The Outlander Top moment of season until today
I really didn't know when I was going to write another post here. The Red Sox season- while for me magical and enthralling- has been described in many different publications and blogs by many different writers than myself in much more satisfying ways. Not to mention our readership's approval rating of the Red Sox has got to be hovering in the same ballpark as Congress' and I don't need to put something out exhalting my joy just for all you to shit all over it.
You're not my real dad dammit.
As for our local teams, up until about 9:15 this morning, what could really be said? Our Bills weekly previews and reviews capture this season's varying degrees of optimism and hopelessness, especially now that we just got clocked with the 2x4 of reality watching the Pittsburgh game. The best Sabres forward of the past fifteen years got traded and the team has embarked on a journey that many fan bases have endured but virtually no one who has ever watched this team has had to witness: the laughingstock year. The year of catching shit from every friend or coworker who roots for other teams or generally enjoys the despair of others; the season of watching them in numb resignation, too indifferent to yell at the television, not because the team didn't look terrible but because you knew that they simply couldn't do any better. They're a cast of guys who may be perfectly likable and able to contribute to the right team (except Stafford, fuck him), but to watch them skate around for two and a half hours chasing their own tail just simply wasn't a good use of our time.
The constant theme to make us want to tear our hair out- those of you with any considerable remaining scraps anyways- was the decision-making of the coach regarding lines, scratches and ice time, really the only things that a coach does that are pretty easy and straightforward. A coach watches the players and puts the best ones on the ice, with the most offensively skilled players matching up with others of their like. It's literally the only thing that someone playing NHL '14 can do as well as a real coach. And somehow, someway, this team managed to place a man in this position who could not even be passable at this task. These are not mistakes - as Doug Marrone, for instance, freely admits to making when they appear - it was a failure of philosophy; a flaw in Ron Rolston's hockey DNA that poisoned the entire franchise in a matter of months and has at the very least set back the development of young talent and possibly derailed it permanently. It's easy to not care about who wears the "C" when they're in the rightfully earned position for their skill set. It is much harder to ignore when that same player is being double shifted in the third period of a game you're being outshot by thirty.
So where did this get us, or me more specifically? I was offered tickets to last night's game and had not even the slightest bit of interest because there was a UB FOOTBALL game on television. Tickets were hovering in the low teens and I didn't even consider heading down to the FNC to take in the carnage. The overhead of attending a game (traffic, new security measures, parking, a late bedtime on a weeknight) had become too much to see what has been my favorite local team since well before I was a teenager. I've spent thirty bucks on weeknights just to yell at Patrick Lalime about how much he sucks, but I could no longer be bothered. A 3-7 Bills team appeared light years ahead of their NHL counterpart and it wasn't close. Any optimism for the future, be it trades, draft picks or free agents could be dismissed simply by mentioning those who were in charge of acquiring talent and developing talent. I am confident in saying there has not been as dark a time regarding the cumulative future of our professional teams, and while the Bills have had bright spots in the midst of an objectively dismal record, what did we have to look forward to regarding the hockey team? The jersey retirement of a guy who hasn't played for them in a dozen years? The failure of the young kids to ultimately develop and trigger the long overdue firing of Rolston some three years down the road? The hope that maybe the third time the seemingly immovable General Manager failed at rebuilding a team from the ground up, it would be his curtain call?
Over six years removed from their last playoff series victory that distant hope for the future was too far off for many, including myself.
News happened yesterday. We blew the conch, gathered, and produced this. Enjoy.
Music by, well, I won't ruin the surprise. You're welcome.
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Another guest contributor? Another guest contributor.
By Peter Berkes
I’m going to try to keep this brief. Last year, they lost me.
Fresh on the heels of another mediocre season and a prolonged, acrimonious, and completely avoidable lockout, the Buffalo Sabres started out the 2012-13 season like dog mess stuck to a boot. At that point, my frustration with the franchise reached critical mass, and I cashed out. I think I actually said to a TV, “Look, call me when you’re interested in being good again, because this shit is not working for me.”
That was somewhere between games five and ten last year, and since then, I haven’t watched more than a stray minute or two of the Sabres. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t missed them. Sure, I stayed up to date with what was happening on twitter since there’s no way I could unfollow everyone in Buffalo twitter, but I was pretty much completely disengaged from the team.
It’s a really and truly weird thing to actively dislike your favorite team. Sure, we all have that on some level with the Bills, but it was different for me with the Sabres. And it all came back to God damn Darcy Regier.
I can handle failure. I mean, Jesus, I’m a Buffalo sports fan. Failure happens, but this franchise has been a walking, shambling corpse. It felt like Terry Pegula, the man we all thought was going to spend this team to a championship in short order, was nothing more than some stammering Whiner Line regular who was still stuck in the 90s. But after finally pulling the plug on Regier and Ron Rolston, it feels like there may actually be something good that comes from all this.
The thought of Regier attempting to rebuild this franchise after he personally steered it into the ditch was, for the lack of a better term, completely fucked. We don’t know if Pat LaFontaine and whoever he hires to be general manager will be any better, but it’s different, and that’s enough to get my attention. Yes, that’s pretty sad, but that’s where we are. This is Progress. Capital P. I don’t really care about Ted Nolan. He’s not going to be around next year anyway, so just play the kids a lot every night and get the team working hard and I’ll consider his return a success.
There have been a lot of people that think this move is just more bullshit from the Sabres because they brought back two guys with ties to the team. It’s certainly possible. LaFontaine doesn’t have any real experience as an executive, but he at least realizes it. He seems smart enough to hire someone who has done this before. But the larger point is this: Just because someone has ties to the organization doesn’t mean they’re clueless. It makes for an easy joke because hurr durr Buffalo, but anyone who says so is more interested in humping away at narrative than assessing the situation honestly. I want the best possible people to be the coach and GM of the Sabres, and I don’t care where they’re from. Hopefully Pat can put those people in place. If not, hopefully it doesn’t take a billion years for him and everyone else to be replaced.
So am I back in? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that they have my attention. Let’s go.
The first of many takes on this news... Guest contributor, former full-timer...
This is all very odd. It probably has something to do with my fever-ridden brain, but all of this feels as if it may vanish next morning. Am I going to wake up in bed with Susane Pleshette? Is Patrick Duffy going to be in the shower? Am I a kid with autism staring at a snow globe?
Terry Pegula finally took full ownership of the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night when he relieved General Manager Darcy Regier and Head Coach Ron Rolston on their posts. Regier had been GM for the Sabres for 16 years, winning no championships. In their places: Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations and Ted Nolan - TED NOLAN WHAT THE FUCK - as interim Head Coach. Now the last vestiges of Golisano and Rigas are gone. This is the real Pegula Day.
I've always kind of wondered about Pegula and his level control with this team. He took charge in a bath of glory from a desperate fanbase and then immediately proclaimed that nothing would change. There was no new vision. There was no grand strategic plan. It was the men he retained, finally being free of inept management. Pegula found out, brutally, that the ineptness resided within the room.
It could not be easy for the man. He showed deep emotional committment to Lindy Ruff and Regier on the day he took full vestment. He had to believe deep down in their abilities. To come to the realization that maybe your heroes cant save the world is, to borrow from Ruff's dialog, a tough one. But controlling a sports team means, quite often, having to dispense with the people you love and respect most in order to maintain peak performance. Pegula's sentimentality got the better of him. We should hope its a mistake he never makes again.
The Sabres have maybe acquired something they haven't had since the lockout of 2004, and that is vision. The infusion of LaFontaine may bring that grand plan the team had desperately been lacking for so long. Since Pegula bought the team they have wandered from one half-assed strategy to the next. They thought they could turn it around right when he bought the team in 2011, but couldn't quite make it work. No one could agree as to whether they were rebuilding or not after that. Did they start rebuilding last year? When they fired Ruff? When they hired Rolston? When they traded Pominville? The ship was without a captain.
Regier was always good at holding a thing together, but it felt like he was taking direction from elsewhere. He did well when someone else wrote the rules of engagement. Both Rigas and Golisano set financial goals for the franchise and had direct impact on personnel decisions made by the team. Pegula was adamant that wouldn't happen again, but assumed that the man taking orders was being restrained by the financial constraints as opposed to fulfilling the job at which he was his best. Pegula got a chance to see Regier's style of management for himself, free of interference, and saw a void. "Fuck. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I just wanted to believe in this guy."
Hey man, you always said you were a fan first. Well this is a first rate fan fuck up. We do this shit all the time.
The blessings of unimaginable personal wealth is that you can fuck up without any personal risk. Saying Pegula is getting a second chance at this isn't quite phrasing right, because the guy never really took the helm, nor does he necessarily have a finite number of chances to take. This is where the guy is giving it a shot. This is where his mark is to be made. The fact that LaFontaine and Nolan both have been with this franchise before and worked together on Long Island in a similar capacity should not be mistaken for another bout of crippling sentimentality (although there is a great risk of it being just that). The two of them bring definitiveness.
No one would ever accuse Ted Nolan of being ambiguous. His goal and ambitions are clear to the point of friction. He causes intense heat in organizations. Lucky for him he joins a franchise where all the boilers are out. There maybe isn't a greater myth, in the classic sense of the word, in Buffalo sports than that of Nolan's ability to draw blood from stone and passion from the uninspired. His team was The Hardest Working Team In The NHL. They may not be good, but at least they will beat the shit out of somebody. Plenty of the old schoolers will be out in force clamoring for the days of the mid-90s. They'll march down Washington Street carrying signs that read "Corsi Who?" and "Math Can't Win In The Streets." They will be put to bed by a lullaby of Bob Boughner and Brad May, sleeping to dream of an end to analytics.
Seeing this element pop up makes me uneasy. I could hold my breath comfortably within the time one of these 90s hockey-worshiping mastodons calls an opposing player a faggot. Not the classiest brigade in the order of battle. Perhaps though, this is part of the myth building. Nolan's last gig was Head Coach of the Latvian national team. International hockey is not the best arena for rock'em sock'em hockey, yet Nolan got his squad into the Olympics. Maybe the man has more than just a bag of hammers in his toolbox, even if that's not what many Sabres fans care about right now.
LaFontaine got fired from the Islanders for telling them what he thought. That act should shine as an act of bureaucratic valor unparalleled in hockey. He is now on the outs on the Island. Their loss. I don't quite know what his game plan is. He never got a chance to put it into effect with the Islanders, but whatever it was it pissed off Charles Wang to the point of termination. Tell me more, Mr. LaFontaine.
We are in a position of potential energy maybe unseen in Buffalo sports. U.B. football is on the rise and Bulls hoops has a new lead. The Bills have completely turned over, Ralph Wilson is incapable of fucking it up, and just maybe they have a quarterback. And now the Sabres have finally, mercifully done what they should have done three years ago in releasing Regier.
Happy Pegula Day.
It's getting to be that time where dreams come true, our frustration assuaged by a single decision by Pegula.
Shit is long overdue.
Get the fuck away from our hockey team you goddamned joke.
When people tell the story of this piece of garbage's reign of mediocrity in Buffalo, it's gonna be a simple narrative.
God fucking dammit. This team is really bad.
Hey gang, Commander here. I decided to forego a “season preview” of sorts for the Sabres based on what we’ve seen already. I don’t think anyone hasn’t figured out that they’re going to be fucking terrible.
I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t log on, type up “The DEEG 13-14 Sabres Preview” and just post “They fucking blowwwwwww” in 36pt font, because that covers things pretty nicely. (At least not yet, give me a few more months and some job security and that might be funny).
Is it fair to demand better from the Sabres?? I’d say absolutely. But I’m not talking on ice product. Let’s face it, we’re not a storied franchise like the Bruins or the Blackhawks. There’s no real history of success to draw from here. Your best hope for the on ice thing to work out is these kids ending up pretty good, a sprinkling of vets when they are good and one or two of them to be great. It’s the same recipe that created 05-07. Right now you’re in like 2003, this is going to go on for a few years and that’s fine. They flat out told everyone it’s the plan. Later on in the year we’ll talk about how it’s going, but for right now we need to take a look at the bigger problems in Sabreland.
Face it, the Pegula Era came with a lot of hope and promise and we all had the warm fuzzies that things were going to be FUCKIN RAD from now on.
We’re so far away from there that I’ve seen people wondering what Larry Quinn is up to.
Tomorrow night the longest lockout shortened season in the history of sports is coming to an end. Seriously, it’s only been three months; I have the schedule in front of me and everything. If you want highlights only, this will be a quick read for you: season opener, three Boston wins, comeback against Montreal, snapping Pittsburgh’s win streak. There, you can go back to whatever it was you were doing before you got here; I’m only writing this because the Wild Card is some sort of wunderkind and I’m feeling inadequate. Actually I’ll give you one more highlight: waking up at the gate in JFK at 7:30am after Occupy Newark, surrounded by dozens of people with only hazy recollection of how I got there. Probably should have just taken Scizz’s couch invite instead of taking a cab to the airport at 4am, but I am thankful for whatever TSA agent kindly let me through security.
That still-intoxicated confusion amongst the chaos of a crowded airport terminal is indicative of the season we just watched. What happened? Why was everything so terrible? Why am I still wearing this Vanek jersey? Well, I watched nearly every game and I don’t have the slightest goddamn clue. All I know is this is the first season I didn’t see a win in person since 2003-2004 and I’ve spent nearly all of those seasons in between living hours away. Well that, and that there were many specific things that came together like some sort of horrifying, malevolent Captain Planet to ruin our evenings three times a week.
At first I was just going to list all the things that were horrible about this season but as I got to eleven it struck me that first, with enough time this list could go on perpetually as if I was writing out the decimals in pi, looking for an end, and second, I wanted to identify what was worse than all the others; what, when matched up against the other “worst” things on the list, made the others look better. Think of this like a Bill Simmons' NBA trade value column, except you’ve heard of these names and I don’t get paid for it. To properly settle this, I decided to seed the eight worst entities about this season and match them up in a tournament format to see what exactly would come out on top (bottom?), along with my analysis.
To the seedings: 9 (Honorable Mention): John Scott
- I definitely bitched about his presence on the ice more than some of the things found below, but when compiling this list I felt he may have gotten a bad rap from me. First, we all knew coming in he wasn't skilled at hockey. Two, it wasn't his decision to put him in the lineup constantly, leaving talented- err, less awful
players scratched. However, he would have cracked my top 8 if it wasn't for his photobombing post-game interviews
late in the season. So, thanks to some stellar off-ice moves, Scott does not make the most hated tournament. But seriously, get the fuck off my team now. 8) Jochen Hecht:
I’m not sure what I hate more, his complete ineptitude on offense, the rare moments when that ineptitude disappears, or the fact that everyone involved in making organizational decisions loves this guy for reasons beyond understanding. Ruff, Regier and Rolston have raved about this statue and I haven’t the slightest fucking clue. Giving Hecht top line minutes was effectively hoping for a 1-0 win or a 2-1 overtime loss, and despite this I STILL don’t trust them to cut ties after this season. He’s a fucking 80’s horror villain. Go away. 7) Drew Stafford:
Fuck Drew Stafford. Thanks for those two shootout goals I guess, dickface. 6) The Buffalo News:
This is primarily a credit to their belief that all the teams ills would have been solved if the owner had commented about Regier or the Pominville trade. Watching them slowly melt down during the season into petulant children was pretty funny when I wasn’t annoyed by the pettiness and lack of professionalism by people who actually do get paid to write for a living. Plus they’re fucking creepy. Solid dark horse as a six seed
Tonight the Buffalo Sabres take to the ice in the land of meth labs and man-eating sinkholes to attempt to do something they haven’t done once during this mercifully shortened season: win their fourth hockeypucks game in a row. If Winnipeg and Philadelphia win their games in regulation, the Sabres will suddenly find themselves one point removed from the final playoff spot with a game in front of 13,000 empty seats on deck Thursday night in the Everglades. Ten of their final fourteen games will be played at home and, despite all of this, some of you are despondent, downtrodden, terrified that they might win, that they might turn that puncher’s chance into a playoff berth.
Why is this case? Well the prevailing logic seems to be that the team is better served by finishing with a top three draft pick, buttressed by the sweeping assumption that if the Sabres sneak into the playoffs, Darcy Regier will be rewarded with keeping his job and this team will be thrown into some sort of perpetual mediocrity as true as our orbit around the sun. I can’t say I don’t understand this logic; the idea of giving this general manager a second crack under Pegula at assembling a roster would accomplish little more than hemorrhaging the fanbase and leaving us a few more years closer to death without a sniff at a cup. What I don’t understand is how people are willing to assume that this is black and white, that wins equal the general manager staying. Because drive-time radio pronounces it true? Because a WGR beat reporter who spent the entire football season telling you Chan Gailey wasn’t going anywhere is now saying the same about Darcy? Because TBN staff members that haven’t broken a team story since the Ford administration pronounce it true? For shame.
I don’t know what the owner thinks about the general manager’s future. Neither do you and neither do any of the local media. What I do know is management espoused a three-year plan to win a Stanley Cup (that has been shot to shit) and pledged to win multiple Stanley Cups under the new owner. I know the owner allowed or ordered the firing of a coach that had been involved with the team for the better part of three decades. I know that perennial eighth place finishes and first round exits are quite removed from the sixteen wins that it takes to win a championship. I know that no one who builds a business worth more than a billion dollars does so by accepting continuous underachievement and incompetence.
I also know that telling the fans that they’re being neglected, ignored and mistreated sells papers and ad space, and allows fans to wallow in the “woe is us” attitude that gets ingrained into your DNA at conception in this region. I know it’s the safe column to write, the safe position to take. I know Pominville, Vanek and Miller have contracts that expire after next season and the general manager himself has already bucked tradition and stated to local and national outlets that any changes that will be made will be focused on next season.
My point is that there’s at least enough empirical evidence to argue that the general manager is gone no matter what happens short of a conference finals appearance, right? There’s more than enough evidence to support the idea that columnists and radio hosts are trolling the fanbase by using Darcy as a boogeyman to get you to tune in or use one of your ten free page views (I’m not silly enough to assume any of our readers are also TBN subscribers).
Making it harder to accept even a slight run of success is the fact that we had finally embraced, welcomed the idea of hitting rock bottom. After half a decade of mediocrity this was going to be the year we finally said “fuck it,” and took the losses laughing instead of crying. We were ready, and then these, these ASSHOLES had to go and start winning! God can’t they do anything right!?
This evening the Buffalo Sabres host the Boston Bruins in what will be the fifteenth game of a forty-eight game season. With the season nearly a third complete, they find themselves tied for not the division, not the six seed, not the eight-seed, but for dead last in the Eastern Conference. I have watched the “L”s string along on the schedule I keep on the wall at work, next to schedules of other teams with their own impressive collections of losses. We’ve all grown accustomed to the Sabres being a fairly “streaky” team with no shortage of peaks and valleys throughout the seasons, of a team that will run out to commanding division lead only to go .500 the rest of the way and get bounced in the first round (09-10), or a team that will piss all over themselves like a bro after his first night out in Canada for four months and then become the hottest team in the league on the valiant run to eighth place (10-12). They are four points away from eighth at the moment, could conceivably find themselves there by the time I return to the office on Monday. But they won't, and that's why I'm here.
I don’t apologize often, for what I’d like to think are two reasons. The first is that in recent history, the words coming from my mouth that I regret the most have been apologies, apologies that were not warranted or deserved, even in abstract form. The second is related and offered with a grain of salt- I just believe I’m wrong less often than other people. Many fields demand that from those they employ, mine is no different.
So it is with gritted teeth but sincere repentance that I apologize for ever believing that this team, with these players, with this coach could ever put together a shortened season that could be described as anything other than a soul-sucking death march to the draft. We’ve spent many words here at the deeg eviscerating Ralph for not firing Jauron when it was called for, not firing Gailey when it was called for. I called him a “villain from a Dickens novel” and published it right after he had fired the coach I was ripping on him for not firing.
Ask how proud we are about "regionalism"
Ralph Wilson turned his franchise into a sideshow, an embarrassment. Perhaps they always were and we were just born at the right time to think otherwise. But I think at this point it is only fair to begin taking an objective look at those pulling the levers at the foot of Washington Street, because 2007 is rapidly disappearing in our rear view mirror and if all you need to do for immunity in this town is commission a bronze statue and plop an admittedly wonderful complex steps from the waterfront, then we deserve to be ridiculed by other fans, we deserve to be irrelevant.
The eeriness of the similarities is becoming disconcerting and I wonder if Ted Black follows Buffalo’s other hapless franchise enough to see those similarities, or if he is too busy digging through his thesaurus for new ways to explain “Terry’s” dedication to winning a Stanley Cup. We all love a good orator; myself probably more than most, and we cannot deny- especially in light of the last occupant of the owner’s box- that money talks. Throwing godfather offers at Richards and Doan, upgrading the arena, putting up the Harbor Center if for no other reason than we don’t have to watch Carl Paladino erect some lifeless structure only a 1970’s East German architect could love, mean something. But “something” is as far as I’m willing to go anymore.
Ted Black has emerged as Russ Brandon 2.0, with a wardrobe upgrade and a new fan interaction feature. The talk remains about the brand, about how dedicated the owner is, how they communicate daily, how passionate he is to win and how distraught they are about the losses. Now I fully believe that Brandon is shoveling shit while Black is being at least more sincere, but the similarities of listening to these two men offer red herrings and parlor tricks to a disgruntled and desperate fan base is insulting. I’ll enjoy the Harbor Center as much as anyone, but Pegula can take the flaming tap water from “Gasland” and turn it into the fucking Bridal Veil Falls if it means there’s a parade down Delaware. I won’t fault this owner for not dealing with the Buffalo media given their current bullpen of hacks and has-beens, but that silence, pious as it may be, has a consequence to the fan base and that consequence is assumptions.
Back from a pretty long hiatus, the Deeg is back with another CrapTastiCast, and it's one some of you have been waiting for since Mr. White and I exchanged words over the NHL Lockout in October
. We spoke about having Jeremy chat record with us at the time, but daddy duties and Hurricane recovery put this on the backburner until now.
Perhaps that delay was for the best since, in the month and a half that has followed that initial twitter fight (God I feel so stupid typing that), Jeremy and I have had a chance to talk more about the lockout. While I wouldn't say we've reached any kind of consensus on those issues that got me so heated in October, it's become apparent that Jeremy is a civil dude (not always readily apparent on twitter... which could be said about many) and that civility plays itself out on what you'll listen to here.
My apologies if you came here expecting nothing but our unbridled asshole shtick. Frankly, we care too much about the issues of the lockout to cave into our sophomoric tendencies - at least this time - especially when we have a guest willing to look beyond the fact that I may or may not have called him a equivocating hack/dickhole back in October. /rushes to delete Deeg archives /trips over beer cans /farts /forgets original task
Which isn't to say that this CrapTastiCast is entirely devoid of those tendencies you've come to know and love. Along for the ride are The Scizz and The Continental. In addition to the lockout, we talk Bills, Jets, Mets, Knicks and stumble through a few completely inappropriate conversations about drugs in closets and Scizz's love for our 43rd President.
If you're only interested in our talk with Jeremy, cue it to 15:55 and enjoy. Also - give yourself the finger from us since we think you should listen to the whole fucking thing.
In addition to our usual intro, Deeg house band The Jambrones help us out with our first two musical interludes, while the rest is picked up by Audioslave and Brother Ali. Podcast page here
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And, of course, stream audio in the player below if you wish.