0Posted by Scott Michalak on April 3, 2015 at 8:59 am
The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes are beginning a 5 game playoff series, of sorts. The winner gets a guaranteed shot at McEichel. The loser gets to sweat through the lottery and hope no other team usurps their place.
The good news for Sabres fans is that they’ve got a one game head start in the series. They should, as has been projected all season, complete Tim Murray’s project and finish out at the bottom.
Cheers to Micah Black McCurdy for supplying these calming sets of data throughout the season. Of course, no mathematical model, even those as consistent as his, is a guarantee. It’s a projection, and the Sabres and Yotes are now entering an extremely small 5 game sample size. My money remains with the math, but I have to recognize both scenarios, as they are now both entirely plausible.
So what happens if the Sabres finish 29th?
I imagine a lot of you will be pretty upset. There will be plenty of finger wagging, but there is no where to truly rest blame in this situation. The GM did his job in assembling the worst team model in the history of advanced statistical data. The coach could not find a way to upset that model. The players did some hockey things, and most of those things were horrendous, as planned. The fans cheered for the wrong team, but it’s folly to believe that some sort of magical hockey witchcraft descended on the franchise as a result.
Still, there will be plenty of upset and disappointment to go around. It will take time to get over missing out on a generational talent. That’s human nature; it takes time to process a loss. But fans will come around, and learn to embrace whomever the Sabres pick at 3rd, and learn to get excited again about the future of this prospect-loaded franchise.
Fans should take comfort in the fact that Tim Murray hasn’t put all his eggs into one basket. Just as any great mathematical model cannot guarantee a result, any team perfectly engineered to finish last cannot be guaranteed a thing. There are always backup plans in sports. Rest assured that if the Sabres do miss out on McEichel that there is a plan B, a plan C, and a plan D, etc.
At the end of this dreary season, the Sabres brass and fans may not get the trophy talent they wanted, but there are plans there for GMTM to utilize his mountain of assets within any given scenario.
Try to remember, that for the duration of this “5 game playoff,” that:
I’ve used this space this season to try and help ease the burden of a horrific season. I’ve tried to get fans out from their divisive sides, to get them to look at things in more reasonable, or more analytical ways. I’ve never told anyone strictly how to cheer, or penned rules on how to think or feel, but I’ve tried to help you all find a safer space in Sabres rhetoric and at the FNC, two places that have become burning asylums.
Now, with 10 games left, it’s time to throw all rhetoric and advice out the window. Don’t forget to check the math along the way, but with just 10 games to go and with two of those contests against the one team able to steal 30th away, anything is really possible.
I’m not going to even try to tell you how to feel.
There is nothing healthy about this procedure for any of us. We’ve been watching the worst hockey team assembled in the modern statistical era, hoping for losses and trying to find ways to root for our players at the same time. It’s been wretched. Exhausting.
We’ve already been locked in that burning asylum for a year, and we’re already exhausted, yet still there is more to endure. 10 games left, and we’re still entering uncharted territories of suffering. These games will yield the most ridiculously important results we’ve seen in years – and for all the most upside down and bizarre reasons.
All I have left to give anyone is to ask you not to riot. Don’t fight each other in hot takes tank battles anymore. No one’s side matters anymore. A couple coaches, a goalie or two, and some players are going to do some hockey things that cannot be controlled by any of you, and some of the moments heading your way may be too heady to bear.
Shout, cringe, yell, scream, pump your fists. It doesn’t matter why you do it anymore.
10 games, and anything can happen in the chaos. Just make sure you’re not a part of that.
0Posted by Scott Michalak on March 1, 2015 at 9:14 am
Hey there, Sabres.
Hi, Sabres fans.
You’ve endured a hell of a time the past two seasons on the ice. The fanbase has been there with you, suffering the ups and downs of the tumultuous rebuild. You’ve had to emerge out of that locker room every game, and put up an intense physical effort for a team that you knew was designed to implode. The fans knew that too, but they’ve still filled the stands.
Sticktaps all around.
You all deserve an award for sticking it out during all of this. For some of you Sabres players, that award may be in the form of a trade to a contending team. Good luck if that becomes the case – but don’t forget us if you become an UFA – Buffalo is going to be a ridiculously fun team to play on in the very near future.
Most fans reading this would assume I mean the fan award should be McEichel. I’d love the opportunity to cheer for a superstar, but pegging the award part of all of this on just one name is a bit myopic. The real reward for fans will be the return to good – even great – hockey. That will be a team thing, and it will happen with McEichel or without.
We’re nearing the end of the hard part, everyone, and isn’t it a wonderful feeling? Our team is beginning to come into focus, our dreams just beginning to be realized. Those who will help Buffalo contend, players like Ristolainen, Girgensons, and Kane, are signed up and ready to go. Sam Reinhart is on his way. Goodness, I hope it was as exciting for you to read those two sentences as it was for me to type them.
The rest of the team has yet to take shape, but the excitement is here, now, for what this team will be next season.
I do not know how big of a turnaround we’ll see in 2015-16, but the goal will be making the playoffs, or at least coming as close as possible.
That’s a pretty modest goal for most teams. In Buffalo, it’s a massive change of perspective. The rebuild, for most intents and purposes, will be dead. The long ago foretold suffering will be wiped away from our consciousness and experience, one more game, one more win at a time.
For those players who leave us tomorrow, and for those who stay, thanks for the being a part of this, and take comfort in the fact that your days playing as assets or commodities are coming to a close.
For the fans who have argued and cheered and who have argued about what to cheer for, thanks for showing your honesty and for showing up to these games. Your days spent entrenched on divisive sides of toxic arguments are coming to a close.
So once more: sticktaps all around.
Now, let’s go and get something shiny to put inside this place.
0Posted by Scott Michalak on February 11, 2015 at 9:10 am
As we sit and stew (silently, oh so silently) at the FNC over our rebuilding product on the ice, it’s a good time to revisit a time when our voices were loud, and our butts not so hopelessly stuck to our seats.
I bring to you then, in no particular order, the top 5 Aud chants from Memorial Auditorium. I may have missed some good ones. Feel free to add more in the comments below.
I’m not sure on how well this one translates to our modern era, as we retract more and more sports memes that are obviously offensive to Native Americans. But back in the day, this was one of the fondest beer chants in the oranges.
Anyway, here’s some fans from ’06 reliving the old days (they didn’t know it’s supposed to be sung, not just shouted):
3. Anything anyone ever yelled in the exit tunnels
Aside from the spectacular spectator views, one of the best elements the Aud had was leaving the game through those old tunnels. Fans weren’t just shuffling down stairwells or standing idle on an escalator. They were stampeding (and by some reports, sometimes fighting. Or urinating).
Some of my most vivid memories are of these tunnels, and joining the mob to out-shout the visiting fans. It was madness. It was glorious.
This video doesn’t do the experience justice, but it’s at least a decent look for old time’s sake (jump to 2:24):
4. “WE WANT RAY.”
I’m not one to try to sell fighting in the NHL as a necessary or even relevant part of the modern game, but as a guy who grew up in the chaos of the Memorial Auditorium, my brain is probably conditioned to the day I die to get me to jump out of my seat when the gloves fall off down on the ice. At the Aud, fighting was as big a part of the culture as anything else on the program.
Game turning sour? Down, say, 8-1? No problem. Everyone yells “WE WANT RAY.” Coach puts Rayzor out for a faceoff. Instant fight. Everyone’s happy.
The days before CTE were so naively fun.
I couldn’t locate a video for this chant (what the hey?) – but here’s a fun news report of a fan who jumped over the glass and got mercilessly PUMMELED by Rayzor, because dammit, that’s what happened when a fan jumped over the glass in front of Rob Ray back in the early 90’s.
5. Milt Ellis’ public address announcements
OK, obviously this one is not a chant, but it’s worthy of any list of legendary things said and heard at the Aud.
Meanwhile, here’s a wonderful tribute video to the man who left us in 2011…
Great old building, great old times. These days we’re quiet, as we await what very likely may be the next great chapter in Sabres history. Many are banking on the plausibility that what is coming may be the best. So don’t worry – the chants – some old, some new – are coming back to the FNC.
Something about winning gets those started up, organically.
I can’t wait for us all to make some more legendary memories at our new digs.
I asked via the Twitters for a few of you to chirp in on some of your favorite old sounds of the Aud. A few of you broke through the noise that was Sabres Trademageddon Day and I was actually able to find your responses. Here’s a few, with an extra bonus take at the end (a take that I wish I had remembered myself, actually):
Back in the way back, hockey organists were like conductors – they were quick to respond to any incident on the ice quickly with a tune that would get fans orchestrated and involved.
At some point, every arena in the NHL started blaring “Crazy Train” out of giant speakers and the whole organist/fan connection slowly died off, and that’s kinda sad. I know, we have lasers now, and some pretty hypnotic and engaging “game presentation,” but the organ at the old Aud was a persona in itself, a piece of the hockey experience that made the games just a little more personal.
There are plenty of great examples of the organ being utilized in this vintage video of the 1976 Super Series between the Sabres and the Soviet Wings, but go ahead and skip to the 1:52:20 mark, where the pipes chime in to keep the crowd clapping away even as the game was long over, having reached a score of 11-6.
Again, if you have any more sounds of the Aud that I’ve missed, go ahead and post them in the comments section below.