster when the puck drops against Columbus on October 7. The team currently has ten candidates for those spots, with the rest shipped down the thruway to Rochester or sent back to juniors for the beginning of the new campaign. Looking at the roster, four spots are locked up in Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Andrej Meszaros, and Josh Gorges, plus the signing of Andre Benoit to a one way deal likely wraps up the fifth spot on the back end. That leaves Jake McCabe, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, Chad Ruhwedel, and Nikita Zadorov to battle it out in camp for the two or three remaining spots. Zadorov took a seat for a period or two in Traverse City due to a perceived lack of effort and looks set to be on the way back to the OHL for another year of seasoning barring an exceptional camp. While play on the ice will obviously be the major factor in deciding who sticks with the big club, contract flexibility may also pay a factor; a player like Rasmus Ristolainen is still able to be shuttled between Buffalo and Rochester without going through waivers, which makes him a more likely candidate to start in the AHL.

Top Six Forwards- Tim Murray was able to add much more depth to the NHL ranks on July 1, and the majority of that depth comes in the form of top six forwards such as Brian Gionta and the returning Matt Moulson. Those additions, along with the likes of Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford, and Chris Stewart would lead folks to believe the Sabres’ top two forward lines are fairly set. There are still some questions positionally, mainly who will man the middle. Cody Hodgson’s defensive deficiencies have led some to believe he could end up on the wing, while Tyler Ennis saw time at both center and wing last season. With these players seemingly locked into scoring roles barring a trade or injury, it looks like a tough task for anyone, including Sam Reinhart, to break into the group on a permanent basis. Another name who gets lost in the shuffle is Mikhail Grigorenko. The odds are certainly not in his favor for an opening night spot, but he has added 15-20 pounds of muscle and heads into this season in what looks to be a much better frame of mind when compared to last year; I’m pulling for him to put forth a good showing in camp.

Bottom Six Forwards- The Sabres have a ton of bodies looking to fill the final eight roster spots (including healthy scratches). While Zemgus Girgensons is basically a lock to man the middle for the 3rd line and likes of Marcus Foligno, Brian Flynn, and the repatriated Cody McCormick also look to have spots, there are still plenty of questions. Torrey Mitchell barely got on the ice for the team last year before getting hurt, and is thus a bit of an unknown. Nic Deslauriers acquitted himself well in limited duty last year, and Matt Ellis is back in the fold for another year. Add in the now healthy (and sometimes forgotten) Pat Kaleta, new signing Zac Dalpe, Johan Larsson, and new addition Jordan Samuels-Thomas (who played very well in Traverse City) and the competition for the last few spots will be fierce.

Goaltending- For the first time since the early 90’s the Sabres go into the season without a definitive answer in the crease. Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth head into camp as the goaltending tandem for the Blue and Gold, and all indications point toward a scenario where the two are viewed as option 1a and 1b by Ted Nolan. While it is unknown how Nolan will split time in net during the preseason, the two 26 year old netminders will be looking to show that they deserve the nod on opening night. The year may start with the time split relatively even, Nolan will likely not hesitate to go with the hot hand. While the opening night starter is by no means a guarantee to play 55 or 60 games, whoever gets the start will have the first chance to prove himself to the coaches. New goaltending coach Arturs Irbe may also play a role in determining who eventually wins the job. Irbe was considered an undersized goaltender throughout his career and he is now tasked with mentoring the 5’ 10” Enroth and Neuvirth, who is listed at 6’ 1”. Whichever goaltender is able to take to Irbe’s methods quickest may benefit in the form of more playing time.

Double Minors: Sabres vs. Adler Mannheim and stupid helmet numbers

Rather than just offering analysis of a game I merely listened to I will present a different point of view on today’s game between the Sabres and Adler Mannheim.

Boy, those helmet numbers sure look stupid.

I expected little from this game rather than a unique way for European hockey fans to see the Sabres. Adler Mannheim was obviously outmatched in this game as they gave up three first-period goals as the Sabres rolled 8-3. The Eagles presented a challenge in the early going, creating a  few chances on Jhonas Enroth, but couldn’t skate with the Sabres for 60 minutes.

Luke Adam and Tyler Ennis each scored twice, although Adam’s second goal was awarded to Thomas Vanek. Christian Ehrhoff scored on his native soil, as well. From the sound of it, The Ville Leino, Brad Boyes and Ennis line was deadly for the entire game, something that will hopefully carry over to Friday and Saturday.

The overall atmosphere of this game is what should truly be taken away. There was little doubt that the Sabres would be capable of winning the game. But applaud the fans of Mannheim as they packed the standing room seats 90 minutes before puck drop and chanted and sang for the entire game. Not once did I hear silence from that section, a truly marvelous feature to any sporting event, particularly hockey.

I am just as guilty as every other Sabres fan, I am not one to stand up an lead my section in a “Sabres on the warpath” chant for a few minutes, let alone an entire game. Of course, the fans in the F’N Center probably wouldn’t even carry the chant. Too many people are sitting on their hands. It is about time the crowds for home Sabres games make a difference, I hope the regime and roster changes help spark that in the 18,690 each night. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres 3 – Capitals 4 SO

The Buffalo Sabres dropped their final NHL preseason contest to the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a shootout.

Buffalo led 3-2 in the third, only to surrender the tying goal to Matt Hendricks with just under seven minutes to go. Thomas Vanek scored twice and Jason Pominville added a first period tally for the Sabres. Ryan Miller went the distance and made 29 saves. Jhonas Enroth was expected to see at least one period, but Lindy Ruff opted to get Miller another complete game. I would expect Enroth to play 60 minutes against Alder Mannheim on Tuesday.

Since this contest was sans television there isn’t too much I can offer in terms of analysis. However, losing a third period lead with most of the ‘A’ team playing isn’t very encouraging. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Capitals

The Buffalo Sabres play in their final state-side preseason contest tonight before departing for Germany and the NHL Premiere.

With the roster set for the season, this will be the closest to a regular season contest that anyone has seen to date. Luke Adam is probably the only player who will end up in Rochester; he is filling in for Derek Roy for the time being.

The lines should look something like this:

Vanek – Adam – Pominville

Ennis – Leino – Stafford

Gerbe – Gaustad – Kaleta

Ellis – McCormick – Boyes

Regehr – Myers

Ehrhoff – Leopold

Weber – Sekera

Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres weekend wrap

The Sabres finished their three-game weekend 2-1 as they were handed their first preseason defeat on Sunday in Columbus.

Buffalo, finishing a five game in seven nights stretch of hockey, weren’t very competitive against the Blue Jackets. The Sabres dressed what may have been their greenest line up of the preseason with only a handful of regulars playing in Columbus. Robyn Regehr wore the ‘C’ while Ville Leino and Andrej Sekera each wore an ‘A’. A look at the roster shows 10 regulars in the line up and that is fairly generous in my eyes.

Ryan Miller wasn’t spectacular, but he was Friday against Toronto, so I really don’t care too much. Tyler Myers scored on a great individual effort, but there wasn’t much else to like, or care about in this game.

Continue reading

The Morning Skate – Weekend series

Ryan Miller will play the full game against Toronto on Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres enter this weekend’s trio of games with 19 skaters who have yet to see action this preseason. As Rochester is set to open their camp on Monday, there is a chance some of these players may remain in the press box before heading up the 90.

Notable names among the group are Ales Kotalik, Shaone Morrisonn and Jordan Leopold. Brayden McNabb has also been held out thus far, but I would expect him to see action at some point this weekend. In fact, the three veterans listed above are all certain to see time before the team heads to Europe.

The complete list is as follows: Forwards; Riley Boychuk, Jochen Hecht (injured), Kotalik, Jacob Lagace, Maxime Legault, Jonathon Parker, Mike Ryan, Colin Stuart, Paul Szczechura, Shawn Sydlowski, Travis Turnbull and Phil Varone, defensemen; Nick Crawford, Corey Fienhage, Joe Finley, Leopold, Matt Mackenzie, McNabb and Morrisonn, goaltenders; Jeff Jakaitis and David Leggio. Continue reading

Double Minors – Sabres 3 – Canadiens 1

It may have been against most of the Hamilton Bulldogs’ roster, but Christian Ehrhoff had his coming-out party for the Buffalo Sabres.

Ehrhoff made a pretty pass to Jason Pominville to open the Buffalo scoring in the second period and scored the game winning goal on a twisted wrister early in the third period. To go along with his +2 and two-point night, Ehrhoff skated for 22 minutes for the Sabres.

Clearly Ehrhoff is a multi-talented defenseman and will be utilized in every situation by Lindy Ruff this season. While Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr skated together tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ehrhoff and Myers paired up as the regular season draws closer.

– Ryan Miller was, well, Ryan Miller. He was calm and collected and had a number of sparkling saves among the 11 shots he turned away. Jhonas Enroth allowed a power play goal to P.K. Subban, but made 11 saves on 12 shots. Another confident performance off the bench for the new backup. This is an encouraging sign since I have had some doubts about how Enroth will rebound from his strong debut in 2010-11. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Canadiens

The Buffalo Sabres will take the ice in Montreal for their second preseason contest of the year, tonight.

Fresh off a 3-1 victory over Carolina on Monday, the Sabres will go with a line up heavy with veterans and only a few tweeners against Montreal. The lines are as follows:

Vanek – Roy – Pominville

Ennis – Leino – Stafford

Gerbe – Adam – Boyes

Foligno – Ellis – Kassian

The defensemen were listed by the Sabres’ Twitter as Ehrhoff, Regher, Myers, Gragnani, Schiestel and Persson. Whether or not those are in order of pairs, I can’t be sure (s/t to Kevin at UPDATE: It appears that Regher will skate with Myers. This probably meansEhrhoff will skate with Gragnani. Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth will split time in net. I would guess Miller gets the start with Enroth coming off the bench again. Continue reading