Bylsma’s Shortcomings Aren’t Exactly New

Since climbing within a point of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference the Sabres have hit one of their worst runs of play in the entire 2016-17 season, dropping seven of their last eight games and falling well out of reach of serious playoff contention.

The skid has been defined by blown third period leads, losses to teams below Buffalo in the standings and sub-par goaltending. However, the third period collapses are by far the most concerning aspect of this recent run. It’s something that’s highlighted many of Buffalo’s other shortcomings this year.

In some ways this run was probably inevitable. The Sabres have been allowing absurd numbers of shots and shot attempts on a game-to-game basis and had been winning the odd one thanks, in part, to the play of Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner. Both have given the Sabres strong play throughout the year but recently only share one game with two goals against or fewer (shootout loss to Tampa Bay). Both have still played well through the course of these games despite the ugly results. Look no further than Nilsson’s play in Pittsburgh or the handful of sterling saves Lehner made against Philly in an otherwise forgettable performance.

Simple logic would indicate that Buffalo’s poor defensive play finally caught up to them and despite otherwise strong play from their goaltenders, the team just isn’t good enough to cover all of their shortcomings. It’s a combination of poor personnel (hello defensemen) and poor usage that’s undermined what could have been an exciting season for the Sabres and now it appears the focus has shifted firmly to Dan Bylsma.

Even prior to this slump, postgame comments had indicated that all wasn’t well in the Sabres locker room. There were warning signs that the players were ignoring their coach’s wishes and going off script at key points in each game. Now that they’ve only accrued one win since the bye week, those whispers are growing louder.

As the season slips away from the Sabres it seems more likely that Bylsma’s future sits on rocky ground. Even with the obvious shortcomings on Buffalo’s roster, many of his tactics and systems seem to work against the strengths the Sabres do boast. In many ways it seems as if he’s being haunted by many of the ghosts which pushed him out of Pittsburgh. Continue reading

Thoughts on Dan Bylsma as Sabres Coach

The Buffalo Sabres officially moved on from the disappointment of missing out on the Mike Babcock sweepstakes when Tim Murray introduced Dan Bylsma as the 17th head coach in franchise history. For those that missed last night’s special edition of The Instigator Podcast, here are a few thoughts on the beginning of the Bylsma Era.

By inking Bylsma to a five year deal in the neighborhood of $3 million per year, Murray was able to snag the best available coach, and one of the few with a winning pedigree. While some fans may have had other candidates at the top of their lists, no one can disagree that getting a coach of Bylsma’s caliber to commit his future to the Sabres is a nice get for an organization that has taken its lumps around the hockey world over the last couple of seasons.

Hockey pundits view the hiring of Dan Bylsma as good business by Tim Murray

The Bylsma hire has been greeted by near unanimous approval from both local and national publications, and can be seen as the first bit of good press for the organization since Pat LaFontaine’s introductory press conference in November of 2014. That is not to say that what’s said in The Hockey News or TSN should be taken as gospel, but at the very least seeing some good things written about the team for a change is a bit of a morale booster. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 4.3 – Bylsma on Board

Dan Bylsma was officially introduced as the 17th head coach in Sabres history. We offer our thoughts and reaction to the Sabres new head coach along with providing our thoughts on how Bylsma’s hiring impacts the organization.

Sabres are hardly short on candidates in the wake of Babcock’s decision

Despite multiple reports that indicated the Sabres were on the verge of landing the biggest fish in the free agent coaching pond, Mike Babcock chose to take his talents to Toronto after a long, drawn out search process.

This leaves the Sabres standing at the altar without a coach for the time being as their bride-to-be sets off to the Great White North. The Sabres aren’t without options, however. Nor should this be seen as some black eye on the organization as they proceed through the next step of their rebuild.

Landing Babcock would have helped pile credibility onto the organization after two-straight 30th place seasons. Babcock’s presence would have likely chummed the waters for interested free agents while providing the Sabres with a bench boss with a strong winning pedigree. Missing out on him is obviously no small hiccup, but it will hardly derail the path Tim Murray has set the team on.

Luke Richardson is just one of a number of promising young coaches the Sabres can look to.
With a fish this big and stakes as high as they were, it’s easy to present the pros and cons of this argument. A pair of Buffalo News reporters did just that as Mike Harrington and Jerry Sullivan each penned a column regarding Babcock’s decision just hours ago. For what it’s worth, Harrington’s is the only one of the two worth reading.

Although today’s news throws a curve to the coaching search, it’s not as if the Sabres are left without any viable options. There are a host of solid coaching candidates on the market that Tim Murray will almost certainly be taking a closer look at in the coming days.

Names like Dan Bylsma, Peter DeBoer and Paul MacLean along with a host of up-and-coming candidates remain on the open market. There are also a number of coaches with NHL experience serving as assistants or overseas who shouldn’t be discounted. Continue reading

Familiarity may cloud judgment on choice of Rolston

Ron Rolston’s return was somewhat expected. He wasn’t a total catastrophe during his stint as Buffalo’s interm bench boss and he was rewarded with the removal of the interim tag at a vote of confidence as Buffalo’s head coach moving forward.

While not too many people were happy about it, I’ve been left wondering one thing: Isn’t this exactly what everyone wanted?

The sluggish start to the regular season eventually led to the axe falling on Lindy Ruff with Rolston stepping in to fill Ruff’s 15-year old shoes. He did so with a carryover coaching staff and what ended up being a significant portion of the Rochester Americans opening day roster in front of him. With the season wrapped, the Sabres let both Kevyn Adams and James Patrick walk away, leaving the door open for Rolston to bring in a coaching staff of his choosing. Therefore, once the 2013-14 season begins, the Sabres will have a brand new coaching staff behind the bench; precisely the type of cast they have clamored for over the past few seasons.

Obviously Ron Rolston isn’t the sexy choice for anyone. He’s a relatively mild mannered guy who won’t make too many press conference highlight films. Some have said he’s a carbon copy of the GM and I can’t say I disagree. This is probably why everyone is so upset at the choice of Rolston as the permanent coach. Not so much because he doesn’t have the potential to be a good coach, but because his name isn’t Patrick Roy and he was likely cherry picked by the browbeaten GM for the role. Continue reading