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.