Patience, Promise and Adjusting Expectations for the 21-22 Sabres

It’s no secret that the 2021-22 season is going to be a difficult one for the Sabres. Kevyn Adams has embraced a tank rebuild and while Jack Eichel remains a Sabre, a cursory glance at Buffalo’s training camp roster should give plenty of indication of what this season will look like.

You may not think this rebuild is anything like the last one the Sabres embarked on in 2013 but when you look closer it shares many of the hallmarks. Veteran talent traded for futures, stockpiling draft picks, investing in a youth movement. The reason there are similarities between the two is because most rebuilds in the NHL follow the same basic formula, and like it or not, they’re all in some way, shape or form, a tank. One aspect of this rebuild which will differ from the last go around will be the likes of Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt.

When Darcy Regier began tearing things down in 2013, none of the picks the Sabres were investing in held key positions on the NHL roster. Zemgus Gigrensons and eventually Rasmus Ristolainen would (almost by default), but ahead of the teardown, there were few key picks wearing a Sabres sweater on a regular basis. I supposed you could count Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis in that group, but having three top 10 picks already playing is much different than the last time.

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The Instigator Podcast 10.2 – The Eichel Saga Takes Another Turn

Joe Yerdon is back for another guest appearance and to discuss all of the fallout from the first press availability of Sabres camp. On the docket is the decision to remove the captaincy from Jack Eichel and how the continued lack of a deal affects the Sabres in both the short and long term. We also run down the camp roster and the players we’re most excited to see battle through camp and the preseason.

Jersey Concepts for the Sabres Hypothetical Heritage Classic

It sure sounds like the Sabres and Maple Leafs are lining up a potential Heritage Classic in Hamilton on March 13. Right now the game is still firmly a rumor, but there’s a whole lot of smoke that points in the direction of a Sabres/Leafs outdoor game.

The lack of confirmation on the game likely stems from the ongoing uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the impact that has on opening the USA-Canada border and the ability to continue hosting large events such as an NHL outdoor game. So, while the next iteration of the Heritage Classic hasn’t been officially confirmed, it seems as if all parties are aware of the intention to play the game barring any unforeseen hiccups.

That the league held off on announcing this game along with the other three outdoor game announcements made at the Stanley Cup Final tells me there’s still a fair bit of doubt surrounding the game. If I had to guess it rests mostly with any potential restrictions that could be put in place by Health Canada and the Ontario government between now and March. The border will be another issue, but a lesser one in my opinion as capacity restrictions would have a larger impact than the ease of border crossings.

Even with some of the question marks surrounding the immediate future of the event, the potential for another Sabres outdoor game is exciting. Not only is this much closer than Citi Field, but it more than likely means the Sabres will be getting another special uniform for the event.

Knowing that the Heritage Classic is an event that always draws on throwback designs for the participating teams, I’d expect something cool for the Sabres come March. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the team take the ice in a uniform that draws beyond the precise history of the Sabres franchise. Calgary, for example, wore a uniform derived from the 1924 Calgary Tigers. And given the Sabres current uniforms are a terrific homage to the uniforms they wore from 1970 to 1996, drawing inspiration from elsewhere might just offer the best possible design for fans to gobble up at the merchandise stands.

I’ve put together four jersey designs which differ from the team’s current uniforms while drawing from different vintage aspects and the larger hockey history of Western New York.

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The Instigator Podcast 9.36 – The NHL is Returning to the Olympics

The NHL will be back at the Olympic games for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. We chat about the return of NHL players after missing the last cycle and what this means for the league. We talk about the pros and cons of the agreement and what long term opportunities are being missed due to the limitations in place between the NHL, IOC and IIHF. We also touch on the new contracts for Casey Mittelstadt and Henri Jokiharju and wrap up the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet saga.

The Instigator Podcast 9.35 – Agents of Change

We’re back in the podcast saddle and tackling the news of Jack Eichel’s agency switch. We discuss the implications of Eichel switching agents to NHL power broker Pat Brisson last week. Also on the docket is the Carolina Hurricanes offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi and how the Canadiens may handle that situation. We wrap up with a Bills stadium update as more news broke on that front as we recorded.

The Instigator Podcast 9.33 – Waiting on an Eichel Deal

There was another twist in the Jack Eichel saga this past week as his agents issued a fairly strong statement and his doctor made an appearance on the 31 Thoughts Podcast. We dive in on where the trade winds are pushing Buffalo’s captain and try and handicap the current teams thought to be in the race.

We also look into Buffalo’s free agency spending and what sort of outlook the team has in the wake of a fairly active, but low-spend opening day of free agency.

The Instigator Podcast 9.32 – Breaking Down a Wild Draft Weekend

We’re back with a longer episode this week as there was a lot of action from the draft to dig into. Not only do we discuss Buffalo’s picks but offer up our favorites of Kevyn Adams’ class of 2021. The big topics were the pair of trades the Sabres made; sending Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers and Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers. We provide a quick update on where the Eichel sweepstakes stand and close the show with a bit of conversation on free agency.

The Instigator Podcast 9.31 – Expansion and NHL Draft Breakdown

Sandwiching this episode between the Expansion Draft and NHL Draft left us with quite a bit to talk about. We break down Seattle’s selections and their lack of side deals. We also run down the players the Sabres will have under consideration at first overall but also at the top of the second round. We close up the show with a brief Jack Eichel update and a quick rundown of Thursday’s trades.

Listen to “The Instigator Podcast 9.31 – Expansion Draft and NHL Draft Breakdown” on Spreaker.

Two in the Mailbox: Number Changes and Offseason Targets

The expansion draft is less than 48 hours away and there will be ample time for another flurry of trades between Thursday and Friday’s first round. As we sit on the precipice of the next opportunity for the league’s GMs to swing some deals, it felt like a good time to run out another mailbag. With that said, let’s jump into your questions.

@donmanski – Do we still expect to see the Sabres have more than 1 top 10 pick in the draft? I thought it was attached to Reinhart going to Columbus but can’t recall where I was it.

You never want to set too high of an expectation that a pair of NHL GMs are going to do anything. But I’ll say that the original report was fairly definitive, so there’s almost certainly some truth to it. It comes down to whether or not the Sabres pull the trigger on a Jack Eichel or Sam Reinhart trade on either Thursday or Friday. Those are the two guys most likely to fetch the Sabres that extra top-10 pick, so that’s the chatter to watch.

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The Instigator Podcast 9.30 – Expansion Considerations

It’s only Tuesday and it’s been a big week in the NHL as Duncan Keith was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and the Minnesota Wild bought out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. We break down each of those moves and what it means for the respective teams involved. We also tackle Buffalo’s expansion outlook and offer up our thoughts on who we expect the Sabres to protect and who we hope the Sabres will protect for next week’s expansion draft.