We tried to believe this year would be different. We really did.
I can't argue that it was a bad idea for Darcy Regier to add grit to the Sabres lineup in the form of Steve Ott and John Scott. I mean, who wouldn't take Steve Ott?
I wrote just the other day that Regier should try to trade Tyler Myers for Ryan Getzlaf. I'm officially backing off that position. I don't want Getzlaf on this team.
Because Getzlaf isn't a great player? No.
Because Regier could trade for Evgeni Malkin and after a month we'd be complaining about how shitty Evgeni Malkin is.
Buffalo doesn't have bad players. Hell, they have a lot of really good players and one from Austria who's playing out of his friggin' mind to no avail.
For the umpteenth year in a row, we've eagerly anticipated the start of a season with a roster that could've been a helluva lot worse, only to watch the team show all sorts of signs that they have no interest in playing for their coach.
Rinse. Fucking. Repeat.
I don't think Regier is a bad GM. I don't think Lindy Ruff necessarily is a bad coach, either. And if they weren't best men in each other's goddammed weddings, I think things would've turned around by now.
But they're best friends, and because Regier has made it clear he won't fire Ruff, and because Regier was just handed a contract extension, we are shackled with this duo for who knows how many more years. That is, shit ain't gonna change any time soon.
So it's pointless to bitch about this team any longer. I have resolved to enjoy this train wreck until Sabres ownership realizes what a legion of fans already knows.
Last year ownership could hide conveniently behind the injury excuse, so when the Sabres rattle off another six losses in seven games, I simply hope they do it while relatively healthy. I honestly think a 15 game losing streak with a starting lineup is the only thing that even has a chance to get through to Terry Pegula and Ted Black.
I realize that finding the right GM/coach combo isn't as easy for a hockey club to do as it might seem to the average fan. After all, Brian Burke worked wonders for Toronto, right? But in the time that GMDR has held onto Ruff, he's also allowed guys like John Tortorella and Kevin Dineen to hone their skills in the organization and leave for greener pastures.
I've finally come to the realization that I want to see the Sabres either win every game or lose every game. All this in between where we pine for them to show up and at least pretend to give a shit and maybe make a run at the end of the year to sneak into the playoffs comes up short for me now. I have a two-year-old; I don't have the energy to give a crap about this team any longer if it insists that delusion is the key to success.
So I was going to come up with a list of players that I would either trade or cut immediately. But then I realized the list would be a lot shorter if I just named the ones I'd keep. This, of course, is only relevant to any discussion about organizational success if Ruff is fired, so bear in mind this is merely an exercise in futility.
But here we go:
There are several players who I'd like to see stick around (and let's face it, probably will), like Tyler Ennis and Christian Ehrhoff. And I put a couple on the list to keep that I could probably part with but who are there because they're important to the success of others (Pominville because of his chemistry with Vanek) or because of their potential (Grigorenko, especially with Joel Armia coming to town next year).
But then there's just the dead weight like Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers, and Ville Leino (who wins the award for Best Contract Signing Ever) and the otherwise irrelevant, like Ryan "The Kneeler" Miller, Nathan Gerbe, Cody McCormick, and Andrej Sekera.
As I said at the outset, all of these players are good, even for the NHL. But they're either not the right fit for this team as it's built or they've already just mailed it in.
Tyler Ennis checked a guy in the closing minutes of the Panthers game, so you know these guys can hit if they want to. Even though I have the Center Ice package, I admit I haven't studied every other team closely enough to see if there are any other defensemen in the league who flat-out refuse to hit guys behind the net five-on-five. But I'd be surprised if there were. I mean, it's like Ruff has a rule against it.
There are flashes of brilliance with this Sabres team, but overall they can best be described as a team that doesn't put in the effort until it's too late. In my experience this is the result of coaching.
Ruff said he wouldn't be able to bench Myers or even limit his ice time once he found out Sekera was out for the Panthers game. Bullshit. He has Brayden McNabb rotting in the AHL while Myers's candy ass flits around the ice turning the puck over like it's a Russian hooker.
Here's what you do: You scratch Myers, call up McNabb to give him a well-earned shot, and trade a motherfucker to make room for him on the roster if you're too afraid he'd get nabbed off waivers (which he would) when you sent him back.
That's how you run a team. Instead, Ruff and Regier are like two parents who give their kids everything, then go to work and complain to their friends that their spoiled brats act like assholes who take them for granted and refuse to work for anything.
There's a reason they say it's a lot easier to fire a coach than to replace an entire roster. It's because it is. And in a watered down league like the NHL, success and failure is almost single-handedly more the result of coaching than it is the players on the ice.
Memo to Ted Black: Start there and work your way out.