Well, after a 7-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at home today, that pretty much wraps up any idea of further “meaningful games in March” for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres will miss the playoffs for an NHL record 12th season in a row, besting the previous NHL record set by the Buffalo Sabres of 2021-22 who missed the playoffs for a record 11th season in a row. This team just keeps setting records, so at least they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.
What is there left to say? Are fans supposed to be angry?
Maybe five years ago it would have been easier to muster up some real, visceral anger, but after nearly 15 years – FIFTEEN YEARS – of abject failure, the ol’ give-a-blank meter is running pretty low. The team is still mediocre: the defense is missing at least two pieces, the team’s top goalscorers have gone quiet, and the goaltending continues to be abysmal.
The last part has a chance to improve in the medium term now that Devon Levi has signed, but that’s not going to make a difference this year or likely next year either. He figures to be the only reason to watch the remainder of the games this year, though, as he’s likely to play in a couple of the remaining 13 contests.
General Manager Kevyn Adams, who has often declared that his purpose is to connect the fans with the team again, has failed to generate meaningful support among a jaded fanbase, as evidenced by the healthy contingent of Bruins fans in attendance today. He has failed in his job.
Seven to zero.
Seven-mother f’ing goals to zero – at home – in a must-win game during the heat of a playoff chase.
Or, at least, it would be unacceptable for most any other franchise that actually cares whether their team makes the playoffs. Is there any indication that management or ownership actually cares if this team makes the playoffs ever again? Even the most casual observer knew before the season that the goaltending and defense on this team was woefully thin, and management was seemingly content to allow their young, talented forwards to run headlong into a woodchipper every night.
Oh, there will be plenty of excuses and posturing from management and coaching, as they’ll talk about “learning experiences,” and “growth,” but there figures to be very little accountability for losing on home ice to a division rival 7-0. It’s going to be mighty hard for Adams to trot out his signature “aw shucks” grin at the end of the season and say that the team is heading in the right direction and major changes aren’t needed.
This team desperately needs a proven, top-4 defenseman with experience, and another #5 defenseman besides who can replace Henri Jokiharju. Beyond that, the Sabres need an experienced, competent NHL goalie to come in and replace one of Eric Comrie or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen; the latter two goalies can compete for one job next season, and the loser of that competition should be relegated to the ECHL. Is that too tough of an assessment? Tough nuts. They have sucked this year, point blank. They have sucked.
None of the necessary changes are likely to happen because ownership seemingly doesn’t care whether this team wins or loses as long as payroll remains low and there aren’t any upgrades to pay for at the dilapidated KeyBank Center.
No one organizationally will talk about meeting expectations because there are no expectations given by the Pegulas. Owner Terry Pegula is no where to be seen, and team president Kim Pegula – God bless her – is dealing with major health concerns that have rendered her out of commission over the past year. It is nearly impossible to make this point without coming off in poor taste, but the Sabres’ lack of an active team president to talk about expectations clearly shows that the on-ice results are secondary to the business concerns.
To hammer this point home, the Sabres recently hired money-man COO John Roth to handle the business aspects of the Sabres organization while the actual on-ice product remains devoid of active presidential leadership. Again, I obviously wish Kim Pegula the best, but the hiring of Roth shows that ownership’s priorities rest on the financial side of the equation rather than the performance end.
What fans will get this off-season is a smiling endorsement from Kevyn Adams who will seek to reassure fans that UPL has made strides, Comrie needs time to settle in, Ryan Johnson will save the defense group, and everything will be just fine if we all stay patient. Let’s call that what it is: it’s an excuse to keep payroll low and keep a cheap group of young labor playing in the dump that is KeyBank Center. It’s really not interesting or exciting at this point.
My advice to Sabres fans would be this: Don’t get angry. This organization doesn’t give a flying you-know-what about you or their product. They’ve proven that time and again.
Save your energy.