It seems that Sabres fans have become so accustomed to the franchise being in disarray that they now try to create a catastrophe even when things are moving in the right direction.
The media can’t claim innocence, either, least of all the Buffalo News, with their sensational headlines “Dysfunction Junction” and “Sabres fans being conned by Black” in reference to Pat Lafontaine’s ‘surprising’ resignation over the weekend.
Those quotations around “surprising” are not a mistake; not when Lafontaine previously bailed on a similar role with the New York Islanders faster than most people bail on their New Year’s resolutions. With the way Sabreland is acting, you would think that there’s been a mass exodus of dedicated members from the front office.
The real mistake is fans and journalists crying “doom” because the franchise is finally shedding the type of weight that has kept them in a slog for years.
General Manager Tim Murray clearly isn’t in town to make friends and win a popularity contest; he’s here to rebuild a struggling brand of hockey and mold it into an eventual Stanley Cup contender. He proved that much with a blockbuster trade after less than two months on the job.
“It was a little complicated with the ‘what if’s’ in it; conditions, if you will,” said Murray following the trade that sent Sabres captain Steve Ott and goaltender Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues. “But it came together, and we’re happy with what we achieved.”
Was it heartbreaking to see Ott, and especially, Miller, leave Buffalo? Absolutely. But Murray is no diabolical villain for it. It would have been foolish to hold onto hope that the 33-year-old Miller would stay a Sabre and suffer through even more rebuilding seasons rather than pursue a Stanley Cup with a team that’s currently a contender.
That kind of risk-taking by a general manager is what got Chris Drury and Daniel Briere one-way tickets to New York and Philadelphia, respectively.
If the rumblings are true that Lafontaine pushed to offer Miller an extension, then it was an ill-advised move on his part. If the trade then upset him enough to make him want to leave his position, the only thing that members of Hockey Heaven should be saying is “good riddance”.
The front office is for leaders and businessmen, not fans.
It’s baffling that Sabreland has spiraled into hysteria over this. Lafontaine’s resignation isn’t “shady”, and it’s certainly not a sign of “dysfunction”.
It’s a sign that Murray, a poised and objective general manager, is taking control of the organization. That’s not “dysfunction”, that’s stabilization.
If it means that Murray has to move on without the team’s beloved coach, too, then so be it.
“It’s tough, and I don’t even want to think about it right now, to tell you the truth,” said interim head coach Ted Nolan on Sunday, nearly with tears in his eyes, as a crowd of reporters peppered him with questions about Lafontaine’s resignation. “It’s that tough.”
The same reporters went on to grill Nolan about if he wanted to remain a coach with the Sabres.
Nolan never provided a definitive answer.
Murray has been fairly transparent when it comes to the idea of removing that “interim” part in Nolan’s coaching title, so it’s up to Nolan to decide if he’ll accept the olive branch. Hopefully, the heartbreak that he displayed over the weekend was only temporary, because, as Murray seems to recognize, Nolan has all of the necessary wisdom to guide the Sabres through their rebuild and beyond.
But if he doesn’t comply with Murray, it won’t be an indication of “dysfunction”.
It’ll simply reveal another person who doesn’t belong with this franchise moving forward.