State of the Onion, Part II

I find myself with an unfamiliar Sabres-related spring in my step this afternoon.  I’m, like, happy about them or something today.  Maybe “happy” is taking things too far.  It’s not happiness I feel, it’s a lack of these-guys-make-me-want-to-barf-ism.   Over the last few months, I’ve come to accept the Sabres for what they are (a mess), and along with this acceptance has come an unexpected sense of peace.

It’s been a bit easier to feel peaceful about them of late.  They really haven’t been all that bad.  8-3-1 in their last twelve games.  Sure, two of the three Islanders games were horror shows, but still, their recent record is their recent record.  They’re doing alright.  Yesterday afternoon I was shocked to realize that the Sabres are six point back, with three games in hand over the Thrashers.  That’s doable, you guys.  It’s not likely, but it is doable.

The thing that’s been most interesting about this stretch of non-suckiness is that they’ve done it with significant injuries to the corp of forwards.  It makes no sense that the team’s record improved as their top points guys started dropping like flies, but there you go.  I find myself watching these games with a kind of bemused detachment.  Like, “Huh.  Look at little Gerbe go.”  It’s nice.

I believe the main reason for this pleasing sense of not-quite-optimism is Terry Pegula.  I don’t tend to put much stock in the ramblings of Bucky Gleason, but the one thing we’ve been consistently told is that Pegula will eventually buy the team.  After that it’s anybody’s guess what Pegula will do, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine that he’ll be as checked-out as Golisano.  Even if Pegula keeps both Darcy and Lindy, at the very least, Larry Quinn will be out of the picture.  That’s not nothing.

As far as players go, next season Rivet, Niedermayer, Connolly, and Grier will almost certainly be gone.  The Sabres will have a new captain- one who presumably will not be in the pressbox for weeks at a time.  Connolly, the guy who drives us all batty with rage, will be driving some other fanbase batty with rage next season. (Imagine a Sabresworld without Connolly!  Just imagine!  I bet the air will smell sweeter, and the arena will be bathed in the warm glow of heavenly love, and little bluebirds will flutter down to perch on our fingers as we sing songs about how much we love the Sabres during the games.  Paradise!)  Obviously, Nieds has been a complete disaster, and thankfully, next year he’ll be gone.  And Grier, well, we wish him the best.  Thanks for your service, good man.  Now please, retire, and stop taking Luke Adams’ minutes.   The elimination of these four players from the roster is NOT insignificant, and by shedding these contracts the Sabres will be waaay ahead of recent years in the “addition by subtraction” category.  WAY ahead.

I’m also hopeful that the Sabres will find a taker for Drew Stafford at the trade deadline.  There are some people who advocate keeping Staffy, and to those people I say, “You’re wronger than anyone has ever been wrong.”  Read this post by Hockey Rhetoric and then come back here and say we should keep Staffy.  It’s time to turn the page on Staffy, just like we turned the page on MacArthur.  (Do you guy miss Clarke MacArthur?  I sure don’t.)

And these are all changes that we can reasonably expect even if Darcy stays.

If Darcy is canned, we’re looking at a whole new Sabres landscape.  I’ve always been curious to find out if the fierce loyalty that Darcy has shown Lindy is a two-way street.  Will Lindy even want to stay if Darcy goes?  I won’t even bother speculating on what kind of on-ice changes a new GM and a new coach might bring, because at that point we’re basically talking about a different franchise.  We’d be in no-man’s land.  Delicious, exciting, thrilling no-man’s land.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I really believe that things ARE going to be different next season.  I don’t see any way around it.  Even if Darcy stays, Tim Connolly and Larry Quinn are leaving. For the first time in my short fandom, the sense that “nothing will ever change” is gone.  I’m watching the Sabres differently now.  I’m watching with a more appraising eye.  In a weird way I’m grateful for the string of injuries because it’s given us the opportunity to get a good look at the young guys in the system.  I’m looking at the franchise as a whole, and I’m trying to figure out what we’ve really got here.  Watching the Sabres like this is refreshing and it’s fun, and most importantly, it’s different.  In that respect, the change is already beginning for me.

Barring some miracle, this season will not amount to much, but I’ve really enjoyed watching the Sabres lately.  I’m less preoccupied with wins and losses, and more fascinated by the individual efforts of particular players.  (You know who I’ve found downright riveting lately?  Sekera.)

The entrance of Pegula has allowed me to give up on the season without giving up on the Sabres, and that is a change I never saw coming.

13 Responses to “State of the Onion, Part II”

  1. 1 Capsworth January 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Perfect post. I award it an A+ and cosign in full.

    “little bluebirds will flutter down to perch on our fingers as we sing songs about how much we love the Sabres during the games…”

  2. 2 SLC January 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I would like to offer, in advance of imminent puck drop, the Ottawa Senators’ full assistance in maintaining your new found not-quite-optimism. You’re welcome.

  3. 3 Katebits January 25, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks for your help, SLC! I have to say, the Sens and the Sabres really are impressively bad. They put on quite a not-quite-hockey game.

  4. 4 Kathleen January 26, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Totally with you, except I don’t know, I think I’d miss Connolly if he leaves. Life would be less exciting without those spectacular highs (where have they gone?) and bottomless lows. Also, I’d miss the jokes.

    But about Stafford? You’re wronger than anyone has ever been wrong.

  5. 5 Kaz January 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I have really been enjoying seeing the young guys play. They really have that desire to work hard and look like they are enjoying the game. Even Gerbe has been fun to watch lately…

  6. 6 Sharpie January 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

    “We’d be in no-man’s land.”

    I’m not so sure that would be a good thing. I remember from history that “no-man’s land” is a phras coined in WWI to refer to the land between the opposing trenched where one was almost sure to die, either from machine gun fire, chemical warfare, straffing fire from aircraft, or mortars. I think that any major changes would do best to have a transition phase. I’m not saying Lindy ought to Buffalo’s version of Joe Paterno, but I think he ought to be given a year to help with the transition, then decide what to do with him. I think part of what free-agents look for in chosing which team with which to sign is stability and viability. In such a case having a change in ownership, mamagement, and coaching seems to carry an air of desperation which would be unwanted by big name players. In lieu of evidence I submit this question: Might there have been ambig name free-agent or a trade for a majormplayer which we never heard about sincemthe other parties were completely uninterested in the offer(s)? I’m just sayiing that a total wipe of the slate may do more harm than good.

  7. 7 Katebits January 26, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Sharpie, I think you might have a point. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to Lindy staying for another year just for the sake of stability. BUT, I also don’t think there is much evidence that NHLers like playing for Lindy. I mean, it’s not as if the free agents are flocking towards the Sabres as it is. I actually agree that a total wipe of the slate might do more harm than good initially, but I also think we might need to be in genuine rebuilding mode in order to work ourselves out of this mess that Darcy and Lindy made. If done well, the rebuild will be worth it. I dunno. Hard to say. As far as Lindy goes, the other thing that we have to remember is that he’s a free agent after the season. I think it’s within the realm of possibility that he might want to move on himself, especially if Darcy’s gone.

  8. 8 Mike in Idaho January 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Katebits, I agree that free agents don’t flock to Buffalo as is but that might be because the Sabres are constantly outbid by other teams rather than players hating Lindy or Buffalo in general. My wife still insists that she saw quotes from Briere that he would have loved to stay in Buffalo but that their offers were very low. Whether that is true or not, I haven’t heard of the Sabres even in the running for any big name free agent in the last several years.

  9. 9 Katebits January 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I agree, Mike. I have NO evidence that players don’t like playing for Lindy. Probably shouldn’t have even thrown that out there. And your wife is right. It’s been pretty well established that Briere would’ve stayed if Buffalo had made a competitive offer. I think the most likely reason that Buffalo has a hard time signing free agents is that the organizational philosophy is that paying big bucks for FAs is “wrong”. Probably nothing to do with Lindy.

  10. 10 boonies January 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    If I was Terry Pegula, I would have had a Craig Patrick scout this team for 10-12 games in advance of the purchase, ready to step in as interim GM before the bodies of Quinn and Regier (“Darcy the Ditherer”) are even at room temperature.
    Move now , approaching the deadline to trim the driftwood off the roster and go for the playoffs full bore. Then after we approach Rick Dudley as GM to do here what he has shown elsewhere- take chances that may not work, rather than Mr. Fudd’s “belt and suspenders” approach to free agency…then Patrick becomes team president and a Luce or Jim Benning comes in to help with personnel.
    We MUST have a guy in trades/FA season who has no crush on his draftees a’la Darcy “Top Twenty” Fudd…

  11. 11 Matthew January 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I believe Ruff is a great coach. He takes marginal NHL talent, players that don’t necessarily complement each other, and turns the team into a playoff contender year after year. Imagine if we had some real scoring talent other than Vanek on the team! Look at teams with loads of scoring talent such as Tampa Bay Lightning with St. Louis and LaCavalier. They won the cup in 03-04, and then completely fell apart ever since…

    • 12 Katebits January 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      All but the most chronically mismanaged teams should be contending to make the playoffs, every single season. Half the NHL gets into the playoffs every year. That means probably 2/3rds of the teams are contending to make the playoffs on any given year. I think you could argue that the reason the Sabres have been consistently competitive-but-not-great is because of Darcy’s deliberate nature just as much as you can argue it’s because of Lindy’s mad coaching skillz.

      In my opinion it’s pretty difficult to separate Lindy’s work from Darcy’s. It doesn’t make sense to me to put all of the blame on one of them and all of the fault on the other. They are a team.

  1. 1 General (Manager) Ruff? | The Goose's Roost Trackback on January 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

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