Where and How Does Botterill Trim the Roster?

For the third-straight offseason, Jason Botterill has been active in adding new blood to the Sabres locker room. For the first time in his tenure, he also faces a near necessity of needing to shed bodies as well.

There are quite a few usual suspects who have been along for far too much of Buffalo’s prolonged playoff drought and many fans were looking forward to the fat being trimmed by Botterill’s “roster surgery”. Improvements came quickly once the draft wrapped up. Jimmy Vesey, Colin Miller, Henri Jokiharju and Marcus Johansson all figure to feature prominently for the Sabres this year. As far as attrition goes, the only body to be shipped was Alex Nylander, sent to Chicago in exchange for Jokiharju, leaving fans wondering when the other shoe will drop.

There’s still over a month until training camp opens and it’s not completely unusual for deals to come through into August or September (Jeff Skinner and Erik Karlsson just last year), so it’s not as if Botterill is out of time to clean up the roster. But he has work to do. The right side of the defense is packed with bodies and the left side isn’t far behind while the Sabres could compile about three fourth lines with the number of bottom-six forwards they have.

Just looking at potential fourth line candidates is a waking nightmare in terms of skill and salary:

W

 

C

 

W

Zemgus Girgensons

Johan Larsson

Kyle Okposo

CJ Smith

Vladimir Sobotka

Curtis Lazar

Arttu Routsalainen

JS Dea

Scott Wilson

Rasmus Asplund

Remi Elie

Looks awesome. Can’t wait. Continue reading

Jokiharju Deal Sets Table for Big Decisions

Jason Botterill hasn’t been shy about making changes to his roster this summer. It’s the third summer in a row where he’s taken strides to overhaul the roster and this offseason has been defense-heavy.

His latest transaction was certainly the biggest surprise of the offseason, though the deal probably won’t be remembered as a blockbuster. Acquiring Henri Jokiharju in exchange for Alex Nylander saw a pair of former first rounders shipped to new locales under two different sets of circumstances.

Jokiharju had become a fan-favorite for the Blackhaws, playing big minutes early last season under Joel Quenneville. As players began returning from injury, Jokiharju’s minutes rolled back before he was loanded to the Finnish World Juniors team and then Rockford, following Jeremy Colliton’s hiring.

There were be questions about Jokiharju’s long-term outlook with the Blackhawks with Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell in the pipeline. But he still won a whole lot of favor early on, with many seeing him as a star in the making.

Unlike Jokiharju, who appeared to be a fan favorite for the Hawks, Nylander had really fallen out of favor with most of the Sabres fanbase. He had struggled to gain the footing to earn a full-time NHL job. Injuries played a big role in that and his work ethic has often been credited as another major contributing factor in his inability to stick in Buffalo. Still, he never looked completely out of place during his NHL recalls. Perhaps it was just an attitude issue and he needed to be in the NHL to give an honest effort – not something you’d care to deal with in your organization – but it doesn’t feel out of the question.

Nylander certainly wasn’t on anyone’s list of untouchables, but just based on his 12-game cameo it seemed like he was going to get an opportunity to win a spot in the fall.  Instead he’s off to Chicago in a deal that involved two players you wouldn’t have thought would be on the move just a few weeks back. In a way these are the best kind of deals because it’s a hockey trade. It’s didn’t involve futures for a player or leveraging a cap dump, it was a simple player-for-player swap.

It’s a little bit like the Cody Hodgson/Zack Kassian deal from a few years back. I’m excited to see the Sabres snag another good skater who has a good aptitude for driving play offensively. He’s shown the ability to manage zone entries well and his passing ability ought to make him a threat offensively.

This trade adds yet another body to Buffalo’s already bloated blueline, putting Jason Botterill into a unique game of chicken when it comes to his roster. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.36 – Season Finale? Jokiharju’s on You

The Marcus Johansson signing was reason enough to get together for our tentative season-ending podcast, but then Jason Botterill served up a whopper on Tuesday afternoon. The Sabres acquired Herni Jokiharju from the Blackhawks in exchange for Alex Nylander. It’s a big deal that sees a pair of former first rounders swapped and another young, puck-moving defenseman added to the Sabres stable. It also slots in another solid, right-hander to an already crowded blueline. We run down the acquisition of Jokiharju, potential Ristolainen deals and how the Sabres blueline could shake out.

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:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

Sabres Continue to Construct a “Modern” Blueline

Recent Sabres draft pick Ryan Johnson was quickly described as a modern, or new-age, defenseman by the pundits on NBCSN. A swift skating player who can serve as a one-man breakout and effectively push the rush up ice. It’s a descriptor that can be applied an ever growing segment of Buffalo’s blueline, from prospects right to the top pair.

Whether or not he’ll be around to see the fruits of his labor, Jason Botterill appears to have a fairly specific way to be molding his defense corps; with mobile defensemen capable of driving play in the offensive zone and positively affecting breakouts. Look no further than the last two acquisitions he’s made on defense for evidence of the type of player he’s targeting. 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

The Instigator Podcast 7.32 – The Seven

We have a game seven in the Stanley Cup Finals. Tyler and I open this episode discussing the deciding game between the Bruins and Blues, determining which team will lift the Cup on Wednesday. Oh by the way, Jeff Skinner’s contract is done, much to the relief of fans throughout Sabres Nation. We discuss the deal and all the criticism and praise it’s received. We also touch on the coming flurry of trade action that’s already been kicked off, in a way, by the Flyers acquisition of Kevin Hayes. This week’s episode explores some trade options for the Sabres and just what might unfold in the coming weeks.

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:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

Two in the Mailbox: Coaching Candidates, Blue Collar Built and the Battle of Winterfell

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.

Shawn/@iammasheen – Who would you like to see as Sabres coach?

The short answer here is Rikard Gronborg. His quotes that have come out over the last couple of weeks certainly instill confidence that he’d bring some new ideas to the Sabres. Ideas that would hopefully translate to wins.

The longer answer here is more complex. Even before Todd McLellan was officially hired by the Kings there weren’t too many obvious candidates who really jumped off the page. Even with McLellan possibly in the mix, the field wasn’t flush with good options. To me, McLellan felt like a “meh” hire. There were plenty of reasons to question it, his shortcomings in Edmonton chief among them. But his resume wasn’t weak, either. It just didn’t feel like an inspired choice. Doesn’t mean it would’ve been the wrong one, it was just hard to fully get behind. Continue reading