Only a few weeks into the 2013-14 NHL season, a season of straight old-school rebuild for the Buffalo Sabres, and fans are already calling for Terry Pegula to blow the whole thing up.
It is no secret that the Buffalo Sabres have been tough to watch, here in “Hockey Heaven”.
It is highly understood that through 41 games with Ron Rolston as head coach, the Sabres have won just 8 games in regulation. In those 41 games, Buffalo has a mediocre 16-19-6 record.
With 16 wins in 41 games, the immediate future seems bleak but there is a means to an end.
Coming into this season, General Manager Darcy Regier has put a lot of stock in developing young talent in exchange for long playoff runs. Management and the coaching staff has committed to entrusting young players with important roles. On the surface, Darcy Regier seems as if he has the right mindset for this upcoming core rebuild, but the execution is currently what is lacking.
“The vision started last season at the trade deadline. We began moving in the direction of having to acquire more top players,” said Regier, last season. “This is about building for the Stanley Cup. Not a playoff run.”
While this process seems as it will not be a complete tank for the top overall pick, things have not been going swimmingly for the Buffalo Sabres franchise.
Ten games into the full rebuild, and Buffalo is painfully underwhelming. This team is currently scoring at a clip of 1.20 goals-per-game (worst in the NHL), while tallying 26.7 shots (27th worst). Couple that with allowing 2.80 goals-per-game (20th in the league) and they allow 34.6 shots per game (28th worst). Buffalo also sports a -15 goal differential (29th worst). Judging with the aforementioned stats, you can see why Buffalo has one win in ten games, tied with New Jersey and Philadelphia for worst in the league.
“It probably needs an understanding from our fan base that what Terry is asking of us to try a lot of things,” said Regier. “It may require some suffering.”
“Some suffering” is not the thing that hockey hungry fans in Buffalo wanted to hear, but that is completely the case.
When it comes to a rebuild, you have to wonder which type will occur. Buffalo could have an expedited rebuild, like Pittsburgh or Boston did. Both of those franchises turned their luck around within six seasons and won the Stanley Cup. As you know, these teams are now powerhouses in the NHL.
Looking at the other rebuild option, look no further than Edmonton. The Oilers are pack to the gills with talent, featuring five first-round picks from the last six drafts, including three first-overall picks. Guess when they made the playoffs last. 2005-06, when they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Final.
Talent is nice to have, but you clearly need the structure in place to push the right buttons at the right time. As time goes on, many people are starting to believe that change could be necessary in Buffalo.
Looking at the aforementioned options, it seems early as if Buffalo is essentially burning everything down to rebuild from the ground up, like Edmonton did. Drawing conclusions based on early reactions, Sabres fans will not be happy with an Edmonton-esque rebuild.
Many Sabres fans knew what was happening when Ron Rolston had the interim tag removed. Fans had become aware that Buffalo thought a complete rebuild was best for business, although no one could have predicted what is currently happening.
While the jury is still out on Ron Rolston, solely because he has not coached an entire NHL season, many assume judgment day could be coming for Darcy Regier.
The rumor mills have fired up early this season, with reports that Regier could be on the outs in Buffalo if the slow start continues. As the old saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire. The Sabres have not made the playoffs since 2010-11 and haven’t made it out of the Conference Quarterfinals since 2006-07. Connect the dots for a second and realize that the one constant through all that hockey is General Manager Darcy Regier.
It is very hard to believe that Darcy Regier can survive a season if the Sabres continue to win only 1 out of every 10 games.
When it comes to this tough time, you have two options as a fan during a rebuild.
Your first option is embracing the rebuild and getting excited about the future of this franchise. Get yourselves ready for Grigorenko, Girgensons, Larsson, Ristolainen, Zadorov, etc. while making yourself aware that the future will be tough indefinitely. There is no specific end date on a rebuild.
Your second option is to walk away. Plain and simple, just give up on this hockey team and move forward.
Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston are running this rebuild, until further notice. There clearly is a reason why Terry Pegula has continuously extended Regier’s contract, and there is a reason why Rolston is here and not in Rochester. The organization believes that these two men spearheading a rebuild gives the franchise a better opportunity for long-growth.
In a nutshell, petitions on Twitter do nothing. Complaining to local talk show radio does nothing. The franchise already warned you that this rebuild “might require some suffering”. Either you embrace the rebuild and go with the team, or move on. There is no middle ground.
Things in Buffalo have already been painful, and only seem like they’ll get worse. The best advice I have for you is to be as patient as possible. The juice could surely be worth the squeeze, just as long as the Sabres see themselves raising the Stanley Cup in the next 10 years.