Suffering continues for Sabres fans

Sabres fall flat in slow start to season

The Buffalo Sabres started the 2013 NHL season quite dismally, compiling a 0-6-1 record in their first seven games.

The Sabres, who have been searching for that ever-elusive Stanley Cup championship since their inception in 1970, continue to prolong their absence from the top of the hockey world. Buffalo has only two Stanley Cup Finals appearances, its last being in 1999.

The organization has retained general manager Darcy Regier for 16 years, making Regier the second-longest tenured GM in the NHL.

In April, the Sabres announced that Regier would continue to be the general manager of the Sabres. In that particular press conference, Regier reaffirmed the team’s ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup. However, his comments held a twist.

“He (owner Terry Pegula) is in search of creating a Stanley Cup championship. That has not changed,” Regier said. “In fact it has been reinforced. It is stronger than ever. It may require some suffering.”

Suffering: A word long synonymous with the city of Buffalo. Things like the population loss, the economic problems, the occasional blizzard began the suffering for Buffalo. Sports have only reinforced that concept.

In a city where not much happens, locals live for sports. One can never walk into a bar or a restaurant on game night without seeing a Sabres game on the television. And generations of locals have lived through the heartbreak of watching these professional teams. In 1991 there was “Wide Right,” in 1999 there was “No goal.” Don’t Buffalo fans deserve a winner for once?

The Sabres showed flashes of success coming out of the 2004-05 lockout, a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, Buffalo will cease to be the loser in the sports world.

In two consecutive years, the Sabres made the 2006 and 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, losing both series’ in heartbreaking fashion. Still, things looked to be on the rise. The city of Buffalo was proud of their team and embraced the players.

Those happy times were short-lived, however, as many key players such as co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury left via free agency. Buffalo began a rebuilding process under the helm of Regier and contended for a few years, with playoff berths in both 2010 and 2011. Despite strong play from goaltender Ryan Miller, the Sabres lacked that “it” factor that championship teams have.

During the 2010-11 season, owner Tom Golisano sold the Sabres to Terry Pegula, who made an immediate impact on fans by stating that the reason for the Sabres’ existence is to win a Stanley Cup in his very first press conference.

Suddenly, fans began to believe in the team, going as far as calling Buffalo “Hockey Heaven” and wearing T-shirts with Pegula’s name on the front. They began to believe in the organization, that maybe things were turning around and greener pastures were on the horizon.

Two full seasons and seven games later, and the fans of the Sabres are still wondering where that promised success is. Two seasons with no playoff appearances. Two seasons with lackadaisical play coming from high-priced talent. Two seasons filled with suffering.

The fans of this team have gone through 42 seasons of suffering, and now we are seeing disgusting play on the ice once again at the start of this year.

The Sabres don’t even look like they belong on the ice with the other teams they’ve played so far this year. They’ve been outshot, 242-178, by opponents, and have only mustered seven goals in seven games. Despite stellar goaltending from Miller and backup Jhonas Enroth, the Sabres look completely out of their league when playing.

An excuse could be made for the team, as it is playing with three teenagers in the lineup in Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen. Many of the other top forwards on the team have minor-league talent at best. This team will take a few years to grow as a franchise, but will need a lot of guidance to get there.

Perhaps Regier was right when he said that it’d take some suffering before fans would start seeing the Hockey Heaven they were promised. But how long will the suffering last? How long before we see the silver cup traveling down the streets of Buffalo in a championship parade?

The people of Buffalo have suffered long enough. The Sabres’ organization needs to start making moves to change this atmosphere. Perhaps Regier needs to go.

Whatever it is, it needs to start happening now, because the people of Buffalo shouldn’t have to suffer anymore.