The Instigator Podcast 6.29 – How Swede It Is

The Sabres finally had the lottery balls bounce their way and they’ll be selecting first in the 2018 NHL Draft, meaning they’re in pole position to take Swedish phenom Rasmus Dahlin. We discuss exactly what it means for the Sabres to add Dahlin to the roster and how his talent could free up Jason Botterill to move another defenseman in an attempt to add talent to the forward group.

The Buffalo Sabres Tank Bracket

Since making brackets for things is all the rage these days I figured I’d get in on the fun. So I built a Sabres bracket the only way I know how – to honor the tank seasons of 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Seeding was determined based on a few somewhat random factors. Importance to Darcy Regier and Tim Murray’s shared mission, general skill level, games played, on-ice contribution (for or against the tank) and then added consideration for intangibles which unfolded during those years.

The seeds were still something of a moving target and came down to feel more than anything. But guys like Ryan Miller or Mark Pysyk who were good don’t rate quite as high on the tank scale as someone like Jaroslav Halak who despite playing zero games was a unique and somewhat laughable portion of the tank era. This covers just about everyone who suited up for the Sabres during those two seasons including a couple of surprises. Have some fun when filling this out and share it as you see fit.

It’s Never too Early to Shower the Leafs with Praise

It doesn’t take much to stir the ire of Sabres Twitter on the best of days. Today was no exception as David Alter’s post on The Score managed to work numerous Sabres fans into a froth despite being at peak #FaschingWatch. Speaking of which.

I encourage you to read through Alter’s article as he rolls through an argument that is worth having. The Leafs are one of the few teams in the process of a rebuild with the same financial might that Terry Pegula has to offer while also boasting a number of impressive prospects at the top of their pipeline. Both teams are positioned similarly. While the Sabres are likely a year or two ahead, the Leafs aren’t as far behind as some fans in the 716 would want to think.

The article itself is short on research and long on opinions that likely grew from Saturday’s 4-1 loss at the Air Canada Centre. I’m surprised that he held off on writing this for this week and not for, I don’t know Buffalo’s 4-3, comeback victory from earlier this month. That being considered, I thought I’d try my hand at a FJM of the post as it was simply too empty to stand as a proper evaluation of where each team’s rebuild stands in comparison to one another.

Original portions post will be in bold, my responses will be in normal type. Continue reading

2015 2ITB End of Season Awards

The 2014-15 season was like no other in Sabres history as Buffalo’s rebuild plunged the team into another last place season as they pushed to secure the right to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Media narratives on tanking and the need to pick first piled on game after game of poorly played hockey by a patchwork roster led by a lame duck coach. The season was capped by the Edmonton Oilers snatching the first overall pick with the Sabres guaranteed to slot in second in the draft order.

Such an odd season cannot be served by any run-of-the-mill awards post. So the fourth-annual 2ITB Awards will take on a slightly different look this year as we reflect back on a headache inducing run towards the end of the rebuild.

Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Toews – Toews heroics in the final minutes of Chicago’s 4-3 win erased an improbably Buffalo lead and snatched away a regulation win that would have brought the Sabres two points closer to 29th place. As it turns out, Captain Serious’ tallies were much needed as Buffalo didn’t ensure last place until the second last game of the year and the lottery results would have pushed them out of the second pick.

Least Valuable Player: Andre Benoit – I’m not sure there was any one player on the roster who was as consistently disappointing as Benoit was. He scored a nice shorthanded goal in a drubbing by the Red Wings but was generally bad the entire year. He certainly contributed to the tank but was a complete albatross in every other situation.

Best Prospect: Mark Pysyk – Pysyk has been a good solider for the Sabres since he was drafted. Tim Murray knew that the best place for Pysyk this year was likely to be Rochester despite Pysyk’s ability to excel at the NHL level. He’s poised to be a major piece of the puzzle in the near future and if his health issues clear up I think he’ll wind up playing a top-four role next year. Continue reading

Sabres delay tank celebration for at least one more day with win over Canes

The merciful end to the nosedive to 30th will have to wait at least one more day as the Sabres edged the Hurricanes 4-3 in the season’s penultimate game at First Niagara Center.

Those who may be tied a little too much into the tank likely lost some hair as the Sabres jumped to a two-goal advantage after the first period and extended their lead to four after the second. Patrick Dwyer woke up the Hurricanes with a tally with just under 2:00 remaining in the middle frame and Carolina would carry that momentum into the third.

Alex Semin scored a beautiful goal just 2:31 into the third and Eric Staal made it mighty interesting with just over five to play. Buffalo managed to buckle down and preserved the one-goal win despite allowing 52 shots and 85 attempts.

Buffalo heads to Columbus on Friday with the magic number for 30th place locked in at two. The Coyotes could do us all a solid and win one more, but I hardly think that’s a realistic possibility. Continue reading

Fans plunge FNC into bizarro world in Coyotes OT win

Someone had to win this game. Someone had to come out of the ridiculous atmosphere in First Niagara Center with a pair of points in the standings. Arizona came away with an OT victory and moved one point further away from the Sabres in the league basement.

But the result is hardly the most interesting part of tonight’s game. In fact, Buffalo getting another point in their cushion in the race for McDavid and Eichel isn’t even the most interesting thing to come out of tonight. Buffalo, on home ice, were actively cheered against for the better part of 30 minutes as they tried to battle back against the Coyotes.

Things didn’t get really bizarre until well into the second period. Even after Jordan Szwarz gave Arizona an early lead, most of the building seemed torn on how they should act. But after Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Moss scored to give the Coyotes the lead, everyone seemed to know what was at stake.

From there, fans gave overwhelming support to Mike Smith and the Coyotes. The fans would boo Arizona penalties and even booed when Brian Gionta scored to tie the game late in the third. When Smith made a desperation stop on Zach Bogosian in the dying minutes, you would have thought it was Dominik Hasek turning aside Trent Klatt. Continue reading

The best of the Sabres tank narrative

We’ve reached new levels of stupid when it comes to the Sabres 2014-15 regular season. The Sabres have inched closer to 29th place over the last few weeks despite holding the last spot in the NHL while continuing their largely inept play on the ice.

As we approach the two biggest games of the year as it pertains to the hopes of securing the best chance to draft Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, those who are both pro- and anti-tank continue to make some very curious points or arguments related to their cause.

Honestly.

I wrote something last night in an attempt to ease some of the tension related to the Sabres run of points over the past week and the inexplicable play of Anders Lindback. I thought I’d add to my thoughts on the tank and all of the ridiculous arguments and opinions related to it today with a slightly more easy-going post that highlights the most ridiculous statements I’ve heard or read as it relates to the Sabres rebuild, the tank and the potential to maybe finish 29th instead of 30th. Continue reading

Time to relax for the tank stretch run

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Sabres are in a position to be drafting at the top of one of the richest draft classes since 2003.

Of all the tired Buffalo sports narratives in recent memory, the argument over the tank is making a strong run for the worst of them all. There’s been mudslinging from various members of the media, the fanbase is at odds over whether the team should be trying to win or pushing for the basement – how there are people who are against getting Connor McDavid is beyond me – and every night brings a new round of hand wringing from some contingent of fans.

The Sabres recent run of “good” play has seen them grab four points in their last four games despite being outshot and outplayed badly. This “surge” in the standing has brought them within three points of the Arizona Coyotes and four points of the Edmonton Oilers. It should be noted that the Sabres remain in 30th in the NHL standings heading into this weekend’s back-to-back games.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this entire twisted journey called the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres season is that there are so many people freaking out over things that are out of their control. Of course, all of this is out of all of our control, but for the sake of argument, consider anything related to the Sabres as something the fans and media controls.

The Sabres are bad. Historically bad. In fact, they’re worse in nearly every facet of the game compared to last year’s 30th place, historically bad team. Here’s a chart from Travis Yost from February 4th, the date the Sabres officially became the most outshot team in the analytics era.

Take a long look at that chart, even if you hate analytics. The green and red lines are last year’s Sabres and Leafs teams, both horrendously bad in terms of puck possession. That ugly black line is this year’s Sabres team. That’s how terrible the Sabres are. Continue reading

Murray active in second deadline season

The 2014-15 trade deadline was much different for Tim Murray than the 2013-14 deadline when he was just a few months into his new job.

Entering last year’s deadline, Murray was tasked with finding a home for pending UFA goaltender Ryan Miller, pending UFA Steve Ott along with other pieces. Most notably, Matt Moulson, who was also set to enter free agency. deadline

Last year’s deadline saw Murray make four separate deals and acquire a total of six players and four draft picks. He also claimed Cory Conacher on waivers on deadline day. Murray was not facing the same steep challenge at this year’s deadline. He did not have a franchise talent like Miller to deal, while sporting three pending UFAs who held varying levels of average value. The deadline closed with the Sabres having made four trades (again) while acquiring a goaltender, a prospect and four picks.

You certainly can’t give Murray a strong grade for this year’s deadline alone. None of the four deals he made were blockbusters and he wasn’t dealing from a position of power like in 2014. However, looking at the big picture, Murray has positioned himself very well to take the next big step in the rebuild of the Sabres franchise. Continue reading

Sabres trade bait powers team past Canucks

With precisely 20 games left on the schedule, the Sabres have worked their way deeper into the divide in the fanbase following a 6-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice, Chris Stewart added a goal and an assist but most are left scratching their heads over where the tank stands and what to make of Buffalo’s recent string of hot play. neuvirth

The Sabres capitalized, once again, on substandard goaltending as Eddie Lack turned in a .783 SV% on a night in which he was only tested 23 times. Tonight’s win marked the third time this season the Sabres managed to shoot better than 20% in a game – the other two coming against San Jose and Calgary. Lack was strong early in the game, getting hung out on an early two-on-one and getting some unwanted assistance from Adam Clendening on Stewart’s breakaway. But he made a few impressive stops, including a dazzling glove save on Cody Hodgson in the second.

The wheels fell off for the Canucks in the third as Andrej Meszaros cleaned up a sloppy no-look pass from Nick Bonino and put the puck through a screen for Buffalo’s third, while Mitchell cleaned up some garbage in front to put the Sabres ahead for good. Brian Flynn’s security marker at 18:28 came after Lack misplayed a loose puck badly and Stewart found Flynn to cash on the empty net. Continue reading