ryan o’reilly:

Commencement

4

Physicals were taken today at the First Niagara Center. Bodies were examined, measured, and worried over – for once, not to measure potential or promise, but just to make sure that the kids are OK and ready for their first days together at Sabres U.

In a weird sort of way, it was also to make sure that these kids are real. After the wasteland of The Suffering, the elite talents showed up to snowy Buffalo. They had their pulse taken, and there was a concurrence that they were alive, and were all here, willingly. Pictures were taken, so we have proof. You could see it in the smiles. There was no hint of regret in any of the new pickups that they were now snowbound in hapless Buffalo.

In a series of quick pressers, the youngsters exuded excitement. They were happy. There was confidence in each other, in what the future holds, for this team, for this town, and for its long suffering fans. Smiles all around.

It’s easy to smile now, unless you’re Tim Murray. He arrived here with a meaningful scowl on his face, but this shrewd personality and insight of his have paid off. He’s been a man of few words at the draft podium and in public, but bombastic in the statements of his actions and roster manipulations. His projected team, even if not yet complete, looks to dominate in a few short years. Maybe sooner, if he pushes the plunger down on another dynamite move, or two. There has been a ton of detonation and noise around this man of few words.

It’s easy to be a fan of this team right now. It’s OK when the core group of your talent is mainly chattering about how happy they are, and how they are enjoying the city of Buffalo. It’s a young group, and unless you count the leftover bodies from the last years’ massacres, they’ve never played a game together. Fans really have no measure on how the new influx of size, smarts, possession, passion, speed, and finishing will, well, finish.

It’s easy to be a player incoming of this new, exciting project as well – but that may change very soon. At some point, maybe in a month or two, (maybe more, maybe less), it will be time to get more serious about these kids, and what they are saying. Particularly, we’ll want to talk more specifically about how they are performing. How they have gelled (or not) as a young team in a very competitive National Hockey League.

 

At some point, there will be an emergence from the rebuilding and the hope and the happy chatter. The real rebirth from the absurdity of the tank years will begin.

I cannot say when that turning point will happen, but I cannot wait to see who takes the reins from Murray, and begins to lead this team by the throat. The expectations are heavy, and eventually, some person or persons in the locker room are going to have to make this assembly win.

Again, Murray’s work isn’t quite done yet, but the locker room has been gone through a transformation. The emergence of leadership, of the identity of this new team, can begin from so many different and powerful personalities. To name a few: Ryan O’Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons are both capable of leading by force of will. Evander Kane is a vision of confidence and power on the ice as well, and wants to best his own goal scoring records yesterday. Samson Reinhart is a humble hockey mastermind stuck almost impatient in a growing hockey body.

Those are just of the few of the personalities that had their pictures taken at the FNC today. It’s a great mix, a balance of all the traits you need to succeed in the NHL today.

The real work began when the cameras were put away today. And now all that fans, along with Tim Murray, have to do, is to await the emergence, and who will lead the commencement to the W column, and further from there.

Speed. Smarts. Power. Passion. Possession. Finishing.

How all of that comes together will be a marvel to behold. Now, it’s just up to a group of kids who just had their their pictures snapped on the first day of school to make all of our dreams come true. Let them have their day. Tomorrow, their commencement begins.

They have what it takes – the talent, the seriousness and the will, to bring us our day(s) soon enough.

Go Sabres.

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