The Instigator Podcast 7.7 – Positive Signs

After a successful west coast road trip, the Sabres return home with the opportunity to make headway in the standings. We talk about the positive signs they showed out west and how they can translate that into their next stretch of games which are fairly favorable. We also touch on the goaltending rotation and how Linus Ullmark’s hot start might alter the approach Phil Housley takes in naming a starting goalie over the next handful of games.

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Sabres Improved Depth will Make for Tough Roster Decision

It wasn’t long ago that the conversation centered on Sabres training camp involved more questions about which players could take an unexpected leap to in order to fill a much-needed spot in the lineup.

Thanks to a flurry of summer trades and a bit of lottery luck, the Sabres roster features more locked positions than gaping holes. The acquisitions of Conor Sheary and Jeff Skinner filled out a thin left side while Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka may not be offensive dynamos, offer much-needed stability deeper down the lineup.

Who Fills Out the Bottom Six

Buffalo top-six is all but settled at this point. Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt Sam Reinhart, Sheary and Skinner are written in pen. Kyle Okposo might as well be too, though I suppose there’s room for him to bump to the third line if Phil Housely feels they can ice a third scoring line. Where the real battles will occur are in the bottom six, where there are probably three spots truly up for grabs.

Berglund is going to be Buffalo’s “third” center. He’ll likely be tasked with handling more difficult matchups, defensive zone draws and some (keyword: some) of the other duties that were previously filled by Ryan O’Reilly. Berglund won’t come close to covering all of those responsibilities, but he’s the one center in Buffalo’s camp best suited to take on a chunk of them. He’s another player whose spot was never going to be in question, though one factor that could be at play is whether or not Housley wants to inject more offense into the lineup.

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The Instigator Podcast 6.24 – Grading Jason Botterill and Phil Housley’s Work

Our two week, sickness-induced layoff has come to an end and Chris and Tyler are back to full health to discuss Jack Eichel’s apparent return from injury and to offer up some progress reports on Phil Housley and Jason Botterill. The rookie GM and coach haven’t yet completed their first season on the job but it felt like a good time to evaluate what’s gone right and wrong for the duo during their first season at the helm.

Phil Housley Trade Tree is Star Studded

Phil Housley sits at the center of one of Buffalo’s more interesting trade trees. A memorable player in his own right, the tree includes three, maybe four, of the most iconic players to ever suit up for the Sabres.

Housley’s tenure in Buffalo was somewhat rocky, with complaints about his lack of physicality and grit overshadowing his prowess as a play driver.

After being selected with the pick acquired for the 1975 Cup team’s favorite players, Jerry Korab, Housley was included in a blockbuster that brought the Sabres one of the league’s best scorers. Housley had blossomed into one of the game’s most dynamic offensive defensemen and Dale Hawerchuk was a bona fide superstar.  He had scored 35 or more goals in eight of his first nine NHL seasons – seven with 40-plus goals – and had six 100-point seasons. The pair came with a swap of first round picks in 1990, moving the Sabres up five spots. This is where the Jets wind up winning the trade, as they say.

The Sabres selected Brady May with the 14th selection and he’d become a fan favorite and score the most famous goal in franchise history. The Jets wound up picking 500-goal and 1,000-point club member Keith Tkachuk at 19. From there the rest is history. Tkachuck would twice score 50 goals for the Jets/Coyotes before moving on to St. Louis. May was turned into a key member of the 1999 Cup team, Geoff Sanderson.

This one doesn’t have the legs of something like the Martin tree or even the (spoiler alert) Dominik Hasek trade tree. But it stretches over three decades of team history, an impressive span considering the low number of players involved.

Note: I made one slight alteration to this tree compared to the others: splitting Scott Arniel off separately. While he was a simple throw in to the Housley/Hawerchuk deal, I chose to include his branch to make the tree more robust.

The Sabres Have Some Questions to Answer this Preseason

With the rookie tournament and start of training camp checked off the list, the only thing standing between the Sabres and opening night is the preseason. The team’s six game preseason slate kicked off yesterday with a visit from the Carolina Hurricanes, and there are a handful of questions that we should see answered between now and the opening faceoff on October 5. Continue reading

Housley Hiring Provides a Bright Outlook

It isn’t often you find a pair of management and coaching candidates so universally accepted by a fanbase, but the Sabres have found just that in Jason Botterill and Phil Housley.

You’d be hard pressed to find any significant contingent of the fanbase who didn’t want Housley named as head coach and the Sabres met those expectations with yesterday’s announcement. Housley comes to the Sabres after a successful turn as an assistant with Nashville, a gold medal as the head coach of the USA World Junior Championships roster and a handful of other roles tied to USA Hockey.

Nashville’s talented and active blueline was pretty much the antithesis of the defense corps the Sabres rolled out last season and hopes that Housley’s skillset in managing that group follows him to Buffalo. One of the most attractive things about him as a coach was the continued willingness of Nashville’s defenders to join the rush and push pace through all three zones. It’s a trait that came to define Housley’s Hall of Fame career and it’s something the Sabres sorely missed last year.

Alex Daugherty, co-managing editor of On The Forecheck, the Predators SB Nation blog, noted that Peter Laviolette still maintained a great deal of control over the style of play the Predators exercised while Housley served in something of a support role when it came to dictating the system and pace. What Daugherty did note was Housley’s influence on supporting that system, something that should be very encouraging to Sabres fans. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.45 – Botterill’s Gameplan on the Season Five Finale

Chris and Tyler wrap up season five by laying out what we see as early moves for new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill. In addition to running down the pros and cons of Rick Tocchet and Phil Housley, we hit on early roster moves and what the plan of attack on the blueline should be.