It’s hard to figure out where we go from here.
It’s very difficult to envision what direction the Sabres are heading in as they now skate headlong into a rebuild. But that uncertainty is nothing new. This team has lacked direction for a good while now.
We had a great coach in Lindy Ruff, and a strong contingent of reliable, inveterate players.
But something went wrong.
After his departure, Jordan Leopold described the Buffalo locker room as “chaos.”
So what the happened? How does this all get fixed? These kinds of questions should never be a part of the discussion for a pro franchise. Leaders – be they coaches or team captains – are the guys who are supposed to have all the answers before the locker room, media, or fan base need to ask the questions.
The leaders on the Sabres failed in that capacity.
Jason Pominville wore the C. He was the most consistent player on the most inconsistent team. The offense couldn’t follow his routine on the ice, and whatever he said in the locker room didn’t translate well, either.
The other remaining leaders on the team, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller, have both voiced their desire to be moved to new teams if this is going to be a long rebuild. In other words, they have no faith in the system. No faith in management, the team, or their teammates, to turn this thing around quickly.
Are those the kind of leaders that we want in a rebuild, long or short?
What this team needs is confidence. Insistent, boisterous hockey players who can help lift the talent in the club up now. The Sabres don’t need guys who would wait to see what the team looks like after the draft, or after trades. This group needs glue, and Vanek and Miller’s remarks are sentiments that are nothing but more damage on a team that is already deeply rattled.
A locker room of chaos and an on-ice product that was much the same: that’s what we had this season with Pommers, Vanek, Miller, Regehr, Leopold, Hecht, and Ehrhoff in the lineup. It doesn’t make much sense. That’s a hearty group of guys that should have easily been able to stabilize the locker room and win enough hockey games to get the Blue and Gold into the playoffs. They didn’t. They were a paper tiger.
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Regier was quick to ship out his veterans at the deadline. All that remain are doubting Thomas, Miller, and Ehrhoff (with Hecht retiring with his family back to their home in Germany). I don’t think there is a coincidence here: the Sabres fell down hard when the names on that roster became real voices in the locker room, and real teammates on the ice.
What’s left of that group is a couple guys who want to find a way out of town. If I’m Darcy Regier, I wish them well and grant their wishes. It’s time to move on from proven failure, and find new heart for this team.
We don’t need guys shaking their heads after a loss, wondering why the effort just wasn’t there. We don’t need players that spend any amount of time talking about how to get more cheers than boos out of the audience at the FNC. And we certainly don’t need players that are just looking for a way out of town.
What we do need is cohesion. We need everyone from the owner to the management, from the coach to the players, and all the way down to the media and fans to buy in.
The next leaders to make that happen may already be in the Sabres’ pipeline. They may arrive via the draft, or by trade(s). It doesn’t really matter. It is just time to move on, remove all the doubt, and allow for a new bloom of confidence and belief.
And that’s where we go, as grey and foggy as that future may be.
It’s time to take a leap of confidence.