The Instigator Podcast 8.14 – Hall Monitors

With Taylor Hall’s name buzzing around the rumor mill, we consider whether or not the Sabres would be wise to invest the assets (and potentially cap space) into the Devils star, or if the club should consider other options. Our primary focus this week is the improved play the team has enjoyed over the last two weeks and whether or not there are moves available to Jason Botterill that would capitalize on their play and supplement their roster.

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The Instigator Podcast 7.28 – Applying Kekalainen’s Deadline to the 2007 Sabres

In the wake of the first two eliminations in this year’s playoffs, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Jarmo Kekalainen’s aggressive trade deadline strategy may have been applied to the 2007 Sabres. So we endeavored to apply a similar approach to what the Sabres could have done in 2007 while staying within the limits of the salary cap and realistic moves that were available at that time. Along the way we unpack the series sweeps suffered by the Penguins and Lightning, discuss the signings of Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson and touch on the disappointing attendance at this year’s Frozen Four.

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:

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The Instigator Podcast 7.22 – NHL Trade Deadline Breakdown

The bonus extension of the deadline podcast looks at some of the biggest trades that went down at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. We look into all of the moves made by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the arms race out West. Specifically the deals made by Nashville, Winnipeg and, of course, Vegas.

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:

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Over-Thought: Ready for some Deals

We’re five days from the deadline and Jason Botterill is standing by his roster, maybe to a fault. Even if the Sabres aren’t active at the deadline, there are some signs pointing to this season being a busier trade deadline than it’s been in recent years.

Elliotte Friedman had plenty of trade fodder in his latest column, including one related to the Sabres. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find this week’s 31 Thoughts here.

  1. Columbus’s offer for Duchene screams Alexander Wennberg as part of it. Wennberg desperately needs a new start; he’s got zero even-strength goals. I just don’t know if Ottawa would be willing to gamble on the contract, at a $4.9-million AAV through June 2023.

I included Wennberg in the post I wrote a few weeks ago about centers I felt the Sabres could go shop for given the somewhat narrow scope they’re thought to be looking through when it comes to trade targets. Jeremy White mentioning him as a potential Sabres target ramped up the attention on Columbus’ 24-year old pivot.

The issue with Wennberg is his production has dipped since his big 16-17 season. Was that year a true outlier or is there more for him to show? I mentioned this in the post from last month and the point stands. At $4.9 million for three more years, he isn’t on a cheap cap hit but it’s not money that will completely hamstring you either, especially as the cap goes up. Continue reading

Roadtrip Recap: Columbus and Nationwide Arena

When I penciled in a trip to Columbus to catch the Sabres-Blue Jackets game I had no idea the implications that night would hold.

At the time I decided to add Nationwide Arena as my next NHL road trip, the Sabres were wallowing through a franchise-record losing streak and April 10 looked like a great chance to see the Sabres in a new building in a cool arena district when the weather was nice. I figured any concerns about 30th place would have been locked up and the game would be easy to enjoy.

Obviously that wasn’t the case, as the Sabres put up a strong fight but ultimately succumbed to the Jackets in regulation, locking up a top two pick for June’s draft. That didn’t make Friday’s game less enjoyable, however. While the final period was nerve racking, I loved the arena district, arena and the atmosphere inside Nationwide Arena.

Our trip to Columbus was enjoyable. I took a road trip to Nashville last spring and took in the sights of the city along with a Predators game. I was very impressed by Bridgestone Arena, Preds fans and the overall atmosphere of the building. Nashville, as a city, is loads of fun and I can’t wait to return. Nationwide landed on my list for this season thanks to its proximity and the potential for a warm-weather game in a different locale than Buffalo. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Continue reading

Between the Pipes: Lackluster effort leads to lackluster result against #Lumbus

Things got ugly quick for the Sabres last night. Columbus scored just 1:51 into the contest and managed another early goal in the second period as well on their way to a 4-1 win.

Not pictured: the clothesline Ryan Miller was hung from last night

While the Sabres received a highlight reel tally from Thomas Vanek, there wasn’t much else to take away from the loss that set Buffalo back to 0-4-1 on the season. The Sabres added three more fights in a contest where they were badly outpossessed and outshot (33-27) yet again.

The first three Columbus goals – all scored in the first period – found their way behind Ryan Miller with little resistance offered by the Sabres skaters as Cam Atkinson and Marian Gaborik each tallied little more than tap-ins during the opening stanza.

Atkinson’s tally, a rebound off the crossbar, came with Tyler Myers spectating the play from beside the goal scorer. Nick Foligno scored the team’s second goal with an assist from Myers’ stick and ultimately Mike Weber’s skate before Gaborik deposited a two-on-one in which Weber entered the net before the puck did, effectively eliminating his goaltender from the play.

For the Sabres efforts, they nearly hit the 30-shot plateau but again didn’t offer many tests to their opponent’s netminder. Buffalo’s second line has been all but invisible this season with the vast majority of their chances coming off the sticks of their top line. Vanek and Cody Hodgson – who appears to deserve credit for playing injured – have been Buffalo’s lone offensive threats as the rest of the forwards continue to acclimate to what’s becoming unfamiliar territory (the attacking zone).

Saturday night shouldn’t offer much of a reprieve for the team as the Blackhawks will certainly be expected to steamroll the inferior opponents the Sabres will likely provide. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres roll over in Columbus

Nationwide Arena has never been good to the Buffalo Sabres, that trend continued last night in the form of a 5-1 thrashing at the hand of the NHL’s worst team.

Any number of adjectives could describe the Sabres’ play last night, flat, passionless, horrible, ugly. The list goes on. It was one of those systematic losses that can be attributed to every player from the net out.

The Blue Jackets chased Jhonas Enroth after another shaky outing and Drew MacIntyre saw extended action for the first time as a Sabre. Enroth was facing a firing squad for much of the game, the Sabres were being outshot 23-8 at one point before narrowing the margin to 25-19 by the end of the second period.

There was nothing redeeming at all about this loss. While many have painted a happy picture from the catastrophe that was a blown pair of two-goal leads against Boston, there is nothing good to take away from this loss. Your goaltender was bad, the defensive zone coverage continued to let the goaltender down and there was little life offensively.

  • Zack Kassian recorded his first NHL point, congratulations to him for finding the scoresheet. He was only credited with one hit, but knowing how the NHL real-time scoring works that really could be three or four hits. I didn’t hate his game in his debut, I’ll hold off on further judgement until he has a few more games under his belt.
  • As for T.J. Brennan, there isn’t much you can say to convince me he is twice the hockey player Marc-Andre Gragnani is. Gragnani wouldn’t hit water if you threw him out of a boat, he might as well have just watched Letestu score the first Columbus goal. MAG is useless as a defenseman and even more so on this roster. Brennan, on the other hand, is physical, engaged in the play and effective as a defender and puck mover. Keep him, send Gragnani away.
  • Enroth wasn’t good again last night. He wasn’t good, nor was he horrible against Boston. So much for everyone thinking trading Ryan Miller was a viable option. It seems, as of right now, that Enroth isn’t fully capable of carrying the load, he certainly has lost quite a bit of that consistency that put him in this situation to begin with.
  • Losing Robyn Regehr could be a detrimental blow to this club. The defensive zone is a complete cluster as it is. Losing the only stay-at-home player the team has might just send this team to the skids.

Three Stars

1. Rick Nash

2. Marc Methot

3. Vinny Prospal

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Kassian set to make his debut

It is the debut every Sabres fan has been waiting for. Some have been saying to call Zack Kassian up since he signed his entry level contract and appeared in a handful of games for Portland last year.

Zack Kassian will make his much anticipated NHL debut in Columbus this evening. John Vogl reports the big winger will skate with Luke Adam and Matt Ellis. A wise choice by Ruff to put Kassian with the center he skated with for nearly the entire summer. That will give him some familiarity for this contest.

Kassian will need to play a physical game this evening. His draft position was determined by his physical play and scoring touch. He hasn’t shown much physical edge since breaking into the professional ranks and he needs to find that side of his game if he has any hope of becoming an NHL regular.

Buffalo’s biggest challenge tonight will be to find continuity as they enter yet another game with some sort of change to their lineup. While Kassian is the newest face; Jochen Hecht, Corey Tropp and Matt Ellis will all be shifted from their roles on Wednesday.

Columbus is entering the game with Curtis Sanford and Allen York as their goaltenders for the contest. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering Steve Mason has had seriously terrible season (3.63 GAA & .875 SV%) while Sanford is sporting a 1.33 GAA and a .946 SV%, granted that is in only five games of action.

Buffalo’s previous victory over Columbus came on the shoulders of a brilliant performance by Jhonas Enroth as the Blue Jackets out shot the Sabres 43-26. Buffalo’s special teams were deadly in the last meeting and both units have been impressive throughout the year and will continue to key wins and losses for this team. Especially if they continue to struggle with injuries.

Highlighted Matchup

Buffalo penalty kill. The Sabres power play gave them a 2-0 lead on Wednesday night, T.J. Brennan made it 3-1. However, the penalty kill failed them, allowing a pair of goals (including the tying tally) as the Sabres found a way to lose to the Bruins. The penalty kill is missing plenty of pieces (Kaltea, Myers, Weber) and will need to shore up for this evening.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 12GP 7-2-1, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV%

CBJ: Curtis Sanford 5GP 2-0-2, 1.33 GAA, .946 SV%

Last Game

10/27/2011, First Niagara Center, Sabres 4 – Blue Jackets 2

 

Double Minors: Sabres 4 – Blue Jackets 2

Just call them the Subway Line.

Vanek-Adam-Pominville, call them The Subway Line

Thanks to Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Jason Pominville, plenty of Buffalonians will be eating free subs after home games this season. The people at Subway will be second guessing their decision to say three goals is all the Sabres need to score in order to qualify for the free sandwich.

I understand that the Senators had the Pizza Line a few years ago, but this is not an imitation of the Sens power line. This is a different giveaway and a different set of players.

The Sabres’ power line racked up seven points (2+5) and Pominville earned first star honors for his effort this evening. Brad Boyes and Pat Kaleta also factored in the scoring for the Sabres.

Buffalo nearly gave back another two-goal lead at home before Kaleta’s go-ahead tally late in the third. After a sound first period, the Sabres slept walked through much of the second and third period. Two defensive gaffes by the Sabres resulted in the Columbus goals. This time the Sabres were able to battle back and lock down their first home win.

The first period featured two fights, 30 shots and Buffalo’s first home power play goal of the season. After Pominville’s tally in the second, the Sabres took a break. Vinny Prospal scored on a transition play created by a Christian Ehrhoff turnover and Fedor Tyutin tied the game in the third period.

Kaleta’s winner came at the end of a hard shift for Buffalo’s grind line and Pominville sealed it with a late power play goal.

Jhonas Enroth had another great outing and potentially made a case to get back in the crease sooner than a week from now.

  • The Sabres power play finally got clicking, going 2-for-3 on the night. They didn’t get much help from the zebras, the Sabres were whistled for six minors. Still, Buffalo managed to exploit openings in the Blue Jackets penalty kill in order to score their goals. Boyes’ tally came off a beautiful passing play on the rush, while Pominville’s was equally pretty as Vanek found him from behind the net.
  • Despite having a tough turnover that resulted in a goal, Ehrhoff did some things well tonight. He was shut off at the point, but his volley into the corner helped set up Kaleta’s winner. Ehrhoff seems to be settling in a bit and looks to have developed a comfort zone with his partner, Andrej Sekera.
  • The Sabres didn’t give a full 60 minutes, as some might say. They allowed an inferior team to put 43 shots on goal while taking six penalties. While the Sabres have the luxury of two goaltenders who can bail them out of that situation, the defense needs to be shored up. This is the perfect opportunity to insert Mike Weber into the lineup.
  • Weber could replace Marc-Andre Gragnani without missing a beat. Gragnani seems to be a little anxious when he has the puck on his stick and he has not been sound in his own zone. Simply put, the Sabres have too many offensive defenseman in the lineup. They need a little more responsibility in their top six.
  • Enroth was a bear in net. He had a few awkward moments, but that is going to be commonplace for the youngster. Enroth plays an almost uncomfortable style that can make fans nervous when a shot comes through. He probably didn’t earn a start on Saturday, but he should see time at least once next week.
  • Pat Kaleta scoffed a bit at The Code when he declined a fight with Cody Bass before obliging him shortly thereafter. As it turns out he has a pretty nasty cut and infection on his nose, not something that was noticeable in-arena. However, he made it his mission to run Vinny Prospal through the glass any chance he had in the third period. That is the type of play I want to see more of from Kaleta.
  • Yes, Tyler Myers had a few tough shifts. He definitely doesn’t appear to be at 100% efficiency just yet. Perhaps he has a few offseason habits he needs to kick. Who knows? He had a few tough plays this evening but also made a handful of smart, sound plays as well. It is too easy for Sabres fans to pile on these players after one or two bad plays. Evaluate the player’s entire game or don’t evaluate it at all.
  • Matt Ellis dressed and the Sabres won. You can’t deny that the dude would run through a wall if needed. It will be hard to take him out of the lineup.
  • Brad Boyes has come alive. He had a great game against the Panthers and has started finding the net once again. He is certainly benefitting from playing with the team’s two hottest scorers on the power play. But he is showing quite a bit of life. He is suddenly looking like the guy who went on a tear from the first game he arrived in Buffalo.

Three Stars

1. Jason Pominville

2. Jhonas Enroth

3. Patrick Kaleta

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Blue Jackets

Despite what the current standings say, Buffalo’s match up with the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening will be anything but a sure thing.

Columbus found some offense as they finally won their first game of the season, 4-1 over Detroit. After opening the season 0-7-1, the Blue Jackets rode two special teams goals (one shorthanded, one power play) to the victory.

On top of facing a seriously desperate team, Buffalo will have some significant history against them as well. Prior to their two-game sweep of the Blue Jackets last season, Buffalo had not beaten Columbus since the 2004 season. The Sabres are 4-7-1 all-time against Columbus and lost four of the previous seven games against the Blue Jackets. What is most important is that the Sabres had been winless against Columbus since the lockout.

Aside from cracking the Blue Jackets’ code last season, Buffalo will be facing a team that has had a topsy-turvy start to the season. Columbus beat Detroit, thanks in part to facing a backup goaltender, but have otherwise been very subpar this year. The Sabres not only need to jump to an early lead, tey need to step on the throat when they have their opponent down.

The Sabres are still struggling to find depth scoring behind the line of Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Jason Pominville. Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe got in on the act on Tuesday, which is a promising development. Both have been generating more chances of late, they were due to get a goal.

Every other line for Buffalo has not been able to provide help in the goal scoring department. Partly because all but one line (26-72-29) has been shuffled and flipped through nearly every game. With a bit more time to develop chemistry there should be some progress seen in terms of offensive output.

Highlighted Matchup

Buffalo power play vs. Columbus penalty kill. In their search for secondary scoring, Lindy Ruff shuffled his power play units prior to Tuesday’s game. While the Sabres remain in the top-20 in terms of conversions, they have only four power play goals this season – three of which were scored in Europe. In practice it seemed as if Christian Ehrhoff was being moved up towards the top of the point, rather than down on the circle. This was something I had touched on previously and I’m glad they are going to try and fix the problem. With the league’s worst penalty kill in town it will be imperative for the Sabres to capitalize on the potential mismatch. If the power play fails them again they could have bigger problems than finding the best spot for Ville Leino.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .935 SV%

CBJ: Steve Mason 9GP, 1-7-1, 3.25 GA, .889 SV%

2010-2011 Season Series BUF 2-0-0

12/3/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 5 – Blue Jackets 0

4/9/2011, Nationwide Area, Sabres 5 – Blue Jackets 4