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What was broken, what changed?

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Vogl with a piece on the new culture in Buffalo.

https://theathletic.com/646462/2018/11/10/sabres-built-bonds-with-each-other-and-the-past-and-its-showing-in-the-results/

Snippet: for the non-subscribers:

“It’s only been 17 games. There are still 65 remaining, spread out over five months. Skepticism can easily be forgiven.

Just know that there’s none in the dressing room. The Sabres insist they’ve changed. There’s a bond now, a trust. They believe they can win, and they believe in each other.

“It is different,” Bogosian said. “We try not to dwell too much on the past, but you learn from it. We have.”

 

It’s hard to say exactly what was said and done; the article talks about connecting to franchise history playing a role.

But it is very clear that Housley and Botterill identified issues outside of talent that needed to be addressed and they seem to have done a very good job of addressing them.

 

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I don't like the term culture when used in the context of a sports team, but it is pretty clear that those were the main issues.  That and the attitude, which goes hand in hand with culture.

We all know which players were moved out and which one were moved in, which is a huge part of the change.  The other key factor, which may be even more important to this turn around is that the key kids have matured into their roles ... Eich, Samson ... Samson getting the puck in the face and going in for stiches (I assume), or some other treatments and coming out to score the goal to tie it very late in the 3rd is very telling to me.  Also, Eich did something and he came back out fighting.  Again, very telling.

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The key difference is talent, not culture, IMO. Better goaltending, better defense with Dahlin, improved Bogo and no major injuries yet, and the addition of Skinner and Sheary. Okposo is back at top level, ERod has emerged and Jack and Samson are a year older. 

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14 minutes ago, New Scotland (NS) said:

Samson getting the puck in the face and going in for stiches (I assume)

A valid assumption.

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I don't think it's culture *or* talent.  It's both.  The talent level overall has improved which means that more players are filling their roles adequately, which means that the players can trust each other, which means an improved culture.  The players asked to play above their level during the tank such as Larsson are now appropriately cast and have the support to be able to perform at a level consistent with their abilities, making them valued members of a good team.

The other increase in talent level comes from players who had serious injuries and just weren't right last year, being another year along on their recovery.  Larsson, Okie, Bogo, even Jack, have dealt with injuries in the last few years and so far they seem to be not only healthy, but able to play up to their expected levels.

Edited by Doohickie
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Goaltending, I suspect. I bet they listen to Hutton, like Ullmark and respect Botterill for not only jettisoning Lehner but installing Hutton as the starter. The latter, when Hutton had a better preseason, was a clue that this wasn't going to be another "evaluation year." Then both of the goaltenders right out of the gate were good.

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21 minutes ago, bob_sauve28 said:

The key difference is talent, not culture, IMO. Better goaltending, better defense with Dahlin, improved Bogo and no major injuries yet, and the addition of Skinner and Sheary. Okposo is back at top level, ERod has emerged and Jack and Samson are a year older. 

That's a lot of it, I agree. But I don't believe for a second last year's team would have fought back and won both Montreal games when they were down late in the 3rd, or the Vancouver game

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12 minutes ago, bob_sauve28 said:

The key difference is talent, not culture, IMO. Better goaltending, better defense with Dahlin, improved Bogo and no major injuries yet, and the addition of Skinner and Sheary. Okposo is back at top level, ERod has emerged and Jack and Samson are a year older. 

JBott added some great pieces but I don't think talent is the only explanation.  Are Skinner and Sheary a talent upgrade over ROR and Kane?  Dahlin is our best defenseman already as an 18 year old, but Bogo still stinks and now Scandella is a liability too (at least, so far this year).  Hutton and Ullmark are just as much culture upgrades as they are talent upgrades over Lehner.

Plus, you have guys like Girgensons and Larsson who were basically useless the last few years but are suddenly contributing this year.

Culture is the most important determinant of success but a lousy team culture can hold that back.  Culture is a real thing and impacts basically every aspect of life.  If you've ever worked in a dysfunctional office versus an office where everyone is pulling in the same direction, you know the difference is incredible.  Or even compare it across families.  It'd be silly to think team sports are immune to this. 

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3 minutes ago, PASabreFan said:

Goaltending, I suspect. I bet they listen to Hutton, like Ullmark and respect Botterill for not only jettisoning Lehner but installing Hutton as the starter. The latter, when Hutton had a better preseason, was a clue that this wasn't going to be another "evaluation year." Then both of the goaltenders right out of the gate were good.

 

7 minutes ago, Doohickie said:

I don't think it's culture *or* talent.  It's both.  The talent level overall has improved which means that more players are filling their roles adequately, which means that the players can trust each other, which means an improved culture.  The players asked to play above their level during the tank such as Larsson are now appropriately cast and have the support to be able to perform at a level consistent with their abilities, making them valued members of a good team.

The other increase in talent level comes from players who had serious injuries and just weren't right last year, being another year along on their recovery.  Larsson, Okie, Bogo, even Jack, have dealt with injuries in the last few years and so far they seem to be not only healthy, but able to play up to their expected levels.

Specifically on talent two adds to top 6 Skinner and Sheary.. two good wingers and bottom 6 Berglund defensively is a horse and Sobotka defensively and underrated offensively.  That is 4 adds one loss, Dhalin gives Sabres decent top four that are improving plus agreed on goaltending.  Sabres still not deep on D but deeper than last year.  Those 6 pieces plus healthy OK, and development of Mitts is a big change and now Phil Housley development of coach has been a big step in right direction.

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Goaltending is another spot where the players are playing their proper roles.  Ullmark as the starter would have been a tire fire.  Ullmark as the understudy is fine.  In about two years (when Hutton's contract is done) we could have a fully developed goaltending prospect ready to take on starting duties.  If he's close but not there yet, sign Hutts for another year.  Look at mid-90s Red Wings for the model with Osgood as the understudy to Vernon.

As an aside, one thing Pegula said a long time ago was that he wanted to be an owner in the model of Mike Iltch of the Red Wings.  I was living in Detroit during the time the Red Wings dynasty emerged and watched a mediocre hockey team work toward eventually winning the Cup.  I see a lot of the things that worked well starting to happen in Buffalo. 

TPegs hired GMTM to bring that vision about, but GMTM wasn't the right guy.  Botteril is much more that guy.  In their glory years the Wings had a strong farm system; when an NHLer was injured it was frequently a chance to see the next big thing come out of the A rather than an Oh ***** moment.  The resurgence of the Amerks portends the same thing for the Sabres.

The thing that worries me is the cap management.  Every top team in the league these days is battling the cap.  The LA Kings paid to keep their core together and now they are a static team; they can't improve their roster until they get out of cap hell in 2020 or so.  We saw that GMTM was a free spender and we're still living with his mistakes.  Ultimately Botteril's success or failure will depend on how he manages the cap.  So far, it appears, so good.

Edited by Doohickie

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Just wanted to agree that the upgrade at goalie, arguably the most critical position, and D (Rasmus II, is our best Dman as a kid) has also contributed hugely to this turn around.

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19 minutes ago, Robviously said:

JBott added some great pieces but I don't think talent is the only explanation.  Are Skinner and Sheary a talent upgrade over ROR and Kane?  Dahlin is our best defenseman already as an 18 year old, but Bogo still stinks and now Scandella is a liability too (at least, so far this year).  Hutton and Ullmark are just as much culture upgrades as they are talent upgrades over Lehner.

Plus, you have guys like Girgensons and Larsson who were basically useless the last few years but are suddenly contributing this year.

Culture is the most important determinant of success but a lousy team culture can hold that back.  Culture is a real thing and impacts basically every aspect of life.  If you've ever worked in a dysfunctional office versus an office where everyone is pulling in the same direction, you know the difference is incredible.  Or even compare it across families.  It'd be silly to think team sports are immune to this. 

I totally agree that culture is important, but I just think that a losing attitude, frustration and lack of focus can and will grow out of bad talent. Players get frustrated, angry and anti-social when the dude they play with is a constant f up. I just see the two factors directly connected to each other (culture and talent) 

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It's premature to call Dahlin our best defenseman folks.  His gaffs, committed by someone wearing 82 or 6 or 8, would have us screaming to get rid of the bum.

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1 minute ago, Doohickie said:

It's premature to call Dahlin our best defenseman folks.  His gaffs, committed by someone wearing 82 or 6 or 8, would have us screaming to get rid of the bum.

It's funny though, he makes a mistake, and then covers for it himself. No scoring chance. Other players lose puck and it's gone. He is a gem! 

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I'll give ya that.  And sometimes he's been helped by another player.  The team defense game is so much better than in past years, we can afford to let Dahlin find himself.

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14 minutes ago, bob_sauve28 said:

I totally agree that culture is important, but I just think that a losing attitude, frustration and lack of focus can and will grow out of bad talent. Players get frustrated, angry and anti-social when the dude they play with is a constant f up. I just see the two factors directly connected to each other (culture and talent) 

To me, they're connected only in that you ultimately need both.  How many examples do we have of athletes that have a ton of athletic gifts but can't make it because they lack work ethic or focus?  Or in real life, intelligent people that can't get ahead because they're lazy or dysfunctional versus people with an average intelligence that are thriving?  Talent is potential but ultimately you need a way to put it into practice and that's where culture and habits come into play.

Wayne Gretzky talks about losing in his first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and then walking past the Islanders' dressing room and seeing how bruised and beat up that team was and basically having it click just what it takes to actually win it all.  

You need both.  And so far it sure seems like the Sabres upgraded both.

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56 minutes ago, Robviously said:

JBott added some great pieces but I don't think talent is the only explanation.  Are Skinner and Sheary a talent upgrade over ROR and Kane?  Dahlin is our best defenseman already as an 18 year old, but Bogo still stinks and now Scandella is a liability too (at least, so far this year).  Hutton and Ullmark are just as much culture upgrades as they are talent upgrades over Lehner.

Plus, you have guys like Girgensons and Larsson who were basically useless the last few years but are suddenly contributing this year.

Culture is the most important determinant of success but a lousy team culture can hold that back.  Culture is a real thing and impacts basically every aspect of life.  If you've ever worked in a dysfunctional office versus an office where everyone is pulling in the same direction, you know the difference is incredible.  Or even compare it across families.  It'd be silly to think team sports are immune to this. 

what team have you been watching, bogo been one of our better ones.

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2 minutes ago, Huckleberry said:

what team have you been watching, bogo been one of our better ones.

Got a chuckle in a recent GDT where a couple people jumped on a minor Bogo gaff.

It was like it had been pent up all season just waiting to be released. The dude has probably been the most steady and reliable guy this year in our zone. Eliminates his man, moves the puck.

 Since he’s been back the PK is 13th in the league, and he’s had hard minutes, matching up against good players.

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Bogo has played very well, IMO.

He may not be our best dman, but he certainly is the most handsome.

Edited by New Scotland (NS)
the 'a' and the 'i' look alike to me ...

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8 minutes ago, New Scotland (NS) said:

Bogo has played very well, IMO.

He may not be our best dman, but he certainly is the most handsome.

Ummmm....no. Beaulieu is a nice looking young man 🙂 

 

😘

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14 minutes ago, New Scotland (NS) said:

Bogo has played very well, IMO.

He may not be our best dman, but he certainly is the most handsome.

He's a big scary bear. 

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Without reading the article or thread yet, here's my ranking of what has gotten better for this team and its importance and explanation.

1a.) Goaltending. It isn't great yet, and I'm still worried long term, but the team's save percentage is .913 this season, with league average being .908. Last year league average was .912 and we were at .904. We lost the most one-goal-games in the entire league last year, including so many with ill-timed stinkers when we were actually hanging with teams. Our last place last season was not like our last place seasons before. It turns out one of our two goalies was dealing with severe mental health issues that was not only dragging his play down, but was a massive cloud of worry over the locker room. For a position that needs huge amounts of focus and mental stability, the improvement in that area this season has been immeasurable. There have been stinkers, but not stinkers at the worst times that lose us games. Furthermore, Robin's backup is now helping a different team have the worst goaltending situation in the league. Both positions were upgraded heavily. We've actually allowed MORE scoring chances and shots against this season than last, but we moved up to 16th in goals against per game so far, versus being 3rd-last last season. Since goaltending is the ONLY position where one player's performance can heavily influence the season, this gets the top spot. And you can tell the team plays like they trust their goalie.

1b.) Jack and Jeff magic. We've always needed a partner in crime that can post elite stats with Jack. We always got on Jack for not elevating the likes of Girgensons or Reinhart to that level. But he has raised Jeff's game to a whole new level, and Jeff has done the same for him. We finally have one of those super lines we've been dreaming about for ages. Jack has more assists than any other NHL center (at least as of Friday), Jeff is tied for the league lead in goals. While our depth is getting up to speed with goal scoring (see below) these two have dragged us through games offensively. It wasn't looking too hot at 3-4 before they were moved together, and since then, they've been an NHL-best duo. Last season saw nothing comparable to these two, who have single-handedly won us several games with Pominville.

2.) Depth players. The one thing we knew we could count on being improved were lines 3 and 4. Right now, 10-28-22 is tilting the ice in a huge way for us, posting outstanding metrics which underline how they've been able to snuff out chances in their own end, bring the puck down to the offensive zone, and relentlessly tire out the other team while pinning it there. They've even spat out a few goals themselves. The last time our fourth line WASN'T a shooting gallery was 15-16 with Legwand (Coincidentally, that was by far our best season until this one since before the tank, it was our best overall lineup especially because of them and the Gionta-Larsson-Foligno line which drove a lot of scoring for us). It is HUGE to not have a garbage pile fourth line even though fourth lines don't play a lot of minutes. Instead of coming onto the ice when the other team has the puck and is rushing right back at you, trying to get it back and turn momentum, the Jack line can come on with us already having possession in the O-zone and a tired defense. That's immeasurable and incredibly important. As of last Friday, the scoring still wasn't there, but they've spent the week finding their scoring touch. And they're just playing better hockey even when they aren't scoring. We will need them to continue to score, as we will regress if they can't maintain this past week's play and Jack/Jeff get injured or go cold. The play of the bottom two lines is what has driven all of our underlying metrics up into good and sustainable categories, because of the play themselves and the ripple effects that creates through the lineup.

3.) Three defensemen. The transition play provided by Dahlin and......BOGOSIAN, has been instrumental in this team getting done what they want to offensively. These two both are machines at moving the puck out fluidly from potentially tough situations. Both have been a little jittery, especially recently, in their own zone, but they're staples to our transition and it's unfortunate that Bogosian can't be counted on to be here all season. Show us we're wrong to think that, Bogo. The third is McCabe returning to where his development left off two years ago. He's still probably only a 4, but he's a legit 4, and not a 7 playing as a 4 like last year. This has helped stave off Scandella's regression, and given him time and some shelter to be able to slowly work back from that. Our net defensive play as a unit is a small but firm amount better largely due to Dahlin and Bogosian's surprising transition passes. I have worries about the unit's play as a whole being consistent. And of course, the shots these guys are taking this year are actually going in. They're getting bounces for once. They funneled the point just as much last year, but things are working out this time.

4.) Strength of Schedule. Six games of 17 have come against teams in the top 15, and double that amount have come against teams in the bottom half. This isn't hugely important in the NHL, but it's a large enough discrepancy that it's worth pointing out as helpful and the final and least-important reason for our improvement. Hopefully these guys can handle the big guns they haven't played yet just as well. 

*A note on culture: Of course, I believe that the improved mood/culture are a function of winning, and not the driving factor. This team's comeback wins aren't because of locker room fairy dust - they tied two games they were down by two with a few minutes left and the goalie pulled TWICE by this point last season already. The issue for last season's teams was all of the hockey in between those moments, highlighted by leveraging two god-awful bottom six lines for half of the game, and using their second-best offensive piece in the most defensive role for a top six player that some stats have ever seen (said player is now pacing for 115 points through 20% of the season). Various coaching decisions like that coupled with the, we'll say "inconsistent" goaltending, combined with league-worst players comprising our entire bottom six were enough to drag the team to the bottom of the standings and the morale with it. It's great that they're feeling better, and it's great that the potential locker room "problem children" like Jack, Sam, and Risto are doing well in that regard, and that will certainly HELP them to show up every night and maintain their play as the season drags on, I would never suggest otherwise, though I'd also suggest that the same thing would have happened to last year's team if they were any good at hockey. Hockey players have fun when the hockey is good, the hockey is good, and as a result, WE get to have fun. 

Worries going forward: I already mentioned that I'm worried about our defense when injuries hit and potential regressions occur. Our 2C spot is scary too, especially when we get a Jack-incident like yesterday. Jack needs to stay healthy for this team to continue being successful. He and Jeff can succeed despite heavy attention from other teams, which allow everyone below Jack some degree of comfort in shelter, and right now there are only one or two forwards playing in roles ill-suited for them. I think this is the single-most important thing for a hockey team, more-so than league-compared TALENT in those well-suited for roles, which is why I think Nashville's forwards are so good without the highlight names (yes, Forsberg is one). If Jack goes down, with the attention shift teams can then make, and with Jeff and Jason's production outside of Jack, we will be looking at almost an entire forward corps playing roles above where they should, and that scares the crap out of me, and is of course a symptom of being a young and still-improving team. Please, hockey gods, we deserve to continue having fun this year. Keep our captain healthy. 

I'm also mildly worried that goaltending could fall off a cliff because any team's goaltending can fall off a cliff and neither Linus nor Carter have been established NHL starters before. 

Potential improvements going forward: Casey gets better every day. Dahlin will get better as time goes on too. Pilut will improve our defense when he gets here. And things are just looking sustainable at the moment. 

Let's go Buffalo! 

Edited by Randall Flagg
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