I’ll preface this by reminding y’all that I have zero expectations going into this season. I’m going to be that happy go lucky (edit: annoying) guy at the bar who, after the Sabres get scored on, says something terribly unrelated to the play such as “I don’t know who I like more right now, Zemgus Girgensons or Kiko Alonso.”
Actually, right now, we’re all That Guy. At least with throw and catch sports. We’re all in on the Kiko Alonso bandwagon, as the Buffalo Bills’ rebuilding product stretches into its 3rd or 4th or 5th generation. They’re 2-2, and look like they’re just good enough again to reach the middle of the pack, but we’re enjoying the ride. We’re enjoying watching the young guys chase the pigskin up and down the field.
I’m not saying that we’re suckers for buying into an inferior product. I’m saying that, for the most part, we’ve learned to embrace what it is, for what it is. We’ve been losing for a while. But unlike other fanbases whose teams try to rope them into the stadium by giving away free beer (-!!!), the sport and the goodtimes and the camaraderie and the drunken laughs and the city-wide venting post-loss or back-patting post-victory is, well, fun – and all of that is pretty great, here.
Somehow, “Happiness in Slavery” by Nine Inch Nails just popped into my head. But whatever. Kiko Alonso and Robert Woods and EJ Manuel, amirite? Those names bring the cheesy classic rock tailgate music right back and I’m all good again.
The Sabres have worked pretty hard to remain just ahead of the Bills in terms of beating mediocrity. Icing a mixed bag of hastily thrown together trade deadline imports and hopeful draft picks along with the remnants of the heroic 05-06 and 06-07 seasons has given Buffalo fans some limited success, and some very unlimited stress.
This year looks to be the worst yet. But I couldn’t be happier about it. Here’s a look into the mind of hockey visionary Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus, on our prospects this season:
Dead last. This is what rebuilding looks like on paper. It’s probably going to stay that way all season long. Places like [BN] and the Sabres’ Facebook comments sections are going to be possibly the loneliest places on the planet (the latter likely going to resemble a jumping off point for suicidal fans who are giving all of their fandom up forever because Darcy/DruryBriere/CoCaptains/Sabers).
Yes, I spelled that wrong on purpose.
Avoid those places, for the most part – because this is what rebuilding will look like on the ice:
BLISS. (And also currently going for a hefty $12.99 on Ebay.)
There aren’t going to be many great games this season. We all know that already. Still, there are going to be many great moments.
This is what hockey is about – those special moments that make you jump out of your seat and want to hug weird, smelly strangers that smell like beer and nachos. We’ll have plenty of moments. We’ll have plenty to cheer about. It might not look great on paper, but as we go through this thing, for the long term, it should give us the youthful promise we’re all looking for with this rebuild. We’re going to be good, maybe even great. We just need to be able to be sit in our seats and have fun as the team matures, and gets better, and better.
Take heart: the Sabres will get there.
Really, that should be good enough.
At least for one quick year.
Oh the drama that was the Summer of 2013.
We said our goodbyes to Ryan Miller on the final game of last season (and Thomas Vanek), and continued to say goodbye to him (and Thomas Vanek) when he sold his townhouse, before the draft, after the draft, and are now preparing ourselves to say goodbye to him again (and Thomas Vanek) when this now incredibly young Sabres team is failing to find ground in the playoff race come the trade deadline.
You know you’ll miss his “Arrrgh I just hit the post” face. Or not. More on that down below.
And hey, we even tried to trade Drew Stafford, but that fell through, so… here we go again with another potential 30 goal season from that on again off mostly sniper. So our drama with him continues. Should be awesome. PROTIP: Go to the net, Drew.
Also, I was lucky enough to get the invite and find the time in my recent busy busy schedule to head down to the FNC to meet up with Craig Kanalley and a host of other fine Sabres bloggers for this year’s summit. A little more on that later. First, let’s talk expectations for 2013.
Scenario 1: Sabres stand pat and draft at 8th and 16th. NARRATIVE: “Again, Regier proved he just doesn’t have what it takes to get a good deal done with other NHL GM’s.”
Scenario 2: Sabres move up from the 8th pick, but cost, as expected, was high. NARRATIVE: “Again, Regier proved he just doesn’t have what it takes to get a good deal done with other NHL GM’s.”
Scenario 3: Vanek/Miller moved, but the return, while great, still does not deliver that generational talent. NARRATIVE: “Again, Regier proved he just doesn’t have what it takes to get a good deal done with other NHL GM’s.”
Scenario 4: Vanek/Miller not moved. NARRATIVE: “Again, Regier proved he just doesn’t have what it takes to get a good deal done with other NHL GM’s.”
And that’s how it goes for Regier these days.
“Back off guys. JUST BACK OFF.”
Good luck, Darcy.
It’s amazing that my rookie Drew Stafford jersey is still relevant. Then again, it might not be in a couple days.
It’s two days before the draft, and Sabres fans have no idea what their team’s roster or prospect pool will look like on Monday.
The Sabres’ current identity.
A lot can happen between now and then. We might have to say our goodbyes to Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. That kind of sentence might have been absolutely stunning to read not so long ago, but not so much now. The Old Core has nearly been fully dismantled.
Pominville, Roy, Connolly, Gaustad, and Hecht have all been moved or have moved on. Chances are that you’ve got one of those names on a jersey tucked into the back of the closet. Chances are you might have a Vanek or Miller jersey that might have to join the growing pile of throw-back threads back there very soon.
You might own an Ennis, Hodgson, Foligno, Stafford, Myers, or a Gerbe. These might be obsolete come Monday, too.
You might have invested in a Grigorenko jersey, or had another prospect’s name sewn onto the back of your most hopeful sweater. If so, hold onto it tightly and keep hoping. No one is truly safe in a rebuild (if that’s what the Sabres are truly doing. A little more on that in a couple paragraphs).
Big changes are coming this weekend. Players may move, whether they be important/iconic, long-standing members of our community, the up-and-coming fan favs of Rochester, or those players stuck in between. We’re also going to have a bunch of brand new Sabres draftees to wonder over, and hope about.
The good news is this: whatever Darcy Regier does, it will be for the benefit of the Sabres for the long-term. The decisions made by his draft weekend team won’t be of the kind that set the Blue and Gold back a year or three. Maybe that’s why Regier was hesitant to use the term “rebuild,” instead opting for “r-word.” The direction of this franchise isn’t really in full rebuild mode, and it’s not really in retooling mode either. It’s somewhere in between.
Coming out of this weekend, after all the changes and all the additions, we will be able to look at this franchise and assure ourselves that the future has been made brighter. The r-word process (choose your own of the two) won’t be over, but we’ll be better.
Our closets might be a little bit out-dated. But we’ll be better.
And hey, there’s a lot to talk about at happy hour today. This weekend is going to be fun.
See you guys on Monday at the Sabres’ store.
We need trophies like this one.
Patrick Kane, as you all know, has just won his second Cup in Chicago. He scored the Cup winning goal last time. This time around the Big Dance, he was an incredible clutch goal scorer, lead his team in points, and nabbed the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP.
There were plenty of rumblings that the Sabres tried to move up in the 2007 draft to select Kane first overall. Unwilling (or unable) to put together a package to make it happen, they played the safer route, and selected TJ Brennan 1st overall – in the second round (the Sabres did not have a first round pick that year).
Since then, the Sabres have piled up plenty of good prospects after middling around 8th place in the Eastern Conference for years, leaving the stands at the FNC weary, and the Cup cupboard bare.