That Leafs game was some seriously good times. Leafs fans are annoying mothereffers, but the arena was undeniably amazing on Friday. The Leafs fans added to our experience tremendously. At times (like, every time the Sabres scored) it was AWESOME to have so many Leafs fans there, and times I wanted to light myself on fire with rage, but the entire night was passionately experienced, which is more than I can say for most games at FNC these days.
In the past I’ve avoided Leafs games (because, as previously mentioned, Leafs fans are annoying mothereffers, but also because you can completely rip them off by selling them your tickets), but Friday was a real eye opener. Leafs games are high risk, high reward. If the Sabres had lost it would’ve been playoff-loss-level misery, but when they won it felt like no win could ever feel as good as that win. Sometimes it’s good to just lose your head during a game, and the Leafs game certainly provide plenty of opportunity for that. (Along those lines, about halfway through the game, while watching a drunk, moronic nearby Leafs fan stand up in a sea of Sabres fans [during a commercial break, no less] and do that infinitely retarded thing where he grabbed the logo on his jersey to “taunt” other fans, Robin suddenly blurted out, “I’m gonna to punch that guy.” And for a brief moment, I think she meant it. After the moment passed, we laughed REALLY hard about that one, because of all the people I know, Robin might be the least likely to punch someone at a sporting event. The fact that she was tempted to punch someone speaks volumes about Leafs fans and also about our level of emotional commitment to the game. We went all in on Friday, and our reward was sweet.)
Robin and I sit low in the shoot twice side, so the Leaf fan presence wasn’t that horrendous (visiting fans tend to gravitate more towards the other end), but I know that my friend Roman didn’t fair as well. He estimated that up in his section in the 300s, the ratio was 70/30, Leafs fans. Ew! Poor Roman! But down in our end, we were mostly okay. In fact, the closest guy to us in a Leafs jersey turned out to be a Sabres fan who had lost a bet. We discovered this when, to our complete confusion, he turned around to high five us after the Sabres’ second goal.
Me: (high fives a dude in a Leafs jersey) WTF, dude? (points to his Leafs jersey)
Him: (shakes his head sadly) It’s okay. I’m a Sabres fan. I lost a bet.
Me: Ouch. Does your skin burn in that thing?
Him: Yeah, it does.
There was a moment late in the third period when I remember thinking to myself, “No matter what happens with the final score, I need to remember how fun this game has been.” Thank you Hockey Gods, for not testing my resolve on that pledge.
I had so much fun on Friday that after the game ended I was tempted to make a pact with the devil: As long as the Sabres manage to beat the Leafs at FNC forever and for all eternity, I don’t care what else happens. But thank GOD the devil wasn’t taking my calls on Friday night because the VERY next day, I was whistling a different tune…
I was playing a concert Saturday night, so I didn’t see much of the game. But I saw enough. I saw enough to say definitively that the Sabres are in deep doo-doo. If Ryan Miller is going to play like crap, and half the roster is going to be injured, and the other half of the roster is going to be Roy and Stafford… the Sabres are in serious trouble. Not, like, cute “we just need time to gel, but it’s okay because we beat the Leafs last night” trouble, but real, “OMG. This season will be lost,” trouble.
The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I agree with Ted Black. We need to be patient. It’s not that I think that if we’re patient this roster is suddenly going to be good, or that Lindy Ruff will suddenly figure out how to make Roy and Stafford stop sucking, or that everything will be better once Tyler Myers and Brad Boyes come back. I just think it’s going to take time to fix this team. The fix is way more complicated than we want to believe.
Personally, until Ted Black and Terry Pegula give me reason to feel otherwise, I trust them to make measured, intelligent changes. It probably wasn’t what I would’ve done (no one will ever accuse me of being intelligent and measured), but keeping Lindy and Darcy after the ownership change was the intelligent, measured thing to do. The problem is that right now, in this situation, there isn’t a measured, intelligent change available. A new coach wouldn’t suddenly heal the injured players, and a new GM couldn’t make new cap space appear out of thin air.
As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m not one of those, “Lindy should have a job for life,” people. I’ve called for his head before. Right now, I don’t think the problem is coaching, and even if I did, there is just NO WAY Lindy should be fired while his forward lines look like this.
As for Darcy: So far, this season is looking like a perfect storm of suck for Darcy. I’m not willing to argue that any of his off-season signings were disastrous on their own (okay, maybe Leino, but… I still want to believe in Leino, so dammit, that’s what I’ll do), but the cap situation is h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e. The Sabres have exactly zero space under the cap right now and they are in injury hell. The lack of cap space puts Darcy in a severely weakened position when it comes to tinkering with the current roster. Even when the plan was “cross your fingers and pray everyone stays healthy,” Darcy was still walking a very dangerous line with his cap space, but now, with all these call ups, he’s in serious trouble. This is the very definition of cap mismanagement, and in my opinion, depending on how the season shakes out, it’s a fire-able offense. But again, we’ll see.
It’s annoying as HELL to admit it, but it’s pretty difficult to fairly assess the roster with this many injuries. The intelligent, measured thing to do is to wait and see. Ted is right.
It seems to me that a lot of Sabres fans reacted to Pegula by upping their expectations dramatically without much consideration for how these new expectations could be met. I upped my expectations too, but unlike in the past, I now have faith that Sabres ownership is going to keep trying. When things don’t work out, Pegula and Ted Black aren’t going to do nothing. No, the first two and a half months of the 2011/12 season have not gone spectacularly well, but, I fully believe that they’re going to keep trying. So, if Darcy and/or Lindy need to go, I think sooner rather than later they will go. I couldn’t say that about the previous ownership.
Instead of feeling angry about the roster, I feel oddly pacified this season. It never made sense to me that Pegula could waltz in and be all, “I am a billionaire, and I want a Cup! BEGIN WINNING CUPS, BUFFALO SABRES.” That would’ve been too easy.
I believe that when Pegula took over, he gave Darcy Regier just enough rope to hang himself. Whether or not Darcy’s summertime moves have doomed him is still up in the air. I like Darcy as a person, and I love it when the Sabres are successful, so I hope things turn around here, but if they don’t, I do trust that things will change.
For now, we wait.
(But if Darcy wants to get to work trading Roy and/or Stafford, that’d be fine by me.)