The System

by Ryan

The further I get away from it, the more I love this post. My love of claymation cartoons aside, the most important part of that post seems to be this:

There is a lot to say about this team, where they are strong, where they are weak and what these things mean. However, I don’t think we will really know what to think about them until everything is all said and done. I have no idea where this season will end, but the more I think about it the more that ending is necessary to provide the proper reference point for evaluation.

It seems egotistical to gush about your own writing, but what I liked about that post is that I seemed to realize something new about being a sports fan. It was something that had never come up like that: hindsight is necessary to properly gauge certain things about sports. Game-by-game reaction is extremely useful and can reveal the true emotions of the season, but to properly grasp things you need to know the ending. Now that we have that ending, we can really take a hard look at the last 88 games and tell the story.

I’ll be honest: Monday night didn’t give me the sort of answers I was looking for. I still don’t understand Adam Mair or what happened to Tim Connolly, and I might not ever get why this team didn’t “want it” as much as Boston did. I understand the Bruins’ gameplan and how well it was executed, and I know rage towards Satan and Paille and Chara is pointless, but last night didn’t feel like the last chapter of anything to me. In fact, since Game Four ended I’ve been thinking less about the failures in this series and more about The System.

When most Sabres fans talk about The System they think of Lindy Ruff. It’s a term he uses to describe the defensive strategies and overall style of the team. It’s the gameplan on the ice, something the players have to buy in to and execute well in order for it to be successful. As fans we often mock The System, especially when we see defensive breakdowns or uninterested players. Still, the idea of a “system” is by nature infallible: it’s merely the idea of perfect execution, and so anything short of that is the fault of those involved. It can never be The System, but rather the failures of those unable to fulfill its ideals.

But that’s not the “system” I’ve been thinking about. To me “The System” is the larger plan for the Sabres, and it’s working like a charm.

It started with something Chris said to me a few days ago. He said he couldn’t wait to see what Gerbe and Ennis looked like in two years. Thinking long-term, he figured that was the next logical run for this team. I agreed with him, but the more I thought about it that statement struck an oddly familiar chord. Isn’t that what everyone said about guys like Pominville and Roy and Stafford two years ago? “I can’t wait to see how they look in two years.” That was all we heard once the shock of the Drury and Briere departures wore off.

In fact, the story going into the postseason was very similar to that. The talk was that the former role players were ready to lead. Pominville, Roy and Connolly were ready to make a big impact and lead the way. Where three years ago they were the secondary threats, these players were grown up and ready to be the big guns. You can argue how accurate that storyline was, but you can’t argue with the failures of those players. The playoff veterans on this team failed to step up, and fringe guys like Tim Kennedy, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe simply outplayed them this postseason. Dead end players like Mike Grier and Cody McCormick had more intensity than the big salaried, big name players we were excited about two or three years ago.

So now the Sabres are eliminated from the playoffs, and a lot of fans are disappointed. They are tired of 9, 19 and 29 and want to clean house. They can’t wait to see what 13, 42 and 63 can do in the future. They are sad but feel there is hope for the future. There is Miller, there is Myers, and maybe that’s enough to make something happen if we get lucky.

The more you think about it, that’s the real System, isn’t it? Get fans excited about young talent, and perpetual excitement about the future. Sell potential rather than results. This isn’t some tin foil hat theory about Tom Golisano, this is just how it works. It’s the same thing we’ve seen the last couple of years, a cycle that has worked wonders for the organization and kept them afloat during a period where many other sports franchises have suffered huge losses.

It’s the offseason now, and a lot of fans are angry. They will demand change, talk about change for a few weeks, grow tired of it and wait to see what happens. Think about all the fuss about Lindy Ruff last year. For everyone that talked about firing him, nothing happened and we moved on. The team signed Steve Montador and Mike Grier, fans complained Darcy didn’t do enough, then forgot about it once training camp started. Then Miller went on a tear, Myers didn’t regress, and we were all back on board.

It happens every year. That’s the cycle we go through as fans; the team knows that and it’s only going to happen again. People will yell and scream about getting rid of Ruff and Regier, but neither are going anywhere. Darcy has set up the farm system nicely, Lindy does his thing and the team will draft well. They will lose one UFA defenseman and bring up Weber, re-sign the RFAs and maybe make a mildly surprising UFA pickup. We will complain they didn’t do enough, but once the season starts back up we will be right there.

Ticket prices will go up slightly, but not enough to completely turn you away from the gate. The team will get new jerseys and celebrate the team’s anniversary, and we have a banner to put up. Ticket sales won’t go down, jersey sales will go up, and the team will make the playoffs again if Miller stays healthy. The team makes a little extra on the home playoff games, and we see what the kids from Portland can do for us. That’s The System, and it’s working quite well if you ask me. This is a franchise that has learned its lesson in “going for it” with a salary at the cap limit. It doesn’t have to do that to be successful, and so it won’t. Instead it will rely on great goaltender and the potential of youth, hoping for a perfect storm of things to win it all.

This isn’t a damning rant against the Sabres organization. In a way it’s a respectful tip of the cap to them for figuring out how to play the game. The audience is captive, the product is sucessful, and they are doing a good job of capitalizing on it. Still, it is important to understand how these things work. The world of sports is split right down the middle. On one side is being a fan. The cheering, the spectating, the hoping beyond all rationality that this will be the year. Then there is business of sports. Providing a product, making money, perpetuating a brand. Making sure that first side is attractive, then capitalizing on it.

In Buffalo both sides of the sports world do their jobs really well, but I think understanding that latter half of the world is essential. It’s not defeatist to say the Sabres are unwilling to spend to the cap ceiling and “go for it” every year. In a way that’s fiscally irresponsible. Why waste the money and mismanage your other major asset (players) for the sake of one big push.

Now that’s not to say the Sabres don’t want to win the Stanley Cup. Of course they do, they just aren’t going all in anytime soon. For The System to get them there they need a lot of things to happen right. It almost happened a few years ago, sure, but those moments are rare. The goaltending needs to be there, players need to overachieve, and most importantly you need to get really, really lucky.

The Sabres are simply not set up to do what other teams do to improve. They will not blow things up to get high draft picks like the Penguins and Capitals have done, nor will they sign high-value free agents. Instead they will stay mediocre and rebuild from within, using the assets they evaluate and try to gain an advantage.

The smarter fans have grown to understand that the Sabres will not be drafting the next Sidney Crosby very soon, and that what Darcy does at the trade deadline has minimal real impact on the team. Understanding these realities, however, makes me think understanding The System isn’t that far off. In fact, I think it explains a few other things that have been lingering around this team as well.

When fan perception is that the front office isn’t willing to go “all in” year in and year out, they become unwilling to do the same. The fact of the matter is that something really special happened in this area three years ago. The Sabres had two very, very sucessful hockey seasons that ended in disapointment, but fan support was never better. Darcy spent to the cap and the message was clear: this is our chance. As a result, fans truly embraced this team in a way they haven’t supported a sports team in years.

But we all know how that ended, and how scarred it left some fans. It is obvious the psychological trauma of losing in this town has left people cynical when it comes to sports. Sure, you cheer for your team no matter what, but there is always that waiting for the other shoe to drop. That playoff run the team made, however, felt different. For some I think they truly forgot to wait for that shoe to drop, they got so caught up in the potential that they were sure “this was the year.’

So when it all fell apart, it hurt more than ever. I think that fresh trauma has left a distinct mark on how fans have treated the Sabres since. It’s not that they aren’t as drunk or don’t want to annoy their season ticket neighbors by cheering, they just don’t know if the team has it and don’t want to get too deep until they know for sure. They’re not going “all in” if they don’t think the team is doing the same.

The problem is that they aren’t going to see those tell-tale signs that the team is going all out. Darcy isn’t going to hire a big gun, and we have the players we are going to live and die with. So we gravitate towards Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers and Thomas Vanek because they are great, and maybe we expect too much from Roy and Pominville and Connolly. But honestly, what else do we have?

We have to hope the “core” gets things together because we know they aren’t going anywhere. We have to look at Portland and the rookies that can’t grow a proper beard to come up big in the playoffs even if they have no business leading the way on a professional hockey team. Not yet, at least.

This post might be completely worthless, but the more I think about it all the more it makes sense. We are not trapped as sports fans, and I didn’t just reveal that there is no Santa Claus. Still, I think taking a long, hard look at how all this works is necessary. What are we getting out of being Sabres fans, and what are they getting out of us?

The two sides of the sports world can coexist peacefully if they are mutually satisfied. The System is working for the business side of the Sabres, but are we as fans willing to wait for a perfect storm to get a true chance at something special? What happens upstairs and what happens on the ice are completely different, but they directly affect eachother. This year’s Sabres have wasted a Vezina-worthy season in net and a Calder winner on the blueline. Is that okay if we get to see what they look like in two years?

If The System really exists, is it fair to us?

21 Comments

  1. Ben T.

    There’s no Santa Claus?

    Nice article, Ryan. How often does this conservative ‘system’ approach, whether you think it’s smart or not, breed championships (in any sport, not just hockey)? The San Antonio Spurs ring a bell, with Miller filling the Duncan role, Myers as Tony Parker…we don’t have a Manu, though, and absolutely no ‘Big Shot Bob.’

  2. Well done, that is a very excellent article. Im not a Sabres fan, I’m actually a Caps fan that grew up going to games in the mid-late 80′s in DC, but my family is military so Ive moved around. However, I’ve carried my Caps fandom with me as part of my genetic makeup where ever I’ve gone.

    I moved out to Buffalo in Jan ’06 and lived downtown till just this past summer. I was there for those 2 great seasons, and it truly was something special. There was energy in that city, and hope, and comaraderie, and it was awesome. Those teams were good, scary good.

    Needless to say, I have a lot of friends who are Sabres fans, and while it’s not as though my favorite franchise has much more success, I feel for them. I mean, what are you guys gonna do? You’ve captured it perfectly…they’ll be a good team, and they’ll have tons of promise, but you’re right-you’ll be waiting on a perfect storm that might not come in the near future, to actually claim the prize.

    Anyways, I just wanted to say that this is a very lucid and insightful article and it reflects a lot of the conversations I’ve had with Sabres fans the past few years.

    But while the Caps have Ovechkin, you guys have Miller, and Id give up quite a few of the Caps big guns and scoring to have that kind of certainty and consistency in net. A great goalie can cover up a lot of deficiencies in a team, and with Myers and maybe a couple decent scoring lines who knows, right? haha

    Sad to see the Sabres out and my friends down, but if the Caps manage to put it together tomorrow for game 7, I did not want to see any part of the Sabres at any point in this playoffs…

  3. Really great post.

    I believe this system probably does exist, but to what extent it is effecting the actual hockey decisions, I’m not prepared to say. If I had to wager a bet, I’d bet that Darcy thinks this is the absolute best way to build a championship team with what he’s got to work with. Ownership gives Darcy x-amount of money to work with, and then Darcy makes his choices without too much regard for this system. Obviously though, that’s just a hunch.

    I really like your point about why the fans did not fully “buy in”. In fact, I think that’s the thing everyone has been trying to get at all spring with the ENDLESS examination of why this playoff run didn’t “feel” the same around town. Good work pinning that down. I haven’t read anything that makes as much sense as this. I would also say though that there is also a simpler answer- fans who follow this team closely knew (in our heart of hearts) that this probably wasn’t a Cup year.

    A lot of what you describe as “the system” seems like it’s probably pretty typical to smaller sports markets. They have to put a decent product on the ice, and they have to get us to believe, but 8 years out of 10, the Sabres will err on the side of conservative in an effort to avoid losing so badly the fans lose hope. I doubt this is unique to Buffalo, actually.

    I agree with you that there is very little chance that there will be any changes made to the coaches/management. Golisano has got to be happy with Regier because Darcy is making the plenty of money for the team. And Darcy is happy with Lindy. BUT, I do think it’s within the realm of possibility that there are changes to the core group of players. Withering on the vine in the playoffs is no joke, and there are certainly powerful people in the organization (namely, Ruff and Miller) who DO care passionately about winning. Missing the playoffs can be explained away by so many nebulous circumstances, but I can’t think of ANY circumstances that justify what happened to our “top” players in the Bruins series. Ryan Miller is no idiot. He doesn’t want to waste his best years. (But maybe that’s just the hope talking. I’m a sucker for it. Heh.)

    As for whether this system is fair to the fans, I think not, but I’m not sure that it really bothers me all that much. Do the Sabres owe us a Cup? I honestly don’t know.

  4. Ogre39666

    I had a feeling this post would turn out to be something like this. And maybe that says more about me as a Sabres fan than even the article does. Coming into this season, I had developed the mindset that this year was the year where “the core” would either prove themselves capable of playing up to the moment, or simply being good hockey players, but not good *enough* hockey players.

    I guess I had similar expectations coming into the season of this team as I did back in 05/06; teams trying to make up for franchise players who had left, coming off two rebuilding seasons (the most recent of which ending in just missing out on the playoffs), and filled with mostly unknown or unproven commodities. Miller, Vanek, & Roy made up the former in 05/06 compared to Myers, Ennis, & Gerbe fulfilling the role now, and Drury, Briere & Campbell comprising the later in 05/06 compared to Miller, Connolly, Roy, and Pominville this year. I guess you could call these teams “under the radar contenders”. No experts were going to pick them to win, but they had the potential to be dangerous contenders if things went right.

    In both years the unknown players met and, in some cases (Vanek/Miller and Myers/Ennis), far exceeded expectations, making big contributions to their respective teams. That leaves the unproven commodities, and that’s where the two teams diverge. The 05/06 versions passed their test in flying colors leading their team all the way to the Conference Finals in consecutive years. This year’s models however, did not. With the exception of Miller, they all failed in what Teddy Roosevelt would call their “crowded hour” with a first-round exit.

    That’s not even necessarily the depressing part. What’s truly depressing is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the F.O. willing and/or capable and/or interested in pulling the plug on those who failed and making the necessary changes for the team to reach the next level. Whether that “anyone” is Golisano, Quinn, or (even as much as I don’t think it to be) Darcy, or some crazy combination of the three, we don’t know, and we may never know.

    It makes you wonder, maybe Mike Grier is *still* right.

  5. Amazing post. Rock on, dude.

    Ogre, to your last line, it’s interesting to hear that Grier has already said he wants to re-sign here. Does he see something different now? He didn’t think much of The System (as described here, not Lindy’s system) when left the last time, what’s changed?

  6. ScottyMCSSProSportsDaily

    I can’t argue with a management system that keeps a team in or oh-so-close to the playoffs as much as Buffalo.

    I don’t think the Sabres or the fanbase could endure a season so bad that a #1 draft pick was the end result, which is how Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay’s Marketing Systems work, among other towns.

    Reiger’s approach has to be carefully calculated – Buffalo cannot affod to have a losing season. In order to surive, it must remain competitive, even if this means missing the playoffs by a game or two and drafting somewhere in the middle of the board.

    That being said (I have to stop saying “that being said,” seriously), we now do have our “Crosby,” or “Ovechkin.” In fact, we’ve got two of them.

    They are not flashy #1 centers, but Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers are two elite, amazing hockey players that can deliver a cup to any hockey town.

    The book on Miller is well known, but think more on Myers. Phil Housley had 66 points in his rookie campaign. Myers, if I am mistaken, just fell short of 50.

    And Myers ain’t gonna’ pull a “flamingo” in the playoffs anytime soon.

    And trust me: Ennis is going to be far, far better statistically and passionately than Drew Stafford.

    Now, what we need from you is a post eulogizing the Playoff Drewbrow and the Death of the Banana Slug. Rock on, Roost.

  7. Amy

    Great work, Ryan.

    Excellent timing with this post, considering that Sully has a column in today’s paper saying that The System is broken and needs to be fixed.

    And I can only hope that Darcy moves forward and re-signs Grier. If the Ennises, Gerbes and Kennedys of the world are going to be permanent fixtures with the Sabres, they need a grownup in the locker room. Roy & Connolly aren’t ready to step into that role and frankly, neither is Pominville.

  8. One might argue the next 2-3 years are that perfect storm. With 3 to 5 young guys on rookie level contracts and our “stars” in the middle parts of their extensions (Miller, Hecht, Vanek, Roy, Pommer), no time might be better than then now. Darcy made a comment at the deadline that was in effect, “If our guys play to their production level, we don’t need a trade.” That was pillored (I recall a commenter on this very thread making fun of it), but it was correct. We are paying Pominville and Roy $4m/$5m / year to score 70-80 points. That’s the expectation. If they perform to that level, we will be successful. (We offer Vanek special dispensation because of the freakish talent that exists when it hits a roll. Reason #3 we lost to Boston was we got 2 goals in 3 games from Vanek. If we get 4 in 6, we win the series. A(t)las.) Of course, in some cases we didn’t even get that and we still won the division. Elite goaltending and efficient production from other players certainly helped cover up those blemishes.

    You fail to properly give respect to the production of the “oil” that makes this Sabres engine go. If one doesn’t have young players ready to produce, the engine goes kaput and you turn into Tampa Bay (who, I’d like to remind everyone, has a Cup). The Sabres scouting and management team have produced draft picks like Gerbe, Ennis, Myers and Butler in the last four drafts – with more prospects like Funk, Adam and Kassian a year or two away. How do they do it? What is the secret? Is it luck? Video scouting?

    There’s a story to be written on this that hasn’t been done yet.

    The Tampa digression reminds me of a Bill Simmons-esque question: would you rather have a Cup winner followed by 5 years of complete irrelevance or no guarantee of a Cup but a team that was at least competitive with the top half of the league each of the next 6 years? The Sabres have made their choice. So have I.

  9. Well done, Ryan. This post perfectly sums up my ideas about the Sabres. I was actually going to do a post-season post but after reading this there really is no need. You covered everything.

    I like the perfect storm analogy because that is exactly what it is. We need a perfect storm. All of the pieces need to fall into place. 40 goals from Vanek, stellar performance from Miller, stingy D.,hard work from “the core”, and of course a wild card that will pleasantly surprise us (a la Myers). It happens every time we are successful.

    What I’ll be looking for out of this team is what happens with Ennis, Gerbe and Kennedy. We kind of rushed Pommer, Roy and Vanek into the limelight after the departure of Briere and Drury and that hurt them in the long run. Roy and Pommer were asked to step up big time and IMO it was too soon.

    If we (as an organization) can let Ennis and Gerbe grow naturally, we may have something truly special on our hands. This time will be different than two years ago. We don’t have any big ticket players as it is. No one will be leaving town to crush all of our hopes and dreams. Ennis and Gerbe should be able to grow under the mediocrity of Roy and Pommer.

    I tend to say this a lot but only time will tell. Either way, perfect post.

  10. Mike

    First of all, it is interesting to note that even in 05-06, Buffalo’s record sucked without Jochen Hecht.
    As much as people have denigrated him (although not as much this year), he has always been someone that the Sabres have had a lot of difficulty replacing. Would he have made the difference in the series? I don’t know.
    The system has always been that way, at least since the demise of the Knoxes, who incidentally, were more willing to spend whatever was needed, at least until the end. The Knoxes, perhaps not coincidentally, are the only professional sports team owners we’ve ever had that were true blue Buffalonians in every sense of the word, with a real history in the city.
    My whole point is that Pominville, Roy, Connolly and yes, Gaustad (In my mind the book is still out on Vanek) are not ready to be the core of this team, and that is the fatal mistake Darcy has made. They were groomed, along with Miller and Vanek to be the core. Miller is ready, Vanek has shown flashed of being ready, but needs to sort his shit out in my opinion. Pominville and Roy are not leaders. They can score, but they’re never clutch. Connolly is never himself when hurt, which has been frequently over the course of his career and happened at an ill opportune time this year. If you look at other teams around the league – Vancouver, LA, hell even St. Louis, you have young players playing with way more grit and determination. Can the next batch of guys (Myers, Ennis, Kennedy, Gerbe, Weber etc) assume that mantle of leadership? What will happen when they’re counted on to provide primary scoring? There are no guarantees. The Rochester Americans went far in the Calder playoffs during the lockout, something the Portland Pirates have not done since the affiliation. Let’s just say I’m skeptical. Meanwhile, the Hershey Bears have been playing lights out, even though they’ve never had players like Ovechkin and Semin. So what needs to happen? I think that the so-called core can certainly contribute if they’re not looked upon as “the guys.” Honestly, I think that we as fans are ourselves to blame in part. We’ve built these guys up into players that they’re not and I think that some, like 9, 29 and 19 have trouble with that. 26 I think has been used to that more over his career and even though he has his own problems, his own expectations are sky high. The Sabres have always needed, well, Shane Doan basically. Are there any Shane Doans out there besides Shane Doan that we would pay money to? Probably not.

  11. This reminds me a whole lot of the Bills too, except for whatever reason we don’t even get close like the Sabres. I remember just a couple months ago when the whole city was fed-up with the signing of Chan Gailey. Now it seems like everyone’s accepted it and are looking forward again. argh.

  12. Mark B.

    Great post. I don’t have much to add besides saying that I’ve never had anyone describe the state of the Sabres so well. This is our situation and it probably won’t change. But the emergence of the Tylers and the buzz about players like Kassian and Adam give me hope that the perfect storm can happen, especially with Ryan in net and leading this team.

    But I still want one of Roy, Connolly, Pominville gone!

  13. perfectly worded post. i like “the system” it fits right for a market like buffalo (when you take regional economy and importance of sports into an equation).

    i don’t mind (in regular season terms) having a core that produced 60-70 points each per player. it is extremely disappointing to see 9, 19, and 29 disappear like they did in the playoffs but i don’t think it deserves a “get them all out of town now” mantra (or maybe i’m just another marketing tool of the franchise).

    what this team needs is to complement “the core” with players who do the dirty work and have that extra edge that comes alive when everything is on the line. even someone like jeff halpern would be a great fit, a faceoff machine who brings fantastic leadership and was close with mike grier when in washington.

    giving roy and pominville the “A”s on the team was a bad choice-i’m sure it was to let them know that it was their team and their turn to lead but in hindsight it needs to go on players who give the effort we should all look up to. Grier deserves an A and in a year Kaleta probably will too. When your alternate captains clearly lack that killer instinct, that drury or briere like edge that come through in the spotlight, it means your team does. Hell, just having the A stripped off would be a huge slap in the face to 9 and 29 and could push them to prove themselves more.

  14. Andy Boron

    Great writing, Ryan. The question of sacrificing it all for a chance at the Cup vs. hoping for that one act-of-God year is a tough one to answer, but certainly a fun one to debate. I’d rather be in it every year, but as you said, if you’re good enough every year, those “magical” years seem harder to come by/buy in to. I wonder how fans of San Jose, Ottawa, and other always-in-it-but-rarely-win-it feel?

  15. Matty Dubs

    With hockey being so crazy a sport – built so heavily on the luck of certain bounces, slips, trips, refs looking the other way, etc. – I really think that every team is “waiting for the perfect storm.” Every cup winner needs that storm of skill, talent, aggression, passion and – YES – sheer luck to get them where they are. For every Cup-winningteam that can be described as being “built for a Cup run,” there are another 10 teams in the league in any given year that can also be described that way. Only one can win – only one gets the perfect storm.

    On the other hand, there are surprise years as well – teams not really built for a cup run, but ones who are decent and want it really bad and who get that perfect storm when no one else does. Eight seeds getting out of the West, a la Edmonton a few years ago, or really even the Sabres in ’99. Intangibles decide playoff hockey, and many of those itangibles aren’t going to be visible at the start of a year (or even the start of the playoffs).

    Darcy is just accepting the fact that you don’t actually win a Cup until a bunch of stuff happens to happen – and most of that is out of his control. His ability to keep a competitive team on the ice year after year is amazing to me. Sure, it sucks to keep waiting for the stars to align, but I’d rather watch a mostly successful team every year than suffer through a season or three at the bottom of the barrel.

  16. Mike

    I’ve had a few more thoughts about this. The Sabres used to not be afraid to make very daring trades that dramatically shifted the face of their franchise, but in a good way. As good as Myers has been, as I think someone else pointed out, Phil Housley was even better during his rookie season with the Sabres racking up 66 points, which is thoroughly ridiculous. He never had fewer than 62 with the Sabres and in the 89-90 season, had 81 points, which is retarded for a defenseman. To put things in perspective, Brian Campbell, he of the 8 million dollar salary, has never had more than 52 points, and that wasn’t with Buffalo. Yet in 89-90 the Sabres traded Housley along with a couple of scrubs (Arniel and Parker) with their number one overall pick (Keith Tkachuk!) to Winnipeg to get Dale Hawerchuk and Brad May (Winnipeg’s number one overall). Hawerchuk was the captain and face of the Jets at that time, and he ended up the Sabres because they were willing to give up a lot. Housley had a few more good seasons after that, racking up 79 assists in 92-93, but even though his career lasted until 2003, it was plagued by injuries and age. Similarly, only about a year later, Pierre Turgeon, Uwe Krupp, Benoit Hogue and Doug McLwain (another scrub) were traded for Pat Lafontaine and two Islander scrubs (Randys Wood and Hillier). At that time, Turgeon, Krupp and Hogue were “the core” of the Sabres, all drafted and developed by the Sabres. Turgeon was the 1 overall pick. He was only 22 when he was traded. Turgeon Krupp and Hogue had a reputation of playing “soft” for their entire career. Sound familiar? The Sabres of the early 90s were defined largely by LaFontaine and Mogilny, but Hawerchuk and Andreychuk were also large. They brought about the most offensively gifted teams the Sabres have ever had, racking up gaudy numbers.
    Do I think the Sabres should replicate this? I don’t know. They never made it past the second round in this era, although LaFontaine was a force until his confrontation with Darcy over whether he was well enough to play ended up in his being traded to the Rangers. But I think they should take the lesson of not falling in love with their core. Giving up significant assets to get comparable one can be mutually beneficial. Parting ways with Pierre Turgeon, who was the face of the franchise but a chronic underachiever had to be hard, and Turgeon had success elsewhere, but aside from a flash here or there, he never equalled Lafontaine’s success and was never a “heart and soul” player that we would associate with Lafontaine.

  17. James

    What the Sabres need is to get a little lucky and get an impact forward or three in the mid to late rounds like the Red Wings did with Datsyuk & Zetterberg.

    To me, Detroit is the benchmark for building a team without relying on top 3 picks to build the elite “Core” of the roster.

    Heck, the Sabres got Ryan Miller in the 5th round, so it can be done.

    One of the biggest issues I have with the Sabres blueprint is that I believe that you need to build your forward lines up the middle.

    But, the Sabres two highest paid forwards are wingers (Vanek & Pominville).

    I could see the Sabres being a much better team if they had two new #1 & #2 centers and Roy & Gaustad are #3 & #4 on the depth chart.

    I could live with the Sabres moving Vanek IF they could get a BIG TIME center. For instance, I’d trade Vanek to Edmonton for the 1st overall pick and take Tyler Seguin to be that guy.

    The question is whether Darcy Regier can “play out of character” this off season.

    I hope he can. But, I wouldn’t bet on it.

  18. Luke

    Those two years got me into hockey and I’ve followed the Sabres closely ever since. If it wasn’t for those 2 seasons I would never have gotten into hockey, which sadly is all Buffalo has a fighting chance at anymore. Maybe the Bills should adapt to “The System.”

  19. dorry

    drury or a drury clone.

  20. David Muscalog

    Your insite is amazing. I couldn’t have said it better myself. You have accurately analyzed and comprehesively explained “The System” which I have to believe will eventually bring the Cup to Buffalo.

  21. Byah

    What was that old story about some grandma and her bread? How she would buy new bread, but would store it away until she ate up the stuff she had sitting in the house already. But in reality she was always eating old bread because the new stuff she bought would be old by the time she finally got to it.

    Same thing goes for this Sabres team. We’re always looking at the future and developing players who we can use in a couple years, instead of concentrating on winning the Cup THIS YEAR.

5 Trackbacks

  1. By 2009-2010 Sabres’ Season Post-Mortem | WNYmedia.net April 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM

  2. By 3 Things « The Willful Caboose June 16, 2010 at 6:23 PM

  3. By Andy Sutton Said It Best – An Assessment Of Whining Sabres Fans During Free Agency « Black & Blue & Gold July 2, 2010 at 1:46 PM

  4. By Just read this… « And the Shot…. August 2, 2010 at 12:08 PM

  5. By 2009-2010 Sabres’ Season Post-Mortem — Wnymedia Archives September 11, 2012 at 4:20 PM