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
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
Back for the new year, Chris and Tyler are stuck asking the same questions of the Sabres that were asked in 2016. The Sabres appear to be stuck in neutral with no real signs of getting moving again thanks to injuries, poor special teams and poor coaching. We analyze what options are left at this point in the year and look forward with some hope as not everything is bleak down at Key Bank Center. Catch the new episode here or on your device, links to subscribe to The Instigator Podcast can be found below.
Our Election Night Special features no politics and plenty of Sabres talk. We go deep on what seems to be the biggest shortcomings for the Sabres otherwise consistent penalty kill. Chris and Tyler analyze portions of the system which appear to be weak points with how the Sabres rotate in-zone when on the kill. Also on the list, Jacob Trouba’s new contract and a pair of trade rumors which could benefit the Sabres.
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After the injuries to Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, Sabres fans had a disappointing outlook for the season to come. However, the team rebounded from their disappointing opener with an impressive win against the Oilers. Chris and Tyler discuss how Buffalo’s system let them down in the home opener but helped carry them in their win against Edmonton.
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No team wants or plans to lose their starting goaltender, certainly not on the first day of the regular season. But that was precisely what the Buffalo Sabres had to deal with when Robin Lehner went down just a period and a half into the 2015-16 season.
Chad Johnson stepped into Lehner’s role shortly after the injury but it’s been the play of Linus Ullmark that has spurred the Sabres push from 2-6 to a .500 record. Ullmark is just months removed from double hip surgery and is playing in his first season in North America, making his impressive play something of a surprise.
Ullmark has played inspired hockey, compiling a 4-2 record, 2.45 GAA and .924 SV% through six starts. He was 1-2-0 with a 2.72 GAA and .932 SV% in his brief spell with Rochester prior to being recalled. Ullmark’s play has shown fans and the organization what is coming to them in the near future between the pipes while stirring a debate whether or not he should remain with the team long term once Lehner returns.
We’ll likely see at least two more weeks of Ullmark in a Sabres jersey while Lehner finishes his recovery, so a decision isn’t imminent. Not only does Lehner have a couple more weeks until he’s healthy, but there’s a good chance he’s sent on a conditioning assignment before returning to the Sabres full time. This affords Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma a little more time before making a call on their young netminder. Continue reading