For what feels like the umpteenth time in the last handful of years, we find ourselves again talking about the Buffalo Sabres and their apparent lack of accountability.
This time, the talks spark up after an intense mid-season practice that saw Zach Bogosian get injured and saw Justin Falk almost fight Evander Kane.
”It’s good to see some emotion,” Housley said to media members. “It was a battle practice out there, focusing on some areas that we need to improve on, and tempers flared up. It was more about just being in the heat of the battle and guys being frustrated at where we are. Sometimes emotions get high.”
Happy days, right?
”Emotions are running high this time of year, where we’re at,” Falk said. “To be honest, maybe a little bit more stuff like that is probably what we need to get things going here, to get guys playing with a little more passion and urgency.”
To add a little sprinkle of light to the entire situation, Bogosian is expected to miss four-to-six weeks following the undisclosed ankle injury he suffered during practice. Bogosian made his season debut on December 1 and only lasted 18 games before suffering another injury, albeit this one can be chalked up to bad luck.
In a continued stretch of trying seasons, Buffalo appears to be slowly tearing at the seams. When looking at the schedule, it feels about right.
Watching this team struggle night after night, whether the issue of the game is offense or defense, the play is baffling.
Where do the issues begin? It seems simple enough to point to the simplest of concepts: lack of accountability.
Whenever we see a breakdown of a goal or maybe a miscommunication on the ice, you never seem to hear any accountability.
“I don’t feel everybody’s on the same page. I think guys are taking things into their own hands and this is the result we’re getting,” Housley lamented back in November.
Does this issue feel fresh to you? It shouldn’t. This is the same issue that has been discussed ad nauseam throughout all of Buffalo for the last four seasons, at least.
Back in November 2014, Ted Nolan talked to the media about the then-accountability problem. “It’s like on the bench when it’s 1-0, everybody puts their head down and looks for something else to do,” Nolan told media. “To be accountable, you have to stand up. If we win a game, we all want to talk. But if we lose, we all want to hide. No one’s going to come in here and help us.”
My oh my, that sounds incredibly familiar.
Despite this being a team full of professionals, there appears to be a clear disconnect in the locker room.
Gone are the days of solid veteran leadership from players like Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.
Without unfairly calling out individual players, it is safe to say that certain players have not fit their expected leadership roles. Whether it is due to lack of actual leadership abilities or just a bad fit, things have appeared to go sour in the Sabres’ room.
Many players have changed since the accountability rumblings began back in the early 2010s. We have watched the comfort of Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff devolve into Ted Nolan’s freewheeling days behind the bench to the endless systematic drive of Dan Bylsma and the sharp tongue of Tim Murray - the one thing that remains is ownership and the culture they bestow on their franchise.
While fans shouldn’t want the Pegulas in the locker room post-game, dressing down players, they should want to see ownership helping instill a culture from the top down that will breed positivity.
Ownership took their first big step in changing that culture with bringing in Housley and Jason Botterill, but as we’ve seen through the first half of this season, a new general manager and new head coach only go so far.
Systems will need to be reinforced and players will need to be purged. Just like we have seen with the Buffalo Bills, either you need to buy in or you’ll be shipped out.
It is unreal that we need to speak about professional sports franchises and professional athletes like this, but bad habits are hard to break.
Winning changes everything but having a culture that is currently rotten to the core, it’ll take more than winning a few games to clean the musty, losing stink out of this franchise.