As the Sabres slide further from playoff contention, questions about roster construction, coaching and effort continue to be asked. We sit down this week to discuss rumors of a rift between the players and the coach and even between some of the players. Along the way we chat about how difficult it really is to find solid leadership if it isn’t homegrown.
Since climbing within a point of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference the Sabres have hit one of their worst runs of play in the entire 2016-17 season, dropping seven of their last eight games and falling well out of reach of serious playoff contention.
The skid has been defined by blown third period leads, losses to teams below Buffalo in the standings and sub-par goaltending. However, the third period collapses are by far the most concerning aspect of this recent run. It’s something that’s highlighted many of Buffalo’s other shortcomings this year.
In some ways this run was probably inevitable. The Sabres have been allowing absurd numbers of shots and shot attempts on a game-to-game basis and had been winning the odd one thanks, in part, to the play of Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner. Both have given the Sabres strong play throughout the year but recently only share one game with two goals against or fewer (shootout loss to Tampa Bay). Both have still played well through the course of these games despite the ugly results. Look no further than Nilsson’s play in Pittsburgh or the handful of sterling saves Lehner made against Philly in an otherwise forgettable performance.
Simple logic would indicate that Buffalo’s poor defensive play finally caught up to them and despite otherwise strong play from their goaltenders, the team just isn’t good enough to cover all of their shortcomings. It’s a combination of poor personnel (hello defensemen) and poor usage that’s undermined what could have been an exciting season for the Sabres and now it appears the focus has shifted firmly to Dan Bylsma.
Even prior to this slump, postgame comments had indicated that all wasn’t well in the Sabres locker room. There were warning signs that the players were ignoring their coach’s wishes and going off script at key points in each game. Now that they’ve only accrued one win since the bye week, those whispers are growing louder.
As the season slips away from the Sabres it seems more likely that Bylsma’s future sits on rocky ground. Even with the obvious shortcomings on Buffalo’s roster, many of his tactics and systems seem to work against the strengths the Sabres do boast. In many ways it seems as if he’s being haunted by many of the ghosts which pushed him out of Pittsburgh. Continue reading
In the wake of an extremely quiet trade deadline, we were joined by Joe Yerdon of NHL.com to talk about the moves – or lack there of – that went down on deadline day. Recording at Big Ditch Brewing, we hammer out Tim Murray’s lack of action and the roadmap for the Sabres GM moving forward. Among our other talking points is how expansion may have played a role at the deadline and how the lack of action in-season may trickle down to the pre-expansion deadline.
With the trade deadline less than a week away, Chris and Tyler look over the value of Buffalo’s potential trade chips while also discussing potential additions, as the Sabres aren’t quite buyers but aren’t quite sellers either. Big topics are Cody Franson, Dmitry Kulikov, Anders Nilsson and targeting young defensemen around the league as potential additions.
The roller coaster ride the Sabres have been on this season hit another high point as the team rolled into their bye week. Despite falling to Chicago 5-1 and failing to get much help from the out-of-town scoreboard, the Sabres crawled within two points of a playoff spot on the eve of their bye week.
Sunday’s aftermath pushed the Sabres to a four point deficit, but their current state is a far cry from when they were fighting just to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement. Buffalo’s pre bye-week push has likely created a bit of a pickle for Tim Murray as his club is now far closer to buyer than seller status for next week’s trade deadline.
Buffalo’s narrow margin to the playoffs will erode over the next five days but they won’t be completely out of a playoff spot when they return with a road trip out west. They’ll be close enough to be a threat but just far enough to question if making a run is realistic, thus creating a difficult decision on selling expiring assets, let alone anyone else. Continue reading
Raise your hand if you didn’t want the Sabres to move on from Evander Kane this past summer. How about at the end of November, shortly after he had returned from breaking his ribs on opening night?
Put your hands down. Liars.
I too thought it was time for Tim Murray to cut bait from his big-ticket acquisition after Kane found himself in hot water for the second time in roughly six months. It seemed like the right choice to make; find a team searching for a bit more offense and see if you couldn’t get a little defensive help coming back the other way.
Now, just a few months later, my tune has changed. Slightly. Kane has scored at a torrid pace since early December, racking up 21 goals in three months’ time, all while going goalless through November – likely a side effect from returning from his broken ribs too early. Kane has now posted back-to-back 20 goal seasons for the Sabres despite missing 17 games last season and another 12 so far this year. He’s had injury issues through most of his career as his style of play isn’t conducive to completing an 82-game slate. However, his goal scoring has been something of a constant despite failing to hit the 70 game mark since 2011-12 (he did play all 48 games of the lockout shortened 2013 season). Continue reading
Bill Hoppe joined the show this week to discuss the post game comments after Sunday’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks and where the weak points in Buffalo’s system lay. We also discuss the outlook on Buffalo’s UFAs as the trade deadline approaches. We want to thank Bill again for joining the show, you can find him on Twitter at @BillHoppeNHL and Buffalo Hockey Beat