First it was the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their first-ever NBA championship, and then the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year string of losses by winning the World Series. One NBA title meant that sports fans had to rethink the way they look at the city of Cleveland. Now BelieveLand is a reality, and Buffalo Sabres fans are forced to wait for their turn, again.
I live in the Buffalo area, and the karma of losing is like a thick cloud that never lifts from this growing city. After the Sabres suffered through two consecutive seasons in the NHL basement (Tank? You decide.), the signs all started pointing to a better place. With Jack Eichel on board, the Sabres had nowhere to go but up, right?
As the 2016-2017 season gets underway, the Sabres are struggling to stay at .500. I, like many Sabres fans, thought we would never see the day when the team was over .500 early in the season. But now that the day is here, something still seems to be wrong with the team.
Injuries and Buffalo sports teams seem to go hand in hand. The Sabres lost Jack Eichel and Evander Kane before the final buzzer of game one sounded. A lot was expected of Eichel and Kane, and to take that kind of firepower out of the lineup so early meant the team had to suddenly change the way it was going to play. Obviously, the team is still adjusting.
What about General Manager Tim Murray? Considering the hole he had to dig the team out of, he seems to have done a great job. But his approach to goaltending is suspect. Once again, the Sabres are stuck with a situation where the backup goalie looks better than the starter, and that makes the first-round pick given up for Robin Lehner look all the more wasted.
Murray brought in a Stanley Cup winning coach, but is that a legitimate credential? Dan Bylsma inherited a loaded Pittsburgh Penguins team more than halfway through the 2008-2009 season and rode that team to a Stanley Cup win. Since then, Bylsma hasn’t been able to take a team to the NHL finals.
Are the Sabres a playoff contender, or is the whole thing a smoke screen? It’s hard for any team to create a winning culture, and winning takes time. Maybe the problem with the Sabres is that the fans in Buffalo are impatient and expect a winning team to magically appear on the ice. If there’s one thing Cleveland and Chicago sports fans know, it’s that nothing happens overnight.