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).
The “r-word” has become the rebuild that has become massive, sweeping change.
Ruff, Pominville, and Vanek are gone. Ryan Miller is likely the next out the door. These are the big names that we held close to our hearts (and across our shoulders on nameplates) for many, many years. In their place, we’ve got something new – something that is in flux, something that shifts and changes faster than we can get a hold on it, something we’re looking forward to being a part of again in a year or two.
We’re new at this, and it’s not easy. We want to hold on to our guys. We aren’t very good at letting go (see: “FIRE DARCY” signs). Right now, we want to get a hold on our team for what it is, but we just can’t seem to figure it out what it is.
It’s hard to hold onto memories. And it’s hard to hold onto something you love so much when it is changing so fast – it’s as if we’re all trying to pick up our new toddler who keeps going “boneless” on us.
Just try picking one of THESE up. You can’t.
So, Marty Biron retired.
I wasn’t the first person to have this thought…
…and until he is snapped up, I certainly won’t be the last.
Whether for future play by play or commentating duties, or for TV or the radio, the Sabres need to move quickly sign Biron to a broadcast deal. It wouldn’t save this season, but it sure as heck would make this #insufferable year a lot more fun for Sabres fans right away – and a good dose of fun is something we all desperately need right now.
Speaking of fun:
OK folks, I’m jumping on the #suffering bandwagon.
Before this egregious mess started, I set myself up for a season that would feature tons of losses but that would also feature some entertaining and intriguing hockey related moments down on the ice surface.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I refuse all #suffering. And that entire hashtag suffering thing is bunk.
This is a rebuilding project. It is not on Darcy, (or on me), to make this team win now. It is on Darcy, and Devine, and the suddenly cantankerous Ron Rolston, to make this team win. Eventually. For now, we’re putting teenagers on the ice, and they’re doing a good job (don’t forget Zadorov may be on the way soon, too).
OK, so I was right about Zadorov, and he has exceeded expectations in his two game career so far. So we’ve got that going for us for now, which is nice.
One of my personal hockey things is also to wait, oh so sort of patiently, until a team has played ten games before I pass judgement upon them. At the 10 game mark, you pretty much have a good look as to how great or how crappy your team is going to be. (Also, it’s mathematically near 1/10th-ish of the season, so it means a bit in the points struggle, too.) But I am not going to waste your time talking about that “points struggle” or anything else besides one thing: we’re rebuilding.
Eleven games in and we’re 1-9-1. How exactly do you enjoy rebuilding when then plane has crashed into the mountain? The impact has been loud, and painful. Fans aren’t looking for a way to have fun anymore, they’re looking for a way to survive.
I couldn’t even finish my nachos last night.
Let’s not call each other out this season. Let’s not punch each other in the speakin’ teeth. Let’s relax, watch this season of rookies unfold as it is, for it is what it is. A rebuild. Nothing else. None of us expected anything more heading into this thing.
Former me was in a happier place.
Rebuilding aside, let’s examine just a few of the other hideous problems we’ve seen unfold this season:
1. Ron Rolston. With 8 regulation wins in… 43? games, his downfall has been stunningly painful to witness. We’re only 11 games into this rebuild, and calls from the fans and media (if you can actually count Mike Milbury as media), are furiously strident. I’ve been hoping to see RR pull off a smart coaching gimmick to get his boys back on track. Patrick Roy had the “Imma gonna knock DOWN THESE WALLS” gimmick, and it galvanized his team from the start. Rolston tried ice dancing with the rookies recently.
We’ve seen nothing inspiring from Rolston, we’ve seen no smart answers to the problems happening on the ice. Putting John Scott out on the ice last night early in the 3rd period of a winnable game was… idiotic. That coaching decision hurt his team’s ability to come back and actually do something positive. Instead, Scott tried to kill a guy.
Rolston has no ace up his sleeve. He’s doomed. It’s pretty depressing.
2. Grigorenko. As I noted yesterday in my mostly sardonic “open letter,” the Sabres need to enable Grigsy with some better linemates and better offensive zone starts. I know Rolston wants to see more effort, just as Grigs’ former coach (Roy) wanted – the effort problem is real. That is worrisome enough in itself. But last night Grigorenko played hard in the first period. His defensive play was strong. He cleared pucks. He actually played the body here and there. He was winning battles.
He was rewarded with a whopping 11:59 of ice time. That was more than usual, but it’s not of much use when one of your linemates is looking for big hits instead of pucks.
You want effort? I’m not sure how Grigorenko hasn’t sought asylum in the KHL yet (legal or not, I’m sure there’s some church in Russia that will take him in). For now, just being here must be taking some herculean effort.
3. Fire Darcy. The chanting is getting louder, and desperate fans have tried to pull together poorly thought out protest plans. The arena security is purportedly walking around and policing the fan base.
4. Vanek and Miller. These two guys have carried the Sabres for years, and Darcy had a chance to move them before this horrific season began. They don’t deserve to be dragged along for months in order for their trade values to go up by a couple increments. Most fans want them gone, simply for the sake of human dignity.
Aside from injury, I find it very difficult to imagine a worse way to end a career with a team that drafted you. I also can’t imagine how the players around the NHL look at their situations and think, in any conceivable way, that Buffalo is any kind of hockey destination other than a hockey purgatory. This is no way to rebuild a team.
Folks, we’re in the Dark Ages.
Which brings us to…
5. The Embarrassment. That anxious, squirmy feeling in your stomach this morning? That creeping dread in the back of your mind? Yea. We’re all feeling pretty awful these days. The record, in a rebuild, could be somewhat possible to stomach. But when you add in the failure/disillusionment/helplessness of the vets, the misuse of Grigorenko, the fan rebellion, the empty seats, the lack of effort on the ice, the lack of ideas from behind the bench, the company motto that a rebuild can only succeed “through the draft…”
…hey didn’t they raise ticket prices for this?
And of course, we now have the national embarrassment that was John Scott last night (he was trending all over the US on Twitter for a while there).
The Sabres, as a whole, are humiliating.
This is #suffering at its worse: the organization is dragging us down with them.
Again, we all expected to lose games this year. But none of us ever expected this much ineptitude at every level of the organization. And there is nothing that we, as fans, can do about it. We can hope for firings, but geez, even that is lowly and depressing.
At the end of the hockey day, right now, we have absolutely nothing. Maybe just the idea of a light that may be at the end of a tunnel with an indiscernible length.
That’s not good enough. It’s pretty damn awful.
Hang in there, folks. I’m there with you now, #suffering.