The Instigator Podcast 8.7 – Sabres Enjoy Strong Early Returns

The first three games of the 2019-20 season are in the books and the Sabres have impressed early on thanks to a pair of wins over Pittsburgh and New Jersey. We run through some of the key factors to Buffalo’s 2-0-1 start, including just what’s working with Ralph Krueger’s system and the players who have impressed thus far. We also offer up a loose prediction for how we think things could unfold if these first few games are an indication of what’s to come.

Two in the Mailbox: The Lines, The Outlook and The Goalies

Another season of Sabres hockey is underway and the 2ITB Mailbag is back for another run. This will be a weekly (sometimes) edition that runs down questions on the Sabres, Bills and just about anything else you can come up with.

I’m also going to use this as a quasi-season preview since I haven’t done one quite yet and it’s worth trying a different approach when it comes to a season preview. Especially when it’s written during the first game of the year and every other season preview is days or weeks old.

This is the first season in quite a while that I didn’t look forward to with some level of optimism. That’s softened a bit after Thursday’s performance, but it was still hard to really get up for the opening of the season with so many of the same faces on this roster. Not only are players like Sobotka, Scandella and Girgensons still around, but they’re all playing prominent roles. Add in the new coach giving them all sorts of love in the press and any frustration from the end of last year comes roaring back.

Sobotka got tons of credit for his play in the preseason, but I saw a lot of the same from last year. A black hole when the puck goes near him and very few positive traits. How he wound up in Buffalo’s top six is beyond me and I can only hope Krueger finds a new spot for him in short order.

It’s nice that Thursday went as well as it did, because that will help stoke the flames of optimism. The Mittelstadt line looked excellent and despite being an island of misfit toys, the Girgensons, Larsson and Okposo line was efficient as well. If there’s one spot on the roster I’m optimistic about, it’s the blueline. And that unit was quite good on Thursday. So, let’s see if they can string some wins together and prove everyone who was doubting their roster decisions wrong.

Now, on to the questions. Continue reading

Post-Camp Musings Ahead of Final Cuts

The Sabres are about to get down to playing some honest to god, regular season hockey games this week. Before they jump in to games that count for something, they need to make a few decisions on their roster.

Preseason hockey is tough to take too much information from given the irregular rosters on a game-to-game basis. One night you could see an NHL-heavy roster and on another night you might only see three or four NHL regulars in the lineup. With that being the case, it can even be hard to be impressed by individual performances since the level of competition they can come against can vary so much.

There’s also the Preseason Pledge to consider. You can’t get too high or too low on a player or the team given the volatility of the roster during the preseason. But that can go out the window when Vladimir Sobotka skates on the second line and the coach says a lot of really nice things about him.

On the eve of the regular season opening, there seems to be more concern and annoyance than excitement across Sabres nation. Jason Botterill went out and acquired a handful of players who could really help this team turn a corner this year. Only, he forgot to get rid of anyone from last year’s group. This preseason was thought to be the one where we’d finally see some dead weight stripped off the roster. The likes of Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Marco Scandella have been the most popular candidates in that regard. But with the season almost upon us, that’s looking more and more dire.

I, for one, seriously expected Sobotka to spend the final year of his contract in Europe. I’m glad I attached the caveat to my opinion that we couldn’t take solace in it happening until Botterill filed the paperwork. Given the state of the roster, Sobtoka seems to be safe. It’s disappointing for a number of reasons, primarily because Sobotka is bad at hockey. The silver lining here is that it appears that Sobotka is simply keeping Conor Sheary’s seat warm on the second line. He may just be the extra forward, meaning he’ll spend plenty of time in the pressbox this season.

Still, the fact that he’ll be an option to dress on a nightly basis is extremely disappointing.

I suppose there’s still a chance that we get surprised by the noon waiver notifications. But I’m not expecting any fireworks from the Sabres. That’s not to say they shouldn’t make some noise with their roster decisions. While about two-thirds of the roster was set before camp opened, I think there have been a few eye-opening performances the should have affected Botterill and Ralph Krueger’s thinking on the final 23-man roster. Continue reading

A Five Days too Late Look at Sabres Training Camp

The Sabres kicked off training camp on Thursday of last week which doesn’t make this much of a preview since camp is nearly seven days deep.

Even though I’m tardy with this post, I still wanted to put a few thoughts together on the players the Sabres have in camp, particularly after seeing the first group take on the Penguins at Penn State.

Buffalo sent a veteran-heavy roster to Happy Valley and needed overtime despite tripling the Penguins in shot and bottling a 4-1 advantage against a roster that was much lighter on NHL talent. The result really couldn’t matter any less given how lopsided the rosters and the possession was, but there were a few high points to take away from the evening.

Conor Sheary did a few things that should give you confidence he can occupy Jack Eichel’s right wing, Henri Jokiharju and John Gilmour showed off their wheels and each netted a goal to boot. Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner can probably hang out in a suite and eat popcorn for the rest of preseason while Ralph Krueger and Jason Botterill figure out the roster.

In light of Monday’s preseason tilt and the fact that I’m nearly a week late in offering a camp “preview”, I thought I’d try something a little different in terms of this post. I’ll highlight a few players and positions that stand out to me while trying to avoid some of the more traditional training camp storylines. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox: Anniversary Jerseys in the Spotlight

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

One of my very favorite parts of the hockey schedule is upon us. In addition to the start of the season and the opening of the first round, the time surrounding the draft and start of free agency is an exciting few weeks. You typically have a spate of trades and, of course, the drafting, signing or acquisition of new players. For a team like the Sabres, that’s been dragging through the league’s basement, those new bodies are an opportunity to see things finally get turned around.

This draft week may be particularly exciting as the Sabres 50th anniversary is to officially begin. Kim Pegula noted this at the NFL owner’s meetings and many are expecting to see the team’s third jersey unveiled at the draft. The jerseys have been a point of contention among fans since the team doesn’t appear to be switching to royal blue as so many have clamored for. This week’s first question is regarding the jerseys and the one thing I’ll add regarding the uniforms is that even if they’re terrific, there’s going to be a built-in level of disappointment with the fans since they won’t be royal blue. While I’m happy to wait and see the final product, the team could have avoided at least a little bit of contention by listening to the fans and introducing a royal blue jersey. Although I’m still looking forward to see what they have to offer.

Michael/@michaelparthum – What should #Sabres fans prepare themselves for as far as 50th Anniversary jerseys go?

I’ve gone through a few cycles on the Sabres anniversary jersey. A few people I’m friends with who are in the know on this provided me some preliminary information on the jersey that had me pretty nervous. The reports of a mostly white uniform, Vegas gold and a few odd tidbits on the logo left me preparing for some significant fallout. But I’ve really softened on that stance over the last few days.

Feels like a good spot for the Larry David unsure gif

I’m a big fan of Vegas gold (think metallic gold) and navy blue. Those were my school’s colors and it seems to work pretty well for Notre Dame. Ironically enough, one of the main sets of redesigned jerseys from the Sabres Not Slugs website from back in the day utilized Vegas gold instead of sport gold. So from that perspective, I’m keeping an open mind. Confident even in the potential results. Continue reading

Playing Catch Up on the Last Few Weeks

It’s gotten a little too easy to procrastinate on blog ideas lately. Between the Sabres acting hopeless, new kiddos and other responsibilities, tossing musings up on this site just hasn’t taken precedent. In an effort to remedy that, I wanted to take some time to play catch up on everything that’s gone down over the last month or two.

Jeff Skinner’s contract negotiations have fans running constant vigils on Twitter, the Sabres have a new coach and Ryan O’Reilly remains a talking point for people who don’t have anything better to bring up. In order to play catch up on most of this, I offer you this (hardly) brief rundown of thoughts and reaction to what’s been happening in the world of hockey over the last few weeks. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.31 – Waiting on Skinner News

After an extended layoff we’re back at it and playing catch up on a few topics. After a brief rundown of the Cup Final, we hit on the Sabres’ hiring of Ralph Kruger before diving head first into the Jeff Skinner contract negotiation.

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