I’m pretty convinced that Terry Pegula will be the next owner of the Buffalo Sabres. And, I couldn’t be happier about this latest development. To me, it feels like Buffalo found a winning lottery ticket on the street.
Obviously, things could fall through, and the team could remain in Golisano’s hands for the foreseeable future. But I don’t think that’s the case here. There have been rumors for the last few years that he wanted to sell the team. It seems now the timing is right.
I’m not a fan of Golisano, but I respect him, and remain appreciative of his efforts to keep the team here after the Rigas saga. I never really bought into him as a WNYer, or even a wannabe (is there such a thing as a wannabe WNYer?). In the end, he was/is a simple businessman who took a chance, and made a boatload of money off of us in doing so.
It’s been evident the last few years that Golisano has disassociated himself from the team, and from New York State altogether. From what I have heard, the organization has been running on fumes. Simply put - he was/is not putting people in a position to succeed.
Now do I think Pegula will be an angel? No. For the most part, we know nothing about the man. Sure we’ve heard he’s an alleged "rink rat." And he gave a lot of money to Penn State. And his wife is from Rochester. And he lived in Orchard Park. And he’s a rags to riches story. And he’s had Sabre season tickets. And he grew up liking the Broad Street Bullies. And his favorite color is blue, per facebook.
But he does give us hope…tremendous hope. He’s filthy rich, and seems to have a liking for WNY, and hockey. The NHL owners will surely welcome him with open arms, as opposed to the way Jim Balsillie was greeted. Pegula’s camp hasn’t said a word about this (as far as I know). Balsillie tried to buy a team and jam it down the current owners throats. I guess you do get more with sugar than salt…
Will Pegula spend tons of money once he assumes control of the team for an estimated purchase price of 175 million? Who knows? One thing I will bet on though, is that he will be more "hands on" than the current ownership has been. That’s a good thing. Accountability has been missing from this organization for quite some time.
Do I think this will happen quick? Yes. I’m not a tax guy by any means, but I thought I read a blurb somewhere saying it’d be in the best interests of both parties to have this go down in the fiscal year 2010, rather than 2011. If anyone reading this disagrees, please feel free to educate.
I ask myself, "What can happen if Pegula buys the team?" A lot. A real lot. [Editor’s note - allow me to be optimistic here.]
This organization is cutthroat. That’s not an indictment on them; many organizations are. Chances are the one you work for is every bit as cutthroat as the Sabres. You can however, be classy and run a good ship. Treating James Patrick the way they did is an example of a no-class move. The whole Kennedy thing. The Briere/Drury fiasco. Etc, etc, etc. Hopefully, this ownership won’t allow for those kinds of shenanigans…
Maybe this next round of leadership will make players "want" to come to Buffalo. Yes…you read that correctly. I’m suggesting that a change in ownership may result in good players "wanting" to come here. Look at cap geek dot com - Buffalo has a whole lot of money to spend next season.
Buying the team now at 175 doesn’t seem like a good buy to me. Pegula surely doesn’t seem like he’d come out on top eight years from now the way Golisano did. But, if he were to throw in a few extra bucks and used his political influence to develop the waterfront, he may go down as a legend here. And make no mistake - he has political influence. Every billionaire does.
I could go on and on with regard to the positive affect Pegula could have on WNY. Billionaires attract billionaires. Who’s to say we don’t have another "lost uncle" out there who is willing to set up shop here in their twilight years, reinvigorating a region? But I digress…let’s get on to how this could change things on a more immediate basis.
First things first - Darcy is handcuffed more than ever right now. For some reason, I think the NHL trade deadline is early this year (maybe the 19th?). For as quick as I think this ownership change will happen, I don’t think it’ll happen quickly enough to allow for roster (and organizational) changes.
That means we’ll have the same team from now up until the March trade deadline, unless of course, something happens after the holidays (which I doubt). It is slowly but surely looking like a "take a step back" to take "two steps forward" kind of year.
Give the kids a ton of ice time. I’m not just talking about Ennis or Gerbe; I’m talking Adam, Kaleta, McCormick, Weber, Butler & Sekera. Give Goose 1st/2nd line minutes. Make Enroth look good. See what you have.
This team is far away. Despite having outstanding talent in Vanek, Myers, and Miller, it is lacking…for better or worse. It needs something better than complimentary players like Pominville, Connolly, Rivet, Stafford, Hecht, or Roy can provide.
Can a new owner do it? Let’s hope so.