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

The Instigator Podcast 7.5 – Powering Up for the West Coast

A promising start has put the Sabres in position to continue their positive momentum on a five-game west coast trip. We focus on Rasmus Dahlin’s introduction to the NHL and the steady play that’s embodied his first three contests. We also explore how Dahlin could land more power play time and what other changes may help optimize Buffalo’s extra man units.

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 7.1 – Talking Sabres Prospects with Kris Baker of The Athletic

We’re kicking off season seven of The Instigator Podcast with a very special guest; Kris Baker of The Athletic. Kris joined the show to offer up a preview of this weekend’s Sabres Prospects Challenge and to assess a number of the prospects throughout Buffalo’s pipeline.

Thanks Kris for joining the show. Be sure to read his stuff on The Athletic, you won’t find better coverage anywhere else.

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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“Vets” Steal the Show at Development Camp

It’s easy to get overly excited about development camp. Any group of highly skilled, largely NHL-caliber hockey players will typically look pretty good working through drills. Especially small-area skill drills with minimal defensive challenge. There’s plenty to glean from the week as fans, media and coaches have the opportunity to see players perform in a variety of settings but crowning greatness from the endeavor can be tricky.

I’ve been guilty of taking too much away from the camp myself. Back in 2012 I was convinced that Judd Peterson was sure to be a late-round gem due to his development camp performance. Since then I’ve tried to avoid falling into the same trap. I’ve found it helpful to focus on individual growth and skills rather than trying to project any sort of impact onto the Buffalo Sabres roster. In other words, I’m not trying to name an MVP based on the stickhandling drills they did on Friday.

There are some obvious caveats to this. Casey Mittlestadt’s coming out party last year helped to erase some of the doubts people had about him heading into the draft. Even just a few weeks removed from his draft Mittelstadt was among the most skilled players at the camp and his play certainly inspired confidence in the fanbase, and perhaps the organization as well. But there are just as many cases where an impressive camp performance won’t accurately reflect where a player stands organizationally. So I try to keep that in mind when attending camp.

With that in mind, I’m going to try something a little different with my round up. This will be more of a notebook, touching on players who showed either growth or intriguing upside based on their play. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.32 – What to do with Pick 32

The official selection of Rasmus Dahlin is hours away and one of the most popular questions in Sabres Nation is who the Sabres will select with the 32nd pick. We discuss the various options for the Sabres in the second round while also touching on Mike Hoffman being shipped from Ottawa to San Jose to Florida. We also touch on Barry Trotz’s resignation and the Domi-Galchenyuk trade.

 

Two in the Mailbox – What would O’Reilly and Ristolainen Swaps Look Like?

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.

Back at it post, post lottery. Let’s get to it.

Adam/@sharpndpensel – You’re Jason Botterill. You decided to reshape the roster, you want to move Ristolainen for a forward and Ryan O’Reilly for a defenseman. Who are your trade partners, and who are you targeting?

This is a topic I’ve been tossing around for a little while now. In this space, on Twitter and in private conversations. Given that this subject was submitted by a few people for this mailbag it seems like a good time to dig in deeper.

The first thing to consider is that trading two talents like O’Reilly and Ristolainen in the same summer would be fairly unlikely. That’s a lot of negotiating to consummate two deals of similar stature. But from a hypothetical standpoint, these two players offer the opportunity for the Sabres to flip their depth and shake up the locker room without becoming exposed at a key position. But the key word here is hypothetical.

Continue reading