Special Edition Instigator Podcast: CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Eric and I spend a little time during intermission at the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects game to chat about this guy Connor McDavid and some of the other draft eligible players on the ice in St. Catharines.

The Deck is Stacked in Murray’s Favor

Nearly a full month removed from their last victory, plenty is being said of the Sabres express trip to the NHL’s basement. The ethics and direction of Buffalo’s season bring about accusations and arguments over tanking, the skillset of the head coach and the ability of Tim Murray to move the Sabres from cellar dweller to contender.

At this point of the season the Sabres are nothing short of a roaring dumpster fire. The scalding hot play of Jhonas Enroth, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson – the quartet that helped power their late November surge – has all but disappeared while the rest of the roster has been battered by injuries. With the roster limping around, the tactically feeble head coach has been unable to find a way to turn around Buffalo’s month-long slump and the team’s slow starts and weak finishes should bring about question surrounding his famous motivational skills.

The result of Buffalo’s 11-straight regulation losses is a spot in 30th place and an increasing probability that they’ll be the proud owners of the highest or second highest chance of drafting first overall. As is widely known, finishing 30th guarantees the Sabres the opportunity to draft Jack Eichel as a consolation if their 20% chance at winning the lottery doesn’t pan out.

While a grand debate has raged all year over the ethics and logic surrounding the push or hope for the first overall selection, it would seem that far too many individuals who follow the Sabres have ignored the arsenal that Tim Murray has at his disposal. While getting McDavid or Eichel remains up in the air, there is little doubt that the 2015 Draft will represent the point in which Murray puts the pedal to the floor on this rebuild. Continue reading

Haul from Vanek trade continues to grow

Tim Murray may have inherited a clunker of a roster from Darcy Regier, but the organization still had good bones despite the kamikaze job Regier did on the roster prior to his departure.

One of Regier’s final acts continues to bear fruit for the Sabres as the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders may serve as a major catalyst for Buffalo’s rebuild. Murray brought this full-circle by re-sigining Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick yesterday. By doing so, he brought back a pair of players he sold off as rentals at last year’s deadline and virtually saved any currency he spent in building for the future.

Moulson and McCormick return to Buffalo after being shipped off for a pair of second round picks and Torrey Mitchell at the deadline. Mitchell is still with the club and the two second round picks were turned into Josh Gorges, Eric Cornel and Brycen Martin – the latter two through this year’s draft. Gorges, Cornel and Martin all factor into a bigger picture that still includes Moulson and New York’s first and second round picks in the 2015 draft. It’s an impressive haul that could technically grow more should Cornel or Martin be used in a future transaction. For now, the original trade has become seven assets that are set to directly impact the team in 2014-15 and beyond.

Vanek

What to Expect from Sabres’ Potential Picks

With the World Cup officially kicked off and taking over the country’s sporting conscience for the next three or four weeks (or, at least until the US is eliminated) the NHL Draft is now less than two weeks away and rapidly approaching. The Sabres, as everyone knows by now, hold the 2nd overall selection and a pair of 2nd round selections. With news that Tim Murray is looking to acquire another 1st round pick the team should have ample opportunity to find young talent to help speed up the rebuild.

Rightly so, the 2nd overall selection is garnering the most chatter amongst fans and media alike. While people have every right to be optimistic about the prospect of grabbing a top end talent with the 2nd selection, many members of the MSM and fan base think that drafting 2nd is a lay up, and are under the impression that whoever the Sabres tab as their selection (and defacto new face of the franchise) will single-handedly lead the team out of the abyss and one day have their number hanging next to Gare, LaFontaine, and the French Connection.

While I’m all for optimism, I think it’s best to rein in expectations just a bit. This is not to say I don’t think the team will end up with a very talented player, in fact I’m very confident that Tim Murray and his staff will make the right choice at number two. That being said every draft slot has its fair share of Patrik Stefans and Brian Lawtons; nothing is guaranteed.

It is widely known that the NHL Draft more resembles the MLB Draft rather than the NFL or NBA when it comes to draft picks actually having impactful careers, and that average career numbers decrease significantly with each pick and round. The drop is obviously not as precipitous from pick to pick in the first round when compared to picks in the second round and beyond, but it is still apparent.

Sam Bennett could be a Sabre in 11 days

It is expected that either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett will be Buffalo Sabres come June 27, so let’s look at forwards selected in the top five. When looking at the top five picks in the draft dating back to 1970, forwards that were selected first overall had an average career of 840 games and put up just under 800 points. Compare that with forwards selected 5th overall; those players averaged 619 games and 430 points, a career that is over three season shorter, on average, than those picked just four spots higher. Those who went 2nd overall played an average of 755 games and amassed 616 points. Continue reading

Isles take another step towards keeping 2014 pick with Halak trade

The move that sent Jaroslav Halak to the Capitals was one that ensured Tim Murray ensured that he had a goaltender who would be with the organization past this summer’s free agency period. Little did many know that Halak would wind up becoming a contributing factor in which first round pick the Sabres receive from the Islanders.

Halak was swapped by the Capitals for a fourth round pick yesterday in a move that gives the Islanders two full months to negotiate with Halak ahead of free agency. This is a move geared towards improving the Islanders now. Their lack of goaltending last year kept the Islanders from competing for a playoff position and ultimately pushed them towards the top of the draft. While this isn’t a final piece of a Cup run puzzle it’s certainly a move that indicates that Snow won’t be taking the scenic route towards reshaping the roster.

That route likely includes using their 2014 first round pick.

There’s still the possibility that Halak chooses to test the market despite the Islanders efforts to get in him ahead of time – remember, the Islanders failed to get Christian Ehrhoff under contract after trading a fourth round pick for his rights in 2014. Should that be the case Snow would be stuck pursuing a contingency plan in net. Either way, it’s obvious that he wants to make immediate improvements to his roster which tells me they aren’t necessarily in the tanking business for 2014-15. Continue reading

Sabres have an arsenal of first and second round assets

If you read Paul Hamilton’s post on WGR 550 today you may have noticed the bevvy of players he referenced. A great many of those were selected in the first two rounds of the draft (as he mentions). After reading his post I wanted to find a way to illustrate exactly what the Sabres hold from the actions they’ve taken over the last few years.

The Sabres hold nine picks in the first and second round of the next two drafts. After the trade deadline the Sabres had sixplayers selected in the first two rounds of last year’s draft. Should the Sabres hold onto all of their picks and not make any trades involving players selected since 2008, the Sabres will close the 2015 draft with 25 players in the system who were selected in the first two rounds of the draft between 2008 and 2015.

That’s a long look at the organization as anyone selected since 2008 are beyond prospect status at this point and there’s no way to tell what Tim Murray’s strategy will be with the pick he possesses between this year and next. It’s a safe bet to say that he won’t sacrifice any of the three firsts he holds next year with his only course of action regarding the 2015 first round being to obtain more selections.

A pair of picks that I’m very interested in are the two at the top of this year’s second round. Buffalo holds the first pick of the second round (31) and Winnipeg’s selection (39)thanks to the deadline day trade of Matt Moulson. They’re high second round picks in what is considered a weak draft, so they may not carry all that much weight. I also think that targeting Thatcher Demko with the 31st pick could be a direction the Sabres go. I’d also be interested to see if either, or both, of those picks could be used to sweeten the pot on a draft day hockey trade if Murray is able to find a dance partner.

What I think is important to keep in mind about this – Hamilton touches on this when he refers to how envious other organizations are of the Sabres – is that the doom and gloom surrounding the state of the organization is somewhat misplaced. The Sabres have a ton of assets and while those selected prior to 2010 may by closer to veteran than prospect status, the organization’s roots run deep. This is not a team that has been spread thin by buying rentals and temporarily patching weak spots. While the holes in the current roster run rampant, the framework to fix them are in hand and will start to be acquired as soon as June 28.

As I said, I wanted to illustrate the arsenal of high picks and assets Hamilton mentioned in his post. The fun starts at the draft in Philly and will continue through to next season. If used properly, the assets listed below could significantly speed up the rebuild. 1st two round

Where are the Sabres picks?

Tim Murray was awfully busy in the past week starting on Friday when he moved Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis. That started the ball rolling for Murray’s first trade deadline as a general manager and when the dust settled the Sabres had made four moves involving 15 players and prospects and seven draft picks.

Things may have gotten particularly cloudy with the draft picks as the Sabres not only shipped out three on Wednesday, but have also acquired quite a few over the next few seasons in trades dating back to last year’s swap with Minnesota. A number of these picks are also controlled by various trade conditions that could drastically change the landscape of what the Sabres own in the 2014 draft and beyond.

For example, should the Islanders choose to keep their first round selection in this year’s draft – a condition that stipulates the pick must be in the top-10 – the pick will transfer to the 2015 draft. Should that occur the Sabres will own three first round selections (barring any trades) in what is expected to be a deep first round.

The Sabres could also score an extra pick in this year’s first round if the Blues reach the conference finals or choose to re-sign Ryan Miller prior to the draft. Given that the Blues were knocked out in the second round last year, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that is a possibility. However, if the Sabres are to receive that pick, the Blues will get Buffalo’s third round selection in 2014 along with the second round pick Buffalo obtained in the Jason Pominville trade last year. If the Blues miss the conference finals and happen to re-sign Miller after the draft, Buffalo winds up with St. Louis’ 2016 second round pick.

Confused yet? In order to provide some clarity on the situation, here’s a graphic on what picks the Sabres own and what picks have been moved.

Feel free to point out any errors.
Feel free to point out any errors.