You're a big Sabres fan right? You follow the team, attend some games, watch on TV. You enjoy when they win and get irritated when the effort isn't there and they lose. You've also been through a lot in the past few months haven't you? The Sabres missed the playoffs last season and just when you were ready to get back into it, a lockout got in the way and kept you from enjoying the sport until the dead of winter. You'll take a shortened season to watch the Sabres because it's better than nothing right? Then it got worse...somehow. The Sabres stumbled out of the gate, fired their longtime head coach, failed to respond to that coaching change, got booed in their own building and then decided it was time for a rebuild by trading away key pieces of their roster for their newest plan...the rebuild.
So you would think, at the very least, you would have been given a small comfort during the season ending press conference. A change in the front office wouldn't have been asking too much right. They missed the playoffs again, everyone was calling for the GM to be replaced, nobody would have argued to the owner if he decided it was time to put another person in charge. It certainly would have made the rebuild a lot easier to stomach. Instead we had Darcy Regier telling us it was time to "suffer"? WTF?
That wasn't even the worst part of the press conference either. Well, the worst part was realizing Darcy Regier was going to be a part of it in the first place, right? It was not a shinning moment for an organization that has begun to lose its goodwill with its fanbase. I'm not going to dive into the topic that took up the most time of the presser, the ticket prices going up. I get the argument about prices going up, but seriously, what doesn't go up in price each year these days? It's a joke that members of the media would ask why ticket prices wouldn't go down because the team doesn't make the playoffs.
Between fighting the media about ticket prices and why Terry Pegula wouldn't talk to such a "professional" newspaper, Ted Black and Darcy Regier tried explaining the new mission statement of Hockey Heaven: patience and suffering. Both repeatedly spoke about how the quest to win a cup hasn't changed but that's it going to be a longer road than they initially thought. I would almost be ok with that if I knew someone other than Darcy Regier was in charge of building the Sabres into Cup champions. Don't be surprised when Ron Rolston is made permanent head coach in the near future. Why bother changing to coach at this point anyways? Regier also made it sound like he can't wait to see what he can strip from another team in exchange for fan favorites Miller and Vanek because why spend your owner's ridiculous amount of money on star players that you already have when you can try to acquire new kids that may be Crosby's or Malkin's? So much for comfort in words right? Oh wait, Harbor Center will be done in a few years and its going to be cool. There.
Look, truth is as a Sabres fan myself, I'm not happy with what happened yesterday. The Sabres tried to throw money around to build a quick team they considered a contender and it failed. All I really wanted to hear was that they screwed up and they've made bad decisions in the past two seasons, that they're learning. But it's hard to believe that when one of the mistakes is at the table taking questions on the future of the team. So I'll go into this offseason irritated with the owner for not changing the GM. I'll be irritated when the GM trades away players that I admire and have watched for years.
What's in it for the fans at this point? The players. A lot of us hate Regier, most of us can't find a reason to like Rolston but tell me you don't like guys like Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson. It's guys like them that we'll be watching next season. We're going to have a young team next season, a young team that for all intents and purposes will have very little expectations. Guys who want to prove that they belong in the NHL and guys that will stand up for each other in order to do so. We got a taste of that this season when guys like Porter, Flynn and Pysyk were called up. Steve Ott and Mike Weber talked about accountability and striving to be better on locker cleanout day. It's possible these two "brothers" will be the backbone of the Sabres leadership when the puck drops in October. Both embody hard work ethics, hell Mike Weber had to keep proving himself to the same GM and coach for years that he belonged as one of the top 6 defensive pairings.
They may be a young team next season. But they do possess a good amount of talent and gritiness in their roster. Make no mistake, at the moment, they're not close to being a Stanley Cup contender. They're not consistent enough and they don't have enough star players to carry them through a deep playoff run.
So if you're looking for comfort or something to get excited about, you won't find it coming from Ted Black and Darcy Regier's words. But you could find it in the young talent that's about to take center stage at the First Niagara Center. Ott, Kaleta, Ennis, Ehrhoff, Weber, and Leino, those are your veterans now. Foligno, Hodgson, Grigorenko, Pysyk, Flynn and Ruhwedel, that's just a taste of the young talent we have seen so far. Regier will have a chance to redeem himself a little bit (very little) when the NHL Draft rolls around. But come October, I'll be watching the Sabres to see who steps up and who impresses as the team comes together to try and beat the odds. No matter who the GM is or what the President of the team is trying to sell us on, I'll be backing the guys that pull the sweaters over their heads and take a beating on the ice, the Ott's and the Weber's that you don't have to try to like because you appreciate and admire their hard work.
For as long as I can remember I've always cheered for the underdogs.
Why would I stop now?