This may change. But, for now, Ville Leino - Sabre Killer - will be donning the Blue and Gold next season, and beyond. Brad Richards is a Ranger, the Sabres are right up against the Cap with roster spots left to fill, and we're left in the lurch for a little bit.
I didn't watch Game 6 live. Or, at all. I was listening on WGR at an Easter party, somehow having allowed my wife to win the day. The rest of the crew was in Hoboken, with the Scizz's family, and while I was jealous at the time, the way the game played out made me feel a little better. I didn't piss off my wife and even though I was still deeply entrenched in the heartbreak of that loss, somehow the fact that I didn't actually see it made it a little easier to stomach. Well, that and the absurd amounts of liquor and delicious treats at the Easter party.
For that reason, Ville Leino's signing with the Sabres did not carry as much emotional impact for me. In fact, it wasn't until I heard reporting about the deal yesterday that I actually learned who scored that OT winner in Game 6. As soon as RJ began the goal call that day, I remember immediately closing WGR on my phone and tossing it in my pocket. I wasn't going to live through another second, and somehow I could pretend it didn't happen if it only lasted a split-second.
Such is the neuroses of yours truly. I've gotten better at with years of practice.
As the twitter-followers amongst you may know, the DGWU Crew took to the bar last night, like we do, and were joined by @JoeBuffaloWins and @davekellynyc. Our own little Sabres tweetup, if you will. When we planned this impromptu venture, our spirits were high. The Sabres had just signed Ehrhoff, and after the signings of Regehr and Gerbe and Stafford, my god we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. And with the Brad RIchards sweepstakes about to start the next day, our eyes were getting really big. Pegula had brought this bizarre and, frankly, disconcerting sense of entitlement to this off-season, and we were ready to get the big fish. We convinced ourselves that these deals were setting up the kill of B Rich, and boy did we want to believe it.
Such is the neuroses of the Sabres fan base. Again, years of practice.
The good news, after we cut through all the self-serving justifications of our own positions, is that the Sabres are likely not done. Darcy made it clear in the Leino signing presser that there were deals left to make, trades to work out, and that the remaining time this summer will surely be give us fans more news to dissect and dwell upon. In fact, with only $1.3 million in cap space left, and only 19 players under contract, you can all but guarantee that something will happen to shake up the team a little bit more.
But, after all the focus on a 1st line center, and with the Sabres blogosphere making it abundantly clear that this was the priority in the off-season, what if that upgrade isn't out there? What if this is what we got for 2011-12 - Roy, Leino, Hecht, Goose, Adam? Can our dreams of a Cup survive with those bodies centering our lines? Do we even buy that Leino can still play the position after giving it up completely at the NHL level? Sure, Lindy seemed confident in that fact yesterday during the presser, but this is also the same master of obfuscation that gives us half-truth injury reports. I want to believe Lindy, and hell, I actually like Leino a lot. But, after dreaming big for the past week, I think we're all entitled to feel a little down.
Even so, the fact is that so many of the moments of depression over missing out on Richards are largely off-set by the following points: (1) The Sabres are better now than they were last week, (2) The Sabres have established themselves as a destination for top-tier talent in the league, (3) every player in the league is coming to realize how much Pegula cares about making this team better (see comments from Regehr, Ehrhoff and Leino re: how much Terry had learned about each of them before making his pitch), and (4) Brad Richards will NEVER win a Cup in New York. See? Don't you feel better?
So, with deals to still be done - out of necessity, really - we fans can rest easy that this team will keep getting better and keep getting closer to being a Cup contender over the next month or two. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if something happened in the moments that it takes me to finish up this post (I just checked....disappointed I wasn't right on that one...). Maybe they won't get that first line center after all, but maybe that guy will be out there next year, or maybe via trade during the season. But, even though our short-term dreams have been dashed, we're still living in a new reality of possibilities for this team and its future. And, as I often say, we're not in the room when these deals are made, but for the first time in years I am resting easy and have surplus of confidence in the team's front office.
On our walk west down 33rd street from Rattle N Hum last night, Joe from Buffalo Wins and I chatted a little bit about this new-found optimism, and I took the opportunity to StreetCast the conversation. You can check it out here:
Our dreams are still alive and well, just adjusted a little bit. This is going to be a GREAT year for the Sabres and for us fans. Let's Go Buffalo.
In honor of a dear friend who texted me last night, and also in honor of the Friendship Festival (does that still happen?? The google says IT DOES), I'll take us out with some levity from one of my favorite Canadian, Moxy Früvous, who found a second home in Buffalo over the years, and who I also saw play the Festival in 1997 or so. Miss you guys, and miss you Herm. I do not, however, miss '90s fashion. Yikes.