The Buffalo Sabres are losing on the ice – again – but are also losing fan interest in other areas. Could the entire organization benefit from a new approach?
While the Las Vegas Golden Knights made NHL history Tuesday by becoming the first expansion team to open a season 3-0, the Buffalo Sabres are once again at the bottom of the standings, about as far away from relevancy as the United States men’s national soccer team.
Yes, the season is only three games old. No, I don’t expect the Golden Knights to finish the regular season in first place in the Pacific Division. And no, I don’t follow soccer, either.
No one needs to panic and demand the heads of Phil Housley, Jason Botterill or anyone else associated with the Buffalo Sabres organization just because the team is 0-2-1 – that would be silly. What is not silly, however, is wondering if the entire Sabres organization would benefit from a new approach.
To his credit, Phil Housely is trying to bring an up-tempo style of hockey into the 716, and Jason Botterill’s approach of building success through all levels of the organization is the right one. All in all, though, it feels like the Buffalo Sabres organization is the M. Night Shyamalan of the hockey world, striving for success yet unwilling (or unable) to provide hockey fans with an entertaining product across all formats.
It might not be fair to compare the Sabres’ in-game presentation to what we witnessed last night in Las Vegas – Vegas is Vegas; the spectacle will always be there – but fans who have traveled to NHL games outside of Buffalo will tell you that the Sabres really need to spice things up. How many Sabres fans watched with envy while Nashville Predators fans partied their way through the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season? Nashville fans certainly benefitted from a successful play run, but make no mistake about it: professional hockey was fun in Nashville long before last season’s playoffs began.
And don’t even get me started on the lifeless, soulless, useless entity that is the Buffalo Sabres Twitter account. I follow the Sabres on Twitter because they provide news, statistics, and media before and after the game that you cannot get anywhere else – but I sure do not follow it because I am looking to be entertained. There is very little creativity, humor or just flat-out fun to be had on the team’s official Twitter account.
Here is what the Sabres account had to say about Evander’s Kane first goal of the game Monday afternoon. Remember: at this point, the Sabres were still in the game.
Whoopdee-damn-doo. Now, compare that to this:
And even after the team went through a small drought, this is what the Golden Knights Twitter account tossed out there:
Come on – that is one hell of a fun Twitter account to follow. Will it be as much to follow if the Golden Knights go through a 0-15 losing streak? Probably not as much fun, no, but it is pretty clear that the Golden Knights organization is determined to provide their fanbase with entertainment at every level. I cannot tell you the last time I saw anything on the Sabres Twitter feed that made me laugh, or at least made me say, “That was different.”
Even the Twitter account for the AHL Syracuse Crunch came up with this gem during the Calder Cup Playoffs last season:
As a whole, the Buffalo Sabres do not come across as an entertaining team. A safe, boring social media account and a safe, boring in-game presentation just are not cutting it, and you have to wonder if the players feel that lack of passion and commitment to an entertaining product, too. For years now, the Sabres have been rotating players in and out the door, and getting the same results: uninspired efforts, guys who give up on certain shifts, and players who generally look they are uninterested in winning hockey games. Could it be that the Sabres really just don’t know how to identify successful players? Or is there something about the organization that just doesn’t inspire passion and enthusiasm?
At the end of the day, the Buffalo Sabres position in the NHL standings is the result of the coaching staff and the players, obviously. Still, when you love your job, it shows. When was the last time you believed a Sabres player when he said he loves playing for the organization? It doesn’t show on the ice, and it doesn’t show in many other areas, as well. It is just food for thought, but the entire Buffalo Sabres organization might benefit from being a little less conservative and a whole lot more entertaining, in every aspect.