When Terry Pegula announced the purchase of the Buffalo Sabres one year ago tomorrow, he announced their sole purpose for existence to be “to win a Stanley Cup.” To say it’s been a rockier road than anyone expected could be safely placed in the "understatement" file.
Entering the “second half” of Pegula’s first full season as owner, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves at the bottom of their Northeast Division as well as in a three-way tie for last in points in the Eastern Conference.
The effect has staggered the support of a weathered and loyal fanbase. In recent years, the Sabres have often found a way to negate the continued misery that is the Buffalo Bills, inspiring hope with last-second comebacks and playoff runs over the last five years.
Little blame can be placed on Pegula for his high aspirations, especially coming into this year. After a scalding finish to the regular season and first-round elimination at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, the Sabres looked to solidify their roster by adding free-agents Villie Leino and Christian Ehrhoff.
Not to say the additions have had a negative effect, but they haven’t translated in the way any Sabres supporter would have hoped. Leino has netted just three goals and has produced a minus-nine on the year, while Ehrhoff’s only positive is that the team was 2-7-2 in his recent absence, despite that he’s logged a minus-10 on the season.
Obviously, the team hasn’t been helped out by their injur-tastrophies, to say the least. As of the All-Star break, the Sabres rank second in the NHL in MGL (man games lost) with 231, trailing only the 11th-place Calgary Flames who have had 238. (They’ve also played 50 games, to the Sabres' 49.)
A final note, despite there apparently being some type of “new locker-room curse’” causing home troubles in the beginning of the year: This group currently stands 11-9-5 at the First Niagara Center, while they’re 9-15-0 on the road.
You have to look at the first 49 games of the season, and figure that it really can’t get any worse for the Sabres. Fans are beyond their wits' end, begging for a move to be made for a legit center and even at the head coaching position, where Lindy Ruff currently finds himself the least-confident, longest-tenured man in the National Hockey League.
When you have 33 games remaining, and there’s seven teams as well as 10 points between you and a playoff spot, there should only be one goal: one game at a time. This team can start in Montreal.
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