The Instigator Podcast 8.6 – Sabres Season Preview featuring Ben Mathewson

With yet another Buffalo Sabres season upon us, Ben Mathewson joins the show to help us share some thoughts on the team’s outlook for the year. We spend a lot of time digging into the forward lines, what doesn’t make sense on the unit and the few things that are poised to work for the club. We touch on the defense corps as well before offering up some loose predictions for the 2019-20 season.

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Post-Camp Musings Ahead of Final Cuts

The Sabres are about to get down to playing some honest to god, regular season hockey games this week. Before they jump in to games that count for something, they need to make a few decisions on their roster.

Preseason hockey is tough to take too much information from given the irregular rosters on a game-to-game basis. One night you could see an NHL-heavy roster and on another night you might only see three or four NHL regulars in the lineup. With that being the case, it can even be hard to be impressed by individual performances since the level of competition they can come against can vary so much.

There’s also the Preseason Pledge to consider. You can’t get too high or too low on a player or the team given the volatility of the roster during the preseason. But that can go out the window when Vladimir Sobotka skates on the second line and the coach says a lot of really nice things about him.

On the eve of the regular season opening, there seems to be more concern and annoyance than excitement across Sabres nation. Jason Botterill went out and acquired a handful of players who could really help this team turn a corner this year. Only, he forgot to get rid of anyone from last year’s group. This preseason was thought to be the one where we’d finally see some dead weight stripped off the roster. The likes of Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Marco Scandella have been the most popular candidates in that regard. But with the season almost upon us, that’s looking more and more dire.

I, for one, seriously expected Sobotka to spend the final year of his contract in Europe. I’m glad I attached the caveat to my opinion that we couldn’t take solace in it happening until Botterill filed the paperwork. Given the state of the roster, Sobtoka seems to be safe. It’s disappointing for a number of reasons, primarily because Sobotka is bad at hockey. The silver lining here is that it appears that Sobotka is simply keeping Conor Sheary’s seat warm on the second line. He may just be the extra forward, meaning he’ll spend plenty of time in the pressbox this season.

Still, the fact that he’ll be an option to dress on a nightly basis is extremely disappointing.

I suppose there’s still a chance that we get surprised by the noon waiver notifications. But I’m not expecting any fireworks from the Sabres. That’s not to say they shouldn’t make some noise with their roster decisions. While about two-thirds of the roster was set before camp opened, I think there have been a few eye-opening performances the should have affected Botterill and Ralph Krueger’s thinking on the final 23-man roster. Continue reading

Where and How Does Botterill Trim the Roster?

For the third-straight offseason, Jason Botterill has been active in adding new blood to the Sabres locker room. For the first time in his tenure, he also faces a near necessity of needing to shed bodies as well.

There are quite a few usual suspects who have been along for far too much of Buffalo’s prolonged playoff drought and many fans were looking forward to the fat being trimmed by Botterill’s “roster surgery”. Improvements came quickly once the draft wrapped up. Jimmy Vesey, Colin Miller, Henri Jokiharju and Marcus Johansson all figure to feature prominently for the Sabres this year. As far as attrition goes, the only body to be shipped was Alex Nylander, sent to Chicago in exchange for Jokiharju, leaving fans wondering when the other shoe will drop.

There’s still over a month until training camp opens and it’s not completely unusual for deals to come through into August or September (Jeff Skinner and Erik Karlsson just last year), so it’s not as if Botterill is out of time to clean up the roster. But he has work to do. The right side of the defense is packed with bodies and the left side isn’t far behind while the Sabres could compile about three fourth lines with the number of bottom-six forwards they have.

Just looking at potential fourth line candidates is a waking nightmare in terms of skill and salary:

W

 

C

 

W

Zemgus Girgensons

Johan Larsson

Kyle Okposo

CJ Smith

Vladimir Sobotka

Curtis Lazar

Arttu Routsalainen

JS Dea

Scott Wilson

Rasmus Asplund

Remi Elie

Looks awesome. Can’t wait. Continue reading

Sabres Roster Not Defined by Youth Movement as Season Looms

There was a lot of excitement this summer about the potential changes that were on deck for the Sabres roster. Especially at forward. But with the season just two days away the Sabres are reminding everyone that they’re in no rush.

At the opening of training camp there were upwards of 12 players competing for two or three spots in Buffalo’s bottom six. Injuries affected that competition but when it was all said and done, the Sabres didn’t stray from the players they finished the 2017-18 season with. Opting to give their youngsters bigger minutes in Rochester. It’s a decision that won’t sit well with many fans who are tired of seeing Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson night in and night out.

Given the players who were sent down, and the timing of those decisions, I’m not sure the alternative would have been all that much more appeasing. Alex Nylander was the final forward cut after being demoted Monday, but the race between the likes of Girgensons, Larsson, Scott Wilson, Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste was wrapped up last week when the latter two were assigned to Rochester. That leads me to believe that had Larsson and Wilson not earned the extra two forward spots that Bailey and Baptiste would’ve earn that honor which still wouldn’t represent the changing of the guard the fanbase is so desperate for. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.7 – Who Wins One of the Final Spots on the Sabres Roster?

There are only a few spots available on the Buffalo roster for the coming season but the Sabres have upwards of 15 players battling for five, maybe six positions. It’s a battle that includes a combination of free agent signings from the summer and prospects who appear ready for the jump. Chris and Tyler debate the outlook for the blueline and bottom six forwards and who we see as the most likely to make the opening night roster.

The Instigator Podcast 5.17 – Gudas, NHL Discipline and Projecting the Sabres Roster

We’re back to provide our thoughts on what the initial Sabres roster will look like for the season as Derek Grant, Hudson Fasching and Casey Nelson among those impressing in the preseason. Along the way we touch on some of the seemingly inaccurate statistical models projecting the Sabres season and the stunning lack of discipline applied to Radko Gudas’ latest indiscretion. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

Projecting the Sabres Roster on the Eve of Final Cuts

The Sabres begin the season in four days, and some question marks still remain as to who will be part of that opening night roster against Ottawa. The organization has made quite a few cuts over recent days that have answered some questions, such as sending Cal O’Reilly down to Rochester. There’s still a handful of decisions to be made in the next 24 hours, or so, with the roster currently sitting at 28 players and only enough room for 23. Here’s how I see the Sabres’ roster looking to start the year. Continue reading