Over-Thought: Sabres Need to Shop for College Free Agent Goalies

The final weeks before the deadline always seem to drag. Probably because the same rumors keep getting recycled, debunked and then re-reported. This week’s edition as rumor-heavy as you might expect two weeks out from the deadline, but I suspect next week’s will be chock-full of rumors.

Check out this week’s edition of 31 Thoughts here.

  1. One GM who could change the market over the next few days? Minnesota’s Paul Fenton. His team is still clinging to a playoff spot, but Mikko Koivu is out for the year. Ownership always pushes for the playoffs, but what do the Wild honestly think about their situation?

The Wild are bobbing in and out of a wild card spot and they’ve spent the last number of seasons as a playoff club unable to get over the hump. Having to get through Chicago or Nashville or the Blues at the height of their powers certainly didn’t help.

But now Minnesota’s core is beginning to age. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are both 34 and still have six years left on their deals, Jared Spurgeon is 29, Devan Dubnyk is 32 and Mikko Koivu is 35. They already parted ways with Nino Niederreiter and there have been rumors that Charlie Coyle may be on his way out. Both were already inching to their late-20s and both Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund are in the same spot. Coyle, Granlund and Zucker are hardly long in the tooth, so don’t misinterpret this as all doom and gloom for the Wild, but they’re probably approaching a period of transition. They’re not completely cooked when it comes to prosepcts but they’re not flush with young talent either. They always feel close but unable to push the right button to bring it all together. If they miss the playoffs this year I would suspect they’d be in the market for some fairly significant change come the summer. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.16 – Post-WJC Sabres Pipeline Assessment

The Sabres had three prospects take home hardware at the 2019 World Junior Championship including two with gold as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Oskari Laaksonen helped lead the Finns to a championship. That prompted a conversation over the health of Buffalo’s pipeline. Thanks to some promising mid-round selections the Sabres blueline appears to have some long-term promise while they’re in need of a bit more firepower at forward.

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:

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The Instigator Podcast 7.1 – Talking Sabres Prospects with Kris Baker of The Athletic

We’re kicking off season seven of The Instigator Podcast with a very special guest; Kris Baker of The Athletic. Kris joined the show to offer up a preview of this weekend’s Sabres Prospects Challenge and to assess a number of the prospects throughout Buffalo’s pipeline.

Thanks Kris for joining the show. Be sure to read his stuff on The Athletic, you won’t find better coverage anywhere else.

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
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“Vets” Steal the Show at Development Camp

It’s easy to get overly excited about development camp. Any group of highly skilled, largely NHL-caliber hockey players will typically look pretty good working through drills. Especially small-area skill drills with minimal defensive challenge. There’s plenty to glean from the week as fans, media and coaches have the opportunity to see players perform in a variety of settings but crowning greatness from the endeavor can be tricky.

I’ve been guilty of taking too much away from the camp myself. Back in 2012 I was convinced that Judd Peterson was sure to be a late-round gem due to his development camp performance. Since then I’ve tried to avoid falling into the same trap. I’ve found it helpful to focus on individual growth and skills rather than trying to project any sort of impact onto the Buffalo Sabres roster. In other words, I’m not trying to name an MVP based on the stickhandling drills they did on Friday.

There are some obvious caveats to this. Casey Mittlestadt’s coming out party last year helped to erase some of the doubts people had about him heading into the draft. Even just a few weeks removed from his draft Mittelstadt was among the most skilled players at the camp and his play certainly inspired confidence in the fanbase, and perhaps the organization as well. But there are just as many cases where an impressive camp performance won’t accurately reflect where a player stands organizationally. So I try to keep that in mind when attending camp.

With that in mind, I’m going to try something a little different with my round up. This will be more of a notebook, touching on players who showed either growth or intriguing upside based on their play. Continue reading

Best Value Games for the 2018 World Junior Championships

Things are going to be quite a bit different in Buffalo when you compare things to the last time the World Junior Championships came to town.

Downtown is far more vibrant, Canalside is slightly more developed and HarborCenter will serve as the second home for the tournament. No more jaunts to Dwyer Arena to catch the secondary matchups, which not only means that the corner of Perry and Washington will be home to more action throughout the tournament, some of the intriguing non-marquee matchups will be easier to access.

You can get an up close look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for single digit prices at this year’s World Juniors.

The WJC will always have a handful of can’t miss preliminary matchups and this year will be no different. The outdoor game between the US and Canada, which is reported to have a surprisingly low attendance number (paywall) at the moment, is the obvious headliner, but Russia-Sweden, USA-Finland and Canada-Finland will be well worth the cost of attendance as well. What fans in Buffalo should be aware of are the slate of games lacking headliners which will be both affordable and appealing from a Sabres-fan perspective. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast Interview – Featuring Greg Balloch of In Goal Mag

It’s been three games and there are plenty of questions about Buffalo’s goaltenders. So I reached out to Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine to talk about Robin Lehner’s shootout struggles and more. Greg gives incredible insight to the strong and weak points of Lehner’s game, where he sees Lehner taking the Sabres and even offers up some thoughts on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Greg also went deep into effective and ineffective goaltending statistics, providing a better way to look at goaltenders at the NHL level.