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Annual expectations thread 2022/23: #1 Ukko-Pekka Lukkonnen


dudacek
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What do you expect from: #1 Ukko-Pekka Lukkonnen?  

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  1. 1. Which of these best describes what you think the Sabres will get from Lukkonnen this year?

    • More uneven play in Rochester, effectively ending any hopes of him being a significant part of the Sabres future
    • Solid play in Rochester and in his NHL appearances, putting him solidly in the NHL picture for 2023/24
    • He will clearly outplay his competition and become the Sabres #1 by season’s end


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34 minutes ago, Curt said:

Curious, because I didn’t see/hear these comments by Biron.  Where could I find them?

He’s touched on few times on his daily radio show: I’ve heard him question UPL’s consistency and his tracking on long shots.

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4 hours ago, dudacek said:

Hutchison? Seriously?

Hutchinson hasn't come through in the NHL recently, but his first 3 seasons in WPG were decent to excellent and the one season Comrie and he shared the net in the AHL, Hutchinson was the much better goalie.  Looking at what Hutchinson has devolved to today, isn't what the brass saw in WPG while both he, Comrie and Hellebuyck came through the system. 

 

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8 hours ago, dudacek said:

I have what appears to be a minority opinion.

When I’ve watched UPL play - in the NHL - he looks like he isn’t out of place.

He’s had 13 NHL starts and I’m not sure there’s been any where he didn’t give his team a chance to win. He’s faced Boston 4 times, the Rangers twice, Tampa, Washington and Minnesota, hardly a bunch of gimmes. In the 11 games he’s finished, he averaged more than 35 shots against. Overall, he’s got a .913 NHL save percentage.

Unfortunately, he didn’t finish the other 2 because of injury. And that, coupled with his multiple injuries and inconsistencies with the Amerks, is what people remember.

I think UPL looks like an NHL goalie: his size, his poise, the way he tracks the play, gets post to post, and covers the net when the puck is down low.

But away from NHL action, I have seen him let far too many long shots leak through - shots that he was completely prepared for. And his fragility has to end.

I honestly don’t know what I expect from UPL; losing the Amerk crease to Subban would not surprise me, neither would a breakout season where he backstops a resurgent Sabres squad and gets Calder Trophy talk.

He has both those scenarios in him.

I do know that the Sabres’ patience with him is about to run out; this is a make or break season for him in Buffalo.

I agree with most of this but I’m not sure this year is quite as critical as it sounds here.  UPL is entering the last year of his contract, after which he’ll be an RFA.  It seems fairly likely that next summer, Levi will sign, Portillo will bail, Anderson will retire, Comrie will not get an extension and so will have 1 year left on his contract and the Sabres will not make a big move to bring in a high-profile goalie.

If all of those things happen, and if UPL shows promise this year but doesn’t seize the job, or even if he shows promise but gets hurt again, the Sabres don’t need to make a long-term decision on him.  They’ll control his rights and can just roll it over with him on another short term, low cost deal to see if he develops.  That’s kinda what I would expect them to do in that scenario.

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8 hours ago, Curt said:

Curious, because I didn’t see/hear these comments by Biron.  Where could I find them?

I also heard Marty Biron make the comments about UPL on his WGR Show that @dudacekand @GASabresIUFANreferred to. His major criticism was that he had difficulty tracking the distant shots, even shots where he had a good sight line. Marty B wasn't totally down on UPL. He liked how the goalie utilized his size and his economy of movement when there was congestion around the net. But the issue of durability and giving up those long shots were liabilities that bothered him. 

Just a sidenote on UPL and the issue of his durability. I either read it or heard it on WGR that the coaching staff wanted UPL to take up yoga this offseason in the hope that it would improve his flexibility and help him to be more durable. 

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13 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

I agree with most of this but I’m not sure this year is quite as critical as it sounds here.  UPL is entering the last year of his contract, after which he’ll be an RFA.  It seems fairly likely that next summer, Levi will sign, Portillo will bail, Anderson will retire, Comrie will not get an extension and so will have 1 year left on his contract and the Sabres will not make a big move to bring in a high-profile goalie.

If all of those things happen, and if UPL shows promise this year but doesn’t seize the job, or even if he shows promise but gets hurt again, the Sabres don’t need to make a long-term decision on him.  They’ll control his rights and can just roll it over with him on another short term, low cost deal to see if he develops.  That’s kinda what I would expect them to do in that scenario.

You’re right in terms of how they will handle his contract. (He’s actually an RFA right now, but they have his rights for 3 more years).

But if he can’t show he’s capable of being an NHLer this year, they will be bringing in an outsider to be Comrie’s running mate next year and he will lose his status as the Rochester “goalie in waiting” to Levi. His door to the crease in Buffalo will virtually close.

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4 hours ago, dudacek said:

You’re right in terms of how they will handle his contract. (He’s actually an RFA right now, but they have his rights for 3 more years).

But if he can’t show he’s capable of being an NHLer this year, they will be bringing in an outsider to be Comrie’s running mate next year and he will lose his status as the Rochester “goalie in waiting” to Levi. His door to the crease in Buffalo will virtually close.

I agree that in that scenario they’ll bring someone else in, but I would guess it would be someone that UPL would compete with for one of the 2 NHL spots (with Conroe presumably keeping the other one).  I wouldn’t expect whoever it is to get a significant contract, so there wouldn’t be a major commitment to the new guy.

As a related point, if UPL doesn’t impress enough this coming season and Comrie doesn’t get an extension next summer, but the team otherwise takes a big step, then the Sabres probably start to look more attractive to Portillo, whom I’d bet is very much monitoring the situation.  

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An interesting debate could center around the question who one would prefer having in the system next season between Portillo or UPL? The UPL durability issue really concerns me. I wouldn't be surprised if Portillo exercises his free agent rights and moves on to another franchise. 

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1 hour ago, JohnC said:

An interesting debate could center around the question who one would prefer having in the system next season between Portillo or UPL? The UPL durability issue really concerns me. I wouldn't be surprised if Portillo exercises his free agent rights and moves on to another franchise. 

There's quite a few opinions saying that Portillo won't sign with the Sabres.  One of the reasons that Cal Peterson did not sign with the Sabres was that he did not think he had a clear shot at #1 because we had Lehner and Ulmark in front of him in 2017.  Things change quickly and I still say that both Portillo and Levi need to put in the work to win a job with the Sabres.  UPL will determine his future with the Sabres this season in my opinion.  There's great opportunities for any goalie prospect to come in and I would much rather have a competition for the spots.

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36 minutes ago, Digger said:

There's quite a few opinions saying that Portillo won't sign with the Sabres.  One of the reasons that Cal Peterson did not sign with the Sabres was that he did not think he had a clear shot at #1 because we had Lehner and Ulmark in front of him in 2017.  Things change quickly and I still say that both Portillo and Levi need to put in the work to win a job with the Sabres.  UPL will determine his future with the Sabres this season in my opinion.  There's great opportunities for any goalie prospect to come in and I would much rather have a competition for the spots.

I'm in the camp that it's more likely than not that Portillo will become a free agent and sign with another team. When he gets to that free agent status he will see which team offers him the best opportunity to reach the NHL. That's his prerogative. I don't begrudge him using the system to pursue his best interest. That approach worked out well for Peterson. 

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3 minutes ago, JohnC said:

I'm in the camp that it's more likely than not that Portillo will become a free agent and sign with another team. When he gets to that free agent status he will see which team offers him the best opportunity to reach the NHL. That's his prerogative. I don't begrudge him using the system to pursue his best interest. That approach worked out well for Peterson. 

Agree. And yet certain Sabres fans will    be butthurt over him signing with someone else. Just like they were with Peterson. “His” best interest doesn’t always line up with the teams plans for him. Life goes on.

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1 minute ago, Zamboni said:

Agree. And yet certain Sabres fans will    be butthurt over him signing with someone else. Just like they were with Peterson. “His” best interest doesn’t always line up with the teams plans for him. Life goes on.

If Sabre fans get butt hurt over a prospect signing somewhere else they can soothe the pain with a soothing jelly lubricant to quell the fire. Player movements for a variety of reasons are part of all pro sports. That movement is now more evident in the college ranks. You just have to deal with it. The best way to handle these setbacks/departures is to have depth within the system so you are in better position to handle these losses. 

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1 hour ago, Digger said:

There's quite a few opinions saying that Portillo won't sign with the Sabres.  One of the reasons that Cal Peterson did not sign with the Sabres was that he did not think he had a clear shot at #1 because we had Lehner and Ulmark in front of him in 2017.  Things change quickly and I still say that both Portillo and Levi need to put in the work to win a job with the Sabres.  UPL will determine his future with the Sabres this season in my opinion.  There's great opportunities for any goalie prospect to come in and I would much rather have a competition for the spots.

Was the idea that Peterson didn’t have a shot at #1 as his reason for going UFA anything other than fan speculation?  If we are keeping with speculation, I’d say the more likely speculation is that he saw how much of a train wreck the organization was and wanted out at the first opportunity.

As far as Portillo’s motivation, I don’t buy that it has anything to do with Levi.  I think Levi was targeted in the Reinhart trade specifically because Portillo wasn’t committed to the Sabres.  I don’t buy the “he doesn’t have a path to starter” motivation either. Has a college center ever gone to UFA becuase they didn’t have a path to the top 3 lines?  Has an NCAA D ever gone to UFA because of a temas defensive depth?  I’m certain the motivation lies elsewhere.  No idea what it is, but given the turnover on NHL rosters, I doubt it was due to the lack of opportunity to be a starter.

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6 minutes ago, Weave said:

Was the idea that Peterson didn’t have a shot at #1 as his reason for going UFA anything other than fan speculation?  If we are keeping with speculation, I’d say the more likely speculation is that he saw how much of a train wreck the organization was and wanted out at the first opportunity.

As far as Portillo’s motivation, I don’t buy that it has anything to do with Levi.  I think Levi was targeted in the Reinhart trade specifically because Portillo wasn’t committed to the Sabres.  I don’t buy the “he doesn’t have a path to starter” motivation either. Has a college center ever gone to UFA becuase they didn’t have a path to the top 3 lines?  Has an NCAA D ever gone to UFA because of a temas defensive depth?  I’m certain the motivation lies elsewhere.  No idea what it is, but given the turnover on NHL rosters, I doubt it was due to the lack of opportunity to be a starter.

Your first paragraph repeats a commentary that Marty Biron made when discussing Peterson's decision to become a free agent and sign with another team. He pointed out that there was a recognition by everyone in the business that the Sabres were in a state of disarray and was a franchise to be avoided if possible. He also opined that Peterson would not have succeeded here not because of his talent level but because at that time this franchise was in a situation where players could not succeed. Most people believe that the organization has been has stabilized and is functioning as a normal and competent franchise. 

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2 hours ago, Weave said:

Was the idea that Peterson didn’t have a shot at #1 as his reason for going UFA anything other than fan speculation?  If we are keeping with speculation, I’d say the more likely speculation is that he saw how much of a train wreck the organization was and wanted out at the first opportunity.

As far as Portillo’s motivation, I don’t buy that it has anything to do with Levi.  I think Levi was targeted in the Reinhart trade specifically because Portillo wasn’t committed to the Sabres.  I don’t buy the “he doesn’t have a path to starter” motivation either. Has a college center ever gone to UFA becuase they didn’t have a path to the top 3 lines?  Has an NCAA D ever gone to UFA because of a temas defensive depth?  I’m certain the motivation lies elsewhere.  No idea what it is, but given the turnover on NHL rosters, I doubt it was due to the lack of opportunity to be a starter.

2 hours ago, JohnC said:

Your first paragraph repeats a commentary that Marty Biron made when discussing Peterson's decision to become a free agent and sign with another team. He pointed out that there was a recognition by everyone in the business that the Sabres were in a state of disarray and was a franchise to be avoided if possible. He also opined that Peterson would not have succeeded here not because of his talent level but because at that time this franchise was in a situation where players could not succeed. Most people believe that the organization has been has stabilized and is functioning as a normal and competent franchise. 

Okay (insert whatever reason you want) for Peterson not signing but if he had stayed he would be the best goaltender left standing and most likely would be the starter last year.  Feel free to debate his talent but he would be better than who we have right now.

My point is that the Sabres don't have a clear #1 or really even a clear #2 goalie right now.  Yes we have players under contract but in my opinion it's wide open for competition.  It's a great opportunity for Portillo, Levi, UPL, and Comrie.  Do your best to sign and keep them all until we know who's the best options.  

Are the Sabres still a franchise to avoid?  I hope that they have demonstrated in their development camp and team culture that they are ready to step forward.  Portillo hasn't said that he would not sign so I choose to think he will because the opportunity with the Sabres is very strong.

By the way, in 2017 when Peterson chose to sign elsewhere we had Eichel, O'Reilly, Reinhart, Kane, Okposo as well as Lehner, Johnson, Ullmark in goal (Ullmark only played 5 games).  Were we really considered a team in disarray that season?

 

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1 hour ago, Digger said:

 

By the way, in 2017 when Peterson chose to sign elsewhere we had Eichel, O'Reilly, Reinhart, Kane, Okposo as well as Lehner, Johnson, Ullmark in goal (Ullmark only played 5 games).  We're we really considered a team in disarray that season?

 

Absolutely.  And I don’t know how it could be even remotely debatable.

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1 hour ago, Digger said:

Okay (insert whatever reason you want) for Peterson not signing but if he had stayed he would be the best goaltender left standing and most likely would be the starter last year.  Feel free to debate his talent but he would be better than who we have right now.

My point is that the Sabres don't have a clear #1 or really even a clear #2 goalie right now.  Yes we have players under contract but in my opinion it's wide open for competition.  It's a great opportunity for Portillo, Levi, UPL, and Comrie.  Do your best to sign and keep them all until we know who's the best options.  

Are the Sabres still a franchise to avoid?  I hope that they have demonstrated in their development camp and team culture that they are ready to step forward.  Portillo hasn't said that he would not sign so I choose to think he will because the opportunity with the Sabres is very strong.

By the way, in 2017 when Peterson chose to sign elsewhere we had Eichel, O'Reilly, Reinhart, Kane, Okposo as well as Lehner, Johnson, Ullmark in goal (Ullmark only played 5 games).  Were we really considered a team in disarray that season?

 

Peterson made the right decision for himself. No one can argue that it didn't work out well for him. Look at the list of players in your last paragraph. How many are still with the team? And how many of those players eventually wanted out? Yes, at that time this franchise was in a disarray. 

And it should be noted that Marty Biron has no axe to grind against this franchise. He bends over backward not to be too scathing with his criticisms. He said on the radio that losing Peterson was not a big loss because at that time when he bolted he would not have succeeded in Buffalo because the franchise was in a state of chaos. 

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19 minutes ago, Weave said:

Absolutely.  And I don’t know how it could be even remotely debatable.

It certainly got a lot worse after that season (Kane and O'Reilly traded for futures, drafted 1OA (Dahlin), Berglund didn't want to be here, etc. etc.)  Maybe it's just perspective but we hadn't really seen how bad it was going to get.

I don't care about Peterson.  I was using him as an example.  We need to do our best to get our prospects (like Portillo and Levi) signed and playing in the organization because a lot can change in a few years.

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Depends how much he can work on rebound control. Other aspects of his analytics are pretty good. His rebound control was among the worst in the NHL of all qualified goalies, 3rd from the bottom at like 72nd in the NHL.

Fewer rebounds will help all other numbers as well, so this should be his main focus at improving this.

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Re: Petersen -- The other factor in play in addition to organizational chaos was how he was appraised by the GMTM administration. Petersen was drafted by Regier in 2013. In comes GMTM who's stated claim is "get a big Swedish guy". True to his word, GMTM drafted Jonas Johansson the next draft, had Ullmark in the system, and traded for Lehner. Petersen could easily see that his future was not here.

Then, the offseason Petersen left in FA was the same of GMTM and HCDB being fired. JBott could have made efforts to retain Petersen, but probably the decision/ship had sailed in the preceding years.

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I'm a lifelong Sabres fan and a decades-long Michigan fan.  I really want Portillo to end up on the Sabres.  I think there are several reasons why he might:

1.  He's said to be close with Power from their days together at Michigan

2. He's said to be close with Dahlin and his family through connections in Sweden

3. The Sabres have no clear cut #1 NHL starter at this point, so there's opportunty (albeit with competition from UPL, Comrie, Levi, etc.)  I don't know what the goaltending situation is with other NHL teams, but I would assume that most teams (unlike the Sabres, as of today) have a NHL-caliber starter and all teams have backups and young guys in the pipeline.  So I don't know that the opportunity to play/start would be any better with another team.  He's be competing for a job wherever he went.

4. The Sabres organization seems to have turned the corner and has a promising future with all of the young talent and prospects

5. Portillo has never said, to my knowledge, anything negative about the Sabres or that he was uninteresed in signing.  He has stated on the record that he wants to work on his business degree at Michigan, which has one of the top business schools in the world.  If he turned pro, it's unlikley he would be able to do that for many years.  He also might want to take one more run at a National Championship.  Michigan got very close this year and is always loaded with talent and has a shot.

And one reason why he might not:

1. He'll be a UFA and another team might make a better offer that suits him and his family more.

I hope he ends up with the Sabres, but I have no control over the situation, so I'm not going to be too concerned about it.  I think that Adams and the Sabres organization will handle the situation with dignity and class, trying to sell him on coming to Buffalo but not overdoing it to the point of pushing him away.  We'll see what happens.

As to the original tread - UPL - I think he has NHL talent.  In the limited action he's seen in the NHL, he's played well.  I'm just not sure he can stay healthy for long enough to establish himself and the organization may move on.  Some guys are injury-prone and it plagues their careers.  He may be one of those guys.  Of course, I hope he stays healthy and becomes a quality NHL starter.

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