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.

Thoughts on changing the NHL Draft Lottery

As the talent at the top of the NHL Draft continues to rise each year the topic of tanking to ensure higher odds at the first overall pick is becoming a hot topic. While the current system is designed to give the 30th place finisher the best opportunity to pick first, there is a better chance that team picks second given the odds.

With next year’s draft featuring a pair of generational talents at the top of the prospect pool, rumors and chatter have abounded regarding change to the lottery system in hopes of curbing the practice of tanking.

There doesn’t seem to be a good system that is strictly based off the order of finish in the standings. The system floated by Elliotte Friedman a few weeks back included a few nuances that wouldn’t only decrease the 30th place finisher’s chances but take into account a number of seasons as opposed to the one that had just passed.

However, it’s a fairly nuanced system that points towards even more complicated and convoluted systems for determining the first overall pick while preventing teams from taking nosedives to the bottom of the standings.

One idea I’m particularly fond of is a version of something similar I heard on NHL Network Radio a while back. If I’m not mistaken the original thought came from Mike Brophy, so direct the appropriate praise to him for the genesis of this idea.

The plan would be to still reward the worst teams with the highest picks in each year’s draft. You can’t have parity and turnover within the league unless you follow such a pattern. It also ensures that bad teams will improve – or should improve if you’re the Oilers – by picking high. In a league driven by revenues, perennial basement dwellers will eventually see lots of red ink if they can’t bring in players to overhaul their roster.

My plan would include the league’s five worst teams – although this could be expanded if necessary – in a competition to determine who wins the first overall pick. I stress the term win because this would be a standings-based competition that would be evaluated on each team’s performance after a certain point in the year. This way you can’t simply hit the brakes on your year, sell off your assets and wait to see what the lottery balls do for you once the season wraps. Meanwhile, if you finish 30th you’re still assured to draft high enough to get some help. Continue reading

Double Minors: 2012 starts with the right foot forward

Yesterday’s victory over Edmonton wasn’t exactly the most riveting but it was certainly necessary. The Sabres got decent goaltending from Ryan Miller, scored four goals and gutted out their first win of 2012.

Miller was credited with 23 saves on the night, a few of them were solid saves that needed to be made. However, he gave up three goals yet again. Certainly Taylor Hall’s first tally should have been stopped. He could certainly get a pass on the other two.Nikolai Khabibulin gave up a real softie after the first Edmonton goal, so Miller is all but absolved in that situation.

The Sabres have another shot at their first win streak since November on Friday night in Raleigh.

Considering how the season has gone, that may have been the closest to a complete effort the Sabres have put forth in quite some time. Maybe even all season. Buffalo managed to overcome an early deficit – and horrible play – to tie the game. They faced down another challenge after relinquishing their lead and managed to build a cushion late in the third. While it was no better than a 40-minute effort, the Sabres pieced together a respectable win. The key will now be to build on it.

  • Jhonas Enroth would be a good choice to start on Friday. He has all but owned the Hurricanes in his short time in the NHL and Miller would likely fare better against the Jets. Yes, the same team that pumped him for five goals earlier in the season.
  • Zack Kassian will likely be packing his bags for Rochester in the coming days. With Ville Leino inching closer to a return and Tyler Ennis also coming close, Kassian will certainly be shipped back to the AHL. It is obvious Kassian needs a little more prodding to play his game on a consistent basis. It would be ideal to get a veteran next to him in the room to provide the guidance that will be necessary for him to truly blossom. Look at the effect Mike Grier had on Thomas Vanek. Now equate the same results to Kassian.
  • The Sabres are still in need of help on the blueline. Obviously injuries to three of their top five rear guards hurts matters. Still, with all of the offensive talent on defense in Buffalo and Rochester, it wouldn’t kill the Sabres to bring in a little more grit in the form of a stay-at-home type defender.
  • Bucky Gleason pointed to the potential for some trades in the near future. From the out of left field department: would Tyler Ennis fetch a quality return on the trade market? He is a dynamic winger with a lethal scoring touch. If a team out West was interested, would it be worth including him in a package? Remember, you need to send skill to receive skill.
  • Anyone still harping about Christian Ehrhoff being a waste can probably stop now. Despite lacking flashy goal stats, Ehrhoff clearly had a strong influence on the power play. Without Myers and Ehrhoff, that unit looks quite lost.
  • Yet again Jordan Leopold proves how valuable he is to this team. He may be one of the best signings Darcy Regier has made in a long time. To think, he was brought in when the team was still budget conscious.

Three Stars

1. Drew Stafford

2. Nathan Gerbe

3. Brayden McNabb

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres open 2012 against Oilers

Thinking back to January and February of 2011 would likely bring joy to most Sabres fans. January involved the coming of the World Junior Championship, the thick of the Pegula-mania rumors/reports and the beginning of Buffalo’s turnaround.

February was even better. The Sabres were in the thick of a magnificent run that carried them to the playoffs, Pegula’s ownership was formally announced and it seemed as if the sky was the limit. The month culminated with a trade deadline acquisition that would have been foreign in years past. Brad Boyes was the cherry on top of two glorious months, his contributions fueled Buffalo’s surge, despite the fact that he tailed off since the end of last season.

Now the Sabres are faced with a similar predicament. Buffalo currently sits five points out of fifth in the East (with one game in hand) and have suffered a terrible run of poor hockey and injuries. Their first chance to crawl from their grave comes this evening against a young, talented Edmonton squad.

The Oilers have slid deep into the bottom of the Western Conference themselves, but they posses the lethal ability to strike at any moment. Something this Sabres team seems to lack. The Edmonton roster makes Buffalo’s look geriatric by comparison. Their scoring lines also pack a bit more punch than do the Sabres’ (particularly past the top line).

For Buffalo, establishing a three-period effort will be vital. Asking any team, particularly the Sabres, to play 60 minutes is somewhat unrealistic. But putting forth a quality three-period game, with only a few minor lulls, would certainly register two points for the Sabres.

Highlighted Matchup

It is time to stop pulling punches in net. Neither Buffalo goaltender has done much of anything lately. Ryan Miller, despite showing some signs of strong play, can’t keep less than three goals from getting behind him. Jhonas Enroth played a fine game on Saturday and gave his team a chance to win. Sadly, he folded in the shootout. Nevertheless. Enroth clearly is the better of the two goalies at this time. Ruff should ride him for a handful of games to see what he gets from the rookie. The points are too valuable to waste juggling struggling goaltenders.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 19GP 8-7-2, 2.49 GAA, .921 SV%

EDM: Nikolai Khabibulin 24GP 11-10-3, 2.225 GAA, .924 SV%

Last Game

12/28/2010, Rexall Place, Sabres 4 – Oilers 2

2ITB NHL preview: The West

Since it is a yearly occurrence for the West to have 13 teams in the playoff race and two team at least 20 points out of eighth, I struggled to find a good balance of picks this season. I made a bold choice with the Kings last year. While I don’t have them coming out of the West, I have made a similarly bold statement

Continue reading

Unwinding a crazy weekend

Suffice it to say this was the wrong draft weekend to head out to Boston to catch the Dispatch reunion show. I’m not mad at my decision, Boston is a great city and the show was absolutely killer. However, there were some major stirrings in the hockey world – both in and outside of Buffalo.

As the Robyn Regehr trade gets pounded into oblivion by the sports media, I want to offer my take on the other major transactions from draft weekend. My opinion, and many others have been cast regarding the Sabres trade. No need to rehash it.

One set of moves that outweighed anything else were the ones made by Philadelphia. By shipping Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to Columbus and Los Angeles, respectively, the Flyers really put a stamp on their goal for 2011-12. They needed cap space to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a major deal (that they did) and they found it with two major cogs. Continue reading

Looking back at my conference predictions

A prognosticator I am not. My mock NFL Draft senior year was about 15% correct. When I went about predicting the NHL’s playoff picture back in October, I didn’t have high hopes. Let us see how 2ITB did:

East

Prediction – 1. WAS, 2. PIT, 3. BOS, 4. NJD, 5. BUF, 6. OTT, 7. MTL, 8. PHI, 9. NYR, 10. CAR, 11. TOR, 12. TBL, 13. NYI, 14. ATL, 15. FLA

Actual – 1. WAS, 2. PHI, 3. BOS, 4. PIT, 5. TBL, 6. MTL, 7. BUF, 8. NYR, 9. CAR, 10. TOR, 11. NJD, 12. ATL, 13. OTT, 14. NYI, 15. FLA

So I was a bit off in the middle. Not too many people would have bet on that epic collapse by New Jersey and I, admittedly put far too much stock in Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire. Philadelphia overachieved (according to my original calculation) and I vastly underestimated Tampa Bay.

Washington was a pretty easy choice to make, as was keeping Atlanta, Florida and the Islanders at the bottom. Otherwise it was a hodgepodge of close calls and near misses.

West

Prediction – 1. LA, 2. VAN, 3. CHI, 4. SJ, 5. DET, 6. NSH, 7. ANA, 8. CGY, 9. COL, 10. PHX, 11. STL, 12. DAL, 13. MIN, 14. CBJ, 15. EDM

Actual – 1. VAN, 2. SJ, 3. DET, 4. ANA, 5. NSH, 6. PHX, 7. LA, 8. CHI, 9. DAL, 10. CGY, 11. STL, 12. MIN, 13. CBJ, 14. COL, 15. EDM

Since the West is such a crap shoot it would have been pretty hard to predict either way. I gave LA too much credit and it turns out the Hawks didn’t have close to enough depth to compete at the level they did last year.

My biggest oversight was with Colorado at nine, turns out they really stink. The Western playoff picture is extremely interesting this season, with the amount of parity out there it isn’t a stretch to say that any team can advance and any team could have finished two to four places higher.