10 Questions for the Sabres Season

The hope tank is pretty empty around Western New York as the Sabres open another season. Going headfirst into a rebuild, the season isn’t expected to be much to write home about but there are still storylines worth tracking. Here are 10 big questions worth asking ahead of the 2021-22 season.

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The Instigator Podcast 10.3 – Taking the Preseason Pledge

Preseason hockey is underway and we discuss the progress the Sabres have made so far but through the lens of preseason hockey. We touch on a few players who have stood out so far, including JJ Peterka and Linus Weissbach. The potential goaltending battle between Aaron Dell and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is touched on and we catch up on Rasmus Dahlin’s contract extension after missing the chance to discuss it last week.

Patience, Promise and Adjusting Expectations for the 21-22 Sabres

It’s no secret that the 2021-22 season is going to be a difficult one for the Sabres. Kevyn Adams has embraced a tank rebuild and while Jack Eichel remains a Sabre, a cursory glance at Buffalo’s training camp roster should give plenty of indication of what this season will look like.

You may not think this rebuild is anything like the last one the Sabres embarked on in 2013 but when you look closer it shares many of the hallmarks. Veteran talent traded for futures, stockpiling draft picks, investing in a youth movement. The reason there are similarities between the two is because most rebuilds in the NHL follow the same basic formula, and like it or not, they’re all in some way, shape or form, a tank. One aspect of this rebuild which will differ from the last go around will be the likes of Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt.

When Darcy Regier began tearing things down in 2013, none of the picks the Sabres were investing in held key positions on the NHL roster. Zemgus Gigrensons and eventually Rasmus Ristolainen would (almost by default), but ahead of the teardown, there were few key picks wearing a Sabres sweater on a regular basis. I supposed you could count Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis in that group, but having three top 10 picks already playing is much different than the last time.

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Two in the Mailbox: Hall Trade on the Horizon

It looks as if Taylor Hall has played his last game with the Sabres. As of this writing, Hall has been ruled out of Buffalo’s game against the Devils on Tuesday, April 6. With only six more days until the trade deadline, the odds that he’s seen in a Sabres jersey again sit somewhere between slim and none.

I meant to run this mailbag a few days earlier than it’s being dropped, so a couple of these questions may not seem as timely as they otherwise would have. The news of the week is Hall being scratched for the Devils game in anticipation of a trade being finalized. It seems unlikely that he even makes it to the deadline at this point, with a quicker conclusion to a trade benefiting any team that acquires him, especially those in Canada.

I’m not sure there’s any other way to describe Hall’s tenure in Buffalo as anything other than a huge disappointment. Luckily, the one-year deal the team signed him to mitigated any sort of long-term damage to their cap or depth chart, but two goals and 19 points over 37 games isn’t what you’re expecting from a former MVP. It’s certainly a far sight from Terry Pegula’s “We sign this guy, we’re not only trying to make the playoffs, we’re trying to win the Cup.”

Chasing Hall, like acquiring Eric Staal made for an exciting and promising offseason for the team. Not only was Hall a former MVP but he was the type of top-tier talent that could have helped take the Sabres to another level. Instead, he suffered through an abysmal stretch of shooting that tanked his stats and made him look like a passenger instead of the dynamic contributor he’d been earlier in his career.

We’ll wait to see what sort of trade return Kevyn Adams gets for Hall and whether or not that can help provide either short or long-term assistance to this club. Now, for your questions.

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The Instigator Podcast 9.4 – Thoughts on the First Sabres Scrimmage

Sabres camp continued on Monday with the Blue-Gold Scrimmage which featured a number of impressive performances from players up and down Buffalo’s roster. We touch on a few of the stand out performers, discuss which performances may have affected roster battles while touching on some of the weaker showings as well. Also on the docket was discussion over a trio of AHL teams opting out for the 2020-21 season, a World Juniors update and a bit of fun remembering some guys who moved teams this year.

The Instigator Podcast is supported by Manscaped where you can get 20% off and free shipping when you use the code 2ITB at checkout at http://www.manscaped.com.

Sabres Blueline Turnaround is Coming into Focus

It was no secret that Jason Botterill was facing a tough road in putting together a well-rounded blueline when he took over the Sabres. Turns out that the unit needed more of an overhaul than reshaping that stretched into this past summer.

Winning the Ramsus Dahlin lottery would make any rebuild a much easier task and a lucky bounce of the lottery balls has helped the Sabres take a major step forward.

Dahlin was really the only true addition the Sabres made to their backs blueline but he’s already meeting expectations, if not exceeding them. His confidence is growing by the day and combined with his vision and skating ability has led to a number of plays along these lines:

GIF via Ben Mathewson @ thescreen.co

There’s a noticeable difference in Buffalo’s breakout and flow when Dahlin is on the ice, something that was lacking at almost every point of the 2017-18 season. Some of his underlying numbers took a hit recently after a few lopsided showings, which tipped him below 50% Corsi, though Dahlin remains a positive influence relative to his teammates. Zach Bogosian’s Corsi jumps ten percentage points when paired with Dahlin as opposed to without him. So he’s not just passing the eye-test, though his current trend is creating at least one eye-popping play per game. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.12 – Pilut-ing Forward

Lawrence Pilut has only played three games at the NHL level but his early returns have been impressive. He’s also the only defenseman Buffalo has on the active roster who is waiver exempt. We talk about the different options the Sabres have to keep Pilut in Buffalo without sacrificing another player to waivers. We also discuss the Sabres four-game slide and the positive signs from the stretch which may just signify they’ll be back in the win column soon.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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The Instigator Podcast 7.11 – Streak Sleepers with Ben Mathewson

Ben Mathewson was kind enough to join the show this week to reflect on the tenth win of Buffalo’s win streak and some of the players who have been contributors to the streak but who haven’t received quite as much press as guys like Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin. We discuss the impressive depth the Sabres have enjoyed, particularly the fourth line and we even toss around some hypothetical trade targets should these winning ways turn the Sabres into buyers in the spring (yes, Brandon Montour is discussed).

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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The Instigator Podcast 7.10 – Cardiac Kids

The Sabres have made a living off thrilling, come-from-behind victories over their six-game winning streak, earning the moniker of the cardiac kids. Buffalo’s climb up the standings hasn’t come with a large uptick in goal differential and we discuss just how meaningful (or not meaningful) Buffalo’s goal differential is. We also discuss the offensive turnaround the Sabres blueline has enjoyed along with the two most recent coaching changes that came down this week.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Two in the Mailbox: Skinner Extension, Dahlin’s Minutes and waiting on #GOALofsson

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.

It’s only been about a month since I trotted out a mailbag, clearly I’m committed to the practice. In the month since the last incarnation the Sabres broke the .500 mark for the first time in years, they’ve looked competent for longer than a period at time and it looks as if they’ve reinvigorated the fanbase to an extent.

The Sabres aren’t without their warts though. They’re still inconsistent and they’ve been over-reliant on the Jack Eichel, Jason Pominville, Jeff Skinner line. Although the line has been phenomenal. But the search for secondary scoring continues and if they manage to manufacture goals outside the trio of 53-9-29 they could really make some noise. With the NHL’s official entry into sports betting, the Sabres could wind up as a sneaky pick if they find some secondary scoring.

Now for the questions. Continue reading