I've been getting some interesting e-mails lately. Not many people send me e-mail anymore -- well, other than those who send me e-mail almost every day, like my wife, Nigerian princes and someone named Jason Korczak. But in the last few days, as the Sabres' season ends and perhaps a first overall pick awaits, certain fans are checking in and they are ... want to guess? ... anxious.
Let me say here that I really don't relate to this emotion at this time. To me the worst is over. The Sabres flipped their best players for youth, which was exactly the right move, if overdue, and watching them plummet in the standings along the way has been painful and sometimes even embarrassing. (It may not be better until the summer; how would it feel to watch Ryan Miller hold high the Stanley Cup?)
Sports is to be enjoyed. We in Buffalo know we don't need championships to enjoy sports. If we did we'd all have moved on to needlepoint by now. So what does it take to enjoy sports? For me, there at least has to be hope. For the Sabres it's been lacking.
But now that's about to change. This part is going to be fun -- almost as much fun as following a sports team can be.
There is hope.
Some people don't see it that way, it seems. This morning I read this e-mail from a fan that listed for me every Sabres draft pick since 2007, and players drafted afterward by other teams that turned out. Wait, sorry, no, it's not every pick. Good picks were omitted. And come to think of it, hasn't almost every player drafted in sports history had someone better picked after him? I suppose this fan considers the first 198 picks of the 2000 NFL Draft bad picks, as Tom Brady went 199th.
If you must be negative, be negative. But your timing is off.
I made a point on Twitter yesterday about the millions of dollars spent on scouting that may be entirely unnecessary. The NHL has something called Central Scouting, the bureau that publishes these prospect rankings we're always talking about. That's 30 or so scouts pooling their efforts to rank young players.
If my sports team spends millions to come up with approximately the same results as Central Scouting every year, well, this maybe is an area where corners should be cut instead of charging that extra 25 cents for pop. (asterisk, footnote, "Thank you Fans!")
But one listener would hear none of that. He reasoned that because the Sabres cut back on scouting in recent years that this explains their descent in the standings.
I guess then if the Sabres pick high the next two years, even possibly twice up top in this year's draft with the Islanders' selection, and succeed, it's because the Sabres didn't settle for scouting them on video.
That, apparently, is how this fan is going to explain it if the Sabres become a good team: This time around they bothered to scout their picks.
Tell ya what. Give me the Central Scouting rankings come draft time and I'll pick along with the Sabres. I've never been to Kingston or Barrie or for that matter Saskatchewan or Manitoba. Or maybe I'll have my 2-year-old daughter do this. I'll cross off guys as they get taken and have her point at the highest name remaining on the list. We'll give the exercise a catchy name, like "2-year-old girl vs. the Buffalo Sabres in drafting". I have two months to figure out how to tear her away for a day from the Octonauts.
I've decided to back the idea of the Sabres picking center Sam Bennett out of Kingston -- if they get the first pick. If they pick second and Bennett goes first, I would like to see the Sabres take defenseman Aaron Ekblad out of Barrie. Yes, you're right, Central Scouting rates Bennett as the top prospect in the draft and Ekblad as #2. Should I put my YEARS OF WATCHING HOCKEY over theirs? You can, I won't.
The NHL regular season is ending, and around here this year that means hockey season is just getting good. This season has been miserable -- especially since the trade deadline as there's no more fun to have pondering moves -- and thankfully these wretched games will end.
Next year the Sabres will dress (probably) their top prospect in decades, maybe even their two best. I can't wait. Tickets have been a chore to have, or try to sell, for much of the last three seasons. I think next year they won't be. Mix in two or three interesting projects (Evander Kane?) and we'll see the building take shape. To me it seems the Sabres' building is well-aligned with the one happening across Perry Street.
I don't see much reason to be miserable about them right now.
There is another way.