Ding Dong, the witch is dead! The Sabres have been sold and all will be right with the world! This is the current sentiment in the Sabres fan base. Change is coming, this is undeniably true. But when, who and how much has yet to be determined.
Many believe new owner Terry Pegula to be a mythical owner from heaven sent to overspend and create a new Stanley Cup dynasty in Buffalo. This could be possible, but more than likely it’s only a little bit true. Terry Pegula has purchased the Buffalo Sabres, this is literally all that we know at this point in time.
Pegula has a history with Penn State and their sports program. He has shown a willingness to spend money on his teams. He also has plenty of money to spend as a multi-billionaire. Furthermore, he is a Sabres fan and his wife is from upstate New York. These things do bode well for Sabres’ fans.
Buffalo nation has been filled with a renewed sense of hope and are excited about the future. Isn’t that how we felt when the team was sold to Golisano? For the villain many would paint him as, Tom Golisano has done a lot of great things for the Sabres.
The first thing he did was bail the Sabres out of bankruptcy and league ownership. He then made sure that the Sabres would not be leaving Buffalo, not on his watch. For all the hype made about his residence in Florida, Golisano did care about Buffalo.
He did have some policies that ultimately hurt the Sabres. Chris Drury and Daniel Briere were his fault in the end. A self imposed salary cap also doesn’t help a team to win. But the Sabres have still been competitive all these seasons. They had some great years and Golisano deserves some of the praise for that as well.
He kept Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff as a tandem and they have been rather successful. While Regier is a scapegoat, he really has given the Sabres some very good teams to work with. Ruff is a Hall of Fame caliber coach who has spent his whole career in Buffalo.
Everyone expects Pegula to be far and away a much better owner than Golisano. While that is entirely possible it is important to remember that Golisano did a respectable job as owner. Pegula will really need to be impressive to satisfy Sabres’ fans.
Fans expect a complete overhaul of the team and the front office. Some fans want Lindy Ruff out of town and even more would like to see Darcy Regier take a long trip to anywhere else. Managing Partner Larry Quinn is another scapegoat who many would hope is jettisoned from the organization.
The simple fact of the matter is that we have no idea if that will happen. There will ultimately be a transition period. Regier has a new 2-year contract, if Pegula wants him out he will have to pay heavily for it. Ruff and Quinn could stick around as well.
In terms of the on ice product I will be writing again about this in some more depth very soon. Sufficed to say that we will not have an all-new, all-better Sabres’ team on the ice next season. Overhauling a roster takes time and patience if you want to do it right and build a contender.
The Sabres will likely not become the new New York Rangers, spending to the cap each year for flash in the pan players. Regier will likely stick around for at least one more season and while he could try to change the roster he will be limited by the market and his own system.
I would expect more of the same for the next several years before we start to see some actual change to the Sabres’ staff and roster. I could be wrong and things could change much more rapidly, but I don’t think that a savvy business mind like Pegula will make that mistake.
He will evaluate his position and make changes when the time is right. You never know, Golisano’s business model may have been the right one for a small market franchise. I hope not, but it’s possible.
So for the fans waiting to Pegula to come riding in on his horse clad in white armor you may have to wait awhile longer. For those expecting a 100% percent turnover by the trade deadline, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
I’m glad that Terry Pegula is here. Tom Golisano was doing his share to hurt the franchise. I’m excited to see the changes he will be making to the team and the front office. I’m not expecting instant gratification. An ownership change is a lengthy process and I will reserve judgment until it’s over.