You know the deal, we’ll get right into it.
Introduce yourself to the readers
My name is Lucas Buckley. I grew up in Lancaster, New York and attended Lancaster High School. I currently am a student at Medaille College in the Communications program.
When did you join TCB? How has the brand evolved from the time you joined to now?
I joined TCB in February or March of 2017. Joe is the one who recruited me. I believe Jared had asked him if he wanted to do a podcast for the brand so Joe came to me and asked if I’d be willing to do it with him. The show had been in development for a long time you could say.
We started out on a network called Buffalo Sports Network but that went nowhere, so Joe and I decided to do it ourselves and it’s been a success so far.
We’ve definitely added a few pieces-if I may use hockey lingo. When I first joined everyone was still very much a kid. I feel like in a way I’ve seen us grow up together. A few guys have gotten jobs with pro teams in one way or another and Joe and I have both received internships with WGR. I am confident that this platform has given us the experience to take a step toward our personal goals.
Perhaps the biggest evolution for the brand as a whole was the change from SabresFanatics to The Charging Buffalo. Since we switched our identity the Twitter has exploded and the podcast has taken off in a way Joe and I never imagined.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about TCB as a whole before we get into the questions?
I have to plug The Charging Buffalo podcast of course! It’s my baby! Check it out on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud.
When did you become a Sabres fan and how?
I became a Sabres fan during Game 1 of the 2006 playoffs. I remember sitting between my mom and dad on the middle seat of our couch while my brothers were on the loveseat to the left when Campbell lowered the boom on Umberger. Pretty good way to start my fandom!
Being 6 years old at the time I missed a few games during the run of course (playing with GI Joes or whatever). During Game 1 against the Senators in the next round, I was in Connecticut with my mom but remember calling home to hear we won. The one moment from that series that I do vividly remember was Tim Connolly’s concussion (was it Peter Schaefer who hit him?). I remember my whole family being concerned and crying for revenge. That whole run was my exposure to the emotional hell that is playoff hockey. I haven’t looked back since.
Game 7 against Carolina was another lucid memory. I just got home from the playground with my parents when Jochen Hecht scored the go ahead goal. Then came the heartbreak.
What is your fondest memory of the Sabres?
My fondest memory is the entire 06-07 season. That was truly when I became hockey mad. I began collecting cards (more on that later), the video games were the best, everything was just awesome. That season produced my most prized momento.
Prior to Game 1 against NYI my dad and I gathered cups and bowls from around the house and screwed them together, wrapped it all in tin foil and had a makeshift Stanley Cup. I raised that thing over my head playing mini sticks so many times. It’s been to a Party in the Plaza, and Lord willing, I’ll take it to a playoff game this season.
What is one thing in Sabres history you wish you could erase?
The entire period between July ‘07 and October ‘18, with some exceptions here and there of course. It has been a miserable existence as a fan this last decade. Give me Eichel, Reino, Dahlin, Casey, all that, but let me forget about Tim Murray, Ron Rolston and the likes of Zenon Konopka and Benoit Pouliot.
What are you favorite jerseys in Sabres history?
I gotta go with the early 90s blue and golds with the primary logo on the shoulders. Some might think it is overkill but I love it. Hasek and LaFontaine rocked that look. The red alternate is a classic as well. The 40th anniversary jersey and last year’s Winter Class would make an excellent home and away combo.
What are you looking for from the Sabres with the remainder of the 2018-19 season?
Hopefully the emergence of secondary scoring! I want to see more growth from Ullmark. It’s going to be fun watching the young guys and how they finish the year. I want to see us make the playoffs but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I also hope we get to see some Amerks get time up here. I just want to see Nylander, Asplund and Olofsson get some quality time with the big guys. Really I’m not expecting much and that pains me.
Who is a player that won’t be on the team by the end of the year?
Hmm, I often struggle with stuff like this because this team never makes moves when they need to. I think I’ll go with Conor Sheary. I’m a fan of his but something isn’t clicking here and he’s still a valuable enough piece around the league to get something for him. I’m just not confident this team will make a mid season move though.
Who has been your MVP, Unsung Hero and biggest disappointment so far this season?
MVP is undoubtedly Jeff Skinner. I’ve never seen a pace such as the one he is on in my years of being a fan. And yes, PAY the man! Sure we have to sign Casey and Dahlin, but Skinner also falls into that group. You can’t let him get away.
Unsung hero is definitely Johan Larsson. I despised him last year. I felt he was everything wrong with the team. This year he has become one of my favorite players. He and Girgensons have been awesome. I think most people forget Larsson was having a career year before he got hurt a few years ago. It’s good to see that he’s found that part of his game again this year.
Biggest disappointment belongs to Marco Scandella. If I wasn’t his biggest supporter last year then I don’t know who was. I really thought he could be a solid guy to pair with Dahlin to bring the youngster up but Marco has just been flat out bad at times.
Where do you see Tage Thompson’s long term role becoming with the Sabres?
I see Tage as being a 3rd line guy, at best 2nd. The kid has so many of the tools. The rest of his potential lies in the hands of our development staff. The kid can move and has a one of a kind shot. My dream for Tage is that he puts on some weight and becomes a physical force that piledrives to the net. He’s about 6’5 but pretty thin. Imagine a 6’5”, 220 truck ramming through the slot. Man he’d be a nightmare.
What is one thing you want Sabres fans to remember throughout the rest season?
The one thing I want Sabres fans to remember is what Jeff Skinner brought to this team this season. As we near contract negotiations between Skinner and the team, remember the last few season. The only exciting player has been Jack. The only guy that could score was Jack (throw Evander Kane in there too).
We have wanted scoring for so long, we’ve wanted a winger for Jack for so long. We finally have it and now we shouldn’t pay that winger? The need has been filled. Present the contract and get it done. Don’t look back, Sabres fans.
What are your thoughts on Phil Housley so far as head coach both this season and last?
Oh boy. Last season I was stoked for his arrival. Last season’s failure can be attributed to our roster as much as it can be Housley. The coach had nothing to work with last year and it showed. There was so much hype around his “system” but I don’t think we’ve seen that formulate. This year has been his chance to instill that system into his roster but it doesn’t look like much has changed. I think we got a little too excited over what he might be instead of what he actually is.
Nashville’s success on defense wasn’t because of him. Peter Laviolette is a great coach and ultimately it was his team. Before that, he led team USA to gold, and we were super excited over that. The fact of the matter is he is unproven and it shows often.
In summation, it’s not the players that want to play lazy hockey and give up when they’re in the lead. Someone is telling them to do that. The Sabres can do better than Housley.
What do you think a deal with Jeff Skinner will look like?
I’m going to say 8 years 8 million. Standard answer but the team can’t risk disrespecting him with a lesser contract.
What is your concern level over Mittelstadt not being able to step into the 2nd line center role next season?
I’m not concerned much. The kid was in high school 2 years ago. His very first taste of professional hockey was the best league in the world. NCAA hockey is just an all-star league for high school players in my eyes. He was dominating against kids who probably just want to be lawyers and such. His talent is there and it will take time to unfold in the NHL. His slow start is no biggy.
What are the odds you have the Sabres making the playoffs at?
I’m running at a solid 40% at the moment. That number hasn’t changed in a while. A lot of things have to change. If we can just return to a form like the one we were in in the first 20 games of the year I think we can do it. Sadly though you have to string together wins, and much like last year that has been hard for this team to do. You can’t make the playoffs winning 1 out of every 4 games, no matter the amount of points you got in the beginning of the season.
What were your expectations coming into the season, did you fall into the trap of raising your expectations after the 10 game win streak AND what are your expectations now?
I was expecting playoffs, and I think others may be scared to admit that now. That streak brought lots of cautious optimism. Here I was, tweeting about how it’s good to have a winning team. At the same time however there was that thought in my mind saying “no Luke, don’t hit that send button!”. I was as psyched as anyone but at the same time knew I had seen enough of this with both the Bills and Sabres.
The Sabres PK sitting at 83.6% for 6th in the league, last season 77.9% for 22nd. What’s changed to improve the PK?
I think what has helped is the improved play of mainstay Johan Larsson. Getting a guy like Bogosian and others like Dahlin on the PK helps too. It also helps not consistently having Nathan Beaulieu or maybe even a Justin Falk killing penalties. I think the improvement in the PK directly correlates to the upgrade in defense personnel.
Who do you have your eyes on to be called up and stick with the Sabres and their push to the playoffs?
I would love to see Nylander get the call. You don’t know what you have unless you look at it. Keeping CJ Smith up does no harm, either. I think a guy like Olofsson though might be best served marinating in the AHL. Going back to Nylander though, I think he has the potential to create the most change.
Can you see a scenario and if you do, explain why, where Lawrence Pilut is sent back to Rochester permanently when other defensemen return?
I certainly see it happening if the wheels completely spin off the Sabres season. If we get to mid-February and we’ve fallen to 13th and are 10 points out then absolutely let him play on a good Amerks club.
What do you think of the Nathan Paestch situation? He’s dressed for one game, but his biggest impact is in practices and just being a guy to go to for the younger players? Think he has a future with the Sabres organization coaching?
I haven’t been able to watch any Amerks games this year unfortunately. However, a veteran like Paetsch is a staple of the outlaw minor leagues. I think it is a good role for him if he is simply around the team, almost like a player-coach role.
I feel like Paetsch might be one of those guys that shows up as a coach at HarborCenter in the future. I just don’t know if he was here long enough or played enough NHL hockey to be an effective coach. I might be ignorant to this but I don’t think Paetsch would be the kind of guy for a management/development role.
How do you think the four guys that participated in the World Juniors faired?
I watched a lot of Luukkonen so I feel most comfortable speaking on him. He has all the tools as they say. You can tell just by watching he is still very raw, but that is exactly where he needs to be at this point in his development. It was very cool to see he and Finland rebound from some poor performances recently and take the gold. The kid has the physical attributes to be great. Once the Sabres development guys get their hands on him I think it is going to do wonders for his game.
What are your thoughts on the goalies in the Sabres system? Johannson, UPL, Wilcox. How confident are you with the Sabres goaltending depth? Should they target a goalie this draft? What are your thoughts on taking a goalie every draft just to see if you can find a diamond in the rough?
I am a nerd for goaltenders so I love this! I will start with Wilcox. Just given his resume he really is just here to fill a spot on the roster. I think he is a good stop gap piece in Rochester but would not feel comfortable with him as Sabres backup in a pinch.
Scott Wedgewood I think is a solid 3rd stringer. He has NHL experience with the Devils and Coyotes. His numbers on the Yotes are not impressive but neither was that Coyotes team he was on. I think if you’re looking at the top 2 or so tiers of AHL goaltenders/depth NHL goalies, Wedgewood is right there.
I still have hope for Johannson. The ECHL in my opinion is very much a goaltender’s league. Whereas forwards and defenseman may go there to play out their contract or await a buyout, the ECHL is a good playing field for goaltenders who need starts but won’t receive them on an AHL club with only 2 spots. This is only his 2nd full year in North America so I don’t see reason to give up on him yet.
Luukkonen is obviously the gem of the bunch. He has been impressive in the OHL and has already won a WJC gold. The kid is going to be good.
What’s the timeline on UPL to getting into pro hockey then challenge for a spot on Buffalo?
I see next year as a year where he can be a backup to a guy like Wedgewood. Let him marinate a bit and watch while starting maybe 20-30 games. I say he takes the next step after that either splitting starts or starting a slight majority of the season. I say in 4 years or so we will really see him contend for a spot with the big club.
Flats or Drums?
Flats. Drums have too much hard pieces. What are those weird flaps that just cling to the bone and are slightly soft but too hard to bite off? Drums have too many of those.
I like hot and BBQ. There are actually people out there who don’t have any sauce on their wings! That is just odd.
Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?
I think it has to be the Lightning. It seems impossible anyone stops them. I don’t think they can possibly choke it again.
Who will land Jack Hughes?
I’m going with the New Jersey Devils. They have been haunted by injuries and are only going to fall further with Hall out of the lineup. They have nobody left except Kyle Palmieri to provide consistent offense. Their defense is not great and Keith Kinkaid is fighting for his life every night. Even teams like the Blackhawks and Senators have more talent than the Devils down the lineup.
Any other prospects coming up you’re interested in seeing how they do regardless of where they are drafted?
Kaapo Kakko! I screamed “Kappo Kakko! Kappo Kakko!” at my friend’s house when he scored the golden goal a few weeks ago.
Other than the Sabres and their players, who is your favorite team to watch and who are some of your favorite players around the NHL?
My favorite team outside of Buffalo is the Winnipeg Jets. I’ve actually liked them since 2006. At the time I was a Coyotes fan as I rooted for the losers of the league. My dad told me about how they used to be the Winnipeg Jets and from that point I became obsessed with defunct teams.
I stuck with Winnipeg because their name was the coolest and somehow, out of Winnipeg, Quebec and Hartford, the boring city in Manitoba that I had grown fond of was the one that got their team back. What are the odds of that?
I still remember the day it was announced that the Thrashers were moving and watching the Jets first game that next season. Even though they are now one of the best teams in the league they are still an underdog in my eyes. They have an “us against the world” mentality, with the world being the league and Bettman (at least that’s how I like to think about it).
As for favorite players, I love watching goalies. Big Save David Rittich is currently my favorite netminder in the league. I’m a big fan of Holtby and Vaselevskiy as well. My favorite forward to watch is Connor McDavid. He is a legend in my circle of friends.
What other sports do you follow? Sports teams? Specific players?
I follow the NFL and college football. I really want to get more into basketball. Golf and Soccer would be pretty sweet to follow too. Since falling further in love with hockey around 2015 I have focused less on the NFL. I still know all the story lines and prospects but I regretfully feel more casual than I ever have.
What has been your favorite place you’ve visited?
Toronto. Traffic sucks and I hate the Leafs, but they have a downtown that will leave you in awe if it is the first big city you have been too. They also have an awesome record store near ChinaTown called Sonic Boom Records where I found a rare Metric record. Its an awesome place.
What is one or two places you really want to visit?
I really want to visit Seattle. I like hipster communities like that. San Francisco would be an awesome place to visit as well. I think it would be really cool to visit D.C. too and just be close to all thats happening in the country.
Favorite TV show?
The Sopranos is the greatest television show of all time. I’m a big wrestling fan too so I guess WWE Monday Night Raw qualifies by default even though it sucks most of the time. I don’t normally sit down to watch TV shows. I think playing Xbox is a better use of my time. More stimulating! haha
What are some of your other hobbies? Video games, travelling, going to restaurants/brewery’s etc?
My favorite hobby is collecting hockey cards. I have had pretty good luck in my time as a collector. I have pulled 2 McDavid autographs, a Laine auto and Matthews and Eichel Young Guns. I am writing this on January 19th, and just a few hours ago I pulled an Anze Kopitar auto, Mittelstadt jersey card and Mark Stone printing plate all in one box.
Somehow I have pleased the ripping gods and have been blessed with the power of pack luck. I encourage everyone to collect, whether consistently or even casually. Few things bring me joy like pulling a cool card does. There is no feeling like it.
I also collect anything Jack Eichel. My friend’s dad has a shrine to Jim Kelly in his basement and I plan on replicating that when I have my own house but with Eichel. I’m already preparing!
As for video games, NHL 19 is my life outside of work, school and the Sabres. I’m in the midst of my 3rd season in my Sabres franchise where I traded Risto for Panarin and drafted Peyton Krebs and Kappo Kakko. In a little bit I’m starting the playoffs and when I’m done typing these I’m going to log all of the stats from my season into a spreadsheet (I’m a goof I know).
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d say follow me on twitter @LvkeTCB. I try to be funny and lighten peoples day. Also check out the Charging Buffalo Podcast! Thank you for reading about me!