It’s been a long journey. It’s not one that any fans had asked for, and it was one of heavy burden and endurance. But it’s over. The tank is parked in the garage.
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Everything changes now.
Let’s take a look at what “everything” means.
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:
- We still have the upper hand
- There is always a Plan B
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.
Good luck to you all.
The comparisons between Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are going to keep going all season long, and the debate over who should go first (McDavid) will also continue to be out there in its own lesser extent.
So far, the comparisons have brought nothing but great news to Sabres fans. And if you’ve been banking on tanking, the fun has really begun, as Eichel has now joined the McEichel Highlight Reel.
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Many of you certainly remember the strides and stickwork that Connor put on display at the FNC not so long ago:
Some good ideas up there from the distinguished Edward R. Murrow.
Meanwhile, the Internet is quickly filling up with articles bemoaning the Sabres’ tank job, which is now stretching woefully into its second season. It’s the greatest talent heist of all time to some, and it’s downright criminally loathsome to others.
We argue a lot over this team on the social medias. We berate the coach. We scratch our heads over line combinations, and what it might take to get this team to score again. Some people throw their arms up in surrender, and question “How is one guy gonna’ change this team, anyway?” Everything is in question.
So many questions, and so many arguing over the answers – sounds like we’re all pretty lost.
Meanwhile, my kid woke me up early this morning to tell me that there’s another game tonight.
It’s the kind of wake up call that all of us older fans need. Obviously, this team isn’t built to win this season. It’s likely not going to win for another year or three. Sure, a couple trades and UFA signings could accelerate the process after GMTM is awarded McEichel at season’s end – but it’s not all about us big kids anymore. This coming team, and the trophy that it will hopefully bring home, won’t be for us. Not so much as it will be for our kids.
Remember Old Downtown? The utter futility of it all. Main Street was deceased. There was a beautiful view of the “waterfront:” there were always some cool old ships down there that you could see as you over them on the Skyway. Things are changing. There’s a new courthouse in town. The Burchfield Penny Art Museum opened up, and the Albright Knox is expanding. People are taking exits off Rt. 5 on their way down to the Southtowns just so they can drive along all the new, beautiful parks. Canalside was built, and is thriving. More canals and more pedestrian bridges have been erected at the old Aud site, and they look gorgeous. Old grain elevators are now art installations, climbing destinations, and giant beer cans. An Explore and More chilren’s museum is on the way. I haven’t even mentioned HARBORCENTER yet: the only 3 rink NHL venue of its kind. Pegula mentioned plans to eventually build a new home for the Bills downtown – and I can’t wait to see what that advent brings to Buffalo after what we saw with the FNC and HARBORCENTER.
The downtown Buffalo that we had to grow up and endure is gone. It will never be known by our kids. What they will have is something vibrant, something dynamic, alive, and victorious.
Which brings me back to that hockey team we’ve been sweating about. The Sabres our kids will know are going to be a keckuva lot of fun. The system is loaded with prospects, and will add even more talent – McEichel aside – through their myriad of draft picks and the trades those can haul into town. We oldies have had some great times. The French Connection years, the magic of LaFontaine and Mogilny, 1999, and the heroic Drury and Briere teams. Since then, we’ve been mainly upset all of the time.
The Sabres have stressed patience to the fan base. Makes sense. But a huge chunk of the fan base doesn’t care about patience, the goal scoring, the coaching, or the losses. That’s the chunk that still wakes us up early to tell us there’s a hockey game tonight.
This new team is theirs, and I’m more than happy to pass it on to them. It only seems fitting, as they will also be growing up with that new downtown of theirs.
The new generation of Sabres fans doesn’t care about our suffering, and hopefully, it won’t ever have to endure what we’re going through right now. Once GMTM is done assembling his final roster, it will win and be pretty steadily competitive in the coming decades – the new downtown will ensure that more talent will actually want to play here. Imagine that.
So, I’ve made the choice to take a step back, and view this season in two ways:
1. We’re losing. Losing ugly. But that’s OK. This was the plan. Finishing in last is the end game goal. Finishing 5th last would be a disaster. Stay the course, give a cheer for the rooks, and breathe.
2. Try to watch the games through a kid’s eyes. Root and cheer and give up your worries. The victories aren’t here, but the talent is on its way, and the wins will follow soon enough.
All that being said, I need to log off and take a nap.
I hear there’s a big game tonight that I need to rest up for.