Targeting Cap Dumps Might Fetch the Sabres the Talent They Need

For a team hoping to reshape their identity this offseason, the Buffalo Sabres are seriously short on talent and assets which can be parlayed into the type of deals which would bring about any sort of marked improvement.

Outside of Ryan O’Reilly, who could fetch a king’s ransom should he be traded, the Sabres have scant few assets they can give up in trades. They’re short on picks and expendable prospects with value. O’Reilly is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and San Jose’s first round pick is another valuable option but there isn’t much beyond that.

One avenue available to Botterill is a path he’s ventured down once during his time as the Sabres GM. Taking on salary to land the player he’s seeking. Even with the added cap hit that Jason Pominville carried, the deal that brought Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo was a coup for the Sabres. Botterill was able to acquire a solid defenseman for his top four for a pair of forwards who were quickly becoming spare parts in Buffalo. The Sabres took on about $3mm in cap when it was all said and done, a minor uptick to unload dead weight and seriously upgrade the blueline.

It’s a tactic Botterill is in position to take advantage of once again this summer. Continue reading

Phil Housley Trade Tree is Star Studded

Phil Housley sits at the center of one of Buffalo’s more interesting trade trees. A memorable player in his own right, the tree includes three, maybe four, of the most iconic players to ever suit up for the Sabres.

Housley’s tenure in Buffalo was somewhat rocky, with complaints about his lack of physicality and grit overshadowing his prowess as a play driver.

After being selected with the pick acquired for the 1975 Cup team’s favorite players, Jerry Korab, Housley was included in a blockbuster that brought the Sabres one of the league’s best scorers. Housley had blossomed into one of the game’s most dynamic offensive defensemen and Dale Hawerchuk was a bona fide superstar.  He had scored 35 or more goals in eight of his first nine NHL seasons – seven with 40-plus goals – and had six 100-point seasons. The pair came with a swap of first round picks in 1990, moving the Sabres up five spots. This is where the Jets wind up winning the trade, as they say.

The Sabres selected Brady May with the 14th selection and he’d become a fan favorite and score the most famous goal in franchise history. The Jets wound up picking 500-goal and 1,000-point club member Keith Tkachuk at 19. From there the rest is history. Tkachuck would twice score 50 goals for the Jets/Coyotes before moving on to St. Louis. May was turned into a key member of the 1999 Cup team, Geoff Sanderson.

This one doesn’t have the legs of something like the Martin tree or even the (spoiler alert) Dominik Hasek trade tree. But it stretches over three decades of team history, an impressive span considering the low number of players involved.

Note: I made one slight alteration to this tree compared to the others: splitting Scott Arniel off separately. While he was a simple throw in to the Housley/Hawerchuk deal, I chose to include his branch to make the tree more robust.

The Instigator Podcast 5.16 – Sabres Camp and the Surprising Trouba Trade Request

After Jacob Trouba’s surprising trade request from Winnipeg, Chris and Tyler discuss the Sabres-related focus on the request and potential for the Sabres to acquire the young blueliner. We also touch on the beginning of Sabres training camp and the battle for spots in Buffalo’s bottom six. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, hit the link here to subscribe and rate.

Kane acquisition represents the next step in Buffalo’s rebuild

Tim Murray has had the arsenal of assets to make a major play for talent going back to his first trade deadline as the Buffalo Sabres general manager. He will enter his second trade deadline with his second major trade in his rear-view mirror.

Murray shipped an impressive package of Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a conditional first round draft pick to Winnipeg in exchange for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf. It’s a trade the provides the Sabres with not one, but two significant pieces that fit in both the short, and long term plans of the organization.

There is some concern that Murray may have sacrificed too much in order to complete the trade but in a world where you have to pay a premium to obtain premium talent, it lines up as a balanced transaction for both teams. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres come up short when it counts

It was the biggest game of the season, to date, and the Sabres needed a strong showing. They didn’t get one. Buffalo looked flat for most of the game as they fell to the Winnipeg Jets 3-1.

The Sabres were facing a tough battle from the get-go. The final game of a rough west coast trip, in one of the league’s loudest barns against a team they are chasing for a playoff spot. Perhaps the deck was stack in the Jet’ favor before the puck dropped, but there was little push from Buffalo’s side of the table all night.

I don’t doubt that the fatigue factor played a major role in Buffalo’s performance, but it was just another one of those games where this group of players didn’t show up when they needed to. That isn’t necessarily a blanket statement, either. Ryan Miller had yet another impressive game (28 saves) and certainly gave his team a chance to get a victory. For the second-straight game in Winnipeg, Miller was strong and his team was flat.

Once again the top line of Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville were non-existent and turned a pair of three-on-two rushes into odd-man goals for the Jets. Lindy Ruff responded by plunking Vanek on the bench and using Roy as his extra attacker late in the game (#LindyLogic).

There can’t be too much overreacting put into this loss. Yes, it was a pivotal game. No, it doesn’t mean the season is over. Bottom line, it makes the journey to eighth that much harder and things would be a whole lot different if this road trip was finished 4-0-0.

  • It is about time Jhonas Enroth play an entire hockey game. Lindy Ruff was sort of forced into sticking with Miller. A pair of shutouts and generally awesome hockey kept Buffalo’s starter off the bench. However, running MIller into the ground will accomplish little. Show faith in Enroth and let him reward your decision. Two effective goaltenders are always better than one. I don’t care if Enroth plays Wednesday or Thursday, just get him in a game and do it soon.
  • Also, with regards to Lindy’s decision making. It is about time to do a little line shuffling. Whether or not Derek Roy’s presence has been what dragged down Vanek and Pominville, I think it is time for a new look. Cody Hodgson has been strong with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, but maybe he can help spark Buffalo’s two best scorers. Try this on for size: 26/19/29 – 23/63/21 – 42/9/36 – 37/22/78.
  • Robyn Regehr needs to hit Chris Thorburn on that third goal. Ryan Miller is standing his ground as a third-line grinder came to the crease with no option. Miller’s read is to hold his position and make the easy save. It is Regehr’s responsibility to deny the inside ice for Thorburn, that didn’t happen and suddenly Thorburn is the new Gretzky.
  • To that point, I have noticed the NBCSN crew getting on every pretty play more and more. I usually appreciate what Pierre McGuire has to say, but he is getting a little over the top with the major junior, college and European development references. He has a plethora of hockey knowledge, just use that and inform the viewers as to what they’re watching.
  • It is hard to pinpoint exactly who was good and who wasn’t for the Sabres. Mainly because most of the team wasn’t very good. All six defensemen had their struggles and most of the forwards were average. It was just a flat night for this team and they paid for it.
  • I love the fact that the MTS Centre crowd is loud and raucous for the entire game. It is a perfect combination of a hockey-mad city, loud fans and I would assume timely video/music choices. I’ll wait to see if the atmosphere at FNC changes for the better, but I don’t think many Sabres fans have it in them.

Game Summary/Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Playoff position on the line in Winnipeg

After two months of poor hockey and numerous losses, the Sabres are in a position to get back into a playoff spot against Winnipeg. With a regulation win the Sabres will be in a tie for eighth place. A win tonight would be another major step in an impressive, improbable turnaround.

Ryan Miller will be back in net again tonight. His game has been in phenomenal shape as of late, but I fear that his endurance is running low after a full run of hockey since the All Star break. In the one game he had off, he played 30 minutes after Jhonas Enroth was pulled in Philadelphia.I don’t doubt Miller will still have a strong outing, I just wonder if he had been better rested if his play would be that much better. I suppose this is still in line with the goaltending schedule.

Buffalo needs a 60-minute effort. They had three tough games on little rest on the West coast, tonight’s game comes after some rest for a road weary team. The Sabres top line has been absent as of late and that needs to change immediately. Without the production of Vanek and Pominville, the mountain that is the playoff race gets that much steeper.

Highlighted Matchup

Vanek/Roy/Pominville. This line has been slumping for a short period of time. It is my opinion that Derek Roy has negatively impacted the play of his two wingers. Regardless of the true cause of this slump, it needs to be snapped. Vanek and Pominville have been Buffalo’s MVPs all season. Tonight would be a great day to for them to turn a corner.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

WPG: Ondrej Pavelec

Last Meeting

Sabres 1 – Jets 4, MTS Centre, 1/19/2012

The Morning Skate: Road trip hits halfway point

After three disappointing road losses, the Sabres current trip away from First Niagara Center is nearing its end.

The current seven-game road trip is half over. The Sabres will play in Winnipeg tonight prior to shipping off to St. Louis on Saturday. The trip has not been friendly thus far. Buffalo has given up fifteen goals on the trip while scoring only four. The past two games have shown what looks to be an exasperated team without any answers for what ails them on the ice.

Tonight they skate into one of the most hostile arenas in the league.

The Winnipeg faithful bought up every possible ticket over the summer and have been more than just vocal for every home game this season. The edge the Jets have at home rivals that of the Blackhawks or Canadiens. Winnipeg’s impressive home record makes the trip to the MTS Centre that much more ominous.

Buffalo past two outings came against superior opponents who showed how much farther ahead of the Sabres they were in impressive drubbings. Winnipeg, while ahead of the Sabres in the standings, is not much farther ahead in the talent department. That fact is something the Sabres need to capitalize on.

Of the many dead horses surrounding the Sabres this year is the fact that they haven’t had more than a couple truly quick starts. If Buffalo manages to wrangle some passion into their first 20 minutes, there is no reason to think they won’t come away with a victory.

What to Watch For

Luke Adam. I have been a little touch and go regarding the young center for a few weeks now. Enough is enough. While he has had some defensive zone lapses, Adam’s contributions early in the year were a major reason this team was winning. Look no further than the fact that he is the third leading goal scorer on the roster. His line with Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe showed some fire last night in Chicago. Like many lines this season, they had their moments but couldn’t finish. Watch Adam closely, if he gets the ice time he deserves the production will come.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller vs.WPG: Ondrej Pavelec

Last Meeting

Sabres 1 – Jets 2 OT (1/7/12 – First Niagara Center)