When is Jason Botterill going to make a move? That’s the common refrain among hockey fans in Buffalo as the calendar creeps towards January with the Sabres in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Unlike last year, the Sabres have managed to right the ship after their post-win streak regression. They’ve turned in a solid December and sit five points shy of a wild card spot but only one point out of third in the Atlantic coming out of the Christmas break and holiday roster freeze. Like last year, they’re reliant on a single line to produce results, even still they’re firmly in the race at the New Year.
The time for action was prior to the roster freeze. It’s evident the Sabres are in need of help up front. Ideally a center but it’s probably more realistic for them to find a winger capable of buoying their output. They’ve had a surplus of defensemen since July and one of those guys just explicitly asked to be traded.
It’s not unfair to want to see Botterill spring into action. The Sabres have been spinning their wheels for the better part of a decade and frustration over Buffalo’s on-ice success is high. After watching the 2018-19 season circle the drain, you’d understand why fans are antsy to see additional improvements.
There are two threads to follow for Botterill and the Sabres. The first is the cap situation and the surplus on defense. Zach Bogosian has requested a trade and it seems as if Marco Scandella is likely to be traded as well. Without any salary retention, moving the pair accounts for over $9m in cap. The second aspect is just what type of trade might Botterill make in order to actually improve the forward corps. Continue reading →
Despite nearly a dozen offseason acquisitions, the Buffalo Sabres continue to tread water at the bottom of the league, leaving many fans to wonder if there will ever be a way out of the NHL’s basement.
Their protracted struggles have been attributed to just about anything and everything the organization has done over the past half-decade. But the one talking point that’s rarely acknowledged, if at all, has been how Buffalo’s struggles at the draft have led to a lack of contributors throughout the lineup.
When Tim Murray said he wasn’t interested in a five-year rebuild, he meant it. He took steps to speed up the building process, dealing for established NHL players as opposed to waiting on the assets he and Darcy Regier had worked to accumulate. In a way, it was wise. It’s likely that many of the key assets the Sabres dealt would only be making their NHL debut this season, leaving the club with holes to fill over the past two-plus years. Had the Sabres opted to backfill the roster with veteran stop gaps as they waited for those prospects to mature, it stands to reason they’d be in about the same spot they are now with just as much fan discontent about their progress.
The results can’t be ignored though. While Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane have been good they haven’t been nearly good enough to put the Sabres over the top. Murray’s gamble on injecting the roster with NHL talent to hasten the rebuild simply didn’t pay off, leaving a disjointed collection of talent without a proper supporting cast.
For the most part, the lackluster results of 2017-18 sit firmly in Murray’s lap. However, he alone doesn’t own all of the Sabres’ problems. His high-profile moves amplified Buffalo’s lack of blue chip prospects, but the pipeline was thinning well before Murray’s tenure began. Continue reading →
In the wake of Dan Bylsma and Tim Murray’s firings, Chris and Tyler discuss what seems to be a knee jerk reaction by Terry and Kim Pegula and what the decision means for both the short and long term future of the team. We spend plenty of time talking about the terrible things Russ Brandon does and even offer some thoughts on who the Sabres should choose to replace their head coach and general manager.
Maybe we should have seen the writing on the wall when Tim Murray was given an extension in the fall. If there’s one harbinger for unemployment in the Pegula sports empire it seems as if contract extensions are it.
The Pegulas have given out quite a few golden parachutes in recent years and you don’t need to look far on Twitter to find a list of all the coaches and GMs still on their payroll. You can now add Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma to that list after both were relived for their duties today.
The decision comes in the wake of a disappointing season where rumors of turmoil in the locker room and poor performance on the ice fueled fan frustration in another year without playoffs. Jack Eichel’s ankle injury on the eve of the new season cast an early shadow on the year, but it was Buffalo’s poor performance coming out of the bye week – when they were sniffing a playoff position – that seemed to truly doom the season.
Losses to Arizona and Colorado set off one of the worst stretches of the year for the Sabres and they quickly went from playoff contender to lottery hopeful due to their post-bye week collapse. Questions over Bylsma’s effectiveness followed the team for most of the year, but they were particularly prevalent late in the year as complaints about the system and the team’s execution continued to mount. Continue reading →
A big topic of conversation during Tim Murray’s final press conference centered around Dan Bylsma’s effectiveness as Buffalo’s head coach and what appears to be a rapidly closing window on his tenure. Prior to jumping into the outlook on Bylsma, Chris and Tyler offer up their playoff picks, some of which look a bit iffy after just a day and a half of action.
Jerry Sullivan put his hockey writing shoes on this week to pen a column on the failings of the Buffalo Sabres. I always look forward to his Sabres coverage because it’s impressive that someone who gets to one game per season has such a solid grasp on the pulse of the franchise.
Buffalo’s struggles this season are well documented as Tim Murray’s moves – or lack thereof – on the blueline were likely the primary reason for Buffalo’s failed season. But using the phrasing of soft sounds a bit off to me. I mean, have you watched how the league has evolved away from heavy, grinding teams in recent years? Considering the title of the column was already well off base, the content couldn’t be much better. So I thought I’d fire up the FJM engines and get to work. My additions to Jerome’s writing will be in bold. Continue reading →
There was no escaping the Jimmy Vesey debate last year, especially after the Sabres acquired his rights from Nashville. Will he or won’t he sign? He’s playing with Eichel in the summer, is that a sign? Now Sabres fans are enduring the same angst as they wait for news regarding Cal Petersen.
Should he choose to leave school, Petersen could become a free agent on June 1 and test the waters around the league to see which feels best. Like with Vesey, it’s a right he’s entitled to via the CBA.
Aside from Petersen, his family, advisor and maybe Tim Murray, no one really knows what’s going on at this point in time. But it stands to reason that the longer Petersen goes without a contract, the more likely it is that he’s going to hit the open market.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he chooses to return to Notre Dame for his senior season, as we’re now two days removed from the end of the Sabres season and five days removed from Petersen’s exit from the Frozen Four with news of a contract yet to break. It’s not out of the question that Petersen would still sign with the Sabres, it just seems unlikely the further away from the end of the season we get. Continue reading →
Ennis? Bogosian? Moulson? Ullmark? Will the Sabres manage to pawn off a big salary on the Vegas Golden Knights or will Tim Murray have work to do in terms of which players he exposes and which players he protects. Chris and Tyler run down Buffalo’s options for the expansion draft while also hitting on the signing of CJ Smith, USWNT negotiations and Sam Reinhart’s benching.
As the Sabres slide further from playoff contention, questions about roster construction, coaching and effort continue to be asked. We sit down this week to discuss rumors of a rift between the players and the coach and even between some of the players. Along the way we chat about how difficult it really is to find solid leadership if it isn’t homegrown.
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.
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 →