Identity Crisis.

Traditionally, when we think about who the Sabres are as a team, we think speed, and we think skill. We think of names like Perreault, LaFontaine, Barnes and Hasek, Drury/Briere, Pominville, and Vanek.

The roots of that identity go way back – all the way to the team’s inception. To brand the team, the Knoxes chose for a name-the-team contest. “Sabres” was chosen because Seymour Knox felt that a sabre, a weapon carried by a leader, could be used effectively on both offense and defense. Makes sense, and makes for a great identity (and one great uniform).

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Beautiful.

More recently, we embraced a heroic little mix of shifty little guys that dazzled us with their depth of speed, skill, and clutch play that got us within one Jay McKee foot infection at a very legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.

Most recently, we’re in shambles. We as fans are doing the whole #suffering thing while the team – now a mixture of skill guys and #ToughToPlayAgainst monsters – can’t find a way to make hockey work like hockey should.

Where are we now, really? Who are we?

The company line has been to draft size and skill over just skill, and has produced a nice line of prospects that could make us very good, in time. Still, it’s that same company line that has produced, at least for now, one of the worst teams in the history of the NHL. We’re losing games with unmatchable haplessness – but hey, we always lead in the hits stat at the end of the game, so the #ToughToPlayAgainst mantra seems to be working on one level.

So, while fans and the entirety of the NHL has struggled to make the switch from the old speedy and slick design that the original owners instilled into our collective subconscious, to the new ramshackle speedy and sorta skilled but really tough and dangerous to play against mockery of hockey instilled by the current ownership/GM team –  Darcy Regier waives Pat Kaleta.

I’m not here to defend or to decry the move. I’ve had my own head on a swivel about this Kaleta character for years. I’m more curious about the timing of the move. Regier made a bold stance that this was in part an effort to help salvage Kaleta’s career – a sort of ultimatum to change his game, once and for all.

But boy, if that’s not hypocritical, I don’t know what hypocritical stands for anymore, at least not to this team. This is the team, after all, that resigned John Scott to keep this #ToughToPlayAgainst thing hopping. It’s no secret that he and Kaleta have had other teams very aware of their presence on the Sabres’ roster – not because they have to defend against them, but because they have to defend their heads from them.

Remember the “Scary Good” days? Well now we’re just scary – and by Darcy’s own design.

You’d think Kaleta would be a perfect fit to that model – that new identity of physical intimidation. You wanna beat us? You’re going to have to put your careers at risk to do so.

Now, with Kaleta in Rochester to “salvage his career,” I’m not convinced that Darcy is convinced that #ToughToPlayAgainst was ever really a good idea in the first place.

So I have to ask again – who the hell are we?

For now, we’re the worst, and the chants of “Fire Darcy” that are ringing out all over the FNC tell us that we fans have had enough of this new direction. (An aside: not that I am here to tell any of you how to act at a game, but please know that when you chant “FIRE DARCY” you’re not just sending a message to Regier, but also to the players [many of them kids] on the bench desperately trying not to screw up. You’re not doing the players any favors with that chant.)

For now, we’re a team that just traded away the immensely talented Thomas Vanek, and then promptly waived the immensely irresponsible Pat Kaleta.

For now, we still have John Scott – so I’m assuming the Sabres brass is still favoring the #ToughToPlayAgainst thing.

And for now, we still have that bevvy of prospects and draft picks – with more picks likely on the way. That gives the Sabres ample opportunity to shape this team any way they choose. I like a lot of the “tougher” guys that they have picked up over the years (Foligno, Girgensons, Risto and Zado to name a few) and I really don’t like some of the others (Steve Ott, John Scott, and hey, Pat Kaleta to name a few).

Right now we’re just having an identity crisis as we transition into the next phase of Sabres hockey. We’ve got a crisis on the ice, a crisis of a player in Kaleta, and a crisis in the fan base.

It’s hard to stomach. Maybe the hardest part about it is just not knowing what direction we’re moving in anymore – and the scary lack of confidence we have that Darcy has the conviction and insight to find the right plan, stick to it, and make it work to win a Stanley Cup.

I think most of us wouldn’t mind at all if we returned to the speed and skill of the glory days.

I think most of us just want our Buffalo Sabres back.

Go Sabres.

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