The Instigator Podcast 7.19 – Evaluating Housley

We’re back after another break to take a look at just what Phil Housley has done well and what he’s done poorly. We run through the questionable lineup decisions he’s been part of and some of the odd on-ice deployment he continues to favor. Along the way we also touch on the women’s game, as they’ve captured quite few headlines in recent weeks between the exploits of Kendall Coyne Schofield at the NHL Skills Competition and setting a new attendance record with the NWHL All Star Game in Nashville.

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Just What Does Botterill Have to Offer in a Trade?

For the first time in a while the Sabres are in a position to buy ahead of the trade deadline. Or, at the very least, use their picks and prospects to add rather than selling bodies to build assets.

Their post-November slide is complicating matters, as they’re doing impressive work to fall out of playoff contention. That slide will likely temper Jason Botterill’s urge to get too aggressive prior to the deadline as a struggling team with picks to spare isn’t won’t get much charity from around the league. Of course, they probably weren’t getting too many cheap offers at the peak of their winning streak either.

We aren’t privy to any conversations Botteril is having during the season, so we’ll never know how active he is during the year. But Botterill hasn’t taken much of a shine to in-season trades in his short term as general manager. And it’s the general manager’s job to assess the market as it fluctuates to determine when to pull the trigger. He’s made five in-season (counting the Deslauriers deal made on the eve of last year’s opener) trades and only one was of any real significance. That being the deal that sent Evander Kane to San Jose and it was no secret that deal was coming.

Botterill’s done most of his work in the offseason, when prices are typically lower and more players are usually available. Even with the Sabres finally back in the conversation, he may still opt to make his big moves in the offseason for those two reasons. That will frustrate a lot of fans as you’d hope Botterill is at least working to keep his team competitive down the stretch.

The other obstacle facing Botterill is what exactly he will be able to offer that other clubs will value when it comes time. Buffalo’s pipeline isn’t packed with talent – one reason that Botterill is likely reticent to deal his firsts. Nor are the players they have in the pipeline obvious talents another team would covet. There is talent to be offered, just not the overabundance you’d want when it comes to a continued retooling.

I compiled a list of players and picks that are either obvious assets for Botterill to use in trade talks, or names that I’ve seen mentioned by fans in various instances. Not all of these are even likely to be moved, but an attempt to compile a somewhat comprehensive list of assets that could be packaged or players who could be moved in order to create new opportunities for others. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.18 – Post All Star Outlook

After honoring the Sabres’ bye week we are back in action with some post All Star fun. We run down Peter Chiarelli’s firing in Edmonton and Toronto’s acquisition of Jake Muzzin. We also use the Muzzin acquisition as a way to reflect on Buffalo’s current status ahead of the trade deadline. In the theme of the last few episodes, we determine the tough decisions Jason Botterill will need to make regarding not only trade targets but the price he wants to pay to upgrade this roster.

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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Exploring who the Sabres can Shop for at Center

The Sabres are in an unusual position heading into this season’s trade deadline. They’re no longer sellers but they’re still a ways off from being a traditional buyer. As the rental market isn’t going to favor Buffalo’s needs in either the short or long-term.

That’s a good thing. The Sabres aren’t a piece or two away from an Eastern Conference championship, nor are they stagnant, sitting on their hands hoping to stockpile more draft picks. At the very least they’re on schedule with the vision that Jason Botterill has set for the franchise. They may even be slightly ahead of schedule. I certainly think the fanbase would say they are in hopes of seeing the team stay ahead of schedule.

Between rumor reporting and media appearances with Botterill it’s pretty clear that the plan of attack is to only use a first round pick if it’s for a young player with term. That will narrow the trade market but also puts the Sabres in a position to hunt for bigger game. Rather than circling the rental market, Botterill has the opportunity to seek out a player who can plug into the Sabres core for longer than a few weeks.

If the next few weeks go well, I wouldn’t be shocked if Botterill sought out a pending UFA in an effort to give the Sabres one last boost for the stretch run (it is worth noting that Jeff Skinner may have been viewed as that guy), I don’t expect him to use a first round pick to do it.

The trade I wish the Sabres had been in on was the one that sent Nick Schmaltz from Chicago to Arizona. He’s exactly the type of player I hope the Sabres can find on the trade market: under 28, 200-foot player with term (team control in this case). It’s worth noting that 22-year old centers on their entry-level contracts don’t exactly grow on trees. But he checks about every box when it comes to who the Sabres should be targeting.

In terms of that particular deal I don’t think the Sabres had the ammo to make the deal that ultimately went down. Even with their extra first round picks, they don’t have a former lottery selection lying around that they could offer up like Arizona did with Dylan Strome.

Even if Schmaltz is no longer attainable, the Sabres won’t be without options when it comes to the trade market. So I decided to run through the other 30 rosters around the NHL to see just who might be worth targeting in a deal. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.17 – They Are Who We Thought They Were

At no point has the Sabres slide been at a lower point than Monday’s loss to the Oilers. In the wake of the drubbing in Edmonton we discuss just what version of the Sabres we were expecting the see and which version we’ve gotten so far. We address the expectations placed on them after the win streak and all the frustrations that have boiled to the surface since. We also offer up some potential solutions for how Jason Botterill can pull the Sabres out of the hole they’re digging.

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 7.14 – Berglund Decision Gives the Sabres the Gift of Cap Space

The fallout from Patrik Berglund’s suspension has resulted in the Sabres moving to terminate his contract. This looks to be a massive coup for the Sabres as they gain cap relief both now and in the future. We discuss just what this decision means for Buffalo’s cap and contract situation, their roster construction and the process involved in making this type of decision. Along the way we also touch on the 2019 World Junior Championship, the Sabres prospects participating and which team we think has the best shot at taking home the gold.

Sabres Blueline Turnaround is Coming into Focus

It was no secret that Jason Botterill was facing a tough road in putting together a well-rounded blueline when he took over the Sabres. Turns out that the unit needed more of an overhaul than reshaping that stretched into this past summer.

Winning the Ramsus Dahlin lottery would make any rebuild a much easier task and a lucky bounce of the lottery balls has helped the Sabres take a major step forward.

Dahlin was really the only true addition the Sabres made to their backs blueline but he’s already meeting expectations, if not exceeding them. His confidence is growing by the day and combined with his vision and skating ability has led to a number of plays along these lines:

GIF via Ben Mathewson @ thescreen.co

There’s a noticeable difference in Buffalo’s breakout and flow when Dahlin is on the ice, something that was lacking at almost every point of the 2017-18 season. Some of his underlying numbers took a hit recently after a few lopsided showings, which tipped him below 50% Corsi, though Dahlin remains a positive influence relative to his teammates. Zach Bogosian’s Corsi jumps ten percentage points when paired with Dahlin as opposed to without him. So he’s not just passing the eye-test, though his current trend is creating at least one eye-popping play per game. Continue reading