I may not be as poetic with my words as Drake is, but we can share one lyric: that’s the motto. As in “Stay The Course” is the motto for this year’s Sabres club.
It has been an incredibly long time since I’ve seen this much excitement surrounding Buffalo fans. The last three years they have been one of the most putrid teams in the league. But now? Now the eagerness and anticipation of waiting through those years has come to fruition.
Now we have Jack Eichel. Now we have Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane. Now we have a developing Sam Reinhart and sly veteran Tyler Ennis. And fans are going to want results when? Now.
This is just a reminder to temper your expectations for the year. Tim Murray has done an excellent job putting this squad together. There is now legitimate depth with forwards and defensemen, and still a line of prospects waiting for their chance to contribute.
He went out and got a goalie in Robin Lehner. The process is already delayed due to Lehner’s injury, but that gives the Sabres even more time to develop. He is rebuilding the right way, putting Buffalo in a position to contend consistently for a decade rather than a year or two peak.
It takes time to build relationships and know tendencies with the people you’re working with. Hockey is no different. The talent on this team is deep, but it’s also extremely young. There are a bevy of contributors under the age of 25, and three that can’t even (legally) buy a beer when they go out.
There are going to be plenty of times this year when the youth outshadows the talent. Dumb mistakes, lack of communication, unnecessary turnovers, it’s going to happen. And it’s going to make you, the fan, frustrated.
But you know what else was frustrating? Rooting for this team to lose. Knowing it was absolutely in their best future interest if they did not win games. That’s hard, not only for fans but much more importantly for the players on the ice. Now, those days are over and behind us. We can cheer on this hockey team more than ever, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to see results right away.
It’s a process to get back to the top, it doesn’t happen overnight. Hell, not finishing in last in the Conference would be an improvement from last year. It doesn’t have to be playoffs or bust, and it certainly won’t be.
I’d be astounded if the 2015-16 Sabres were a playoff team. They have the personnel to get it done, but it’s just not that easy. You know what else would be a successful season? Finishing top 12 in the conference. Maybe we can sneak up to 10th and maybe then, if it’s an opportunity late in the season, think about sneaking into the playoffs. But the likelihood is that is probably not going to happen.
I’m not saying to temper excitement, just to hold down those expectations. The excitement is well earned and deserved, this team is for real. It just might take a couple more years before this team is at the top seeing the success of those mid-2000’s teams. Tim Murray will get this team there, whatever it takes. Just give him his time and let his plan run fully.
Get on board, have fun, be excited, and most importantly…stay the course.