For Bucky Gleason, it’s always alumni week at Sabres University. The franchise can be saved only if it turns to the indomitable forces that took it to the top once before, regardless of whether that “top” for the Sabres was someone else’s second place.
A moment must be spared to glance over the weakness of the philosophy that has come off the pages of the Buffalo News. It is indeed so provincial as to be pointed out so that we can explicitly state that it is not now nor will ever be how we commit ourselves to do things. Let’s start.
The premise is sound enough: Darcy Regier has overstayed his welcome and has failed as the Sabres general manager. Fair enough. The performance of the team over the past three seasons is a tough pill to swallow for even the staunchest defenders and has already claimed the franchise’s Winston Churchill in Lindy Ruff. If Ruff went because of how this shook out, then most assuredly Regier should go.
It’s the treatment of the disease that has me second guessing Gleason’s acumen. You couldn’t find a better game plan scrawled on the half torn and soaked napkin of a happy hour sports caller stuck on the payphone at Magruders. It stinks of provincialism, unoriginal thinking, The Old Boys Network. It is quintessentially Buffalonian in its approach.
“Let’s just get all the old guys we used to like. Everything will be fine then! Remember the old days when we liked our team and they worked hard? We need that once more!”
The entire Sabres portion of the column is dedicated to hiring old Sabres as advisers to Terry Pegula. This, Gleason reckons, would be to “breathe some fresh air through this organization and this community.” I probably need help with this point, because how is bringing back old players from your team – and in some respects old management personnel too – a breath of fresh air exactly? It sounds like old stuff. Like deciding you hate every new television show so all you are going to watch is The A-Team.
Gleason suggests 14 former Sabres players for positions in the hockey department, including rounding out the front office and the coaching staff. This isn’t suggesting a new adviser to Terry Pegula; this is recasting the franchise as a reunion episode.
(ASIDE: Always quick to point out that the franchise has never won anything but still wanting desperately to find that old magic with former players who, again, never won anything? Huh? Pick a team, Buffalo News.)
He suggests Pat LaFontaine to be president of hockey (this position does not currently exist within the organization):
“He’s bright, knows what it takes to build a winner, works well with others, and is a natural leader.”
Last time I checked LaFontaine got railroaded out of Long Island after he and Charles Wang didn’t get along. He is just as much a part of the Islanders franchise as he is of this one, and now he’s persona non grata with the organization where he made his greatness in a Hall of Fame career. Read this Wall Street Journal article about the whole thing.
Wang resigned as CEO of his business because of a class-action lawsuit. Mike Milbury beat someone with a shoe and is generally regarded as a buffoon. Even with all of that being true about the two of them, the incident should at least be mentioned. I’m willing to lean heavily in LaFontaine’s favor, but you can’t write that he works well with others and knows what it takes to build a winner when his previous experience is a stint with the Islanders that ended acrimoniously.
If Gleason thinks that ending on Long Island is Wang’s fault, he can say so. But don’t tell me he’s Steve Yzerman with that cloud hanging around. And I like LaFontaine! You are making me distrust him Gleason! This is the opposite of what you are supposed to be doing.
It doesn’t stop there. Craig Ramsay is suggested for head coach because Don Lever, Mike Ramsey, James Patrick, and Scott Arniel are placed as his assistant coaches, who any one of could have been suggested as head coach too. Holy crap. Why on Earth did you fire Lindy Ruff if you are going to attempt to assemble a Ruff Voltron out of the individual coaches on the bench? When a forward fails to back check, they all come together as a giant 50-foot Sabrecat to start shouting down the bench. I even picture the five of them all stuffed into the same suit and having to walk around together on the bench and in the locker room. Maybe they can all wear fake mustaches too.
Do Chris Drury and Mike Grier get name dropped? Check. Tim Kennedy is unavailable for comment.
There are two good suggestions out of this humongous pile of garbage. Rick Dudley is suggested for general manager. Dudley has traveled around the NHL a ton recently, with teams doing well in all of his stops (except for the Thrashers/Jets who are still blargh.) I’ll listen to him because out of all of the suggested candidates his resume is the strongest.
The second good suggestion is the only place where this article does any work. It’s Jason Botterill, although how Gleason treated that LaFontaine graph has me double thinking the whole endeavor. The reason this suggestion is a good one, and why I am so angry about the piece, is that the article should have revolved around this guy.
Here is someone who maybe doesn’t even register with some fans of the team because he is such an obscure part of their past, but finding out how much he has developed as a manager – hell maybe even talking to some of his coworkers! – would do wonders for telling us things as fans that we actually don’t know.
I have no idea how Botterill is doing as an assistant GM. I am no closer to finding out after this piece. Every other guy on the list I could’ve gotten the information from Wikipedia.
And the last line is the killer.
“Remember, the aforementioned are ex-Sabres. Imagine what Pegula could find if he opened the doors to everyone.”
Hey Mister Fancy Pants Sports Reporter Who Has All Of The Contacts! I do not have the wherewithal to discover who these up and comers might be around the league. Perhaps YOU COULD TELL ME WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE. MAYBE THIS IS WHAT YOUR ARTICLE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Stop throwing old nostalgic crap at me and give me some real information that I didn’t know. Educate me on who I need to know about in the sport I follow.
The writing in this article is what is killing the News. Know why? Because on the same day this was printed in the letters to the editor:
Sabres should look to Peca as next GM
It’s time to step outside the box. An individual with a fresh, bright, innovative approach, that is not a member of the “good old boys club” of the NHL.
I only know what I see from the outside looking in, but get the guy who demonstrated leadership on and off the ice, won’t settle for anyone in the organization taking the night off, and had the courage and conviction to hold out for what he believed in to the end. Get Michael Peca to be the next general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.
Submit your resume to the News, Alfred. You have all the makings of a columnist.
The Sabres do need a fresh start, but they need it with truly new personnel and innovative thinking. If the Buffalo Sabres wish to create a brand new and invigorated approach to hockey, from the very bottom of the feeder clubs to the pro team, then maybe it will require a bold philosophy. It may even require people we haven’t heard of before.
This is the hard work the Sabres have in store for them. “Hockey Heaven” lies in ruins. Pegula has had this team under his control for two years and are maybe worse off on the ice and in the hockey department than when he first arrived. There is a long road ahead to make the Sabres a powerhouse franchise, not just a powerhouse team.
We can only hope the Sabres have committed themselves to scouring the planet for the best available talent. For most of us, the only leg up we could get on knowing who might be out there is our hometown paper – The Buffalo News.
And instead we get this retread crap with mailed in suggestions. Precious space and ink wasted. Man, an article that took me places I didn’t expect to go and introduced me to the back room workers in the NHL would’ve been a true breath of fresh air.
Now which is the organization that has to examine themselves?