The Instigator Podcast 6.4 – Breaking Down the Sabres Acquisition of Scandella

Jason Botterill made a big move on the blueline today, acquiring Marco Scandella from the Minnesota Wild in a package that included old friend Jason Pominville. Chris and Tyler offer up our thoughts on only dealing Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis to get the deal done and what we think it means for the Sabres plans in free agency and how it affects the outlook for the 2017-18 season.

Revisiting my US Olympic Hockey roster projections

Earlier in the summer I took the time to project who I felt would be donning the red, white and blue for the United States in the 2014 Olympic Games. With a quarter of the NHL season in the books there is a potential for a number of players to have cemented their spots or even opened the eyes of the USA Hockey executive team.

Considering the US doesn’t have the mountain of talent that is touted by the Canadians to pull from, there are more than a few assumed locks for the team. Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel are both enjoying strong starts to the season and will certainly be counted upon to continue their elite scoring ways in Sochi. The story remains the same for many of the forwards I assumed would be making the squad.

What it will likely come down to is who has the strongest resume as the games near. While the orientation camp and preseason rosters were based on career resumes and the assumed growth of players, others have shot out of the gates and bear watching as the season progresses. Due to that, there is likely to be some shuffling amongst the names who already were considered favorites.

Max Pacioretty has only played 15 games and has accounted for nine points (7+2) in that span. His absence from the lineup and the slower start could bump him off the roster as could be the case for James Van Riemsdyk. He has 16 points (9+7) in 22 games and has a natural chemistry with Kessel, but he could also be supplanted by a new face should the executive staff go with who is playing best.

JVR is probably more of a longshot to be left off the roster than to make it at this point and Ryan Callahan’s injury issues to start the year and Dustin Brown’s unimpressive offensive output won’t win them many favorites. However, Brown and Callahan both serve incredibly well in a checking and leadership role, which will likely cement their spot on the roster.

My original roster only accounted for 13 forwards and seven defensemen as I didn’t account for the two extra roster spots made available for this year’s games. Given that my original roster now has two gift openings, there isn’t nearly as much trouble trying to narrow down who should and shouldn’t be packing up for Russia.

The players who have motivated me to revisit my picks include; Jason Pominville (13 goals already), TJ Oshie (21 points) along with a few others who I originally considered little more than darkhorse candidates (Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Fowler).

I truly believe that most of the American roster was decided early on as players like David Backes, Kane, Kessel, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were all but decided the minute the orientation camp roster came out. Others would certainly be favorites but would need a solid first half of the year to cement their spot, this is where I see some opportunity for turnover. Here’s my new roster with new names highlighted in blue: Continue reading

Between the pipes: Pominville strikes in return to Buffalo

Yet another loss befell the Buffalo Sabres last night as they continue to trudge through the opening weeks of the 2013-14 season.

With an 0-6-1 record, the Sabres are firmly entrenched as the league’s worst club at the moment and it doesn’t appear they’ll be climbing out of the cellar anytime soon. The Sabres did, however, make some strides last night in stymying their opponents chances and generally playing quality defensive hockey. Not only did the Sabres manage to keep their opponent under 30 shots, but the Sabres actually led in the shots on goal department when the clock hit zero.

It didn’t matter much as former Sabres captain Jason Pominville registered the game winning goal on a pretty passing play late in the second period, giving the Wild their second lead of the game after Brian Flynn had knotted the score.

The game itself was something of a dud. Buffalo managed to keep the Wild quiet, despite losing the possession battle for long stretches. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s 23 shots weren’t littered with chances, leaving 60 minutes of relatively quiet hockey between the two teams.

Postgame criticism fell more on the organization as opposed to the players themselves as Pominville wasn’t honored or acknowledged during the game and many fans and media members alike felt that he should’ve been given some sort of recognition. As someone who isn’t prone to swoon over lost or departed players, I’m very much on the fence as to if this is a big deal or not. After all, the guy no longer plays for your team and was sent away in an effort to rebuild the roster. However, I think that they probably should have done something for Pominville. Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: 2013 report card

A fired coach, traded captain, booing fans and missing the playoffs typically doesn’t not make for a very successful season. That was certainly the case for the 2013 Buffalo Sabres.

While there were a few bright spots amongst the doom and gloom, the lockout shortened season is certainly one to forget for the Sabres. Before shutting the door completely I wanted to grade out the team and players on how the year played out.

Team

Coaching: It had been rumored that Lindy Ruff’s message had grown stale some time ago. Finally, after a number of listless losses, Ruff was fired after nearly two decades coaching the Sabres. Frankly, it just looked like the team had tuned him out and needed a change. While Ron Rolston arrived and helped to energize the roster, his presence wasn’t enough to lift the Sabres back into playoff contention. Entering the offseason, many are wondering if Rolston will have the “interim” tag removed from his title and command the bench for a full season. Grade: C

Powerplay: It is almost as if the Sabres don’t consider the possibility of an odd-man rush against while on the power play. It also seems likely that trying the same thing over and over again (zone entry) is not the definition of insanity. The power play simply wasn’t good this season and endured a massive dry spell in the thick of Buffalo’s ugliest stretch of losing. They would get an F but they managed to score every now and then. Grade: D+

Penalty Kill: Buffalo decided to run a unique, if not peculiar penalty kill which basically turns into a 1-1-2 in the zone and rotates with the puck. After Ruff’s departure it appeared as if things began to change, but the base of the kill still worked off the 1-1-2 set up seen earlier in the year. I personally didn’t like it as the second forward was rarely in the right position to deny passes across the zone. Grade: C-

Management: A lot was made over the end of the season press conference and other silliness. My focus is on what Darcy Regier did for the hockey team and if he made them better or worse. He traded away two veteran defensemen and his captain and came away with a first round pick, five second round picks, Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett. Overall it was a solid haul for what was given up (Leopold and Regehr) but the pieces acquired really won’t have much impact for at least two more seasons. Add in the firing of Ruff and it was a pretty tough four months for Regier. While he handled himself well I find it hard to see how he still has the reigns for this rebuild. Grade: C Continue reading

Sabres trades net quality return, though full value is still pending

While most of the return that Darcy Regier received at this year’s deadlines came in the form of draft picks, there were still a trio of trades made that will affect the Sabres moving forward.

The lone disappointment of the deadline might just be that more moves didn’t go down. Simply expecting a complete overhaul of the roster is rather unrealistic, but with players like Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller rumored to be on the block many expected today to end with more than just one player (not counting Regehr and Leopold) sent on to a new team.

Grading the moves isn’t appropriate in many ways because these are moves that have set up for the future. Unlike recent deadlines in which players were brought in to bolster the lineup, 2013 was a year in which the opposite was true. There was no Cody Hodgson acquisition to base an opinion off of, which does make things slightly difficult when considering that a majority of what was acquired may not pay off until this summer at the earliest. Continue reading

Regier manuvers for the future with deadline deals

Darcy Regier wouldn’t say it outright in his press conference, but he maneuvered the trade deadline like a general manager leading a rebuild.

Regier’s moves netted the Sabres eleven total picks over the first two rounds of the next three drafts. Eleven picks. That includes two first round and two second round picks this year, a first and three seconds next year and a first and two seconds in 2015. In addition, Regier acquired a pair of prospects in his haul from the Jason Pominville trade.

Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr probably weren’t going to be part of the team’s plans for 2013-14 as the season began to spiral out of control. Regier got the maximum return that he could for each player and pulled the trigger. Given that second round picks are valuable commodities, he did a good job in netting a trio of the picks for his two pending free agents.

While the Pominville trade was somewhat expected, the magnitude of the deal may not have been. Two picks (first in 2013, second in 2014) and two NHL-ready prospects for the former captain is a solid haul and specifically the type of trade that is relatively foreign when you look at the moves typically made by Regier.

While the Sabres haven’t been in full sell mode for some time, Regier has also never had to deal with shipping out such a valuable commodity. The closest you could come would be getting Steve Bernier and a first for Brian Campbell, but even that pales in comparison.

Regier had to go into sell mode, there is no denying the position that he was in. There is a good chance that a majority of Sabres fans want Regier gone and they aren’t off base in that desire. He probably isn’t the man to complete the process of the rebuild but that doesn’t mean he didn’t take the right step forward with the moves he made.  Of course, there is no guarantee that he will survive long enough to take the next step in this process. Continue reading

Sabres have pieces to offer at the deadline

It has been a long time since the Sabres were in a position to sell off a number of assets in the name of rebuilding the roster. As the saying goes “if Gretzky can be traded, anyone can be traded”, and that rings particularly true for the Sabres.

There is truthfully no safe player at any level of the Sabres organization as the team appears to have a serious identity issue. While the Sabres certainly can come at the deadline with more than just a seller’s mentality, there is likely going to be more heading out the door than coming back in.

When I look at the Sabres I see a team with some impressive top-end talent, and abundance of “middle-six” players and impressive depth along the blueline. Buffalo’s greatest strength is in the goal crease and with talented, young forwards. What they lack is a proper identity amongst their four NHL lines as a relative hodgepodge of players has made up the 23-man roster with no discernible identity on any of the lines.

Robyn Regehr is one of the potential trade targets who could be shipped at the deadline.

There are basically three categories that Darcy Regier is going to group his players into by April 3; For Sale; Available; Untouchable. Players that are “For Sale” typically include your rental players and anyone who may have requested a trade. “Available” players are just that, players who aren’t being shopped but are still available for the right price. Lastly, you have the “Untouchable” category which was previously a well-populated list which has likely dwindled to almost nothing. Sure the Sabres have some assets that they’re not likely to part with, but there probably isn’t any more than one or two names who are considered untouchable.The key to remember here is that the Sabres aren’t in need of a proper rebuild in which they attempt to acquire mounds of draft picks. They’re in need of a retooling that will help forge a new identity and reshape specific portions of the roster. This isn’t a long term effort so much as a project that will probably truly begin bearing fruit in two or three seasons. So anyone worth keeping around will need to be capable of being a consistent contributor over the next 3-5 seasons.But who fits where? Continue reading