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.

Injuries present unique situation for Zadorov, Larsson

Something interesting happened to the Sabres in the past week. A run of injuries suffered at the tail end of the preseason created some unique roster opportunities for a handful of Sabres prospects.

Obviously the last thing any team wants is to suffer injuries. Particularly injuries to players who have been touted as key pieces to the future success of the franchise. Yet, the injuries to Joel Armia, Marcus Foligno and Nikita Zadorov aren’t going to cause the Sabres as much stress as you may originally believe.

All three players are bound to be shifted to injured reserve in order for the Sabres to meet the NHL’s roster requirements this afternoon. While it will prevent them from getting immediate ice time, they’ll have the opportunity to stay in Buffalo while they recover. Specifically for Armia and Zadorov it means spending more time with the team, working out here and just absorbing more time with the big club as they heal up. Particularly for Zadorov, that is a great benefit.

Zadorov’s injury should provide him some additional time in Buffalo before heading back to London.

Considering it appeared as if Zadorov was destined to be returned to London, he will now get approximately two more weeks to spend with the Sabres strength and conditioning staff and I’d gather he’ll probably have the chance to get on the ice a few times as well. While it wasn’t a guarantee, I do believe that the Sabres wanted to give Zadorov a nine-game tryout prior to his injury. Assuming that was indeed the case, his nine-game cameo might just come after he’s fully recovered. Comparing the two timelines is easy enough; two weeks plus nine games > nine games. 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

Amerks (Sabres) Season Preview: Forward thinking

Looking around the hockey world, there are plenty of players getting bumped off rosters due to the influx of skaters and goaltenders previously slated for the NHL. The effect will be felt across Europe and particularly at the AHL level.

While individual AHL teams will benefit from skaters on entry-level deals making their way down to the developmental league, the players who would have typically battled for one of the final roster spots are likely destined for other locations.

Rochester serves as a perfect example of this as a few tryout players and summer free agent signings have suddenly found themselves on a roster with a lot more talent than originally expected.

Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson were each expected to be in Buffalo to start the season with Luke Adam, Kevin Porter, Nick Tarnasky and Corey Tropp were all expected to at least push for a roster spot with the big club. Now, those six join 14 other forwards who now face a much more daunting task in making the AHL club.

Those who are most affected by the infusion of talent are; Riley Boychuk, Maxime Legault, Jonathan Parker, Frederick Roy and Jamie Wise. Boychuk and Parker each saw time in the ECHL last year, while Legault has stuck with the organization on AHL contracts over the past few years. Roy and Wise each made a positive impression at development camp, but are behind far more skaters than they would have been after their camp performances earlier in the summer. Continue reading

Talent will be on display at Sabres Development Camp

With Development Camp set to open on Monday morning, the Sabres will be rolling out a few firsts with this year’s version of the evaluation camp.

The first, and biggest change is that First Niagara Center will be home base for the week. The camp was previously held at Dwyer Arena at Niagara University. The twin rink facility there lent itself well to getting the entire camp roster on the ice. However, hosting at FNC will allow for greater fan access, thus leading to greater exposure. Bravo to the Sabres for leveraging this situation into something that benefits them and the fans.

Thursday’s Blue and Gold Scrimmage is bound to draw a large crowd, I’m expecting the lower bowl to be fully occupied by fans wanting to see players like Joel Armia, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons and others. Armia, Grigorenko and Girgensons represent the other set of firsts which will be rolled out next week. In addition to the three young forwards, Cody Hodgson and Mark Pysyk will be the other first round picks in attendance for the camp. Providing fans a close look at so many first round talents will not only provide a great look at the future, it will help to generate significant buzz amongst the fan base.

It will be particularly important for some of the invitees to set a good example with these practices. Grigorenko has already been rumored to be working on a deal, while Girgensons can play in the AHL next season should he sign his ELC. Marcus Foligno Hodgson, Luke Adam, Corey Tropp and Brayden McNabb will be hoping to further convince the staff to keep them around next year; while players just into their ELCs (Armia, Pysyk, Kevin Sundher, JGL, Dan Catenacci) will be looking to make a solid first impression.   Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: The new core

The next group of player grades for the Sabres is comprised of young talent and new faces. This group either arrived in Buffalo this season, or are part of the burgeoning youth movement on the depth chart.

Tyler Ennis – A-

This might seem like a high grade to some, it may even look like a low grade for some. I say it is adequate with the understanding that Ennis still has room to grow, especially as a center. The ankle injury that sidelined him for 34 games was a devastating blow to his progress and the Sabres in general.

While he was sniffing at a point per game pace, it was basically just in the second half. That bodes quite well for a player that is looking like he could be a major weapon for the Sabres in the coming seasons. I still think Ennis needs to add a little size, but he certainly doesn’t need to change anything on the offensive side of his game.

Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson should prove to be the centers of the future in Buffalo

Cody Hodgson- C+

I like Hodgson’s game. His numbers weren’t ideal, but he showed some traits that should make him a dangerous piece of the puzzle moving forward. His brief time here was highlighted by a few nice goals and assists, obviously putting him with scorers will be a necessity. Depending on what kind of summer he has could mean that he comes to camp has the incumbent number two center (behind Ennis) with the chance to be a key contributor for next year.

Continue reading

Buffalo Sabres season preview: Black Aces

This is part five of a series previewing the Buffalo Sabres 2011-12 season. This edition will focus on the wingers and centers expected to play in Rochester. Here are links for parts one through four: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Zack Kassian is on the fence between Buffalo and Rochester at this point.

It is fairly easy to write out a rough depth chart based on the abundance of talent the Sabres have at wing. It has a trickle-down effect to the AHL level based on the players who are assumed to make the NHL roster, and those who will be riding the bus in Rochester.

The centers are being roped into this equation simple because there is very little organizational depth at the center position.

Aside from Zack Kassian and Ales Kotalik, the rest of the wingers in the Buffalo Sabres system are penciled in to begin the year playing for the Americans. Even Kotalik is likely to be sent down due to salary constraints. Since Kassian has seen little time at the AHL level, let alone against NHL talent, some seasoning in the minors will do him well. I fully expect to see him playing in every situation for Rochester as he is likely the top candidate to snag the AHL Rookie of the Year award for the Sabres organization. Continue reading