Finding a Remedy for the Sabres Goaltending Blues

The Sabres are set to enter the year with a 40-year old who nearly retired and a 32 year old who, up until the spring, hadn’t seen NHL action in four seasons. It’s an unenviable position to be in. And one that is indicative of the larger issues the Sabres are expected to face this year.

Of course, it isn’t exactly surprising either.

When the dust settled on July 29 and the Sabres we left with Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell as their prizes from the goaltending carousel, it became evident that Buffalo wouldn’t be counting on their goalies to steal them many games. That one of their two offseason acquisitions has now been moved to Rochester is even less encouraging.

Short of completely forgetting how to play the position, Anderson was always going to enter the season as Buffalo’s starter. It was the backup position that was truly up in that air. Though I think anyone inside KeyBank Center would have told you Dell and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen were the only two true competitors ahead of camp.

It’s gone a completely different direction since. Dell was downright dreadful, and reports have now surfaced that the Sabres aren’t happy with how he arrived in camp. Meanwhile, UPL simply couldn’t grab the reins. He’d put in a good period here or there but his larger body of work just wasn’t good enough. Much like his four-game audition last year, he turned in some quality play but at the end of the day, too many pucks wound up behind him.

Continue reading

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.

The Instigator Podcast 7.36 – Season Finale? Jokiharju’s on You

The Marcus Johansson signing was reason enough to get together for our tentative season-ending podcast, but then Jason Botterill served up a whopper on Tuesday afternoon. The Sabres acquired Herni Jokiharju from the Blackhawks in exchange for Alex Nylander. It’s a big deal that sees a pair of former first rounders swapped and another young, puck-moving defenseman added to the Sabres stable. It also slots in another solid, right-hander to an already crowded blueline. We run down the acquisition of Jokiharju, potential Ristolainen deals and how the Sabres blueline could shake out.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 7.8 – New NHL Duds and a Chat with Pat Moran on Buffalo Sports and Blogging

A slightly different podcast this week as Tyler and I were unable to convene but I was lucky to grab fellow Buffalo podcaster Pat Moran for a wide-ranging discussion over the excellent show he launched earlier this year, the state of the Bills and what it was that brought him back into the fold with the Sabres after losing faith during the dregs of recent years. Prior to jumping into my chat with Pat, I run through the new jerseys that were released or leaked around the league this week, touched on the 2018 Hall of Fame induction class and the big coaching changes that dropped in Chicago and Los Angeles.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 6.19 – Reviewing our Season Preview at the All Star Break

Although the Sabres have enjoyed a nice stretch of play, we decided to revisit our season preview podcast and see how well we did prognosticating the NHL. As it turns out we chose…poorly. As we review our picks, and how the current standing have shaken out, we dig in on a few of the teams around the league. We take a closer look at Vegas, Chicago, Carolina and Edmonton and what’s led them to their spot in the standings.

Building a winner takes more than just top picks

As the final two weeks tick away until the Sabres make the first pick in the Tim Murray era, Tyler and I decided to team up to offer an all-encompassing analysis of how the most recent Cup winning teams were constructed. We started with the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins and went straight through this year’s Kings and Rangers rosters.

We found a number of different trends and traits on each of these teams. One trait they all shared was the possession of at least one high pick (fifth or higher) who was either drafted by the team or became a priority acquisition at one point or another. However, just as important as these players were to their respective teams, proper acquisitions via trades or free agency served as an equally important trait for each and every one of these teams.

Anze Kopitar: picked 11th overall in 2005.

Our goal was to offer a comprehensive analysis of each of these teams to illustrate exactly where the Sabres still need to improve their roster outside of simply winning the Draft Lottery.

 

Chris: The current state of the Sabres has inspired a lot of debate regarding rebuilding and the best course of action to take. One particularly incendiary stance taken by Jeremy White is that it doesn’t matter who your GM is so long as you’re picking at the top of the draft. While I’m sure his point was that anyone can pick first since you’re likely to land a surefire stud with a top-three selection, the comment has turned into a rallying cry both for White and his critics.

I know we both disagree with his premise given that hockey teams are comprised of 23 players, not one or two. Without giving away the entire argument in two paragraphs, I feel it’s important for anyone to understand that shaping a championship team takes a hell of a lot more than simply picking first a few times. It’s a perfect storm of drafting, trades, free agent signings and cap management. Comparing the state of the Sabres to other teams who have enjoyed a turnaround after picking high – Colorado comes to mind as a great example – it’s safe to say that Aaron Ekblad or one of the Sams aren’t going to turn things around by themselves, no?

Tyler: Whoever Tim Murray opts to take at 2nd overall at the end of the month will not come in, put the team on his back, and carry them to a top three finish (and automatic playoff spot) in the Atlantic Division. I’d venture to say that even if Murray were to acquire another top five pick in June (as Mike Harrington believes they should) they still would find themselves outside of the playoff picture. That is not an indictment of the skill of any of the top prospects, but of the current roster. The Sabres have a multitude of holes to fill, and while one or two of Bennett, Reinhart, or Ekblad would no doubt but the team on the right track there’s still a long way to go. Continue reading

Between the Pipes: Missing 40 minutes leads to loss in Chicago

Saturday marked what may have been one of Buffalo’s most complete efforts in this young season. In skating to a 2-1 loss to Chicago, the Sabres manage to keep their opponent within reach, due in large part to Ryan Miller, before mounting the counter attack to attempt to tie the contest.

Drew Stafford tallied midway through a third period dominated by the Sabres, but Buffalo couldn’t crack the code on Corey Crawford beyond Stafford’s tally. Miller shut the door on Chicago for the entire contest, recording 38 saves on the night but came away with his third loss of the year thanks to goals from Ben Smith and Patrick Kane.

The Sabres dug themselves an early hole due to a three separate infractions in the first period and five on the night. After Smith’s deflection gave the Blackhawks a lead in the first period, Kane and the potent ‘Hawks power play made the Sabres pay for their repeated penalties. Continue reading

2ITB Conference Final predictions

Now that the NHL’s final four (and last four Cup champs) have advanced to the Conference Finals, it is time for another edition of playoff picks. While I was a respectable 6/8 in the first round, I only managed two correct picks for the four second round series. While 50% is great in baseball, it isn’t all that fantastic considering the picks I made.

The Conference Finals pretty much have the exact four teams most expected to see when the playoffs first opened and these four favorites certainly haven’t disappointed. Maybe Los Angeles wasn’t expected to advance to this point, but the other three were certainly penciled in.

So, with a score of 8/12, I look to improve my score as the 2013 NHL season continues to meander to a close. Continue reading

2ITB second round predictions

For the third-straight season I rolled up six out of eight correct playoff series predictions in the first round. I fully expect to almost completely whiff on my second round predictions for the third-straight season.

While I swung and missed on my Cup Finals prediction, I managed to guess most of the second round participants and I’ll now provide my predictions for the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

This will be a very interesting series to follow. The main storyline is the Penguins struggles in net but this will really come down to Pittsburgh’s firepower matching up against Craig Anderson and Ottawa’s ability to defend. Pittsburgh has a deep offensive lineup that would create ugly matchup choices for an All Star team, let alone the seventh seed in the playoffs. If Paul MacLean can work his magic and Anderson stays hot, this will be a long series.

Why Pittsburgh will win: Firepower is the name of the game for the Penguins. They outscored their way to the second round with little more than average goaltending supporting their back legs. This is an offensive juggernaut which also has a pair of bottom six lines capable of mixing offense and defense quite nicely. Goaltending will obviously be an issue and the hot button issue until Tomas Vokoun proves he can carry this team.

Why Ottawa will win: The Senators have continuously proven that they’re capable of overcoming and they did a fine job of that all year. They certainly weren’t overmatched by the Canadiens but I feel they will be in many ways during this series. However, if they can find offensive success they should have little issue being very competitive against this team

Outcome: Penguins in six Continue reading