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Which way are the Sabres going?

Sabres: Maybe you can figure it out

Hey, the Sabres won Tuesday night! It's not a real win because it was in a shootout but we'll take it.

Winning is good. I think.

I'm not sure.

Because I remember they said something about suffering and made references to how Pittsburgh and Chicago bottomed out so I think maybe their goal is to bottom out which would make winning bad.

Is winning bad?

On some level this year's Sabres team was designed to be worse than others of recent years that finished out of the playoffs. So far, so good.


Should I have been rooting for Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis to miss in the shootout instead of score?

Come to think of it, am I supposed to be rooting for Vanek at all? I think I am because he's on the Sabres, but maybe I'm not because I think they want to be losing, but I think I am because I want him to be good enough for other teams to want him and thus make the Sabres a big-bang trade offer.

I think the Sabres want to keep Vanek, to re-sign him. To do that they need to establish a good, budding team around him, and thus persuade him into thinking that staying here is best for him. So if the Sabres want to keep Vanek they need to win games. But I thought they didn't want to win games.

Which is it?

Last night there was a report that the Sabres -- whoever specifically that meant -- are running out of patience with general manager Darcy Regier. That makes sense because they went into last night's game 0-6-1 and had scored only seven goals. Sports teams that lose all the time tend to make changes.

But they're trying to lose. So maybe seven losses in seven games is really like seven wins. Losing is the goal. Isn't it? So why are they upset with Regier? If you're rebuilding that means losing, and it seems Regier is "performing" as well to the goal as he almost ever has here. Back in the spring owner Terry Pegula said, "What has Darcy done wrong?" That was eight games ago.

So they might fire him? Now?

Well that would be strange, kickoff off your rebuilding effort and then firing your leadership.

But wait, was there actually a rebuilding effort? They talked about one, but then instead of dealing good veterans on expiring contracts they held onto them -- Vanek, Ryan Miller, Steve Ott -- and acquired Henrik Tallinder who is older than all of them. What kind of rebuilding is that?

The Sabres have played some strong teams, and six of their eight games have been decided by one goal, so are we sure that we know what we've got? After all, what did Pegula said the day he bought the team.

"Panic doesn't seem to work."

(I don't have the nerve for "reason for existence" right now.)

Firing Regier, as unpopular as he is with fans, would look like a panic move, wouldn't it? The fans are angry so let's scrap our plan eight games into a season. Pegula wouldn't make a panic move.


They did make one last year. Seventeen games into a lockout-shortened season, one that threw a lot of teams off their routines, the Sabres fired Lindy Ruff. They did so having lost two games in a row and after practice, not exactly the typical recipe for a move that was deliberately considered. Pegula gushed about Ruff upon buying the team just two years prior. They made the 2011 playoffs from there, in a surprise. Now Ruff was out.

They might have made another one three weeks ago with Cody Hodgson. Hodgson, who had almost no leverage, somehow parlayed a 0.70 points-per-game mark and some of the NHL's worst defensive metrics for a forward in 2012-13 into a robust six-year contract. What was Hodgson asking for, 10 years? Twenty? Fifty?

Now Ron Rolston is their coach, and he makes sense because he's a teacher and the idea is rebuilding, which means playing your young players even if that means putting up with losses. The player that I think matters the most in this respect is Mikhail Grigorenko, who, naturally in this tempest of confusion, regularly plays on the fourth line and twice in these eight games didn't play at all.

When he does play he sometimes plays with John Scott on a line of misfits. Scott is a powerhouse fighter that no one fights. Grigorenko is a scorer that never scores. It works.

The contradictions are so rampant within the Buffalo Sabres that they extend to what they wear. ("Is it really the third jersey?" "Was having Steve Ott unveil it on Twitter their idea?" "What kind of prehistoric promotional tactic is Black using when on the day they're the talk of the town he refuses to comment?")

The Sabres' offices right now sit at 1 Wit's End. Replacing Regier is a move that might have been justified several other times along the way. Heck, I bet I was fielding questions from Sabres fans about Darcy's future in my first days at WGR, perhaps centered on the surrender of Dominik Hasek. That was in the summer of 2002, before Drew Bledsoe played even his first game for the Bills.

Firing Regier would be weird now, which is why they might just do it.

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : ChicagoPittsburgh
People : Darcy RegierLindy RuffRyan MillerSteve OttTerry PegulaThomas VanekTyler Ennis
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