Jason Botterill and the Sabres have hit another deadline season no nearer to the playoffs that the year before. Once again, the Sabres aren’t quite sellers but they aren’t quite buyers either.
It’s been a rough season for the club, as a summer of anticipation over improving the forward corps came and went. The lack of action at the tail end of the summer carried all the way to January when Botterill finally acquired a forward, flipping a pick to Calgary for Michael Frolik.
That deal has played out about how you would have expected. Frolik has been forgettable during his time in Buffalo as he was a player better acquired in the wake of a larger acquisition. But instead of Frolik supplementing the roster after a move for a top six forward, he’s slotted into an already crowded and forgettable bottom six. That bottom six accounts for the list of deadline rentals the Sabres have to offer. Cheap rentals, but still rentals.
Frolik, along with Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Conor Sheary and Jimmy Vesey are Buffalo’s pending unrestricted free agents. As a restricted free agent who previously requested a trade, Evan Rodrigues could still be on the move as well. Add in trade rumor regular Rasmus Ristolainen and Buffalo’s other defensemen, specifically Brandon Montour, Colin Miller and possibly Jake McCabe, Botterill could have a busy Monday. Continue reading →
Sabres. After. Dark. One of the greatest parts of the season has arrived. We jump in on identifying the impressive results the team’s “fourth” line has produced while also digging into the lack of success from Buffalo’s “third” line. We also look ahead to the upcoming West Coast road trip and how it might affect the club’s 5-0-1 record.
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:
The Sabres are about to get down to playing some honest to god, regular season hockey games this week. Before they jump in to games that count for something, they need to make a few decisions on their roster.
Preseason hockey is tough to take too much information from given the irregular rosters on a game-to-game basis. One night you could see an NHL-heavy roster and on another night you might only see three or four NHL regulars in the lineup. With that being the case, it can even be hard to be impressed by individual performances since the level of competition they can come against can vary so much.
There’s also the Preseason Pledge to consider. You can’t get too high or too low on a player or the team given the volatility of the roster during the preseason. But that can go out the window when Vladimir Sobotka skates on the second line and the coach says a lot of really nice things about him.
On the eve of the regular season opening, there seems to be more concern and annoyance than excitement across Sabres nation. Jason Botterill went out and acquired a handful of players who could really help this team turn a corner this year. Only, he forgot to get rid of anyone from last year’s group. This preseason was thought to be the one where we’d finally see some dead weight stripped off the roster. The likes of Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Marco Scandella have been the most popular candidates in that regard. But with the season almost upon us, that’s looking more and more dire.
I, for one, seriously expected Sobotka to spend the final year of his contract in Europe. I’m glad I attached the caveat to my opinion that we couldn’t take solace in it happening until Botterill filed the paperwork. Given the state of the roster, Sobtoka seems to be safe. It’s disappointing for a number of reasons, primarily because Sobotka is bad at hockey. The silver lining here is that it appears that Sobotka is simply keeping Conor Sheary’s seat warm on the second line. He may just be the extra forward, meaning he’ll spend plenty of time in the pressbox this season.
Still, the fact that he’ll be an option to dress on a nightly basis is extremely disappointing.
I suppose there’s still a chance that we get surprised by the noon waiver notifications. But I’m not expecting any fireworks from the Sabres. That’s not to say they shouldn’t make some noise with their roster decisions. While about two-thirds of the roster was set before camp opened, I think there have been a few eye-opening performances the should have affected Botterill and Ralph Krueger’s thinking on the final 23-man roster. Continue reading →
After Jason Botterill’s comments on Wednesday it seemed fair to assume he’d have a relatively quiet trade deadline. The holes in his team’s roster were showing and the playoffs were looking bleak as other Eastern Conference contenders added help while Botterill stayed patient.
It was hard to stomach for some, watching the Sabres slide from the literal league lead to a six-point deficit from the final wild card spot. For others it was just fine. Botterill was going to build through the draft and stockpile prospects. That got turned on its ear on Sunday when Botterill sent a first round pick and Brendan Guhle to Anaheim for Brandon Montour.
The deal was exactly what Botterill had said he was attempting to make all year. A deal for a young player who would offer help to the team now and in the future. I don’t expect him to take another big swing by Monday’s deadline, but I don’t think the Sabres are done. Continue reading →
The Sabres annual prospect’s scrimmage came and went last night with a sloppy 5-1 win for Team White.
In a slight change from recent years the scrimmage was held early in the week and the results on the ice reflected that change. With only two ice sessions as a group, the majority of the prospects struggled to find chemistry in a game setting. While the players with more developmental and professional experience stood out for obvious reasons, there were very few true standouts simply based on the disjointed nature of the game that took over at times.
There were some obvious bright spots as one might expect in a six-goal game although a majority of the scoring happened to be done by undrafted camp invites while the organization’s prospects contributed in other ways.
Two of the most obvious standouts were Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen. The two towering defensemen were split between the two squads but they were certainly noticeable when they were on the ice. Zadorov was very active joining the rush and even chipped in with an assist as his booming slapshot caught the end boards and wound up on Jerome Leduc’s tape for a tap in to open the scoring.
Zadorov’s game appeared measured to me as he was picking his spots and recovering well when he joined the rush. He might need to practice a bit more discretion at times but he continued to display the active style that has made him such an attractive prospect. Furthermore, his physical game wasn’t lacking throughout the scrimmage.
Ristolainen was as steady as you might expect a player who split the year between Buffalo and Rochester despite being fresh out of the draft. Since both teams had only five defensemen on their roster the minutes piled up for each and Ristolainen was certainly a beneficiary of that. I think he is a safe bet to pencil into a top-six spot entering training camp as his second professional season is set to begin.
The biggest star of last night’s scrimmage didn’t even see the ice after the halfway mark of the second period. Linus Ullmark was far and away the most impressive goaltender of the four who dressed last night. Continue reading →
The Sabres have a bunch of questions that need to at least begin to be addressed this offseason and next season. While everyone focuses on the draft and who is going to put the puck in the net for last year’s worst offensive team, many have forgotten that the Sabres are (once again) without a captain.
There are a couple basic things that I believe the organization should (or should not) do when considering who will be the next person to wear the “C”.
First (and most important) is that the next captain must come from in-house. The cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to naming a player who was just acquired as the captain. The most obvious issue is that it places undue pressure on the new player. No matter the age or experience of a player, when someone is traded to a new team, or signs with a new team as a free agent, they want to make a good first impression. On top of trying to fit in with new teammates and a new system on the ice, the player is faced with trying to acclimate to a new city off the ice. Throw in moving a family and all that comes with it into a new town and the player is juggling all he can handle.
Another concern is that naming a player that is new to the team as a captain is an indictment of the leadership qualities (or lack thereof) of your current roster. By giving the captaincy to a newly acquired player you’re basically telling the 23 guys on your roster, “I don’t think any of you are capable enough or ready enough to assume responsibility for this team.” Given the state of the Sabres’ roster, I’d advise against doing that. Continue reading →
Perhaps this season won’t be about winning the Cup for the Sabres, but that might not be all bad. If suffering is indeed what Sabres fans are in for, at least the crop of fresh faces on the roster will provide a compelling narrative to follow for the season.
In the weeks between the draft and training camp, the Sabres voiced their support of Rasmus Ristolainen as an NHL-ready prospect and confirmed that Mikhail Grigorenko would play the season in Buffalo. Additionally, players like Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Mark Pysyk began showing that they’d also be vying for a spot on the roster that takes the ice in Detroit on October 2.
With only six days left until the regular season opens, the roster is beginning to take shape with only a few spots left to confirm. How many fresh faces will be on the opening night roster is one aspect that hasn’t been determined at this point.
Buffalo still has nine defensemen in camp with newly signed, junior-eligble Nikita Zadorov amongst the group. Zadorov has received rave reviews throughout the summer and the preseason and has probably earned himself his nine-game tryout before being sent back to London. However, the already crowded blueline corps has little wiggle room to find a spot for Zadorov, even if it is for nine games.
It would be great if the Sabres could find a way to get Zadorov into the line-up for those first nine games, they certainly don’t need to have Alexander Sulzer on the roster to open the season and could use his spot to insert Zadorov to start. It isn’t inconceivable to think that either Sulzer or Jamie McBain will be heading to Rochester regardless of what the Sabres plan on doing with Zadorov simply because I don’t see many minutes available for those two at this point. Continue reading →
You can’t say the Sabres haven’t won anything. They enter this year’s Traverse City Prospect Tournament as the defending champions after their triumph in 2011.
Buffalo’s title defense was delayed after last season’s lockout and they may benefit from the delay as they are prepared to ice a scary talented roster for the 2013 tourney. Mikhail Grigorenko will lead Buffalo’s other top prospects including; Joel Armia, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and others in search of another tournament championship.
Sending stacked rosters isn’t necessarily something that only the Sabres participate in. Each team manages to send a combination of pro ready prospects, new draft picks and players who have seen pro ice time to the tourney. It just so happens that Buffalo makes sure to construct a roster of their best prospects.
In 2011 the top line of Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian bullied their way through the rest of the tournament and claimed the first championship the franchise has ever seen.* Considering that Armia, Girgensons, Grigorenko and Larsson are amongst those participating, I think the Sabres are betting on bringing back another championship.
In addition to Girgensons, Grigorenko and Larsson – all who played professionally last year – Buffalo has a pair of NHL defensemen (Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Pysyk) to skate along with another NHL-ready player in Ristolainen. Continue reading →
Looking around the hockey world, there are plenty of players getting bumped off rosters due to the influx of skaters and goaltenders previously slated for the NHL. The effect will be felt across Europe and particularly at the AHL level.
While individual AHL teams will benefit from skaters on entry-level deals making their way down to the developmental league, the players who would have typically battled for one of the final roster spots are likely destined for other locations.
Rochester serves as a perfect example of this as a few tryout players and summer free agent signings have suddenly found themselves on a roster with a lot more talent than originally expected.
Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson were each expected to be in Buffalo to start the season with Luke Adam, Kevin Porter, Nick Tarnasky and Corey Tropp were all expected to at least push for a roster spot with the big club. Now, those six join 14 other forwards who now face a much more daunting task in making the AHL club.
Those who are most affected by the infusion of talent are; Riley Boychuk, Maxime Legault, Jonathan Parker, Frederick Roy and Jamie Wise. Boychuk and Parker each saw time in the ECHL last year, while Legault has stuck with the organization on AHL contracts over the past few years. Roy and Wise each made a positive impression at development camp, but are behind far more skaters than they would have been after their camp performances earlier in the summer. Continue reading →
Development Camp isn’t a device that is designed to fill out an NHL roster. The majority of the players invited to these camps are preparing to return to school or junior, not the NHL. However, there are always a few prospects that stand out above the rest.
The Sabres 2012 Development Camp provided the opportunity to see a trio of players that will likely be directly tied to the franchise’s future. Joel Armia, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko all participated in their first development camp with the Sabres after being picked in the first round of the last two NHL Drafts.
Armia missed out on the 2011 Camp due to complications getting to North America so soon after the Draft. Armia had an improved season with Assat of Sm Liiga and a point per game pace (5+2) at the World Juniors. He was dynamic at many times during development camp. His size set him apart and it was clear that two full seasons of professional hockey has aided his development.
While he is bound to Finland for another season, I doubt that Armia will have much trouble adapting to the NHL game when he arrives next year. What was most impressive, to me, was his ability to create in tight spaces. On a number of occasions he found ice for an open shot despite being in close quarters. The fact that he was able to do so on a daily basis was truly what stood out over the course of last week.
In tandem with Grigorenko at center, the line has the makings for a talented, dynamic and explosive offensive unit. Whether or not Girgensons is part of the line is up for debate. Having him ride shotgun for the two big guns would be an interesting development, but he would likely be better served on a separate line from Armia and Grigorenko.
Grigorenko was one of the players entering camp with the opportunity to build a resume that would eventually lead to a contract and a chance to truly make an impression at training camp. Outside of those who saw NHL action last year, Grigorenko and Girgensons were the only two at camp who really had the opportunity to jump directly into the professional ranks.
Girgensons contract all but ensures he will see plenty of time playing against men in Rochester for the 2012-13 season. Signing him and getting him into the professional game will be the best step for his development. Continue reading →