The Instigator Podcast 10.22 – Another Mess in Chicago and Listener Q&A

We answer listener questions on air, but before we do, we discuss Rocky Wirtz’s outburst at a Blackhawks town hall rally and what the fallout could be for the troubled franchise. We also talk about some of the adaptations being made to the All Star Skills Competition and which Sabre player we think would be the best representative at this year’s All Star Game.

We wrap up the episode with a handful of #AskInstigator questions from our listeners where we discuss offseason acquisitions, the Heritage Classic and where we see Rasmus Dahlin at the end of his current contract.

The Instigator Podcast 6.20 – Back from the All Star Break

The All Star break is over and the Sabres have reverted to their most maddening form. On this week’s podcast we talk about Jack Eichel’s impressive weekend in Tampa and toss some ideas around about how the league can beef up the Skills Competition. We touch on Chad Johnson’s continuing struggles in the Sabres crease while also lamenting the continued scourge that is the offside and goaltender interference review system.


Pipe Dream: It’s Time for a Sabres Skills Competition

Rosters for the 2017 NHL All Star game were announced with far less fanfare than the 2016 version as John Scott’s name was nowhere to be found on the four division squads for the event. While the new three-on-three format injected some much needed life into the weekend, the highlight for many remains the Skills Competition.

The Skills Competition is a perfect made-for-TV event that showcases the incredible skill of NHL players in easily digestible bites. It’s a format that’s been pulled to local events by many NHL clubs on an annual basis, as teams take advantage of longer breaks in the schedule to put on a show for their fans. The Sabres even ran their own in the 90s before putting an end to the practice.

Bringing back the Sabres Skills Competition has been a common request (at least in my personal Sabres Twitter echo chamber) and those cries seemed to intensify last year with the debut of Sabres Showdown. Giving fans the chance to see a Sabres-specific skills competition on TV gave them a glimpse of what could be in store with a ticketed event.

Adding an event like this to the Sabres schedule would accomplish a number of easily attainable goals. It’s an event that can be sold as an open ticket instead of first accommodating season ticket holders, thus extending an opportunity for those fans who don’t typically attend a game to grab a seat at Key Bank Center for Sabres hockey. The tickets themselves would (read: should) be below that of the box office price for a game, again helping to include a segment of the fanbase that typically can’t attend a game in person. These are also best served as early afternoon events, which is tailor-made for #familyfriendly #fun. Lastly, a special event like this could be considered a way that the team is giving back to the fans, another issue that has gained momentum in recent years. Continue reading

A memorable All Star weekend, at last

To say I was really into the All Star Game when I was a kid is an understatement. Dominik Hasek had established himself as a bonafide superstar and other things like glowing pucks typically catch the eyes of ten year olds more than, say, adults.

My interest in the event, like most fans, has waned in recent years. As the event itself stagnated there were few things that brought any sort of genuine interest on a yearly basis. This year’s event, however, really brought back an entertaining showcase of the game’s stars in a format that I’m hoping sticks around for years to come. Continue reading

New All-Star Game Format will be a Win for the NHL

Clearly the NHL’s big decision makers are following me on Twitter and reading this blog as they announced a brilliant and awesome change for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game this week.

At one point last winter I penned my thoughts on altering the All-Star Game to a 3-on-3 tournament format although upon review I don’t seem to have ever posted what I had written. There’s a chance that I had originally wrote it for my duties with Great Skate and then swapped it out for another piece. So unfortunately my takes on the All-Star Game didn’t grace the internet which is probably for the best.

Whether or not I had published my thoughts on the potential changes to the game, know that the decision to move to a 3-on-3 tournament format is a masterstroke for the league.

Perhaps it was simply because of my age, but I remember a time when the All-Star Game was actually fun to watch. Owen Nolan calling his shot over Dominik Hasek’s glove remains a favorite hockey memory. Now the game is stale, filled with apathetic play and bloated scores. Amazingly, all this extra scoring didn’t seem to increase the entertainment value of the game.

Adding to the novelty of the game can’t do anything but help the product. Copying the MLB and awarding home-ice advantage to the winning conference would be foolhardy and aside from simply putting a cash prize on the line (which they happen to be doing) it doesn’t seem as if there were too many logical solutions to get the players to play harder. Continue reading

Ted Black wants major NHL events, is the city ready?

Ted Black came out of this weekend’s board of governors meeting with a mission that he has trumpeted many times over the past 12 months. He wants to host anything and everything related to the NHL.

Whether it be the All-Star Game, Draft, Winter Classic or something so cool we haven’t even heard of it, Black and the Sabres want in. Unfortunately the Columbus Blue Jackets will host the 2013 All-Star Game before the event is skipped for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, being passed over for next season may be in the best interest for the Sabres as a team (and management) and the City of Buffalo.

Frozen canals and real attractions would make a great venue for All-Star festivities.

First of all, it is totally awesome to think that Ted Black is going into every BOG meeting and lobbying for the Sabres to host the any major NHL event. This is just another one of those tangible examples of what this ownership group is doing to make Buffalo “Hockey Heaven”.

Going into All-Star weekend, 2012 Draft and 2013 Winter Classic hosts had already been chosen. Also, considering the Leafs will be the visitors for the next Classic, it is safe to assume the Leafs will be due to host in the near future. The decision on who would host next year’s All-Star game was to be made this weekend; giving Black the opportunity to pull for Buffalo as the hosts.

With Columbus hosting next season and the Olympics likely cancelling the 2014 event, the next All-Star Game without a host will be 2015. Looking at all the secondary factors; that should be the game Buffalo pushes to host.

To begin, First Niagara Center is a perfect arena to host an All-Star game or any other major NHL event.  Between the original features (pavilion, Harbour Club, congregating areas) and the new additions (laser beam Zambonis and locker room renovations), FNC is a class-A venue for any major event. It is the area outside the Arena that is ill prepared. Continue reading

Pominville and Adam end All-Star weekend with strong showings

Luke Adam and Jason Pominville are vanilla. They’re good shooters and play a strong game, but neither aren’t the type of game breaker that you typically see in an NHL All-Star game.

Not awkward. Nope.

However, both had pretty good showings at what turned out to be another great weekend for the NHL. Pominville had a goal and an assist to accompany his runner-up finish in the elimination breakaway challenge. Luke Adam hit 98 MPH in the hardest shot contest, beating Justin Faulk and likely earning the “shoot more” label from many a Sabres fan.

As I wrote previously, All-Star weekend comes with its ups and downs. From what I gather, the ancillary events throughout the host city are can’t miss entertainment just like the main attractions. The game remains a mere garnish on a weekend that has grown into a truly awesome party atmosphere.

The Fantasy Draft is a terrific way to kick off the weekend and create addition interest in a game that has typically been over looked. I have little doubt the fantasy draft/captains format will linger for years to come. After all, it trumps any conference or international format that had been used in the past.

The Skills Competition remains the marquee event for the weekend. The addition of a slam dunk contest wrinkle for breakaways is one of the NHL’s best ideas yet. Pat Kane took the cake with some additional pageantry, but Corey Perry and John Tavares each had an impressive repertoire of moves themselves. What shouldn’t be ignored is that Steven Stamkos’ three moves in the elimination shootout would have earned him high marks in the event won by Kane. It just goes to show the insane talent these players put on display, despite what Aaron Williams may think.

Personally, I could have watched the players stickhandle through those orange pucks for hours – so long as there was something more to the station than just stick handling. That alone was a terrific showcase of the skills on display this weekend. Continue reading

Entertainment value varies throughout All-Star weekend

By the end of tomorrow night, all of the interesting All-Star events will be over.  Between the Fantasy Draft and Skills Competition, the NHL All-Star weekend is more front-loaded than Christian Ehrhoff’s contract.

Last night’s fantasy draft was equally entertaining as last year’s. Having the players mic’d up is a stroke of brilliance and gave just as many gems as 2011. It would be hard to argue that Pat Kane’s comment on the blond jersey presenter could be topped. Nor could you argue that the comment was to be expected from a guy like Kane.

Logan Couture joined Phil Kessel as the last pick in the draft. The NHL made a wise change this season, rather than letting Couture stew by himself in his seat, they brought up him and Jamie Benn to the stage. Thus eliminating the ultra-awkward photo-op for the final pick. Couture is now the proud new owner of Honda’s ugliest production vehicle.

Some Sabres fans seemed to care deeply about where Jason Pominville was to be selected. Couture – who is a Bills fan – saved him from the humility and fans from worrying. Considering the stage in which this took place, would it really have been that big of a deal? Sure, it would have sucked for the representative from this underachieving team to go last in the draft. But he is still one of the best players in the league, there is a reason he was selected to the original pool of players. Not to mention, the players don’t seem to place too much stock in the All-Star game, so I’m sure they could care less about where they’re taken in the draft. Trust me, these guys could care less where they’re picked. Continue reading

Time to re-evaluate the All-Star Game

Last season the NHL took a brilliant step forward regarding the All Star game. They eliminated the East vs. West format and instituted a “fantasy draft”.

While the All Star game is pretty much a waste of time (aside from the skills competition), the draft has brought some relevance to an otherwise boring display.

The draft is the best thing to happen to the All Star Game since ever. Letting the league’s best players basically just pull sticks to determine teams was a fantastic addition to last year’s game and shouldn’t be changed. Ever.

With the All Star rosters being announced today there was the expected uproar from fans clamoring for their team’s snubs and the inclusion of those who they deem unworthy of selection. For example, there is little reason for Thomas Vanek to have been left off this roster. Perhaps there was a wink-wink nudge-nudge agreement to leave him out in order to rest, but he has been one of the NHL’s best forwards this season. There is little reason to leave him out of this game.

The likely explanation for Vanek being snubbed can likely be found in fan voting. Because the fans are allowed to determine the six starters for the game, there is the usual run of home players who are sometimes undeserving of the selection. So, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf and Tim Thomas were voted to participate. That doesn’t necessarily mean they would have been selected. Of course, Michalek, Thomas and Karlsson are worthy additions. The other three could probably have been left off for other players. Here lies the problem. Continue reading