Let me say this right up front: I'm optimistic about the Sabres. As has long been the case, I like most of Darcy Regier's moves. Like most of you I just wish there were more of them. I get bored easily.
This weekend (so far) has been pretty typical, I'd say. A neat little draft move gets made to change the Sabres' positioning, to keep us honest, and the results are intriguing if not exciting. But I'm still left wanting. Where's Bobby Ryan? Why is Derek Roy still here? Where's the real roster change?
I'm at the same time impressed and disappointed, if that's possible.
The image of the Sabres certainly has changed since last February when Terry Pegula signed on. No longer are we left to question whether every single thing they're doing or not doing has more to do with money than anything else, as had been the case for the prior, oh, forever.
But is it enough?
Pegula said the day he bought the Sabres that money would no longer be their obstacle. But the question remains, is money the sole hindrance he thought they had been facing all these years? Most acquisitions they've made since he bought the team (Boyes, Ehrhoff, Leino) would not have been made pre-Pegula. But by my measure there has yet to be a so-called signature move, a move that screams what Pegula said famously on the day of his coronation, that the reason for the franchise's existence now is to win the Stanley Cup.
I don't think they've backed that statement up. If they had, top young players would be moved in the name of veterans and past winners. Brayden McNabb and Marcus Foligno would be on other teams. Your coach and general manager, 14 years on the job with no Cup to their names, probably would have been dismissed. There would eminate a ruthlessness that Pegula and company have not yet shown.
I don't really object to their preferred methods. I'm not a fan of ruthlessness, in general. I like having McNabb and Foligno to look forward to. I like a sports team that grows its own garden, brings up young players through the system and, ideally, wins with them. (That last part has been the catch.) I'm starved for a championship around here, but if you ask me if I'd take a Cup with nine years in the basement instead of 10 years of consistently contending, I'm not sure what I pick. I want the Sabres to always be at least pretty good.
I think that's what Pegula really meant the day he took over. Not exactly that winning the Stanley Cup would be their "sole reason for existence", but rather to try to win within a framework of pre-determined ideologies. Be loyal to your people and treat them well. Make them want to win for you. Loyalty through luxury, if you will.
If that had been the mission statement -- do the best you can do with people that you like and respect -- then they're doing great. And frankly, in an NHL where no team stands above the rest and where such a system of parity exists, that's the way I'd run my team too. I wouldn't want to be compared with George Steinbrenner. That's "win or else". It lacks for honor and grace and even style.
The Sabres have to win before any of us go giving them credit for having the right idea. It's been long enough. Another team this year sipped from the Cup for the first time. It's got to be our turn someday.