Archive for the 'Management' Category

Tick Tock

Somewhere in the back of my head a stopwatch started counting down last night.

For someone as hardcore about the Sabres as I am, I think I’m a fairly patient fan. I try not to get too salty about the Sabres, and often times that requires a little bit of self-delusion. I think sports fandom without at least a little bit of self-delusion is totally weird. Irrational hope is a big part of the attraction, here. It’s the reason we care about sports at all. So, as a mostly-sane Sabres fan, I have bumbled along this season, doling out the irrational hope during the “up” stretches and trying to avoid getting dramatically emo during the “down” stretches.

If I have enjoyed a favorite willful delusion this year it has been in the area of Terry Pegula and Ted Black. I want to believe in those guys, I want to believe that they have a plan and that eventually that plan will work. I want to believe, and so I do.

I still don’t think Pegula and Black have made any obvious and horrible mistakes, but they have been undeniably cautious. In many franchises (dare I say most?) Lindy and/or Darcy would’ve been fired this season. I don’t necessarily disrespect the decision to keep both coach and GM employed through this lost season, but my willingness to blindly follow Pegula and Black now feels a bit tested. It feels like the warm fuzzies that I enjoyed just one year ago on “Pegula Day” has an expiration date.

The clock has started.

The way I see it, Darcy has ten days to save his job, and then depending on how he performs, Pegula and Black have a few months to respond accordingly. Darcy has made a lot of mistakes in the past year, but with this trade deadline he now has the opportunity to fix a few of them. He needs to trade an expiring UFA contract or two (that’s the easy part), and he also needs to get one of these forwards (Stafford, Roy, Leino) off the books for next season. If Darcy can’t (or won’t) do that, then I think the pressure is on Pegula to fire him.

In hindsight it’s very strange to me that Pegula stated a timeline so specifically for winning the Cup when he took over the Sabres. Three years is such a short amount of time, and winning the Cup is so incredibly difficult. Why put a timeline on winning the Cup?

I think Pegula made a mistake when he assumed that Sabres fans want a Cup quickly. I can only speak for myself, but as long as it happens before I die, I’m not super concerned about the timeline for the Sabres winning it all. What I really care about is the sense that the franchise is in good hands. I want to see that poor performance has consequences. I want to believe that our young players have every opportunity to improve in the Sabres system. I want to feel like the team is on the right track. Granted this has been a monumentally disastrous season, but right now, I’m not so sure about any of those things.

Frankly, if someone came out today and said, “We’re rebuilding and we don’t know how long it’s going to take,” I’d be happier with that than I ever was with the arbitrarily chosen 3 year window to win.

Make no mistake, the Sabres had some unbelievably bad luck this season. And please don’t get me wrong, I’ll love this franchise for the rest of my life. But there’s faith and then there’s willful self-delusion. I’m capable of either, but faith is so much more satisfying. A franchise built on faith is a franchise that I can watch forever.

I want to believe, I really do, but Pegula’s grace period is now officially winding down. I suspect that the next few months will determine a lot about how we view this ownership team for a long time to come.

 

It’s Ted Black Appreciation Day!

Regular attenders of Sabres home games know that the water that comes out of the bathroom sinks at HSBC Arena is not merely cold. That water is otherworldly. No water has ever been as cold as HSBC water. Ever. (Not here on earth, at least).

I’ve bitched about this issue once, or two million, times on this blog. I even put it in the Sabres Suggestion Box.

Please watch this super cute video made by Jessica Pegula. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, just skip to the 2:28 mark.

YES.  YOU HEARD THAT CORRECTLY.

That was Ted Black, President of the Buffalo Sabres, acknowledging the cold water situation.

!

And while he didn’t say this directly, I’m pretty sure I detected an undercurrent of, “Your hands will never be cold again, Katebits” in the twinkle of his eye.  (Incidentally, I’m not the woman who approached Ted Black about the bathroom water at the game on Sunday.  I absolutely would have whined to him about my cold hands had I seen him there, but I didn’t.  If you’re the woman who bravely alerted Mr. Ted Black to this important issue, you should call me because obviously we’re potential BFFs/soulmates.)

I’ve written a lot in the last few weeks about how different everything feels as a Sabres fan since Pegula took over.  Really, it’s almost like rooting for a different team.  Never in a million years, not in our wildest dreams, could we have predicted that the new Sabres ownership would be so responsive, so enthusiastic, and so INSANELY CHARMING IN EVERY WAY.  I mean, really.  It’s pretty much ridiculous how well they’ve been doing.  They’re, like, comically good at this.

Terry Pegula is the billionaire who writes the checks, but Ted Black is the man who is actually reading the suggestions that we leave in the suggestion box.

I never had the simmering anger towards Larry Quinn that so many of you had, but even I have to admit, the difference between Larry Quinn and Ted Black is stark. (I suspect that Larry Quinn would personally glue my hands onto a glacier before he’d read my suggestions.)

So, let’s review the evidence:

1. Reads and responds to our suggestions
2. Has basically said ALL the right things WHILE using a tone of voice that makes us believe him
3. Seems waaaaay nicer than Larry Quinn.
4. Cares about our cold hands

There is only one logical conclusion to make: Ted Black is a dreamboat.

HERO.

It’s Ted Black Appreciation Day!  *throws confetti*

I’m not exactly sure how warm water in the women’s restrooms will lead directly to a Stanley Cup, but I have complete faith that it will.  WE’RE ON OUR WAY, PEOPLE.

Thank you, Ted Black!

Today Is More Awesome Than Lame

Things that are lame:

1. Ryan Kesler and Zach Parise are no longer on our team.

2. Olympic hockey is gone for four years.

3. My ankle is sprained.

4. I wrote an entire huge long post about how the Sabres need a backup goalie (complete with STATS!  I looked up NUMBERS, you guys) only to scrap the whole thing because I realized that I wasn’t even buying my argument.  (Statbits are inherently fishy if you ask me.)   I still think that Crunchy needs some good rest before the playoffs, but I couldn’t prove it with numbers, so now I’m just all lost and confused about the whole thing.

5. DARN!  I forgot to put the chili in the crockpot!  I KNEW there was something I was supposed to be doing this morning.

Things that are awesome:

1. The S-A-B-R-E-S are back!

2. Paul Gaustad and Thomas Vanek are on our team.  (I know!  I’m just as surprised to see Vanek on the “awesome” list as you are!)

3. Lindy Ruff is on our team again.  Sometimes in Buffalo it feels like you have to choose to be a “Lindy Ruff never deserves criticism EVER” person or a swirly-eyed, frothing at the mouth “LINDYRUFFSHOULDBEFIRED” person, but I reject this notion.  I love Lindy AND I criticism him.  It’s called “middle ground”, and it’s awesome.

My main point about Lindy today is that it didn’t feel particularly good to see him on the other side of the ice.  I’m looking forward to getting him back.  Ryan Miller and Lindy Ruff belong together, not apart.

4. I’m really really looking forward to Lindy’s comments about the Olympics, and Miller’s play in particular.  I’m sure he’ll have some good stuff.

5. Lindy claimed that he came away from the Olympic camps this summer all calm and reinvigorated, with a new, fresh approach to coaching.  If the camps made him feel all inspired, imagine what winning a gold medal did for him.  Not to steal Darcy’s trademark line, but getting an invigorated and refreshed Lindy Ruff back in the locker room might be the same as making a big trade.   (Heh.)

6. TRADE DEADLINE DAY IS TOMORROW!   There are those who take a “This is how it is, this is how it’s always been, this is how it always will be” approach to the trade deadline, and I certainly can’t argue with that logic.  But, if you can’t daydream about trading Clarke MacArthur for Rick Nash in the 24 hours before the trade deadline, when CAN you dream about such things?  The trade deadline is fun, I say!  (That said, this IS how it is, this IS how it’s always been, and this IS how it will always be.  Darcy’s got his method and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it.  I just try not to get too cranky when the thing I knew was going to happen, happens.)

7. The fellas over at The Goose’s Roost have organized a gigantic Sabres blogger Cover-It-Live-athon, and we here at TWC will be participating.  I’m lifting the Willful Caboose ban on that big old clicking, scrolling chatty-box thing, and we’re going to talk Rick Nash for Clarke MacArthur ALL DAY LONG.  So, tune in here (or to any other Sabres blog) to get in on the chatter.

8. The Olympics really left me feeling like the Sabres should go for it this season.  Is Ryan Miller having the season of a lifetime?   If he did that for Team USA, can he do it for the Sabres?

9. Seriously though.  How awesome is it that Ryan Miller is a Buffalo Sabre?

10. The chili probably doesn’t need the entire day to cook.

Scouts

Yesterday Heather tweeted a link to this Globe and Mail article about how the NHL teams with big budgets have much bigger scouting staffs than the on-a-shoe-string teams (like the Sabres).

The article is amusing for a few reasons.  First of all, you get information like this:

By sending one scout to a game who is trained how to use a video camera, he can come back with a DVD that can be studied by several other Sabres scouts.

I know!  They TRAIN professional hockey scouts to use a video camera!  What kind of science fiction world are we living in?  What is this, The Jetsons?  SCOUTS with video cameras?!  WHAT WILL THEY THINK OF NEXT?!

And then there is this:

Regier said he has had inquiries from other teams about their system, but so far no one has adopted the model as completely as the Sabres.

I’m pretty sure those inquiries went like this:

Brian Burke: Darcy, I’m calling to inquirer about your new scouting department. That is biz-ONKERS, dude.
Darcy: Well, it’s really quite fascinating.  You see, scientists have invented this crazy device that will record the things that happen at a game.
Brian Burke: ….You mean like a phonograph?
Darcy: Well kind of, but a phonograph is just a sound recording.  With a video camera you can actually see the action too.
Brian Burke: Whoa whoa whoa.  You are BLOWING my mind.
Darcy Regier: Do you want me to tell you more?
Brian Burke: No.  Please slow down.  This is too much to absorb.  I don’t think I can take it.  Just stop talking.

The article prompted Heather and I to have a goofy conversation on Twitter where I admitted that I’ve always imagined that the Sabres are actually sending soulless robots to do their scouting.  I mean, with all the uproar about the Sabres using video technology instead of thinking, feeling human beings, there was only one logical assumption left to make:

Robots are cheaper than people because they don’t need health insurance. THE SABRES ARE CHEAP!

Robot: A.ccord.ing.to.my.cal.cu.la.tions.you.should.draft.Drew.Staff.ord.next.
Darcy Regier: Are you sure, robot?  I mean, he appears to be a brain eating zombie….and a furry.
Robot: I.be.lieve.Drew.Staff.ord.will.be.an.im.por.tant.part.of.the.Sab.res.
or.gan.i.za.tion.
Darcy Regier: But….what about Evgeni Malkin?  Shouldn’t I pick him before Drew Stafford?
Robot: NO.Ev.gen.i.Mal.kin.does.not.compute.does.not.com.pute.does.not.com.pute.
does….not…com….puuuute…
Darcy Regier: Darn it.  This robot is always getting jammed. (slams the robot on the head)
Robot: (whirring back to life) ….a.cord.ing.to.my.cal.cu.la.tions.Drew.Staff.ord.
is.bett.er.at.hoc.key.than.Ev.gen.i.Malk.in.
Darcy: Okay, robot.  If you say so!  Stafford it is!  I’ll pick Malkin in round two…

(I know, I know. The Sabres did NOT actually draft Staffy before Malkin.)

_________

I think that’s enough nonsense for one day.

(Private message to the Sabres: The moral of the story is you should NEVER give me and Heather just a little information.  That’s about the worst thing you could possible do.  You should either explain how your video scouting works completely, or you shouldn’t say anything at all.  As God is my witness, I will believe for the rest of my days that you’re sending Short Circuit to do your scouting.)

2 Things: Schopp and the Bulldog Edition

1.Yesterday afternoon Schopp and the Bulldog had one of the most intelligent and logical conversations about Lindy Ruff that I’ve ever heard in the Buffalo media.

As everyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I’ve been harping on the Lindy issue for many months, but one thing I’m still not sure I’ve ever adequately expressed is that my real interest isn’t in seeing Lindy fired.  For me, the most compelling thing about the Lindy conversation is….the actual conversation.

Hearing a radio show where the callers were essentially challenged to make arguments that go beyond the endless repetition of “He’s one of the best in the league,” and “It’s all Larry Quinn’s fault” and “He’s doing the best with the players he’s got” was extremely refreshing.  Extremely. And the callers came through with intelligent responses. (FOR REAL.)  That was the part of the show that really blew my mind.  A guy called in, and defended Lindy with keen observation and a total lack of sentimentality.  I’m not sure I’ve EVER heard someone do that before.  It rocked, and it made me think about the Lindy issue a little differently.

The case for or against Lindy isn’t clear cut.  There’s quite a lot to discuss once we are operating in a conversational environment where Lindy isn’t in some bizarre blameless bubble.  All I really know for sure is that if Larry Quinn is the devil, and Lindy Ruff is a saint, the conversation is useless because it’s pure fiction.  By clinging to these cartoonish characterizations, we’ve been opting out of discussing the Sabres in any meaningful way.

I’ve been perplexed and frustrated that much of the main stream media in Buffalo has (until very recently) appeared to value Lindy’s quotability over reasoned, critical analysis.   Blogs have been clawing at this issue for awhile, but it’s the main stream media that can really effect the tone of the large scale conversation.  There are two perfectly reasonable sides to this story, and if both are approached with levelheadedness, we can elevate the level of dialog.

Hooray!

2. In addition to interesting Lindy conversations, Schopp and the Bulldog have been talking a lot about the impossible pipe dream idea of Martin Biron returning to Buffalo as Crunchy’s backup.  There are a couple of good arguments to be made in favor of this plan, but the most compelling one is something I hadn’t thought about until Bulldog brought it up.

Ryan Miller is almost certainly going to the Winter Olympics this year.  He might even be the starting goalie.  What are the chances that our high-strung, underweight, prone-to-exhaustion, little scarecrow of a goalie can handle the extra workload with ease?  Yeah…I’m thinking not good.

We need a better backup, and Marty Biron ain’t got no job.

Free Agency, Day 2

(Darcy and Larry Quinn are lounging around a fancy office.  Darcy is leaned all the way back in a chair with his feet up on the desk, and Larry is laying face down, draped over a couch on the other side of the room. A phone is ringing.)

*ring*

Darcy: I’m bored.

Larry: Me too. (pause) I can’t wait for the fireworks this weekend.

*ring*

*ring*

Darcy: Fireworks are awesome.

*ring*

Larry: (Picking head up from couch) Would you PLEASE answer that phone.

Darcy: YOU answer it.

Larry: Dude, I’m the boss of you.  Answer it.

*ring*

*ring*

Darcy: It’ll stop in a minute.

*ring*

Larry: Do you have any gum?

Darcy: No…..chewed it. (snaps gum)

*ring*

*ring*

*ring*

Larry: Who do you think that is calling?

Darcy: I dunno.  Probably some GM.  They’ve been hassling me all day.

Larry: Ugh.  I hate those guys.

*ring*

*ring*

(Jochen Hecht bursts into the room)

Hecht: OH MY GOD WILL SOMEONE ANSWER THE FLIPPING PHONE?!  IT’S BEEN RINGING FOR TWENTY MINUTES!

(Darcy and Larry don’t move except to lift their heads to look at Hecht)

Larry: Answer it yourself, Fritz.

(Hecht sighs dramatically and picks up phone)

Hecht: (into phone) Darcy Regier’s office, this is Jochen Hecht speaking.  (looks down at Darcy Reiger who nearly horizontal in his chair and blowing bubbles with his gum) No….he’s not available right now.  Can I take a message?  (begins scribbling things down on a pad) Okay, okay, I’ve got it.  Thank you Mr. Burke, I’ll have him call you right back.  Goodbye.

Darcy: (not moving) The Burkinator.  That dude is kuh-RAZY.   What did he want?

Hecht: (reading directly off notepad) Check your email….asswipe.  Schenn for Tallinider is off the table.

Larry: HAHAHA!  Brian Burke called you an asswipe, Darce.

Darcy: (mumbling) Whatever.

Hecht: (tosses pad onto desk in disgust) Shouldn’t you guys BE WORKING?!

Larry: We ARE working. (pause) We just took a call from Brian Burke.

Hecht: No you DIDN’T!

Darcy: Jochen, this is my quiet genius at work, okay?  If you don’t like it, maybe you should go play for another team. (sarcastically) Oh wait….You CAN’T, can you?   Nobody WANTS you on their team, do they?

Larry: Heh.  Your contract is untouchable, dude.

(Pause)

Darcy: I’m hungry.

Larry: Me too.

Darcy: Oooh.  You wanna get Jim’s for lunch, Lare?

(Larry leaps off the couch)

Larry: HELLZ YEAH I DO!

(Darcy leaps out of chair)

Darcy: WOOOOOOOOOOOO!

(Darcy and Larry high five and start a conga line out of the office)

End Scene

The Sabres Are Dumb

The Sabres trumpeted this information on their website and on Twitter:

Picture 22

All aboard the Lunch Express!  Next stop, tenth place!

I’d post a link, but the tweet has been deleted (good thing I took a screen shot!) and the information on the website has been changed. Apparently the segment will NOT be live, but taped in the morning, before free agency begins.

Still.

If I weren’t crying about the fact that our GM is wasting ANY time on July 1st with this nonsense, I’d be giggling about the fact that someone (probably SEVERAL people) at the Sabres organization thought this was a good plan.

Here’s how I’m pretty sure that went down:

Random PR dude: Hey, I know what Sabres fans want most on July 1st!

Hecht: For me to get traded?

Random PR dude: No!  They want the opportunity to ask Darcy Regier a softball question!

Hecht: Are…you sure about that?

Random PR dude: Of COURSE!  The Fans LOVE listening to Darcy drone on and on about his justification for doing nothing!  They LOVE it!  And do you know what else do fans love?

Hecht: ….?

Random PR dude: No, seriously. Take a guess.  What do fans love more than Darcy Regier?  Come on.  One guess.

Hecht:….um…..lunch?

Random PR dude: Exactly!  And trains!  Lunch, trains, and Darcy Regier!  It CAN’T FAIL!

Hecht: But shouldn’t Darcy be working, or at the very least be pretending to work tomorrow?  It’s the opening of free agency.  I think fans want to see change.  Won’t a “live” interview be sending the wrong message to the fans?

Random PR dude: Nah.  But what do you think Darcy?

Darcy Regier: Working?  On free agency day?  I’d be BURNED AT THE STAKE!  No!  The people want to ask me stuff!

Random PR dude: See!  It’s what the people want!  Trust me.  I know these things.  The Lunch Express is a big hit.  Next week we’re going to have an interview with Tom Golisano, but we’re not going to ask him any questions.  It’s just going to be ten minutes of him in Florida, sitting on a pile of cash, and making out with Monica Seles.  The Sabres fans are going to go NUTS for it!  WOOOO!

(long silence)

Hecht: I’d like a trade.

Darcy Regier: Well, too bad!  You’re untradeable!  WOOOOOOO!

Then, Darcy and the PR Department turn off all the phones, fax machines, and computers so the racket of other team’s GMs calling won’t interfere with the taping of the Lunch Express. Then they high five and start a conga line.

(I feel a little bad about this post.  I’m not sure that it’s cool to make fun of the Sabres PR people.  I think that athletes, coaches and GMs are fair game for bloggy meanness, but I’m less sure about the people working in the office.  Sorry, Sabres PR people! I couldn’t resist!)

(Now that I really think about it, this might be all Kevin Sylvester’s fault.)

(Blaming Kevin Sylvester for everything is fair, funny, and most likely totally accurate.)



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In accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Law, The Willful Caboose uses logos and registered trademarks of the National Hockey League to convey my criticism and inform the public of the Sabres' suckitude/badassitude (whatever the case may be). Photos on The Willful Caboose are used without permission, but do not interfere with said owner's profit. If you own a specific image on this site and want it removed, please e-mail me (willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com) and I will be more than happy willing to oblige. (Special thanks to The Pensblog for their help with this disclaimer.)

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