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.


6 Responses to “Tick Tock”

  1. 1 James Weise (@JimBobv2) February 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    If there are the usual lack of impactful moves by Regier between now and training camp 2012 and he and Ruff are still in place.

    Yeah, I’ll start wondering what the heck Pegula & Black are thinking.

    I’m sort of there today.

  2. 2 Matt Meddaugh February 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    We could still blow up the roster and win a cup in 2 more years. There are veterans that won’t be moved (Regier, Leino, Erhoff), we could trade Roy, Stafford, Boyes for best we can get. Then, also trade Myers, Vanek, and Pomminville for a TON of 1st round picks, highly touted prospects, etc. Imagine all that talented depth joined with our own. That’s how you create a new identity, and that’s how you win multiple cups.

  3. 3 Katebits February 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Matt, I guess my point in bringing up the whole “three year plan” is that it sounded foolish to me then, and in light of what actually happened this season, it sounds even more foolish now. As for your plan, I don’t see how trading our only good players for prospects and picks puts the Sabres closer to the Cup. That would put us much, much farther away. Sure, in time it might prove to be a good move, but prospects take time to develop, and there’s always a risk they don’t pan out at all. It they’re going to blow up the team to that degree, then we’re definitely more than two years away from a Cup. I don’t think Pegula did himself, the fans, or the team any favors with the “three year” thing.

  4. 4 scottymcss February 18, 2012 at 10:03 am

    The Pegula birthday flashmob is just not gonna’ happen this year. :(

  5. 5 Bobby Digital (@PassionBucket16) February 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    “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. ”

    If you think Darcy has ten days to save his job, you’re really wishing upon a star. They could lose every game until the end of the season and Darcy and Lindy will still be around.

  6. 6 Mikey B February 21, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I still have faith in Pegula and Co. I think this year they were really getting the lay of the land and giving a lot of the organization a full season “working interview”. I have some predictions.

    1) Regier is no longer the GM come summertime.

    He may not be out of the organization entirely. Lets give credit where it’s due: the man is amazing at finding talented players, his track record shows that. His failing seems to be overvaluing players we already have. Unless he puts together some CRAZY DYNAMITE BLOCKBUSTER deadline trade, I think he’s done. They won’t fire him during the season, it’s already a lost cause, a new GM at this stage of the game changes nothing. (God it pains me to admit that the season is lost. CRY!) I think they let him finish out this season, and either let him go or move him to some other job that isn’t GM.

    2) Ruff is coaching at the start of next season.

    Come on, the man is made out of some wacky combination of adamantium and teflon. If a grenade landed on him, four days later his head would be behind the bench in a glass jar full of brain juice a la Futurama. He’s a good coach, and the kind of tough as nails character that Buffalonians love.

    3) A major trade/deal will happen over the summer. I’m not talking Roy for Mecha-Gretzky, I mean someone that most of us consider “untouchable” will get traded. I think the new GM the Sabres get is going to “shake things up” and we’re going to see something drastic, like Myers not lacing up skates for the Blue and Gold at puck drop next year. Despite what a lot of people think, the goaltending is in excellent shape. We have a great starter with a talented backup of the right ages so that the backup is a natural to replace the starter in a few years. You might argue that there are better goalies out there, lord knows Miller’s numbers haven’t been super good this year, but it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to trade for one.

    After that, our defense is actually pretty deep right now. Stats show that a healthy Sabres defense leads to a ton of wins.

    Finally, our offense is awesome! …no wait, I meant suck. The offense SUCKS. When I saw them give up a 2-0 lead only to lose 7-2, I for the first time thought, “BLOW IT ALL UP”. Keep Vanek, Pomminville, Ennis cuz he’s crafty, Gerbe cuz he’s shifty, and maaaybe Kaleta or Gaustad for grit. Push everyone else out the damn window. I finally caved. We need a center. A REAL center. Which gets me back to the point.

    I think the goaltending is good. I think we need a true number one center. We’re deep at defense. That means we probably need to trade a defenseman for a center. If we want a real center, we’re going to have to pay for it. That points to Myers. I hope I’m wrong, I hope we can trade Roy, Stafford and a bag of pucks for Parise, (Holy shit can you imagine Parise centering Vanek and Pomminville? SWOON) But I think realistically it’s gonna take something drastic.

    4) Gerbe is gonna grow 15 inches and gain 75 pounds. Totally. Count on it. It’s gonna happen!

    It’s cliche, but I think it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. I still have faith in the new ownership, but I have a feeling some bad bad stuff is gonna happen this summer. Otherwise they do nothing and we all get super mad. One thing’s for sure, something good better happen or I’m not paying for Center Ice anymore!

    …good god man, does anyone know where I can check into a hockey rehab clinic? A post this long at 4:30 in the morning, I think I’m ready to admit that I have a problem.

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