The Instigator Podcast 8.33 – Royally Fun First Round

We’re playing catch up on this week’s episode after missing last week’s batch of news. So we run down the Sabres return to royal blue and the unveiling of their new uniforms. We touch on the Rangers lottery win, the qualifying round and the Amerks’ hiring of Seth Appert. The bulk of the episode is devoted to the first round of the NHL playoffs and how each of the series has shaped up.

Ranking the Potential NHL Lottery Winners

The NHL’s second draft lottery drops tonight with the eight eliminated Stanley Cup Qualifier teams holding equal 12.5% odds to land the first overall selection.

Maybe it was just me, but the minute the league announced that they’d be using placeholder spots for teams in the qualifying round, I knew one would wind up winning a top three pick. That feeling of inevitability wasn’t due to suspicion of foul play or some sort of fixed lottery but simply from knowing this league has perfected over complicating practically everything.

In and of itself, awarding lottery odds to eliminated teams wasn’t a poor choice. Given the gift on hindsight, the league probably would’ve been smarter to do a single drawing with the original odds once the qualifying round was done. Splitting the lottery was an odd choice which really only opened the door for complaints from fanbases (and probably some GMs) around the league. It will only become more unpopular if one of the stronger teams in tonight’s drawing wins the first pick.

The drawing itself if rife with potential controversy. You can expect a wave of negative reactions if Toronto, Pittsburgh or Edmonton win this evening. Even the Rangers, fresh off picking second last year after some lottery luck, would be a fairly unpopular result. There are also some very obvious Sabres-related pitfalls that could come out of tonight. A Leafs win would be, let’s say, inconvenient. As would a Panthers win. Really any Eastern Conference win would create challenges for the Sabres. With that in mind, let’s rank the potential lottery winners based on how it could affect the Sabres and though the additional lens of my personal preferences. Continue reading

Over-Thought: Playing Catch Up Once Again

The intent of The OT is to run shortly after Elliotte Friedman’s excellent 31 Thoughts hits the web each week. That is not what happened with the most recent edition. Or the last one. So, once again this rundown of some of the juicier topics in the most recent 31 Thoughts is about a week late. Good stuff! Continue reading

Over-Thought: Rumor Season is About to Hit Full Throttle

Doing a breakdown of Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts is hardly an original venture but it was something I did every now and then for Dave Davis and The Buffalo Star. In an attempt to get some more content on the site I thought I’d resurrect this feature here at 2ITB for your reading enjoyment.

A primer, for those who may not be familiar with the practice: I’ll take a handful of topics from the most recent 31 Thoughts published by Sportsnet and offer up a few additional thoughts and opinions on the news of the week. The original text will be bold.

If you haven’t read this week’s edition yet, you can find it here.

  1. On Burakovsky: The Capitals have asked for a couple of mid-to-high round draft picks in exchange (seconds and thirds would be a good get) for him. That would give them more flexibility and assets to chase what they need. Even with a seven-game losing streak, absolutely no one is writing them off.

The Sabres haven’t been directly connected to Burakovsky yet but he’s better than at least five of Buffalo’s current wingers. If they plugged him into a top-six role, there’s reason to believe he’d surpass the production he’s had the last three years in Washington. He’d certainly be more effective than he’s been in Washington this year considering he’s struggled to crack the Capitals’ lineup.

That he’s been unable to cement a regular spot is disconcerting. He’s a quality player with elite skill, someone I’ve personally been a fan of going back to his time with the Erie Otters. However, he’s bordering on project territory and that’s not something I’d be too keen on seeing the Sabres take on. Luckily the expected price on Burakovsky is pretty low. A second and a third round pick would be pretty affordable and it could dip lower if his production stays stagnant leading up to the deadline.

If the Sabres could somehow leverage the Capitals to move Burakovsky for less than a 2nd and a 3rd (perhaps they’d like the added depth Nathan Beaulieu would offer along with a draft pick) I’d be very pleased with acquiring him. It’s a situation worth tracking as the opportunity to pair Burakovsky with a more aggressive deal to add young talent at center would represent a strong step towards remaining in the playoff conversation in 2018-19. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.21 – Potential Trade Targets Cropping Up for the Sabres

After the New York Rangers notified their fans that they’d be selling off big pieces of their roster and a few notable names hit the waiver wire, Chris and Tyler run down some of the names that will be hitting the market in coming days and weeks. We take a close look at a few players who have been mentioned in rumors who would fit well in Buffalo while also taking a closer look at what continues to ail the Sabres on the blueline.

Road to the Winter Classic Reax – Episodes two and three

Because I can be a procrastinator at times and due to taking some vacation time around Christmas, I didn’t get a chance to offer up any sort of reaction to episode two of NBCSN’s Road to the Winter Classic.

My laziness was probably for the best though as episode two and three offered up improvements from episode two but maybe didn’t feature enough meat to justify a full review. So I’ll roll each of the last two episodes into a single blog post as we look ahead to Monday’s Winter Classic.

The first episode of Road to the Winter Classic really lacked the punch that the pay cable versions offered. Simply having to censor the show was going to limit some of the color the Winter Classic’s behind the scenes predecessors had; attempting to completely avoid any obscenities – which appears to be what NBCSN has chosen to do – takes away a majority of the locker room and on-ice content. Naturally, that’s typically some of the best stuff the show offers. Continue reading

First Road to the Winter Classic Episode Shows it Needs Cable to Thrive

Expectations for this year’s version of Road to the Winter Classic needed to be tempered right from the get-go. The transition from Epix to NBC Sports was going to dull the product a bit as you’d expect when switching to basic cable from a premium network.

Even with the understanding that the NBCSN version of what Epix inherited from HBO is going to be diluted, the first episode failed to deliver many thought provoking insights from either the Sabres or the Rangers.

The first episode wades through the typical introductions and scene setting you’d expect. We get bite sized tidbits on Michael Grabner, Henrik Lundqvist while hearing from Alain Vigneault and Jimmy Vesey. Not Liev Schrieber then touches on Sabres veterans Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane before circling back with Buffalo mainstays Jason Pominville and Kyle Okposo. That’s right, second-year Sabre, Kyle Okposo is a mainstay.

Most of the Sabres off-ice action is focused on the team’s Bowl-A-Rama event where Zach Bogosian and Okposo are able to show some personality. The highlight of the segment being when Okposo has his bowling ball slip out of his hands. You can save your “he’s as bad at bowling as he is at hockey” jokes, I’m certain I’ve heard/seen them all. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.14 – Vesey Breakdown & the Sabres New Tickets

Chris and Tyler are back to discuss Jimmy Vesey’s decision to sign with the New York Rangers along with the reports that Alex Nylander will be likely playing in Rochester this season. We also take some time to discuss the new ticketing policy for the Sabres while also touching on the viewing party for The Tragically Hip’s final show at Larkin this past weekend. Listen to the podcast here or download the episode on iTunes. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a new episode previewing the World Cup.

The Case Against Trading for Nash

After the Buffalo Sabres rebuild took a big step forward this season, the expectations placed on Tim Murray have grown this summer. The process of turning the Sabres back into a contender will need to advance yet again and Murray is expected to be active on the trade market as he was last year.

One name that has begun to pop up as a trade target around the league (and for the Sabres) is Rick Nash. Whether or not Nash is an ideal fit for the Sabres is up for debate as questions over Nash’s age, contract and asking price need to be asked.

Nash, just over a year removed from a 42-goal campaign, is a powerful star forward who would slot in perfectly on the left side of Buffalo’s top-six. In that sense he’s almost a no brainer acquisition for the Sabres. He, among other long time Rangers, has been tabbed for a potential exit this summer as the Rangers are expected to reshape their roster after a disappointing first round playoff exit.

The Rangers are fighting a cap crunch due to big deals handed out to underperforming players, namely Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Big money has also been paid to Nash (via his contract signed in Columbus), Henrik Lundqvist and Derek Stepan. Combine those big deals with a barren cupboard of prospects and picks after a number of deadline deals and Jeff Gorton is left with quite a pickle on his hands. Continue reading

Building a winner takes more than just top picks

As the final two weeks tick away until the Sabres make the first pick in the Tim Murray era, Tyler and I decided to team up to offer an all-encompassing analysis of how the most recent Cup winning teams were constructed. We started with the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins and went straight through this year’s Kings and Rangers rosters.

We found a number of different trends and traits on each of these teams. One trait they all shared was the possession of at least one high pick (fifth or higher) who was either drafted by the team or became a priority acquisition at one point or another. However, just as important as these players were to their respective teams, proper acquisitions via trades or free agency served as an equally important trait for each and every one of these teams.

Anze Kopitar: picked 11th overall in 2005.

Our goal was to offer a comprehensive analysis of each of these teams to illustrate exactly where the Sabres still need to improve their roster outside of simply winning the Draft Lottery.

 

Chris: The current state of the Sabres has inspired a lot of debate regarding rebuilding and the best course of action to take. One particularly incendiary stance taken by Jeremy White is that it doesn’t matter who your GM is so long as you’re picking at the top of the draft. While I’m sure his point was that anyone can pick first since you’re likely to land a surefire stud with a top-three selection, the comment has turned into a rallying cry both for White and his critics.

I know we both disagree with his premise given that hockey teams are comprised of 23 players, not one or two. Without giving away the entire argument in two paragraphs, I feel it’s important for anyone to understand that shaping a championship team takes a hell of a lot more than simply picking first a few times. It’s a perfect storm of drafting, trades, free agent signings and cap management. Comparing the state of the Sabres to other teams who have enjoyed a turnaround after picking high – Colorado comes to mind as a great example – it’s safe to say that Aaron Ekblad or one of the Sams aren’t going to turn things around by themselves, no?

Tyler: Whoever Tim Murray opts to take at 2nd overall at the end of the month will not come in, put the team on his back, and carry them to a top three finish (and automatic playoff spot) in the Atlantic Division. I’d venture to say that even if Murray were to acquire another top five pick in June (as Mike Harrington believes they should) they still would find themselves outside of the playoff picture. That is not an indictment of the skill of any of the top prospects, but of the current roster. The Sabres have a multitude of holes to fill, and while one or two of Bennett, Reinhart, or Ekblad would no doubt but the team on the right track there’s still a long way to go. Continue reading