Adam Benigni of WGRZ returned to the hosting seat on Sunday, just to the right of News columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan for another episode of "Sports Talk Sunday."
Topics focused on the future of the Bills and the Sabres, a look into the NHL and NBA playoffs, and the usual Extra Points segment where each of the panelists offers his own insight of the moment.
Here are five major talking points from the show, which aired originally at 11:30 p.m. April 17 on WGRZ-TV:
1) Takes on the Bills schedule: When Benigni runs through the Bills' schedule and mentions "if they're in the playoff hunt..." along the way, Bucky chortles. Upon seeing the schedule, The News columnist tried to pick out games that the Bills could pencil in as wins, and he wasn't even confident in naming San Francisco and Jacksonville.
Benigni predicts an 8-8 season, Sully sees 6-10 and Bucky 5-11. Sully agrees with Bucky, saying it's been a long time since he thought the Bills were a shoo-in to win a game.
2) Future for the Sabres: The trio rehashes the Sabres' season-ending press conference, homing in on the team's needs, which are a durable, established goaltender and a quarterback defenseman, in General Manager Tim Murray's eyes. They discuss the predicament that Murray is in -- should he keep his first round pick with the NHL Draft being hosted in Buffalo, or will he dangle it in a trade to get better now?
Now with Eichel in the fold, Sully argues that Buffalo is a suddenly a destination for free agents. Bucky lashes back, saying it's too early to give Eichel so much credit, as he wasn't even the Sabres' best player last season (Ryan O'Reilly was, according to Gleason.)
As for Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay's impending free-agent goalscorer, Bucky believes Buffalo has a better chance than Toronto to land him, but doesn't think the Sabres will acquire his services. Sully mentions that Hobey Baker-winning winger Jimmy Vesey would be a great get for the Sabres.
3) Updating the NHL Playoffs: After showing footage of the Blackhawks' loss to St. Louis -- aided by a Patrick Kane double minor -- Benigni shines light on the outstanding regular season of Lindy Ruff and the Dallas Stars. Bucky comments on Ruff's reputation when he was in Buffalo -- a defensive-minded coach who regularly suffocated the team's talented offensive players -- a label he's quickly shed.
[Gleason: Ruff shows he's not lost on offense]
The hosts think the Capitals' playoff outlook is rosy, as star forward Alex Ovechkin has "knocked two players silly" in the first two games of the series, and Braden Holtby and an improved blue-line give the Caps some staying power. "It's as good of a year as any for Washington to win the whole thing," Bucky says.
4) NBA update: The hosts unanimously agree that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will both reach the NBA Finals again; Sully calls the Cavs "dangerous," a team that missed Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the Finals last year, but have both healthy now. LeBron's ability to defend every position is a big difference-maker.
Sully was bothered by the attention paid to Kobe Bryant's final game, in which he scored 60 points and led a wild comeback. "It's regrettable that the greatest team performance in NBA history was overshadowed by a guy who took 50 shots," Sully said.
Bucky argued that Los Angeles was the perfect place for theater, and the Mamba spectacle was great for the NBA. Sully retorts that Michael Jordan scored 15 points on 15 shots in his last game.
5) Extra Points:
*Sully: The Titans have to feel better about their future than the Bills after trading the No. 1 overall draft pick to Los Angeles for a package of picks, giving Tennessee six of the draft's first 76 selections. Only three other teams since 1975 have had six of the top 76, and they all won the Super Bowl within five years.
*Bucky: Bucky is annoyed by the constant stream of voluntary workouts, rookie camps, OTAs and so on during the NFL offseason; he encourages the NFL to shorten the preseason schedule to two games and have an 18-game regular season. It shouldn't take NFL masterminds four meaningless games to whittle down their rosters, he argues.
*Benigni: He's pleased that the University at Buffalo Bulls have closed the door on the "New York Bulls Initiative," which was started by former athletic director Danny White. As an outsider, he failed to recognize what being from Buffalo means to people in the area.