Soft Sabres Getting Hard To Root For

As a Buffalo sports fan, it’s easy to overreact about the teams in this city. The Bills have been a joke for over a decade and are becoming not only irrelevant on ESPN but in the local scene too. But the Sabres are trickier than the Bills, they still know how to tempt fans every year.

Lifelong Sabres fan and new owner Terry Pegula represents a beacon of light for frustrated fans. The team hasn’t won a playoff round since the 2006-2007 season and has been a benchmark of mediocrity. Last season, though, Pegula famously declared the Sabres “sole reason for existence is to win the Stanley Cup,” causing the Western New York area to go absolutely bananas. Don’t forget people, it takes more than gobs of money to win the cup. It takes the right players, a few good gambles on the part of management, and lots of luck.

The new free agents are nice and I’m sure the players love their new locker room, but this team looks like the same apathetic bunch they’ve been for the past 4 years. What about the character of this team has showed that they’re capable of a deep playoff run against the best teams in the east? The “core” of the Sabres seems like a soft, entitled group of whiners. The pressure from angry fans seems to have taken hold, the team can’t hold a lead at home.

When the Sabres played a tight game against Toronto on Friday night, Derek Roy took a tripping penalty behind the Maple Leaf night. It was a blatant slew foot and nothing that a mature leader on an NHL team would do. After that, he complained to the referee the whole way to the penalty box. It was a small play in an exciting game, but it spoke volumes. Ryan Miller is another player whose mentality seems to need to sharpen up. I love when athletes don’t seem like Neanderthals and give good quotes, but Miller seems thin-skinned and bitter. His arrogance can’t mask the fact that the book seems to be out on his goaltending style. Many goals scored on him go over his glove while he’s on his knees, shocked every time.

I hate to say it, but the Sabres rivals are looking more and more appealing. When Lucic ran Miller in November (which led to the quote above), I have to confess I was on the Bruins’ side. It’s never good when someone gets hurt (especially a franchise goaltender), but after that game I had some serious questions about my fan hood. I’ll take a “dirty” player like Lucic over almost every one of the Sabres today. For pete’s sake, Sekera looked like a scared little boy when he and (captain) Pominville slowed down to approach Lucic.

But by now, the Lucic/Miller fiasco is old news. We know the Sabres are soft and can lose on any given night to even the worst teams in the league. What has put me over the edge with this team is the new episodes of HBO’s 24/7 series. I don’t know if it says more about the Sabres lack of likability or my own over thinking over everything that a TV show makes me question the team so much, but shouldn’t the Sabres be having fun? I’ve been born and raised to do two things:

1. Be a good person and treat others with respect

2. Hate the Flyers, no matter what

Based on 24/7, the Flyers are the team to root for. It pains me to say this, but if I was new to the NHL, they’d definitely be the team I gravitate toward the most.

Even if they do ham it up for the cameras (and they definitely did there), the Flyers seem like a hockey team of high school friends that would fit right into a bar league in South Buffalo. They’re chippy, fast, can score, and have personality on their team. Scott Hartnell is a pest but every other NHL team would love to have a player that can fight as well as slide right into the first line. Chris Pronger is nasty on the ice, and hysterical during interviews. Compare him with the stale “…we didn’t play the system” comments the Sabres lazily give to the media. Plus, they have the super talented comedian goalie Illya Bryzgalov:

And I have to put this one on, it never gets old…

(pause a few minutes for hysterical laughter, and…..ok) If I wasn’t a Sabres fan and looked at these two clips as opposed to Miller’s, the decision on who to root for would be a no-brainer.

Last night, the Sabres were shellacked 8 – 3 to a Penguins team that was without Crosby, Staal, Letang, Paul Martin, and a few others. It isn’t looking good, but I hope Pegula proves me wrong about them going deep in the playoffs.

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