It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it isn’t much fun being a Sabres fan right now. Just when the team started playing a little bit better, they put up a game like they did vs. Colorado and as Otter put it “embarrassed Ryan Miller.” Losing 7-1 is unfortunately always as bad as it looks… That being said when the present provides no reprieve, in order to hold onto a fraction of hope; we are forced to look towards the future. In the Sabres case that means the NHL Draft.
As I have said many a time in my columns, I was listening to Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR and had was able to catch most of Mike Robitaille’s segment. During it Howard and Mike got into a heated debate where Howard kept trying to get his point across & Robi kept interrupting so Howard kept speaking louder & louder & LOUDER. While that was entertaining in itself, what they were discussing was what I actually want to get to.
Howard was asking Robi if he would ever consider having the team “tank” for one more year to have a shot at a ‘Golden Goose’ in the 2015 Draft. For those of you who don’t follow prospects closely the 2014 Draft is supposed to be so-so (which the Sabres are currently battling with Edmonton for the first overall pick in,) whereas the 2015 Draft is supposed to be one of the strongest in recent history. A guy like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in 2015 is expected to be a franchise guy like Crosby, or Ovechkin, whereas the players in 2014 Draft, while good, aren’t on that level.
Obviously this is all just “potential” and we all know how far potential gets you in professional sports, but the fact is they give you a chance. Any who, back to Robi and Howard… So Howard asks Robi if he would tank to have a shot at a guy like McDavid or Eichel and Robi loses it. He gives you the stereotypical athlete answer in that all athletes, especially people who make it to the pros, are preprogrammed to ALWAYS want to win. No matter the circumstance. Even if in the grand scheme of things it may better for your team, no one can lose on purpose.
Howard tried to clarify he didn’t necessarily mean to go out and throw games, but rather continue to clean house, not resigning Moulson, trading away Miller, etc. etc. OR would you just go for it all and try and get back to winning now. Resign a guy like Moulson, resign Miller and make a trade for a guy like Ryan Callahan, who was recently put up on the trade block by the Rangers and is a VERY solid/talented two-way player. Robi told him you do everything you can to win now in this league because there are no certainties.
This situation is one I’ve really battled with. There’s been a lot of Bills teams in the past where this debate has arose and I’ve always found myself on the “try to win” side of it. No matter if I know we’re better off losing in the grand scheme of things, I can’t turn off my unyielding passion long enough to actually want to see my team lose. It’s usually just a small consolation that I convince myself makes the fact that we ultimately do lose acceptable. BUT even the Bills haven’t lost right. They always win just enough to make us miss out on that franchise-changing guy. Football however is somewhat easier to find talent throughout the first round, whereas hockey there’s usually only a couple guys with that elite talent in the entire draft.
Don’t get me wrong; I am SO sick and tired of the Sabres losing. While I was a fan at the time, I wasn’t really old enough to feel the impact the Rigas/Bankruptcy year had on Sabres fans. So for me this year has been by far the worst year I’ve encountered rooting for this team. The Sabres have been the silver lining in Buffalo sports the past decade and now that’s all gone. Thinking about having to go through this for another entire season is practically unbearable, BUT maybe it’s worth it.
Think about it, while coming off this season and making any sort of run for the postseason would be a great achievement, how gratifying will it be to finish in 8th place with another first round exit? Resigning guys like Moulson & Miller, trading for a talented guy like Callahan & bringing up some of your young studs would equal just that. Sure they’d be improved, but barring some unforeseen circumstance that team isn’t going to make a serious run at the cup. However, you grab a guy like McDavid or Eichel, combined with the talent the Sabres have in their system and a few years down the line you ARE looking at a serious cup contender (granted the aforementioned potential works out.)
Logically speaking continuing to clean house and ride in the basement of shame for another season is the right thing to do. I have a feeling a lot of us (myself included) will miss Miller a lot more than we realize should he actually get traded, but it has to happen if the plan is to continue the rebuild. That being said I don’t know what Tim Murray and Pat LaFontaine plan to do. As Robi made clear, just try going into a room with Pat and asking him to tank it for another year… he’ll punch you right in the mouth. As a fan part of me loves that. Screw the rebuild. Screw McDavid or Eichel. Screw being the laughing stock of the league. Screw ‘No Goal’ and screw losing. LETS JUST WIN. But the other half of me wants to say screw never having won a Stanley Cup. Maybe in order to do that, we just have to do what we do best as Buffalo fans and cling to the future for one more year.
Tweet of the Week:
Three cheers for the Toilet Bowl!