When you look at the roster now compared to what it was even just two years ago it’s been a complete and total dismantling. Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Andrej Sekera, Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, and even Steve Ott are all gone. The only players left over from anything resembling glory days are Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, and Tyler Myers. For now. The only players on the roster resembling top players are Christian Ehrhoff and several ghosts of Sabres future.
Even if you believe that the roster needs to be set on fire and danced around for the path to start heading upward once more (and there is nothing to indicate this is true, no matter how loud Jeremy White bleats it), that is a startling amount of decay in a short period of time. The Sabres have become Schrodinger’s franchise, existing as terrible, and simultaneously as even worse than you thought. I’m of the mind that the key to fixing a dilapidated house is very rarely to burn it down. You need to figure out which beams to keep and which to discard, what’s structural, and what’s cosmetic, and most importantly if any part of it can be repurposed (aka traded) for something more useful.
I tried to retrace this dismantling as best I could back to a singular moment and while some would probably offer 7-1-07 as the best option, I’ve chosen to give the franchise a partial clean slate after the ownership change. Because of that, and because of the mini-rebuild that saw the team make the playoffs in 2010 and 2011 I think the current issues stem from Pegula and Company mis-evaluating what they were given. Thus my singular moment that sent this franchise into its tailspin is the Leino contract, something that suggested management thought the team was closer to contending than it actually was.
When Terry Pegula bought the Sabres he put a three year deadline on building a team that could be a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.
Now, just a bit over three years later, he has DELIVERED! Last night against the Coyotes, Ryan Miller looked solid as always. Two early, kind of flukey goals got past him, but Miller dug his heels in and, for what might have been the first time this season, the Sabres in front of him decided to play like they’re supposed to be there.
This depresses me. Not because I’m a Sabres fan, and not because I think the team is better off with Miller on the roster. Not even because the team has fallen so far from it’s glory days, with only Drew Stafford left on a roster that’s a shell of what it once was. No, this depresses me because Miller is just another name on a long list of guys that have given their heart and soul and in some cases made significant sacrifices to try to win in Buffalo, to try to win it for us.
Before Miller there was Hasek. And Lafontaine, and Mogilny, and Andreychuk, and Gare, and Schoenfeld and Perreault, and Robert, and Martin, and Lindy Ruff. Twice. There were the Knoxes, and there was Punch Imlach and there was Jim Lorentz and Ted Darling and my greatest fear is that all too soon there will be Rick Jeanneret. Always chasing that silver dream, never reaching it. What would it be like to watch those guys achieve the ultimate while wearing the blue and gold? What would their stat-lines read, what would their legacies be, what would their smiles look like, how loud would it get when they triumphantly hoist that trophy towards the banners of Sabres past?
We will never know.
I don’t know what other fanbases are like, but I know that Buffalo doesn’t just root for their players. We’re not the New York Rangers who bought a cup with Mark Messier or the Kings with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. No, we claim our players. They become one of us. As countless retired NHLers-turned-Buffalo-residents have shown, they stay one of us. Somewhere along the way, Warburg, and Lac-Saint-Charles, and Waterloo, and St. Catherines get erased and Buffalo gets written in their place. That ‘East Lansing’ that sits on Miller’s bio in so many places was halfway to gone. This doesn’t just make the Sabres worse, and this doesn’t just fundamentally alter our fandom going forward.
Good luck Ryan Miller. That’s not just the right thing to say at this juncture, that’s what we mean. Desperately so. To many, you’re still one of us. You’re almost still wearing the same colors. We root for that ultimate thrill, not out of selfishness, but because we like to see the adulation it brings to those around us. The happiness of our fellow Buffalonians matters to us. It matters to us. And as far as most of us are concerned, you’re still one of us. Good luck. Go Blues.
If you’re reading this blog I have to assume you already know, but for the sake of an intro, the Canadian Women’s team clinched gold on Thursday at the Sochi Olympics and the Canadian Men’s team put on a possession shellacking of the United States on Friday in the gold medal play-in game. Canada will meet Sweden on Sunday for the gold with a puck drop of 7:00 AM Eastern time.
For all its boasting of hockey passion, Canada sure works hard to ruin the game for everyone. Take the Women’s tournament, which is already under fire for “lacking parity.” This year has been nothing more than a Canadian campaign to get the sport stricken from the Olympics, presumably so it can declare itself the best at Women’s hockey without actually having to play it. If Canadians actually cared about women’s hockey they’d have created a publicized and competitive league by now instead of the CWHL which, despite being the only real option, players scoff at.
As Team USA’s women reflect on their depressing loss to Team Canada, Women’t hockey around the country, and more specifically (since it’s kind of relevant to us) around New York State continues. As many of you are already aware, our sidebar has been revamped to feature links to (among other things) the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the USCHO page for NCAA hockey, and the blog Women’s Hockey Life. So what are your options as a New York hockey fan? Unfortunately the CWHL isn’t particularly local with teams in Brampton, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Boston, but there is a lot of really good college hockey nearby. (I should know, I grew up with it.)
Cornell Big Red
Arena: Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY (Cap. 4,267)
Conference: Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC)
Current Record: 20-3-4 (National Rankings: 3rd)
Conference Record: 15-2-3 (1st)
Conference Championships (Regular Season): 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Conference Championships (Tournament): 2010, 2011, 2013
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: 2010, 2011, 2012
Best Season: 2010-2011
- NCAA Frozen Four (Lost to Boston University 4-1)
- Harvard Crimson (Harvard leads series 51-25-3)
- Dartmouth Big Green (Dartmouth leads series (41-27-7)
I was browsing through the HF Boards’ Olympic hockey subsection and despite the fact that HF continues its systemic misogyny by sticky-ing the Men’s schedule and not the Women’s the discussions on Women’s hockey that occur in the appropriate threads are actually pretty good. One of the things that stood out to me was this comment:
Not to pick on Krut here, but they’re dead wrong. Women have already played in professional Men’s leagues, including the NHL. A Women’s league absolutely has a chance of developing NHL-capable prospects. That having been said, it’s foolish to think that “economic benefit” is limited to developing future players.