The Instigator Podcast 8.9 – Blueline Decisions Looming for Sabres

The Sabres start couldn’t be going much better, as they’ve shot out of the gates at 8-1-1. Part of their success has come from improved play on the blueline, a unit bolstered by offseason acquisitions. It’s been a crowded group that’s going to get packed even tighter as Brandon Montour is nearing a return to action. His return is going to necessitate at least one move from Jason Botterill and we discussed just what options lay in front of Buffalo’s GM. We also touch on the pros and cons of Buffalo’s third periods, an area that’s lacked some of the consistency that’s defined the Sabres’ success early in the year.

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

Over-Thought: Defenseman Market is Starting to Sizzle

The Sabres have gotten off to a better start than I have this year when it comes to recapping 31 Thoughts. But I’m back on the wagon for Sabres After Dark and there are a few juicy tidbits in this week’s edition. Including trade whispers related to both Buffalo’s and Pittsburgh’s bluelines. Continue reading

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

Over-Thought: Seven Days Out and Waiting for Action

It feels a little soon for the Sabres to be playing actual hockey games, but we’re a week out from the start of the NHL regular season and given the Sabres seemingly perpetual state, there isn’t much room for optimism.

There’s still time for Jason Botterill and Ralph Krueger to actually remove some players from the roster that finished in the bottom five last year. It’s just getting harder to have confidence anything substantial is going to happen when all of the usual suspects are still around.

Rasmus Ristolainen is the elephant in the room and his presence on the trade block is a matter of debate. Not only is there debate in the fanbase over whether or not he should be traded but whether or not the Sabres are actually shopping him or if they’re simply taking calls on him. Beyond Ristolainen there’s Vladimir Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson occupying the fan’s doghouse. There isn’t much in the way of Sabres information in this week’s 31 Thoughts (or last week’s) but it’s still going to serve as the kick off to The OT for this season. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 8.5 – Make a Move

Justin Faulk was thought of as a targets for teams sniffing around Rasmus Ristolainen. Rumors that he would be dealt created some concern for Sabres fans hoping to see Ristolainen dealt. But Faulk’s final destination of St. Louis kept the teams reported to have the most interest in a right handed defenseman (namely Ristolainen) in the hunt. We analyze the Faulk deal, what affect it may have on the Sabres and just what’s left for Jason Botterill and Ralph Krueger have left to do in order to sort out their roster.

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

The Instigator Podcast 8.4 – Accidental Armchair GMs

News broke that Dustin Byfuglien is contemplating his future in hockey and that again sparked discussions over whether or not the Sabres and Jets are good partners in a Rasmus Ristolainen deal. We jump head first into that topic, determining if a fit exists and how last week’s rumors surrounding the Ducks and Justin Faulk could play a role. Somehow our discussion over a potential trade fit turned into a scary impression of a Cap Friendly Armchair GM. So accept our apologies for our silliness with some of the trade proposals we throw out. Prior to that, we touch on the first two preseason games (well, the first one) and which players stood out in each contest.

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

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