WGRZ sports anchor Jonah Javad stepped in for usual host Adam Benigni to guide The News' Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan through another episode of "Sports Talk Sunday."
PGA professional Jeff Mietus, of Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, was featured during the second segment to discuss another eventful Masters.
"Sports Talk Sunday" airs at 11:30 p.m. every Sunday on WGRZ-TV. Here are five major talking points from the April 10 show:
1) How far have the Sabres progressed? Javad sets the scene by highlighting the Sabres' 27-point improvement in the standings over 2015, even though this season marked the fifth straight year that Buffalo missed the postseason.
Bucky interjects that the Sabres aren't as close to being a playoff team as fans want to believe, as the jump from 23rd to 16th is even tougher than 30th to 23rd. Gleason admits "monumental progress," but says that Tim Murray needs one more elite player and several useful role players before the postseason is a reality.
Both Bucky and Sully agree that teams around the league still don't consider the Sabres, Leafs and Edmonton as true threats -- as opponents, they represent a chance to exhale and perhaps start a backup goalie. Javad extols the seasons of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, and is excited to see their continued development.
2) Kane's dynamite season: Javad raves about Patrick Kane's on-ice performance this season, as the South Buffalo native tallied 106 points, the most since Jeremy Roenick finished with 107 over a decade ago. The WGRZ host asks the News columnists to consider how the rape allegations affected Kane.
Bucky argues that the off-ice allegations -- even though Kane was never charged, not even for a lesser sentence -- may have forced him to fear that the game might be taken away from him, and the resulting seclusion allowed him to focus on hockey.
Sully hopes that Kane cleans up his act, but says we've seen his temporary turnarounds before (like his 88-point season after the incident with the Buffalo cab driver) while Bucky says it depends on the off-ice situations in which Kane puts himself.
3) Fallout of Spieth's meltdown: After Danny Willett's come-from-behind Masters win, the hosts and guest Jeff Mietus consider where Jordan Spieth's collapse -- where his two consecutive bogeys before a quadruple bogey on the 12th hole -- ranks among the all-time golf implosions.
Mietus says Spieth's meltdown was actually worse than Greg Norman's in 1996 and ranks second to Jean van de Velde's triple-bogey on the 18th hole in 1998. The Transit Valley Country Club pro says Spieth really only had one good round -- his first of this Masters -- but he was still one good swing on the 12th hole on Sunday away from winning his second Masters.
Sully notes how Tiger Woods has never blown a Sunday lead at The Masters, and that it will be a long time before anyone can duplicate Woods' 14 major wins. When asked if Tiger will win another major, Mietus is hesitant to say yes; he thinks Tiger will be competitive but not dominant.
Bucky thinks that if 58-year-old Bernard Langer can contend, Tiger has another major win in the tank. Sully says no, that Tiger won't age well and that the new crop of young players will be difficult to beat.
4) What was the recipe for Willett's success? The new wearer of the green jacket is one of the best in Europe, Mietus explains, and he should do well again in the British Open. Willett keeps his drives low, which kept him largely unharmed by the swirling Augusta wind, Mietus added.
5) Extra points:
*Sully: The News columnist takes a foray into the soccer world, advocating for U.S. Soccer to settle its legal dispute with the nation's elite women's soccer players over wage discrimination. After all, the World Cup-winning women brought in more revenue than the men's team did last year, and he doubts that U.S. Soccer would want a work stoppage before the Rio Olympics.
*Bucky: Villanova, the NCAA Tournament champions, shares the same city with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, and they save themselves from the hassle of having a FBS football program, settling for the Colonial Athletic Association in the FCS.
On the other hand, the university is very serious about its Big East hoops program, and have reaped the rewards. Hopefully UB is paying attention to this approach, Bucky says.
*Javad: Dynasties are not measured by records, Javad says, but championships distinguish one team from another. Michael Jordan's Bulls won six titles before their 72-10 team. The Warriors have been pedestrian lately, and Draymond Green says they're bored and ready for the playoffs.
The WGRZ sports analyst thinks the attention and energy expended on achieving the record could be a detriment, but one of the all-time great Western Conference finals could be coming soon, between the Spurs and the Warriors.
Stay tuned for the next "Sports Talk Sunday" at 11:30 p.m. April 17 on WGRZ-TV.