Hold On

I didn’t watch the Sabres get embarrassed on Monday night in Detroit.

I didn’t have to. You could feel this game coming. In fact, I drove to work in my black Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4 with Phil Collins blasting out of the speakers. (Why yes, I did wear sockless loafers and an Armani jacket to work on Monday. Why do you ask?)

The Sabres, floundering for weeks now, were due for a game where they just got flat beat. Detroit is a pretty good candidate to administer the beating. They make really, really pretty passes and have players that signed lengthy contracts and can still hit the net. It’s all really cool and stuff. We should try that sometime.

Look, the Sabres aren’t in a good place right now. Things haven’t been right for weeks. I covered the game against Winnipeg two weeks ago and came away from the whole scene wondering what the hell was going on. I still don’t know. No one seems to like what’s happening and fans are losing interest. Or the ability to watch altogether.

Listen, I don’t have any answers. I certainly don’t think anyone else has an answer, either. Trading players? Firing a coach or general manager? Should we buy a new rug to not step on? There are plenty of ideas out there.

I happen to like a lot of what this says, but mostly because I think 1) Pegula’s opinion of media’s role in sports is silly and 2) the overwhelming feeling is that something has to change.

Ryan Miller, as usual more smart than angry, may be right in his analysis that nothing external is going to change for this team. He’s probably nailed it. Ruff and Regier are safe. The love letters are composed and the ink is dry on their secret contracts.

Maybe a player or two moves in the coming weeks, but things aren’t going to get blown up. The change, as those awful movie plots go, must come from within. Excuse me for not being optimistic about all that.

This season has been weird, sure, but it’s been far from interesting. I think over the last few weeks a lot of fans have realized that the weirdness of Miller’s injury and battles with the media and the “core” conundrum isn’t all that entertaining. Weird doesn’t have to be anything more than boring, and that’s what we’re dealing with right now.

The worst part about this team is how familiar it all feels. The apathy crept in so quickly because it’s oddly familiar. A lack of excitement quickly turns bitter and dark. It’s not a good place to be, and we know the territory well. Last November, with things looking bleak, Corey and I laughed our way through a curb-stomping from the Bruins on home ice. It was brutal, and afterwards and I wrote a post entitled Hope is Irrational.

Then, apparently, everything changed.

Pegula bought the team. A playoff run and fan enthusiasm swept through and we were off and running. Now it seems like that well is already dry. The arena is dead, the locker room is just as dour and no one knows where the answers are coming from. That familiar helplessness is starting to come back.

We’re nearing a full year of the Pegula Era in Buffalo. Other than the huge expectations and a nice coat of paint, what’s all that different about the way this team feels these days? Isn’t that the worst part of all of this? Ownership change isn’t going to save this team from mediocrity this season.

So, what will?

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One Comment

  1. Mike

    I actually disagree, but maybe its just me being weird. I actually find this year fascinating because it has gone so counter to expectations. The play has not been interesting though. Millers audio is absolutely incredible because of how revealing it is, even if theres nothing new. There isnt any one thing. Management, ownership and players have all contributed mightily to the festering typhoon of suck that is the Buffalo Sabres right now.
    During Pegulas press conference last year, while everyone felt good, I had a vague sense of dread, but it was too ill-defined to really justify pissing in everyone elses cheerios. Maybe its because I live in the DC area and am familiar with what Billionaire fan owners can do to a team, although that comparison will only be truly justified if Darcy just stops drafting entirely and finds players entirely through free agency. I think Pegulas idea of good ownership is an open bank account behind the status quo. Why he has embraced Ruff and Regier, Im not sure, but I think that its a good bet that he didnt want to find anyone better and that as a fan, he likes them. Regier, for his part, was at his best with limited resources because it restricted the amount of stupid things that he could do. With an unlimited checkbook, he becomes John Ferguson Jr., Mike Milbury, or Glen Sather.
    Lindys quirks: the constant line changes, the hostility to new players that he doesnt know, and the inability to manage goaltenders not named Dominik Hasek, have made things worse instead of better, as a young team floundering for identity and chemistry is preventing from developing one. Lindys undoubtedly tried everything he can to right this ship, but he seems at a loss.
    And then the players: Miller said that its time to stop being nice. The most tragic thing about 7/1/07 is not that Drury and Briere were great and they left. They were certainly talented, but it was their leadership that hurt. There are no adults in the room. Roy, Vanek, Gaustad, Pominville and Miller are all peers. Equals. If you, Ryan Nagelhout, went into the newsroom at the Niagara Gazette and criticized other reporters for their effort, how would that go over? I dont think Jason Pominville is that guy. There are those who have been that guy. Think of it this way – in 07-08, and 08-09 they missed the playoffs. Then Mike Grier signed as a free agent. In 09-10, and 10-11 the Sabres made the playoffs. Coincidence? Tyler Myers? Maybe. But everyone at TBN at least has said that they miss Grier desperately. That he was willing to hold players accountable and get in their face. I think that this group of players responds better to this sort of motivation than leading by example
    Theyre comfortable being well paid with a great locker room. They havent quit altogether, but its psychologically very difficult to be hungry when you have everything you need. All the Sabres said over the summer that they were motivated to play for Pegula because of what he has done for them. But actions speak louder than words. I watch a lot of Intervention, and it looks more like Pegula is enabling a junkie than it does like he is motivating them to get better.
    Going forward, I dont know if there is an answer. Despite my fascination, this is the worst Ive felt about the Sabres in years. Even with the ten game losing streak, it could be attributed to the growing pains of a young team. Now it seems like they havent learned anything in the intervening years. I do think that Sullivans characterization of the Bills as being in a better place is misplaced. The Bills are like a Centralia level fire.