NHL – Sabres’ Season Ends Abruptly

27 Apr

When I wrote the blog predicting the result of the Buffalo Sabres/Philadelphia Flyers deciding Game Seven the other day, in the back of my mind I was thinking…well, boys, surprise me….prove me wrong…show me some magic. But, alas, the result of Game Seven was, well, very predictable. The Flyers, beaten twice on their home ice already in the series, were not going to lose for a third time, and they came out and totally dominated Buffalo 5-2 to win the series and advance to the second round. My original post picking the Flyers to win listed Ryan Miller’s failure to play up to expectations as a reason why the Sabres would lose, but in this series he changed my mind. Although the fact remains that he couldn’t outduel 3 different Flyer goaltenders, all of whom were terrible at some point in the series, Miller was the main reason the series went the distance rather than being decided in fewer games. The Sabres were beaten because they couldn’t handle Philly’s ferocious forechecking throughout the series, not because Miller didn’t do his job.

The season is now over for Buffalo and the familiar cry of local sports fans of “Wait ‘Till Next Year” now begins. But for Sabre Nation, there is reason for real optimism, and that reason is named Terry Pegula. Pegula has vowed to pursue the Stanley Cup at all costs, and there’s no reason not to believe him. Pegula seems to have made it clear that Lindy Ruff isn’t going anywhere even though his contract is up, and Ruff deserves the chance to coach this team under the new ownership, even though the last few seasons have mostly resulted in playoff failures. Ruff is a solid coach, although in my opinion when he spouted off at press conferences during this series, he didn’t do his team any favors. I love Ruff’s candid style, but I’m afraid with this current group of players he has, he is writing checks with his mouth that his players can’t cash. And that leads me to the person who now becomes the most important person in the organization – the team’s much-maligned general manager Darcy Regier. The Sabres, in reality, did well to push the Flyers to seven games considering the huge leadership vaccuum on the roster. They have no captain, and there really isn’t a player on the team who appears to be “captain” material. I always felt it was a telling sign that when Craig Rivet was acquired he was immediately made team captain. That was an embarrassing indictment of the entire roster. In my opinion, the player who shows the most leadership on the Sabres is probably Miller. There are people, myself included, who have said that the goalie is overrated and overpaid and not really an elite goalie, but there’s no doubt that if Buffalo can improve the rest of their roster, they can win the Stanley Cup with Miller in goal. Trading him would be repeating the mistake made when Tom Barrasso was dealt years ago. Barrasso was always considered an underachiever here, but when he wound up on a Pittsburgh team with Mario Lemieux and other talented players, he won the Cup. So now the spotlight falls on Regier. In his tenure here, he traded Chris Gratton, a monumental underachiever, for Daniel Briere, and it would be nice if he could find another diamond in the rough like that now. The best thing about Pegula now owning the team is that now, when the GM brings in the next wave of Brieres, Michael Pecas, Chris Drurys, Dominik Haseks or Brian Campbells, they’ll STAY here.

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