It's difficult to write about the Buffalo Sabres nowadays without spewing three grades of vitriol or using colorful language normally used by salty sea dogs. The Sabres are in an identical situation at this point as they were last year, but it looks like nothing is shaking this team out of their slumber this time around. Last season Terry Pegula's purchase of the Sabres led to a sense of renewed optimism both on and off the ice, and the team finished the second half strong and made it into the playoffs. This year though there's a sense of impending doom, that things might actually get worse before they get better.
What is it about this year though? Moments that could morph into turning points come dime a dozen, but the Sabres aren't taking the opportunities. One never really knows what it takes - after all, when goalie Ryan Miller got bulldozed by Milan Lucic who knew that would be a turning point? The Sabres hitherto promising season suddenly went kaput, and while it can be argued that it was sheer coincidence all the injuries started piling up since then, there is no doubting now that the fragile psyche of this team was quite irreparably damaged.
Is it going to take a firing, or a trade? Maybe it's time for an #OccupySabres by the fans to kickstart things.
Are the playoffs a pipe dream at this point? There is little doubt that if another couple of weeks of the current mediocrity continues then the Sabres will become sellers with this season for all means and purposes considered down the drain. The playoffs cutoff has been 93, 88, 93, 94 and 92 points in the last five seasons - with 41 points in the first 42 games, the Sabres are going to need 50+ in their remaining 40 to contend for even eighth place.
There are eight games left in January for the team, with all but one on the road. Something's going to give very soon, so here are a few possible scenarios that could come true by the end of this month:
- Away from the FNC morgue, the team bonds and rallies together, putting up ten points of the sixteen on offer before the end of the month. With no new injuries and players like Derek Roy, Christian Ehrhoff, Andrej Sekera and Tyler Ennis coming back, hopes for a second half revival start coming true and the Sabres slowly climb up the standings. The management decides to return to the plan of 'win now' and is proactive before the trade deadline, adding a couple of veteran forwards for secondary scoring and offensive depth.
- On the road, the zombie-like demeanor of the players continues to translate into poor performances. The Sabres show up for a couple of games during the stretch, but that is just a false dawn and the letdowns continue. With only a handful of points out of the eight games, GM Darcy Regier is forced to listen to some of the low-ball offers coming his way. His phone continues to ring as playoff-contending teams like Winnipeg, New Jersey, Nashville, Dallas, and Colorado send prospects and over-the-hill players his way.
- The Sabres sink to even direr depths, with reports of in-fighting in the locker room as the travel miles add up. Lindy Ruff's post-game interviews get more abrupt and he hears from NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan after a stick thrown by Ruff knocks out Drew Stafford. The uproar in Buffalo reaches a crescendo and Ruff hands in his resignation with Regier removed soon after. Pegula and Ted Black announce that they will blow it all up and start again, with every player on the roster tradeable, and playing for his future.
"It has to start somewhere, has to start some time, what better place than here, what better time than now?" Rage Against The Machine - Guerilla Radio