Zachary Zielonka - The calendar year of the 2013 has been anything but kind to the Buffalo Sabres. The shortened 2013 season was just disappointing and saw the exit of a long time coach. The start of the 2013-14 season saw even more mediocre play to start the season and the exit of the longest tenured general season in sports. So, what can we possibly view as the best moment of the year? How about this announcement that was made on January 6th:
If you remember the start of the calendar year, we didn't actually have NHL hockey. The league's second lockout in eight years was four months old and given the league's track record, it looked like it was going to run for a while longer. So, when that announcement was made, Sabres fans went from waiting to anticipating.
Jack N. Goods - The best day of 2013 is probably an obvious one, the only time Sabres news really had people buzzing for an entire month. The restructuring of the entire organization was a perfect storm for an exciting day as a fan. First of all it meant something new, especially since Darcy Regier seemed so safe in his job at the time. Ron Rolston didn't have many fans left either. This day went beyond that though, as the men brought in were Buffalo favorites. It gave fans a new hope, that Pat LaFontaine will lead the organization to better days.
Calvin H - This is a tough season in which to go looking for positives. The Sabres only have a handful of wins and regulation time wins are few and far between. Their first one of the season in 60 minutes came at the Florida Panthers late in October, but was all the more remarkable for one stat that had hockey historians scrambling for the record books. Buffalo dressed four teens: Mikhail Grigorenko (19), Zemgus Girgensons (19), Nikita Zadorov (18) and Rasmus Ristolainen (18). Whether the four first rounders all go on to achieve great success in the NHL only time will tell, but it had me feeling much better about the youth standing up and being counted. Here are the highlights from that game:
Soon after that though, things went south fast with the youth movement and the four dispersed to different leagues: Zadorov is back with the London Knights, Ristolainen is at the Amerks, Grigorenko hovers on the pine in Buffalo and Girgensons is the only one playing very well also in Buffalo.
Stephaniezd87 - One of the things I pride myself on is being a hockey fan. I just enjoy the game of hockey. I can watch any game at any time and be perfectly content, no matter who the two teams are. That being said, with few "gee, I'd like him on my team" exceptions, I hate the Boston Bruins. I know: a LOT of people hate the Bruins. But I HATE the Bruins. Which says a lot, because I was raised by a Bruins fan. Why am I blathering on about the Bruins in a Sabres blog? Because, as much as I hate those stupid Bruins, I adore how they continually struggle against our terrible-awful Sabres.
I made a bet against my second-favorite Bruins fan last season, fully expecting to lose: whoever's team loses cooks the winner dinner. A bet I can uphold, by the way, because I am an excellent cook. The completely unexpected happened: The Sabres not only won that January 31 game, but they creamed the Bruins 7-4. My favorite Thomas Vanek got a hat trick, with his third goal coming after a nasty little tease right in Rask's crease. And the dinner I won was pretty great, too.
Terry V - I was "lucky" enough to be able to get season tickets this season after being on a waiting list for almost 6 years. It quickly became apparent that this was not the year to get them. I’ve still enjoyed the games but the atmosphere of the F’N center was less than positive with the nightly highlight typically being the "Fire Darcy" chants.
Maybe those chants helped as the organization finally decided to do just that, and along with Darcy, also fired Rolston, ushering in the second coming of the Nolan era. The first game after that announcement the Leafs were in town, an always entertaining match-up was amplified due to the changes, not to mention the 211 penalty minutes from the teams last meeting. I knew it was going to be different. It was.
Right from the announcement of Nolan and LaFontaine the crowd was in it. From the "coach of the year" sign in the corner, to not being able to hear a pin drop like games past; it was just a different atmosphere than the previous 10 home games.. Then, to make it even better, the Sabres somehow pulled out a win. After the game, when the Sabres saluted the half of the arena wearing blue and gold, you got that feeling of team pride for the first time this season. That feeling is the reason you’re a fan and, in this instance, reminded me that there can be good within the ugly of a season like this.
Andy Boron - As sad as it is to say, my best Sabres moment for 2013 came right after their very first game of the calendar year. In their first game after the lockout, on January 20, the Sabres beat the Phildelphia Flyers 5-2. It was a glorious victory in so many ways - Thomas Vanek had two goals and five points and looked absolutely dominant all night. In his first game with the Sabres, Steve Ott opened the scoring with a power play slapper, while Hodgson and Myers also scored. Mikhail Grigorenko made his NHL debut and looked decent. Drew Stafford fought Scott Hartnell and held his own. This game checked off every box on the 2013 wishlist. The locker room was buzzing afterward, and Stafford debuted the team's amazing fur coat given to the player of the game.
And then the rest of the season happened. The Flyers were expected to be one of the top teams in the East that year (they weren't) while the Sabres hadn't yet started their organizational implosion and were being picked as a trendy playoff sleeper. We all know how that worked out.
Zachary Zielonka - The short Ron Rolston era was truly some terrible hockey on the ice. It was accompanied by a coach that seemed lifeless behind the bench and in the press conference room. After Rolston took over from Lindy Ruff, he went 15-11-5 and the appeared to be heading into complete rebuild mode by the end of the season. The rebuilding theme was what kept Rolston around at the start of the season but his 4-15-1 record to start the season was too much to keep him on as the organization cleaned house.
Jack N. Goods - It's been a rough two years for the Sabres, its hard to really pinpoint the very worst moment. The day Lindy Ruff was fired was very bittersweet. You knew at some point it needed to happen, and that it probably was the right move, but it still didn't feel good. After all he'd done for the team, and really being the only coach I'd ever experienced for the Sabres at that point, it was weird seeing anyone else behind the bench.
Calvin H - I hate change. I clung on to every last wispy thread there was that the '05-'06 core would finally come good. Even after Lindy left I still hoped something good could happen. But once Rolston took over the writing was on the wall, and as Pominville then Vanek departed, I was forced to finally lay to rest that dream. And this goal, that defined the spirit of that team:
Stephaniezd87 - Can this season count as one gigantic worst? My AHL team lost a good coach. My NHL team promoted him, hired him, and fired him. (Shining spot: Lindy Ruff got fired). This team cannot win a game to save their lives. John Scott is getting massive amounts of ice time. WHAT?! Tell me this is all a nightmare. And to top it all off, my favorite player got traded. To the tune of an "are you sitting down, because I have something to tell you" phone call from my best friend, who didn't want me to just find out on the twitters. I'm not ashamed to say I shed some tears over Thomas Vanek leaving, even though he made it clear he wanted out. The last 12-ish months of Sabres hockey have been painful.
I sometimes get attached to players and although I may not have been super attached to Pominville he was one of the last players left from the core group that pulled me into Sabres fandom. However, the harder part of the trade, was realizing that Regier was entering rebuilding mode which was something we all knew would push a cup win seasons down the road.
While Pominville is doing rather well in Minnesota chances are he wouldn’t have the same numbers if he was wearing a Sabres logo. His draft picks so far has equated to Zadorov, who I’m a big fan of, so it might not have been a horrible trade in hindsight but it sure meant the start of a painful season or two for us Sabres fans.
Andy Boron - The third jersey. OH GOD THE THIRD JERSEY. The whole process was a complete mess, from the design, to the endless summer of "sneak glimpses", to the botched and hurried reveal, and it turned the Sabres organization into a national laughingstock for a few days. Woof.
Zachary Zielonka - The Sabres haven't had many on ice memorable moments, but the organization created one when the Dallas Stars returned to town on October 28th.
After being derided by the fans just a couple of weeks earlier for not honoring the return of former captain Jason Pominville, the Sabres had already announced that they would do some sort of recognition before this game. They came through during the first TV timeout with a good piece highlight Ruff'scareer and the crowd showed their appreciation with a rousing standing ovation.
Jack N. Goods - The restructuring will likely be what we remember years from now, but to not be redundant I have to go with the now famous "Butt Goal" scored by Mark Pysyk on Mike Smith. It's gotten the Sabres all over the mainstream media, ESPN, Yahoo!, and sports blogs everywhere and is something unlike anything else we've seen before.
Calvin H - For better or worse, the appointment of Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations and Ted Nolan as Head Coach will be a pivotal point in the history of the Sabres. After the futility of Rolston in that position, Nolan is warming the hot seat until the end of the season - but it's who will continue in that position, and who will step in as GM that will truly determine where this team is going.
This is a watershed moment in the legacy of this franchise, and for the sake of the long-suffering fanbase, we hope that Pegula, Black, LaFontaine & Co. make the right choices in the upcoming months.
Stephaniezd87 - It's truly a tie for me. Lindy Ruff got fired, and my favorite former coach is now the interim head coach. One of my favorite former players is in charge of hockey operations. This team has caused me grief, stress, joy, excitement, tears, and smiles in my time with them. This year was no different. They are awful right now, but good things shine through, despite the stress. John Scott scores a goal, buttgoals are now a thing, and favorite players go away. I spend as much time telling people "I'm done with this team!" as I do saying "I love this team!" I cannot wait to see what crushing heartbreak and sweeping ecstasy they bring in 2014.
Terry V - The most memorable part of the Sabres 2013, building off the best memory, would probably be the Nolan/LaFontaine press conference. I’ve been a rather serious Sabres fan for only the past 7 or 8 years meaning I’ve really only know the Ruff/Regier era, minus the Rolston stint which I’d rather not think about.
Not only did it signify a change of coaching and management but you could just feel that the organization was making a change as a whole to deliver on that Stanley Cup promise. I’m not sure if this is the change that’ll get us here but it’s a start for sure and a sign that this team isn’t going to stick with the norm as it did for a decade and a half previously.
On a somewhat more selfish reason, it was also the first major story I covered "live" as a blogger. Even though I may not have been in the lobby, watching the live stream and reporting on a major development for this blog was rather memorable for me.
Andy Boron - I'm going to cheat and put two here. The first memorable moment was the Sabres game in Boston on April 17, better known as the first Boston sporting event after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. The game (a 3-2 shootout win) wasn't what was memorable about the night, nor was the fact that for one night at least, I was rooting for a Boston sports team. It was the incredible outpouring of support for the city, from large efforts like the Boston Strong movement and the One Fund, to smaller but no less meaningful things like the all of SBN Hockey sharing a single game thread (or four) on Stanley Cup of Chowder for one night.
On a much sillier note, there was no image more memorable, and more perfectly suited to the 2013 Buffalo Sabres, than that of Rick Jeanneret broadcasting a game from between the benches, looking absolutely ridiculous wearing an "RJ" helmet and broadcasting the entire game with a handheld microphone.
Luckily, Jeanneret and Rob Ray had a lot of fun with their comical situation, and it led to one of the most entertaining broadcasts of the year. What better way to sum up the way we've all dealt with the Sabres this year than by watching our favorite broadcaster take a broken situation, cobble together a half-assed solution, and then manage to have a little fun with it at his own expense?
There you have it, folks - 2013 in a nutshell. Let us know what we forgot in the comments, and thanks so much for sticking with us all year. It hasn't always been easy to be a fan of the Buffalo Sabres for the last two seasons, but hanging out with ya'll has made things a whole lot more fun along the way. Here's to a much better 2014 in Sabreland, and beyond.
Happy New Year!