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Darryl Sutter couldn't win Cup, until he did.

Sabres' hire doesn't change much



Somewhere along the way I got a tip never to ask listeners if they care about something. Instead, just talk about it. If they care, they'll be there. If they don't, they won't. What they won't do is tell you whether they care. It's not a question people call radio shows to answer.

I like this rule, but last week we purposely broke it to ask Sabres fans if they care who coaches the team next season. The topic of Sabres Coach seems like one most fans of the team would care about, so it seemed to me worth exploring how many of them would say they didn't.

Turns out, and not to my surprise, many fans said they didn't much care who got the job. Some of that is how difficult it can be to differentiate between coaches. Most of what we're doing is analyzing their personality, rather than schemes and techniques. Also, in my opinion much of it of course reflects the general dissatisfaction fans feel toward the team.

But there's another part too. How much does who your coach is really matter?

Here are some facts:

Coaches are middle managers. They work for a guy who works for another guy that in most organizations works for another guy. Yes, they're high-profile. But they don't run the team.

Coaches are fairly interchangable. There isn't much variation between the systems they implement. Pucks to the net, defensive responsibility, dirty areas, blah blah blah. They all say the same things. And because coaching an NHL team is a job people want, there's never a shortage of interested, seemingly qualified candidates.
 
Coaches are transient. Eight of the last 10 Stanley Cup-winning coaches were not in their first NHL head-coaching jobs. They've all proven capable of winning it, yet for one reason or another some other team decided they weren't the coaches for them.

The National Hockey League paradigm is parity. The worse you are, the higher draft picks you get. Spending on players is limited. Losers in overtime and shootouts get credit for ties. No team should ever be that far ahead of or behind another, and isn't.

What's the sum of all this? That no coaching hire is that much more or less valuable than any other, and that its importance is mild. It's not irrelevant, but it's not winning or losing Stanley Cups for teams either.

What a coaching hire CAN be is a way to rejuvenate or impress your fans. We're in an age of immediate reactions. These things get judged right away, and when it actually becomes time to judge it, we're way past talking about it, on to something else.

You know how they say football is a 12-month-a-year sport? Well the Buffalo Bills, who haven't been a good team in 13 years, often do pretty well for the eight months where there are no games. And that helps keep fans interested.

No, frequent coaching and quarterback changes haven't helped them to win. But the Sabres are at the other extreme and they haven't won either. So even in our two-horse town we can see that neither approach is, by itself, successful.

The Bills have found ways to stay fresh. The Sabres, meanwhile, are moldy bread.

That is the Sabres' biggest problem with their fans at present. Fans believe they are certain (even though they can't be) that the team will never win under Darcy Regier. The fact that fans can't know this is practically irrelevant; they think it. The Sabres have held to Regier despite the current in sports flowing so swiftly the other direction that even title-winners get washed away, and fans see that as a lack of commitment, attentiveness or both.

Today Rolston was named coach, as in permanent. The Sabres put a ring on his finger.

And the fans shrugged.

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