Two in the Mailbox: Rebuilds, Coaches and GMs, Oh My

Congratulations to the Sabres for once again failing to play a meaningful game in March. This season comes with the added bonus of having started in January.

As a result of the current state of the only Buffalo pro sports team competing, this week’s mailbag is a little bleak. We have questions on rebuild potential, prospects and the owners. Continue reading

Boom or Bust: Five Factors for the Sabres Season

After 300 days the Sabres will be back on the ice this week, kicking off the 2020-21 season. Their lengthy layoff was punctuated by the same sort of turmoil that has followed them in recent years as Jason Botterill was given a vote of confidence before being fired shortly thereafter.

A large chunk of hockey staff were handed their walking papers along with the entire Rochester coaching staff. With additional bad press surrounding ownership due to layoffs on the business side of the organization, they landed on Kevyn Adams as their next GM.

Adams’ first offseason was a bit of a roller coaster. The acquisitions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal were big wins but questions linger over the selection of Jack Quinn at eighth overall and the decision to let Dominik Kahun walk. Meanwhile, the jury is out on the Cody Eakin and Tobias Rieder signings. It seems the offseason was a success for Adams with a few expected hiccups.

Now, on the eve of the season, the Sabres face a tough division and yet another uphill battle to ending their playoff drought. While the East Division may not be as tough as initially thought, the Sabres are hardly a shoo-in for the postseason. But the NHL has produced its fair share of darkhorse playoff qualifiers and with just a few sly moves (and a bit of luck) the Sabres might find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2011. So what are the boom or bust factors for the Sabres in 2020-21? Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 9.39 – Offseason Update with Joe Yerdon

Joe Yerdon joins the show yet again as we discuss the Sabres work at the draft and free agency. We touch on how Taylor Hall will impact the roster and whether or not his acquisition gives the Sabres enough fire power to take the next step. Jack Quinn is on the table as well as we run through the draft and the tepid reaction to Quinn’s selection.

Sabres Have Options for Upgrades in Rich Goalie Market

Of the may hiccups which have delayed and stalled Buffalo’s rebuild, uncertainty in the goal crease has been almost a near constant. It hasn’t necessarily been at the forefront of the struggles which have beset the Sabres as they try to climb back into playoff contention, but it has been an almost ever-present specter.

It would appear that Kevyn Adams has a goaltender on his offseason shopping list, though the path to improving Buffalo’s prospects in net isn’t linear.

Linus Ullmark has transitioned from a prospect to an NHL caliber goaltender since being drafted in 2012. He has been fairly steady for the Sabres over the last two seasons but it would be a stretch to say he truly fits the mold of a starting goaltender in the NHL. He isn’t likely Buffalo’s long term answer in goal but he’s still poised to take the lion’s share of Buffalo’s starts after playing 50% of the team’s games this past year.

Who he shares the crease with is up for debate as Carter Hutton is positioned to remain in Buffalo for the final year of his contract, but his results have been shaky enough to raise questions about how the Sabres can improve the position. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 9.38 – Draft Round Table Featuring Expected Buffalo

We teamed up with the boys from Expected Buffalo to run through a host of draft-related topics. We discuss our favorite targets, including the likes of Anton Lundell and Marco Rossi and the likelihood that either of those players will be available when the Sabres pick at eight. Additional topics of discussion include our view on how the top of the draft will shake out and which x-factor picks may come up. We close with some bold predictions on both the draft and the rest of Buffalo’s offseason.

The Instigator Podcast 9.37 – Staal Trade and What’s Next for the Sabres

The Eric Staal deal came down about 24 hours after we finished recording our previous episode. So we play a little catchup this week in breaking down the first trade of Kevyn Adams’ tenure. We also touch on the moves being made by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the difficult situation in Arizona and even the hiring of Mike Weber and Adam Mair in Rochester.

Staal Acquisition a Good One Despite Old Wounds

The 20 minutes between Jochen Hecht’s go-ahead goal and puck drop for the third period were sublime. The 20 minutes that followed were a nightmare of delay of game penalties and Rory Fitzpatrick’s skates.

The heartbreaking end to an exhilarating Conference Final run hasn’t been forgotten by Sabres fans in the 14 years that have followed. It’s still a fresh wound despite the time that has passed and, for fans of a certain age, salt was poured back in on Wednesday evening when the Sabres traded Marcus Johansson to the Minnesota Wild for Eric Staal. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 8.36 – Balancing the Sabres Internal Budget

TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported that the Sabres are expecting to operate with an internal budget which could drop as low as $70 million. We spend time talking about whether or not the Sabres could effectively operate at that figure (they can’t) and what steps they can take to come close to achieving a tighter budget when it comes to spending on the team. We also touch on the hiring of Peter Laviolette and Bill Zito, the new contract for Jonas Brodin and the Nick Bjugstad trade.

The Instigator Podcast 8.29 – Who Should the Sabres Pick at 8?

The NHL Draft Lottery yielded a surprising yet utterly predictable result for the first overall pick. On this week’s episode we discuss the fallout from a placeholder team winning the top pick and Buffalo’s outlook at eighth overall. We also touch on Rick Dudley surfacing as a potential hire for Kevyn Adams’ front office and a new wrinkle in an interesting summer for the Pegulas.

 

The Instigator Podcast 8.27 – The Fallout of Jason Botterill’s Firing

It isn’t controversial to say Jason Botterill’s job should have been in jeopardy given the Sabres results during his tenure. But just weeks after giving him a vote of confidence, the Pegulas abruptly fired him and replaced him with Kevyn Adams, a decision that left many scratching their heads. What followed was an unprecedented house cleaning that saw scouts, development coaches and Rochester’s staff let go. We discuss all of this and look ahead at Adams’ difficult task on this week’s podcast.