That’s what this year has been.
We were teased with a competitive team after the offseason. Then teased again when the Sabres put together a short winning streak in late January/early February.
After the 7-2 absolute drubbing at the hands of the hated Flyers, we now know there is no hope for this team, this year. Well, of course many of us knew before this, but some of us held out the slightest glimmer of hope. I did.
We were teased last year with the 16-4-4 run to end the season and make the playoffs… only to be crushed at the hands of those very same hated Flyers. Now we know that the run to the playoffs was more flukey than being eliminated in the 1st round and the record the Sabres currently hold (24-27-6).
The combination of the bad record despite the high expectations, the mediocre play on the ice, the Lucic Incident and issues of softness, and the TV problems with Time Warner make this season a difficult pill to swallow for Sabres fans.
Lindy Ruff’s birthday is today but the celebration of his day has to be marred by where this franchise is at. This was supposed to be a mecca of hockey. A return to greatness. No, not even a return to greatness, but something better than we’d had in the past. Pegula labeled it “Hockey Heaven” – claimed a Stanley Cup was in our future. We got the Amerks back in the fold, got coaches entrenched that could coach Lindy’s “System”, the whole deal.
Pegula, Ted Black and the rest of the Sabres brass has consistently said we need to stay the course, to do nothing drastic.
At this point, even they have to see that something needs to be done. Questions come up about the coaching, about the general manager and about the heart of some of the players.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think we can just stay pat with the cards we’re holding. Perhaps it’s as simple as a trade or two now and build towards next year. Maybe it’s as drastic as firing Lindy Ruff.
After all, the team seems to embody his “nothing is wrong, we’ll get through this” mentality. Yes, it’s good for a coach to keep an even keel, but sometimes you need to light a fire under the guys.
Maybe Lindy does that, I don’t know as I’m not close enough to the team. All I know is that I see some guys on the ice who aren’t giving their all. I know that Lindy has had years of chances with different versions of this team and he hasn’t won a championship. There’s two sides to that coin: a) He’s done well over the years and gotten us deep in the playoffs b) It’s him holding us back from doing better than we could.
In the end, I will have faith that “Pegula knows best”, that Ted Black and the rest of the staff are smart hockey guys and will get this thing figured out. But now we have to turn our attention to trades and a better draft pick and I don’t like that.
Go Sabres. /sigh
[Update: I was remiss not to say this: #DoSomethingDarcy]
I’m finding it very hard to write about the Sabres lately. It’s hard for a blogger to get pumped about things and all you want to do is just type, “they suck” and be done with it. But I need to break out of my slump as much as the Sabres do theirs, so I’m forging on.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When Pegula rode in to town on his majestic Pegasus (Pegulasus?) and waved around his magic cash wand, the Sabres were supposed to take the league by storm. It was an amazing “what the hell is happening!?” time when the Sabres were actually spending big-name free agents like Regehr and Ehrhoff. “So no Richards” then happened and the Sabres missed out on a top-line center. That was ok, as the Sabres added Ville Leino, a guy somewhat mysterious but it sounded like he had a lot of potential. And of course millions of little things were done around the arena and millions of dollars were spent on the improvements.
Maybe we'd do better if we renamed the team the Pegasuses? (Or is it Pegasii?) This is dumb, but I needed two pictures on this post. It's a personal quota thing.
But I should spare you the history lesson. You’re a Sabres fan (most likely) if you’re reading this site and you know all too well that things haven’t gone according to plan.
We can blame injuries, the coaching staff, the new additions or the old core. But it doesn’t matter. We just want the team to do well. Dammit, Pegula said we would win the Cup, so where is the team that will bring it to us?
I’m sick of being Mr. Positive. All year I’ve said to be patient, to hang in there and we’ll get through these injuries. “Let’s not do anything drastic here, let’s stay the course and let the ship right itself”, I said. I was probably one of the last holdouts on the positive train. After this long, I’m now convinced that it can’t right itself.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do have faith in one thing: the ownership. Ted Black and Terry Pegula are at least willing to do whatever is in their power to have a winner here. At least we have that going for us, and that’s more than some other teams can say.
Another thing; we have a lot of pieces in place, a lot of players that are worth something. Maybe we don’t have the right mix but I don’t think we’re that far off. Maybe the answer is a new coach, maybe it’s trading Miller, Roy, Stafford or someone(s) else.
Something has to change and something will change. I’m not too down because I know change is right around the corner. This may only be the prologue in the Pegula era, with the third act finally bringing home the Cup, but for right now it plain sucks.
Oh yeah, before I forget… #DoSomethingDarcy
Well it wouldn’t be a week without some Ryan Miller trade speculation. Earlier this week there was some smoke, even if there might not be a fire, with some nuggets going around the Web that Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks is being held as trade bait.
That was tied to Miller supposedly saying he’d be willing to be traded. Then some Ducks scouts were at the most recent Sabres game versus the Islanders. Rumors swirled connecting him with his LA-based actress wife Noureen DeWulf and that he might be looking to pull a Gretzky and head to Cali. (Hey, at least then his attitude would match his city! I’m just sayin’. And you can get away with saying anything if you add “I’m just saying” after it.)
Well, first of all, Phil at Black & Blue & Gold says there’s nothing to get excited about with the Ducks scouts. Apparently, it’s pretty routine for scouts to check out other teams and it was mostly likely coincidence.
Pierre LeBrun at ESPN has since contacted Ryan Miller who cleared things up. He texted Pierre:
“I am proud of being a Sabre for all we have accomplished, and I am excited about the new chapter Terry and Kim Pegula have inspired. I am working hard to get healthy and build my game back to where I want it so I can start to contribute to an effort to build a championship team.”
At least Miller is texting the right things, even if he doesn’t say similar things in post-game interviews.
Miller’s $6,250,000 salary and cap hit would be a huge problem in moving him, even if the Sabres wanted to. The offseason market for goalies wasn’t even that great so perhaps the demand just isn’t there.
On top of that, Bruce Boudreau got hired by the Ducks as their new coach. This might kill the rumored strategy that the Ducks had before hiring him of shopping guys around. Or it might strengthen those rumors. This makes my head hurt and is why it’s probably fruitless to speculate on this sort of thing.
But hey, we’re fans, that’s what we do, right? And I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but the Sabres have a young guy in Enroth who’s been very solid with Miller out. Jhonas Enroth and Drew McIntyre could do just as well as Miller has this year. Miller could now be labeled “injury-prone” or at least have ongoing concussion symptoms. He didn’t even look at top form most of this year. If we can move him now we can get close to full value for him. That and he’s kind of a jerk in interviews and doesn’t fit the attitude of the city.
Now, I really don’t feel that way, at least mostly. A tiny sliver of me believes that we would be ok without Miller. For the most part though I think we need him and it would be absolutely ludicrous to trade him at this point.
Good thing it looks like there’s nothing at all to these trade rumors. Right?