The Instigator Podcast 5.16 – Moulson Island and Talking Trade

Jason Botterill made a big statement this week, waiving Matt Moulson and assigning him to Ontario of the AHL. He also made his first in-season trade in an effort to improve a struggling club. Buffalo wasn’t the only hot spot in the hockey world this week as the Devils and Ducks made a big trade and Seattle set the groundwork to land an expansion franchise. We discuss all of that and which deals Botterill could make in order to set the Sabres up for improvement now and in the future.

The Instigator Podcast 5.26 – Veteran Presence

After a brief layoff Chris and Tyler are back in action not 24 hours after Buffalo’s comeback win against the Kings. This week’s podcast covers the impressive debut of Brendan Guhle, the continued struggle of finding the right spot for Josh Gorges and some insight on the veterans on Buffalo’s roster who are outperforming expectations.

Catch The Instigator Podcast here or grab it on your mobile device via iTunes or Google Play.

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The Instigator Podcast 5.21 – Reflecting on the Sabres First Month

With the first month of the season in the books, Chris and Tyler look back on what worked – and what didn’t – for the Sabres in October. We touch on a handful of NHL news subjects including a pair of trade rumors which could interest Tim Murray. Listen here or download to your device using the following links:

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Sabres should improve but still won’t contend in 2014-15

Things are going to be better for the Sabres this year. Mainly because things can’t get much worse than they were last year.

Buffalo finished last in the NHL by a country mile. The Sabres were 14 points back of the 29th place Florida Panthers, the same Florida Panthers who also finished 29th in goals for in 2013-14 (39 goals better than the Sabres).

Tim Murray had quite a reclamation project to work on as he inherited a team that was 14 points and 39 goals south of the second-to-last team in the league last year. If the status-quo were to remain, the Sabres would have quite a hill to climb just to leap frog one team, let alone make a run at the playoffs.

Buffalo’s historically bad season was accomplished with only a month-and-a-half of Thomas Vanek, and interim stay from Matt Moulson and two-thirds of the year with Ryan Miller. Miller’s .923 save percentage was good for a monumental point share during his time here and I’ll be interested to see how Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth perform as a tandem.

Enroth is without doubt the number one goaltender on the roster. To say Neuvirth was shaky during the preseason would be an understatement and he may need a little more time to settle into a groove. Meanwhile, Enroth was tremendous in his preseason appearances and he’ll certainly see the lion’s share of the work early on this year. Will he be able to improve on his .911 save percentage? Will he avoid the lengthy losing streaks that have plagued his young career? The latter is perhaps the most important question here as Enroth’s up-and-down performances have been nothing short of a Jekyll and Hyde of goaltending.

It’s safe to say that there will be a slight decrease in performance in the Buffalo crease. It may not be a regression so steep that it costs the team multiple wins, but it’s safe to assume that the expectations in net will differ from recent years.

Of course, the Sabres roster is vastly improved. The team that will take the ice on Thursday is heads and shoulders better than the one that took the ice in 2013-14. In addition to the departures of Vanek and Miller, Steve Ott, Christian Ehrhoff, John Scott, Henrik Tallinder, Jamie McBain and Matt D’Agostini are all gone. There is some good and bad in that group, but the Sabres are more than improved from top to bottom.

A full season of Moulson and Chris Stewart alone should inject a fair bit of life into the Sabres offense as should the addition of Brian Gionta. With 23, 15 and 11 goals scored by the trio last season, it’s easy to say the Sabres have indeed made up their 40-goal shortfall from last season. Putting Moulson on the wing with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford could potentially give the Sabres a bona fide scoring line, although I’m not expecting anyone in blue and gold to surpass 30 goals this season. Continue reading

Haul from Vanek trade continues to grow

Tim Murray may have inherited a clunker of a roster from Darcy Regier, but the organization still had good bones despite the kamikaze job Regier did on the roster prior to his departure.

One of Regier’s final acts continues to bear fruit for the Sabres as the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders may serve as a major catalyst for Buffalo’s rebuild. Murray brought this full-circle by re-sigining Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick yesterday. By doing so, he brought back a pair of players he sold off as rentals at last year’s deadline and virtually saved any currency he spent in building for the future.

Moulson and McCormick return to Buffalo after being shipped off for a pair of second round picks and Torrey Mitchell at the deadline. Mitchell is still with the club and the two second round picks were turned into Josh Gorges, Eric Cornel and Brycen Martin – the latter two through this year’s draft. Gorges, Cornel and Martin all factor into a bigger picture that still includes Moulson and New York’s first and second round picks in the 2015 draft. It’s an impressive haul that could technically grow more should Cornel or Martin be used in a future transaction. For now, the original trade has become seven assets that are set to directly impact the team in 2014-15 and beyond.

Vanek

Who is the Next Captain of the Sabres?

The Sabres have a bunch of questions that need to at least begin to be addressed this offseason and next season. While everyone focuses on the draft and who is going to put the puck in the net for last year’s worst offensive team, many have forgotten that the Sabres are (once again) without a captain.

There are a couple basic things that I believe the organization should (or should not) do when considering who will be the next person to wear the “C”.

First (and most important) is that the next captain must come from in-house. The cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to naming a player who was just acquired as the captain. The most obvious issue is that it places undue pressure on the new player. No matter the age or experience of a player, when someone is traded to a new team, or signs with a new team as a free agent, they want to make a good first impression. On top of trying to fit in with new teammates and a new system on the ice, the player is faced with trying to acclimate to a new city off the ice. Throw in moving a family and all that comes with it into a new town and the player is juggling all he can handle.

Another concern is that naming a player that is new to the team as a captain is an indictment of the leadership qualities (or lack thereof) of your current roster. By giving the captaincy to a newly acquired player you’re basically telling the 23 guys on your roster, “I don’t think any of you are capable enough or ready enough to assume responsibility for this team.” Given the state of the Sabres’ roster, I’d advise against doing that. Continue reading

Sabres deadline solidifies foundation for rebuild

It may have taken a late flurry, but Tim Murray put his stamp on the organization with a firm, aggressive series of trades around the 2014 trade deadline.

A look at the players that have come and gone since the start of the 13-14 season.
A look at the players and picks that have come and gone since the start of the 13-14 season. I consider a lateral move one that saw the Sabres acquire and flip a player for additional assets.

He got started early by sending Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis on Friday and threw his hat in the ring with one of the earlier trades on Wednesday. Murray shipped Brayden McNabb, two second round picks and Jonathan Parker to Los Angeles for Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers.

Murray’s punctuated his first deadline with two 11th hour deals involving three of this pending UFAs that ensured previous investments would continue to pay dividends. After finding a dance partner to take Matt Moulson (and Cody McCormick), Murray managed to flip Jaroslav Halak for a younger goaltender with term.

It was a productive deadline that provides the framework for the way Murray will shape the roster through the 2014 and 15 drafts. Two drafts that will see the Sabres make four (possibly five) first round selections. Continue reading