Will the Buffalo Sabres Ever Come Back?

The kind of fan who shouts “Buffalo’s on the rise!” is increasingly rare because that kind of fan most likely hasn’t suffered as long as fans who’ve been loyal to the team since day one. But still, they all suffer. “After nearly nine years with zero important games here, I realize we are living in the worst period of the Buffalo Sabres,” says a fan.

The Buffalo Sabres have the third largest salary cap currently, and according to Money Puck, they have a 1.1% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. This will be the ninth consecutive season without the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Since owners Terry and Kin Pegula took over the team in 2011 and in those nine years, they’ve had quite turbulent management going through six coaches and three general manager. They’ve had one generational talent, Jack Eichel, who has yet to appear in a playoff game.

“Starting today,” Terry Pegula said at his introductory news conference, “the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup.”

When you combine a lack of postseason appearances, organizational turmoil, wasted assets and opportunity, and a growing revolution among the fans the Sabres are the biggest disaster in the NHL. Consider that the Ottawa Senators have had roster sell-offs and sexual harassment scandals and cyberbullying scandals and players caught on a hidden camera badmouthing coaches and an owner with an outright adversarial relationship with his own fans … and they still have a better chance than the Sabres.

The lack of success has trickled into the tickets sold and stadium capacity. It has gone down 3.1 percent from 93.9 percent to 90.8 percent in the past two seasons, and in 2011, the stadium was 99.9 percent full.

Some avid Sabres fans are becoming dispassionate while others are becoming angry. They’re blaming the owners for lack of success, arguing that if the owners focused more on the team, they’d be more successful.

“I don’t need a damn camera in front of Terry Pegula every single day, but address our concerns! Be there when you screw up! Answer for the mistakes! Be accountable!” a fan demanded.

So, where are the owners on all of this? They seem to be avoiding the spotlight as Sabres general manager Jason Botterill told WGR that the Pegulas are “frustrated” with the of the team: “To put it bluntly, my conversations with Terry and Kim, they’re frustrated with the results. They want better results, and the dialogue goes to, ‘What are the solutions? What are we doing to get better?'”

Botterill was hired in May 2017 after helping to build three Stanley Cup champions as part of Pittsburgh Penguins management. Botterill hired head coach Phil Housley from the Nashville Predators, and then Botteri hired Ralph Krueger as head coach, and some say he’s the best thing about the 2019-20 Sabres not named “Jack Eichel.” But the Sabres have a long way to go to even starting climbing out of the gutter.

But while some fans are wondering if his tenure should end, what would come next? More new management? Quite bluntly, too many changes, especially on the management side, can make things worse (but hte Sabres can’t get much worse…can they?) All of the changes are resulting in a lack of teamwork, a lack of comradeship.

Whatever the next course taken is, the fans have a clear message:

“We are a passionate fan base in a hardworking, blue-collar city and we don’t deserve a billionaire owner if he refuses to listen or act. We are not content with the situation that you have created with this organization. And if you’re upset about the reaction that the fans are giving, you shouldn’t be. You should be happy that fans still care about this team. Please, for the sake of the franchise and the people of Buffalo, be better.”

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