Lines on the Map

By Ryan

Imagine you want to have some friends over to watch the NHL Draft tonight.

You grab some chips and drinks and maybe a few subs from Wegmans for the big event. The emails or text messages are sent out a few days beforehand and you’re looking forward to watching things unfold with friends, some of which you don’t get to see that often.

Then the night before you find out one of your other friends rents a movie theater to watch the draft in and invites everyone he knows. Wegmans is catering. Open bar. Facebook is buzzing about how awesome this party is going to be.

You’re not invited, though. In fact, this “friend” sends a singing bear to make sure you know this. The bear also tries to set your house on fire mid-tune. He paid extra.

Did I mention he’s throwing a warehouse rave after the draft wraps up? I hear Drake or Jay Z might show up to play some music. He might even get a draft pick or two flown in via helecopter. It’s going to be insane. So while this other guy has a blast you’re finishing off a Danny’s Favorite by yourself listening to Pierre rave about some teenage boy.

That’s what happened to the Buffalo Sabres yesterday. For 11 seconds Buffalo’s hockey team was in the hockey spotlight and speculation about Robyn Regehr was rampant.

Then the Flyers burst through the door, blew your house up and made two gigantic trades that made a waived no-trade clause look pedestrian at best. Twitter dropped some E and shit got crazy. Pretty sure someone got stabbed with a trident.

Point is, there was a surprising amount of things to talk about for a Thursday in mid-June and while the Sabres potential acquisition of a 31-year-old defenseman is intriguing, it didn’t stay in the spotlight for long.

I’m not lamenting the lack of attention but rather pointing out the differences between the two teams. Regier’s potential trade for Regehr (neat!) is a big deal around here because it marks a different modus operandi for the Sabres. One fans are certainly excited about.

However, Philadelphia trading away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a monster contract shows just how far apart the two franchises are. Out goes the team’s captain and leading scorer for what’s supposed to be the missing piece: a goaltender.

The Flyers got past the Sabres in seven games and got swept away by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. While Buffalo is looking to get a center and a defenseman, the Flyers blew the whole damn thing up and are retooling. Again.

Because they can.

If the Sabres’ ownership change has fans thinking the team gets to join the “haves” in the NHL, Philadelphia showed us on Thursday just how exclusive that club is. The cost of admission is simply too high for this team, even with a billionaire at the wheel.

The Sabres are not going to blow this thing up because they have the ability to spend to the cap. Darcy Regier will tinker, he will experiment and he may even surprise us here and there; but only because before he didn’t have the freedom to do so in the past.

Buffalo’s offseason will not join the ranks of the “haves” but the “withs”, a team with the means to make the changes they feel give them the best chance to win moving forward. There are plenty of small market teams pegged as “without” and the Sabres are no longer among them.

They may never make the splash or throw the rave everyone wants, but be confident there’s going to be a party worth attending.


  1. Mike

    After reading this, I’m curious as to where you’d put Pittsburgh. They’ve blown up their team. They’ve sucked to get picks. They’ve also had the ability to trade and sign big names. Yet, they’ve also gone through bankruptcy and been hunted by Balsillie. Are they among the elite just because of Sid Crosby?
    One of the few good things about where I live is that within a 5 minute drive, I can get a Danny’s famous, Chik-Fil-A, or Five Guys.

    • Mike,

      I think the Pens are the eventual goal as far as current stability but maybe not in execution. The team doesn’t seem willing to blow it up and struggle for years to get good draft picks, but that kind of success in a smaller market is what the team is hoping for. I think it’s no coincidence Ted Black came from that franchise and how things have changed over the first 100+ days of the new ownership.

      Overall I’d say the Pens are considered “haves” right now because of Malkin and Crosby and Fleury, but even without they would be able to move and shake because of the position the franchise is in. New arena, good revenue and strong front office make a big difference.

      Also, I hate you and your food options. But my waistline is pretty thankful only one of those are in Niagara Falls right now.