Two in the Mailbox: Rebuilds, Coaches and GMs, Oh My

Congratulations to the Sabres for once again failing to play a meaningful game in March. This season comes with the added bonus of having started in January.

As a result of the current state of the only Buffalo pro sports team competing, this week’s mailbag is a little bleak. We have questions on rebuild potential, prospects and the owners. Continue reading

Questionable Lineup Choices Plague Sabres

The Sabres’ drama du jour has been all about Jeff Skinner and it doesn’t show any signs of ending as the team trudges towards another season without playoffs.

Skinner’s usage has been a focal point for going on two years now as the winger has bounced around the lineup but has rarely found himself in the spot most fans want him to be; playing beside Jack Eichel. His lack of playing in overtime, on the power play exacerbate the questions being asked about his contract, his influence on the roster and his relationship with Ralph Krueger.

This has all come to a head with three-straight scratches of one of the league’s best even strength scorers over the last decade. Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News wrote an excellent piece on the Skinner situation and his agent’s call to Kevyn Adams that should be required reading for anyone thinking Skinner deserves to remain out of the lineup. Lance’s article lays out the statistical evidence that backs up just how bizarre it is that Skinner has been scratched the last three games. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 9.11 – Scratches, Injuries and Some Signs for Hope

While the last week and a half has been pretty rough on the Sabres, Tuesday night’s win over New Jersey was a nice respite. We close the show with some thoughts on the win but only on the heels of some tougher talking points on Buffalo’s injury luck and Ralph Krueger’s coaching decisions.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped. You can get 20% off and free shipping by using the code 2ITB at www.manscaped.com.

The Instigator Podcast 9.10 – Where do they Go From Here

Joe Yerdon returned to the show once again for a discussion on the insane finishing trouble the Sabres have had and how it’s potentially derailing their season. With yet another season on the ropes, we also dive into a deeper discussion on the sort of difficult decisions that will face the team (and owners) should this campaign result in another failed playoff bid.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped. You can get 20% off and free shipping by using the code 2ITB at www.manscaped.com.

The Instigator Podcast 9.8 – COVID Hits the Sabres

The Sabres are facing a week-long postponement due to COVID protocols in the wake of their weekend series with the Devils. With New Jersey dealing with 14 players on the COVID list, it seems likely that the Sabres could see their list balloon as well. We discuss how the league’s decision to let the games go forward was extremely shortsighted and how the ripple effect from these suspensions could begin to wreak havoc on the league schedule. We also touch on Tony DeAngelo being waived by the Rangers along with the struggles the Sabres have had scoring at even strength.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped. You can get 20% off and free shipping by using the code 2ITB at www.manscaped.com.

The Instigator Podcast 9.7 – Process and Results

For the first time in the history of the sport, the Sabres actually have quality underlying numbers. Despite that fact, they haven’t seen legitimate success early in the season due, in part, to their struggles to score at even strength. We discuss how those underlying results may be indicative of long term success should the Sabres manage to cobble together a better shooting percentage at even strength. We also touch on the Pierre-Luc Dubois/Patrik Laine trade between the Jets and Blue Jackets.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped. You can get 20% off and free shipping by using the code 2ITB at www.manscaped.com.

The Instigator Podcast 9.6 – Questions in Net Loom for the Sabres

The Sabres are in a tough spot after Carter Hutton left Tuesday’s game after a collision and Linus Ullmark has missed the last two games due to personal reasons. In a season with a compact schedule, the Sabres are suddenly facing a situation where Jonas Johnasson may see some serious action. We discuss the issues in net for the Sabres and how their inability to address the position in the offseason put them in this predicament. We also discuss some of the reasons for optimism despite the 1-3 record the Sabres are sporting after their first week of action.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped. You can get 20% off and free shipping by using the code 2ITB at www.manscaped.com.

The Athletic Arena Ranking Survey – How I Answered

In the days before COVID was part of our vocabulary, renovating KeyBank Center (and Bills Stadium to boot) was a popular topic of conversation. There were plenty of column inches, Tweets and news segments devoted to the growing need for renovations at both of

Renovating Buffalo’s major league venues is hardly a new topic. In the time before COVID became part of our daily vocabulary, it wasn’t a question of if but when KeyBank Center and Bills Stadium would see improvements.

Pegula Sports hired CAA ICON in November of 2018 to assist in determining the next steps for both the stadium and arena. Fan surveys were distributed and I can only guess were used to help gauge the appetite certain changes might bring about.

All of this has naturally been put on hold with the pandemic keeping fans out of both venues for the better part of a year. Exactly when the Pegulas and Erie County will be ready for any sort of significant project is hard to peg given the lack of revenue typically generated by ticket sales, concessions, merchandise and everything that typically comes with a season help under normal operating procedures.

Bills Stadium is a larger project to fathom due to the external forces pushing for a new stadium for the football team. We’ve heard that the Bills need to play catch up with the league for a long time now and exactly how the Pegulas, the County and all of the other stakeholders navigate that situation will be worth tracking. It seems as if everything remains on the table. Whether a massive renovation of the existing structure, a new stadium in Orchard Park or downtown. The project will be generational, no matter which version the stakeholders land on in the end.

By comparison, KeyBank Center won’t be nearly as daunting for the Pegulas to handle. The price tag will still be massive, especially if they opt for a truly in-depth renovation, but they’re not angling for a new building so the cost will be relatively affordable. There’s no question the arena is in need of some upgrades. It wasn’t built with many bells and whistles to begin with and the lack of those amenities have sped up the aging process as a result.

All of this was in the back of my mind as I went through the arena rankings survey on The Athletic today. I have my answers to their questions below with some of the rationale behind it. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – No Need to Panic

The Sabres are back and while it’s only been one game but the team, and the fanbase, are up to their old tricks. Given the leadup to the season opener, and the game’s result, what better time than to do another mailbag?

We’ve got jersey numbers, the Jeff Skinner conundrum, coaching and more. Continue reading

Boom or Bust: Five Factors for the Sabres Season

After 300 days the Sabres will be back on the ice this week, kicking off the 2020-21 season. Their lengthy layoff was punctuated by the same sort of turmoil that has followed them in recent years as Jason Botterill was given a vote of confidence before being fired shortly thereafter.

A large chunk of hockey staff were handed their walking papers along with the entire Rochester coaching staff. With additional bad press surrounding ownership due to layoffs on the business side of the organization, they landed on Kevyn Adams as their next GM.

Adams’ first offseason was a bit of a roller coaster. The acquisitions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal were big wins but questions linger over the selection of Jack Quinn at eighth overall and the decision to let Dominik Kahun walk. Meanwhile, the jury is out on the Cody Eakin and Tobias Rieder signings. It seems the offseason was a success for Adams with a few expected hiccups.

Now, on the eve of the season, the Sabres face a tough division and yet another uphill battle to ending their playoff drought. While the East Division may not be as tough as initially thought, the Sabres are hardly a shoo-in for the postseason. But the NHL has produced its fair share of darkhorse playoff qualifiers and with just a few sly moves (and a bit of luck) the Sabres might find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2011. So what are the boom or bust factors for the Sabres in 2020-21? Continue reading