Sabres' misery continues

The keys to the car that is the roster apparently have been lost

Mike Schopp
November 20, 2019 - 11:02 am
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I've been staring at the screen for more than an hour. I'm overdue to write a column and given the Sabres' recent play -- last two weeks or last 10 years, you define recent -- they really need to be my subject.

Most thoughts I have are forced. When something out of your control bothers you in your life, what do you do about it? Do you dwell on how frustrated it makes you? I find that unhealthy and try to avoid it, instead making whatever effort is necessary to not think about it all. I woke up three hours ago and got my children started prepping for school. I asked them if they think it will be possible for me to make a mushroom dish for Thanksgiving that their cousins will eat. My son said it will be impossible. My daughter says yes ,but only if it's mushroom ice cream. Life is short.

Of course, this amazing job I have requires me to ponder the Buffalo Sabres. I know how that reads. I'm embarrassed to put it that way. But at this point, if I'm being honest, that's how it feels. It feels like a requirement. So do the occasional "rants" on the air, e.g., "At some point we're going to have to talk about this". It can feel good in the moment to go off like that. But when it's over I often feel badly about it. These are people with families and their own struggles, and I tend to think more about the human side of it when I leave the office. Jeremy White this morning said how when he gets home he and his wife will talk about the Sabres. When I get home that never happens. There was a game Tuesday night but my son had a band concert and I went to that, making it just in time. I sat next to a friend who asked me how work was. "I'm spiraling," I told her. She laughed.

So what's new to say? Several bad players from last year's team were brought back. I have been unable to think of any defense for it. Buyouts, trades, waivers ... it was seemingly a given that in some combination it all would happen, because that's what sports teams almost always do. Especially considering it was in the wake of the colossal embarrassment that was watching castoff Ryan O'Reilly win the -- window-cracking level of emphasis added -- Conn Smythe Trophy. Instead -- now more muted, think Hannibal Lecter -- none of it happened. The only player traded since the middle of last summer (2018) has been Nathan Beaulieu (h/t @ntrider825). Jeremy tweeted Wednesday about how at one point last spring, the Sabres had lost 17-of-20 games, yet the only player from the last of those games that they've moved off the roster since is Alexander Nylander.

Why? How?

It all seems like a sick joke. A nightmare, a Twilight Zone episode where you're stuck somewhere and can't find your way out. The keys to the car that is this roster apparently have been lost. Is there really any other explanation? You just walk around and around, looking for some clue that you've escaped, and then there's an image in the distance and you get excited that maybe you're in a new place but step closer and realize it's Rasmus Ristolainen wiring a puck around the boards for eternity.

On Twitter and devoid of an entry point to this article that I liked, I thought of this search: "@schopptalk Sabres help". One entry I found was my saying this from April 2014:

2014 was the season before the Sabres drafted Sam Reinhart, which is the season before they drafted Jack Eichel, which is three seasons before the one in which they drafted Rasmus Dahlin. By virtue of no accomplishment other than being so terrible, the Sabres were gifted three excellent players. And yet, somehow, we're watching them lose nine of 11 games in what would be a ninth consecutive non-playoff season in a league where more than half the teams every year make it.

What's left to say? Nothing. What's left to do? I don't know. Walk?

The aforementioned Beaulieu joined O'Reilly by mentioning, in a recent interview, how miserable he was playing in Buffalo. What are we supposed to make of that? Sure, the losing, but lots of teams lose and their players don't walk around saying *publicly* that they were miserable there. Is it my fault? Is it all of ours? The arena for games is often dead, and it's also old. Is that our fault too? Beaulieu is a decent player that often was made to sit and watch while the likes of Ristolainen continue, apparently forever, leading the outfit in minutes. Beaulieu and O'Reilly think they were miserable? Do they know what tickets cost?

One of my favorite sports metaphors is "the punch Ali didn't throw Foreman". This is from 1974's "Rumble in the Jungle", a fight in which Muhammad Ali upset George Foreman with a knockout in the eighth round. Ali has Foreman tumbling to the canvas and has his arm cocked to throw one final, fatal blow. But even amidst the fury he recognizes that Foreman is falling anyway, and he refrains.

Criticism of the Sabres feels like that punch Ali didn't throw -- but in this case Foreman isn't beginning his fall, he's already lying dead on the canvas. It's exhausted and boring, unnecessary and often gratuitous. What isn't those things is a compliment, so here goes that: I really like the 50th season jerseys. I'd like them more if it were the actual 50th season, but never mind.

 

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