I've been thinking a lot about what I would like to hear the new owner of the Sabres say today. Ultimately, I realize that it doesn't really matter what he says, it is what he does. However, below is what his initial statement today would sound like if he had asked me for what I thought. What do you think?
It is an honor to be here today to announce my purchase of the Buffalo Sabres. I will take questions in a minute, but I have a few things I would like to say:
First, as a Sabres fan, I would often find myself saying things like, "if only I were in charge". Well, now that day is here and I couldn’t be more excited. I expect the transition from fan to owner to be both difficult and exciting and I can’t wait to get started. As a former season ticket holder, I have many fond memories of this team and desire nothing more than finally bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo.
Second, I would like to thank Larry Quinn and Tom Golisano for their work with the Sabres. I think I speak for all Sabres fans when I say "thank you" for NHL hockey in Buffalo. Without their efforts and insistence that this team remain in Buffalo, I think the odds are pretty good that the Sabres are playing in another city. I would also like to thank Gary Bettman for his efforts in this regard and for his hospitality and the hospitality of the other NHL owners. I look forward to the opportunity to working with each of you.
Third, I expect the Sabres to be competing to be the best in all areas. This does not only mean on the ice. I expect the Sabres to be annually competing for the Stanly Cup. I expect the Sabres facilities to be seen as among the league’s best. I expect the game day experience at the arena to make the arena a place people want to be hours before game-time eating dinner, listening to music, talking to other hockey fans and watching highlights. I expect the Sabres to be competitive in the trade and free agent markets. I expect the scouting department of the Sabres to be the best talent evaluators in the NHL. This leads me into my fourth point.
Fourth, I expect this to be a place where players in the NHL want to come. This does not mean that I will throw money around endlessly. In an NHL with a salary cap, bad contracts are hard to hide in places like Buffalo. I will trust my hockey department to find free agents who are at or approaching the peak of their careers who will bring leadership, hard-work, and most importantly, on ice production to push this team over the top. I still believe that championship teams are built through the draft, but often, they also have one or two key offseason additions and one or two trade deadline additions that help the team to "load-up" for the Stanly Cup.
Fifth, most decisions regarding the future direction of the team will be made this offseason. I have nothing but respect for the work Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff and the work they have done. That having been said, part of the job of a new owner is to evaluate from top to bottom and see if the current dynamic is working. This team has been to the playoffs 6 times in the last 12 NHL seasons. This is not acceptable. It is my job in the coming months to get to the bottom of why this team is not more consistently in the playoffs. There is nothing like the playoff atmosphere in Buffalo, and fans should be able to make plans in August to meet up in the plaza come playoff time. There is no one or nothing untouchable in this top to bottom evaluation of the organization. An owner has only one chance to do this right and if it is not, it can take several seasons to correct.
Sixth: Look, I’m flattered, but let me get this one out of the way. I just started owning the Sabres hours ago and as far as I know, the Bills aren’t even for sale. This community is indebted to the ownership of Ralph Wilson and I think discussions about future ownership of a team that isn’t even for sale would be inappropriate.
Seventh, today is day one in our mission. It starts today. The run to the playoffs continues tomorrow against the Thrashers and I expect the house to be rockin’. Understand this: each decision made by this team is to ensure the goal stated above of being in the playoffs each year. However, this team will not sacrifice the goal of being a Stanley Cup champion in 2 years for the goal of making the playoffs in the immediate future. These two factors will be constantly at work in this arena. In my initial look at this roster and at our prospects tells me that going "all-in" organizationally to make the playoffs this year will in no way diminish the prospects of winning the Stanley Cup in future years. One reason making the playoffs each season is the goal of this organization is that once in the playoffs, anything can happen. I excited for the stretch run, and I’ll see you in the plaza for round one!