The Instigator Podcast 6.12 – Do the Sabres Have a Leadership Issue? Does it Matter?

There have been some whispers that the Sabres may be lacking in the leadership department. Or at the very least, aren’t made of the type of players who don’t carry themselves – on and off the ice – the way players in winning organizations do. We break down whether or not that might be a plausible explanation for the Sabres struggles or if there are other factors at hand.

We also take a close look at the Matt Duchene trade and how the first big blockbuster of the season will affect the teams involved.

One night in Smashville

I was lucky enough to make a trip to Nashville this past weekend to not only take in the city but also attend a Nashville Predators game. I came away from the trip with a great appreciation for Nashville and a new perspective on how things are done differently in arenas not named First Niagara Center.

As someone who has a general concern for the atmosphere at Sabres games I wasn’t expecting to come away with so many different opinions on the stark differences between what the Sabres and Preds do. But that’s exactly what happened after taking in Sunday’s game between the Preds and the Caps. Continue reading

Sabres have trade chips on the wings

It’s a time of turnover in Hockey Purgatory Heaven with Lindy Ruff getting his walking papers while Jordan Leopold, Jason Pominville and Robyn Regehr each were shipped out of town before the deadline. It appears as if this summer will bring about more change via the trade market for the Sabres as they continue their rebuild.

One key for the Sabres will be finding partners as they search for options to swap out certain players. There have been specific mentions of the need to find more offense from media members in Vancouver, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Nashville. These came from either interviews or game broadcasts on the NHL Network station on XM Radio. Obviously these aren’t confirmed rumors, but the need for more established offensive weapons on certain teams isn’t a difficult conclusion to draw.

Vancouver’s second-straight first round exit have some asking if they need offensive help.

Vancouver’s sweep at the hands of the Sharks has many asking if Alain Vigneault will be back for the 2013-14 season after his team again struggled to score in a first round series defeat. The Canucks aren’t short on elite talent. The Sedins’ production has begun to tail off lately but I’d say their struggles to find talent beyond their top line has been a major issue for them. Identifying more scoring help would immediately improve the overall depth of their forward ranks.

A similar situation has been illustrated with the Kings despite the acquisition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last season. The Kings top six is very impressive, yet they were tied to a number of scoring forwards during the year. While the roster is deep, they continue to win close, low-scoring games on the strength of their goaltender and defense. While I don’t see where they would place a top-six forward, I can certainly understand the connection drawn to improve their offensive potency.

The Blues and the Predators immediately spring to mind for me when I think of offensively challenged Western Conference teams. However, the Blues roster would indicate anything but that. Oshie, Schwartz, Berglund, Tarasenko. This list goes on for a while and forms a youthful, talented core which has the potential to be lethal. The Blues just happen to play a measured, defensive style and don’t allow too many shots. Perhaps they need a certain $6m goaltender. But probably not.

The Preds are actually a curious case. They have two big money players (Rinne and Weber) and made moves at the 2012 deadline to find more offense. However the second Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov didn’t do the trick and now they have retooled a bit with the acquisition of Filip Forsberg. Finding another piece to add to their top six would be extremely helpful towards finding more offense for the Preds; especially after missing the playoffs.

There is a market out west for scoring forwards, there is no denying it. Perhaps the e4s and #CONFIRMEDD tweets and blog posts aren’t flying yet, but media members are looking at the teams they cover and are saying they’re in need of offense. Continue reading

Flyers gain flexibility with Predators decision

The Predators took a necessary and expected step today by matching the massive 14-year offer sheet that Shea Weber signed with the Flyers.

This guarantees that Weber will be in Nashville for the foreseeable future. Nashville cannot trade Weber for this year, but it is plausible to think that they could work out a deal with Philly next season if they absolutely need to be out from under that contract. But with most chatter centering around a NTC/NMC for Weber, that seems quite unlikely. Matching the offer sheet also guarantees that the Flyers do not end up with Weber. From the perspective of those who hate the Flyers, this could be both a blessing and a curse.

While Philly will no longer have the services of Weber for the next decade-and-a-half but now have well over $7.8M in cap space to play with. That means they can go whole hog after Shane Doan and Bobby Ryan. Now that the Weber situation has been resolved, Rick Nash has found a new home and with the Parise and Suter sweepstakes long resolved, everyone’s attention will be turned to Doan and Ryan.

Since the Flyers have the financial freedom to explore every option available, they’ll surely big a major player for each of the right wingers. Ask yourself this. Would it be worse to see Shea Weber in Philly for 14 years or see them acquire Doan or Ryan as a result of missing out on Weber?

For me, the answer is Weber. All day, every day. Facing Weber on a regular basis would be far more nightmare inducing than the thought of Doan for three or four years or even Ryan. Weber is plain old nasty to play against – just ask Henrik Zetterberg – and seeing him on a regular basis in the East would be nightmarish. Obviously Doan and Ryan make the Flyers that much better, but not on the level that Weber would have. Plus, the Flyers are simply a potential destination at this point. There isn’t the near certainty that the Weber offer sheet entailed. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres grind one out in Nashville

The story from last night is focused on the Jordin Tootoo hit on Ryan Miller. What may be lost is the fact that Buffalo managed to get back into the win column on the legs of a great goaltending performance and a three goal night, despite being badly outshot.

The Tootoo incident is tough to diagnose. The original camera angle looks like a hockey play, it is the reverse angle that shows there may have been a little more intent on Tootoo’s part to collide with Miller. Obviously the argument over his reputation will be a big topic regarding the play, but there seems to be two key ingredients that will likely result in a suspension. It is tough to say if Tootoo could have found his way behind the net, but that will certainly be an issue. Tootoo jumped into the hit and made some effort to avoid Miller but his effort also helped carry him further into the goaltender. Based on the precedent set from the Lucic hit, Tootoo will get a pair of games. If this was a solitary incident, he may escape justice.

Regardless of that play, the Sabres played a neat game that was worthy of two points. Miller was certainly the difference for the Sabres – they were outshot 34-14 – but the line of Luke Adam, Ville Leino and Zack Kassian came to play too.

Based on the recent track record of this team, two points is a step in the right direction. The next step will be to carry the play on their way to a sound victory.

  • Zack Kassian will need to go back to the AHL at some point. He clearly has the chops to play at the NHL level, he just needs to refine a few portions of his game (defensive zone, skating). Kassian’s goal is one that Sabres fans will see a lot more of. At one time Kassian was a pretty prime piece for a major trade, now he might be an “untouchable prospect.”
  • Joe Finley was only so-so in his NHL debut. Considering he is finally turning a corner in his development, he may still have a few more steps to take. He wasn’t horrible in these two games, which was certainly a possibility.
  • Ville Leino notched his first multi-point game in Buffalo. That is a good step for a guy who looks to be struggling to adopt “the system”. He is working well with Kassian and Adam – he has worked well with a few lines this season, but they haven’t been kept together. Depending on the length of Boyes’ injury, this line could stay together for quite a while. That is promising for all three players, not just Leino.
  • Miller had a good game. His highway robbery in the third period was great to see. That is one of those saves that make people put him in the top ten among the NHL’s goaltenders each season. His big test will come Wednesday against Philly. He had a rough outing last time and will certainly need to right the ship on home ice.
  • Christian Ehrhoff is in straight up beast mode. He is playing major minutes in major situations and is playing well. He also just about ripped off Patric Horqvist’s head after he hit  Miller twice in the third. Major props.
  • Only other thought regarding Miller and Tootoo is that the cards fell in an awfully coincidental manner. Tootoo, Miller in his first game back, first game since gettin bowled over by Lucic. Tootoo may have tried to avoid Miller, but given the circumstances it seems fishy.

Three Stars

1. Luke Adam

2. Ryan Miller

3. David Legwand

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres searching for answers in Smashville

Everyone is starting to run out of answers regarding the Sabres’ play as of late. The line combos aren’t working, play in goal has been average and injuries are mounting. Buffalo is 1-4-1 in their last six and have shown little in recent games.

A trip to Nashville probably isn’t the best medicine for a struggling club. The Preds are sitting in 11th out West, but play a stifling style that isn’t going to be conducive for solving the Sabres’ scoring woes. On the bright side, the Sabres play much better hockey on the road. So they’re got that going for them. Which is nice.

Ryan Miller is expected to make his return to the crease tonight. It will be his first action since being concussed/whiplashed in a collision with Milan Lucic on November 12. It should be noted that Miller’s play appeared to be taking an uptick based on his final two periods against Winnipeg and his first period play in Boston. Hopefully whatever he was battling has been expelled from his game and he will return to the form we saw over the first three weeks of the season.

Of note, the Predators Tweeted that Buffalo native Chris Mueller will make his season debut tonight. Cue the Bucky column on the Buffalo boy now. I’ll toss in and extra five bucks if he manages to hit on Tim Kennedy’s whereabouts in tomorrow’s piece too.

The Sabres have been bad from top to bottom as of late, so there isn’t one thing one could point to as a key for tonight. Obviously controlling the play and hitting the net would be a wonderful place to start given Buffalo’s recent scoring woes. Getting Thomas Vanek back on track would be helpful too, perhaps removing the king of bad angle shots from his line would be a good starting block there.

Highlighted Matchup

Ryan Miller. While it is inconclusive if Miller is getting the nod tonight, his play could end up being crucial for the Sabres’ success. Jhonas Enroth has been admirable in relief for Miller, while he has had some shaky outings over the last week, quite often Enroth has not gotten the necessary goal support to win. If Miller keeps the Preds to two or less he will have done all he needs to allow his team to get a victory.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 11GP 5-6-1, 2.86 GAA, .909 SV%

NSH: Pekka Rinne 23GP 10-8-4, 2.57 GAA, .921 SV%

Last Game

3/20/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 3 – Predators 4 OT

*stats to come later*

2ITB NHL preview: The West

Since it is a yearly occurrence for the West to have 13 teams in the playoff race and two team at least 20 points out of eighth, I struggled to find a good balance of picks this season. I made a bold choice with the Kings last year. While I don’t have them coming out of the West, I have made a similarly bold statement

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