Dear Terry Pegula, Ted Black, and all of the people who make up the Buffalo Sabres:
I honestly don’t know where to begin.
I cannot recall the last time I could say I was (almost) at a loss for words; as a matter of fact, I don’t know if I have EVER felt like I was at a loss for words. I’m pretty sure I talk in my sleep, and between teaching, writing, and being a father of three, I have encountered a lot of situations, none of which have ever left me speechless. For God’s sakes, I’m a Boston Red Sox fan! If that mess of a franchise couldn’t stun me into silence, surely nothing you could do would ever top the frustration caused by the boys in Boston, right?
How do I put this, without being overly harsh, since I truly am a fan and am only trying to help you understand where we fans are coming from. Hmm . . . let me see . . . I’ve got it: the Buffalo Sabres franchise has become the laughingstock of the NHL.
You have to believe me when I say that it hurt to write those words. I have no malicious intent in writing this; I didn’t become a sports writer in order to publicly air some inferiority complex bred from a youth of sports-related failures. (I was pretty good at the sports I chose to play, thank you very much!) I don’t see myself as some know-it-all sitting in some ivory tower way up high, passing judgment on those below me. I’m a fan first and foremost, and I want to write really great things about the Buffalo Sabres – truly, I do.
But I can’t write good things about your team, because there is literally nothing good to write about any more. Thomas Vanek‘s hot start? He’s notched 0 points in 6 out of the last 7 games. The best line in the Eastern Conference – the Vanek – Jason Pominville – Cody Hodgson line? Try 6 total points in those same 7 games, with half of those coming from Cody Hodgson, and only 1 from Pominville. The defense that was supposed to be good enough to carry a team that we all knew would struggle to score this season into the playoffs? Puh-leaze. That myth was disproved in week one. The feel-good story about Ryan Miller returning to form? It’s impossible to even feel good about that story any more, what with Miller’s frustration spilling out into post-game interviews and Saturday night’s last-minute skirmish against the Islanders’ Matt Martin.
You know things are, well, terrible, when the owner’s daughter calls out the team on Twitter:
Even after she deleted that Tweet, Jessie Pegula sounded less-than-optimistic about the season, Tweeting
— Jessie Pegula (@JLPegula) February 24, 2013
Yep – that sure sounds positive! Translation: “The Sabres really are bad, but eventually, they might get better.” Wow – such optimism!
The problem, of course, is that Jessie is right to be pessimistic. The Sabres are bad, and if they are ever going to get better, it won’t be in day, or a month, or even by the end of this season. That’s not just my opinion, either. Everywhere you turn, the Sabres are in the news for all the wrong reasons. Power rankings? Bottom five, anywhere you look. Headlines? ”Sabres Fire Lindy Ruff” – great press right there. Editorials? Plenty, ranging from Allan Muir’s explanation of why the Sabres are a total mess, to an article at bleacher report entitled “5 NHL Teams It’s Not Too Early To Count Out Of The Playoff Picture“, to yet another article by Muir advocating that the Sabres fire Darcy Regier next. There’s nothing good to be said about this franchise right now, and everyone with a keyboard, an internet connection and an opinion is criticizing or making fun of the Buffalo Sabres right now.
Why wouldn’t they? It’s easier than shooting fish in a barrel.
Something has to change, Mister Pegula - now. Not long ago, you spoke of a three-year plan to build a team that would win a Stanley Cup for the city of Buffalo. Very noble, but what we have instead is team playing worse hockey with each passing day, and a city full of fans – the same fans that couldn’t gobble up tickets fast enough once the lockout ended – who are sick to death of what they are seeing on the ice. This season is threatening to spiral out of control, and the coaching change you gave the green light to last week might have even made things worse. Your players are either lazy, poorly trained, over-rated, lethargic, uncaring, or a combination of any of those attributes, and no coach living on planet Earth today could step into this mess and turn things around. Mr. Pegula, if you are truly committed to making this Sabres team relevant in the world of professional hockey, you need to shake up your organization today. I’m not going to tell you who to fire, who to trade, which lines to re-evaluate, or anything like that – I’ll let my readers have the honor – but I am going to tell you that doing nothing this week is not an option.
Unless you want the fans to abandon you, and the press to continue to rake you over the coals, that is. In that case, sit down, kick your feet up, and enjoy the show. If you do choose to do nothing, however, know this: the city of Buffalo, your fans, and the Sabres organization deserves way, way better.