Friday, January 13, 2012

Dear Terry, the last thing Sabres fans want to hear is...

..."It's hard to evaluate something that has been torn apart the way this thing has."

The above quote was taken from an article by Bucky Gleason in the Buffalo News today. Terry Pegula pulled out the ole' injury excuse as a reason for his teams poor season. Forget the fact that his good start was due to a very favorable schedule against teams that were at or near the bottom-half of the league, and that this teams' slide was due in large part to higher quality teams. No, it's not that at all, Buffalo, it's injuries. And because of that, we will stay the course.

The Sabres have the exact same record--18-19-5--this season as last. Unlike last season, though, this team has been in a serious downward spiral since November and it got worse in December after embarrassing their owner in an 8-3 loss in Pittsburgh.

That loss started a 2-7-2 plummet from a spot in the top-eight to 11th in the Eastern Conference with only five points separating the team from the bottom of the conference.

The title of Gleason's article, Pegula not ready to pull the trigger, wreaks of "same ole, same ole/same sh!t, different owner."

Actually, when you read his quotes, it sounds as if GM Darcy Regier and/or Head Coach Lindy Ruff is talking through the owner:
  • "What everybody is missing is that I've been carrying around 167 man games,"
  • "We've had 18 players go down. It's like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who's healthy?"
  • I have to believe we're a better hockey team than we were last year. We just didn't have this massive, catastrophic injury problem. Put yourself in anybody's place in the organization. How do you evaluate what's going on?"
Well, Mr. Pegula, you're not a better hockey team this season--and if you've been paying attention for the last four and a half seasons, you hear what fans have been hearing--a parade of excuses coming out of the Sabres front-office that is long and somewhat colorful.

Simple fact, through all the "core is growing into their roles" (2008,) "injuries to Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek (2009,) "we have two of the top-20 centers in the league  (2010,) "we're not happy, our goal is to win the Stanley Cup" (2011,) the Sabres are not any better off now than they were four and a half years ago. They just have a couple of first round and out playoff appearances to their resume'.

Nothing has changed with this team since the summer of 2007. Players have come and gone, but it's basically the same team. It's virtually the same core up-front, the ones that were to "grow into their new roles and mature into leaders," as the one they had back then.

In case you missed it, they haven't done that, they aren't doing it now, and it's highly doubtful that they will, save for Vanek and Jason Pominville who continue to pull their weight. It's the same formula this season as it's been the past four and a half seasons, soft-but-(supposedly) skilled and marginal leadership up-front.

On defense, it's the same formula--plenty of "puck-movers" and heavy on offense with very little grit.

It doesn't help that Ryan Miller is a mess either. He's having his worst season with the club. Throughout the post Chris Drury/Daniel Briere era, every season could be maked by these words, "as Ryan Miller goes, so go the Sabres."

About the only thing that's gone right personnel-wise it a huge upgrade with Jonas Enroth as the back-up to Miller.

That's it.

It's the same team we've witnessed the last four and a half seasons, only the names on the back are different. It's the same inconsistencies, the same finesse, the same showmanship at home, the same lack of urgency and passion, the same collapse under pressure, the same gutless play and the same cop-out that has plagued this team as a whole for years.

And now, what's really troubling is that it's also the same excuse-filled, "stay the course" attitude that ownership and upper management have been selling for four and a half years. You could say that the names at the top have changed, but it's still the same. Terry Pegula and company are now on par with the previous regime, a group that was loathed for years.

After seeing what Sabres fans have been seeing over the last four and a half season, the "patience" trumpeted by right-hand man, Ted Black, could be trumped by only one thing--an owner using injuries as an excuse to stay the course.

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