I remember holding out hope that the NHL would get their act together to hold a season in 2004-2005. The Sabres were an up and coming team and as a die hard fan at the time I was convinced they were on the cusp of greatness. Sure, I had been plenty wrong about this in the past but we had some guys with spirit on the team- Briere and most of all Chris Drury. Drury was on the road to being my favorite Sabre of all time, taking the spot from Pat LaFontaine… of course he bolted to the Rangers.
I remember being relieved at the time of the new Labor Agreement. The Sabres could now contend monetarily with the salary cap in place. They could keep their own great players instead of seeing them poached away (or traded away prior to poaching) by other clubs. There were many reasons people didn’t want to stay in Buffalo, but under Regier pre-Frack being undervalued must have ranked in the top three reasons to take notice of the brown grass in Buffalo and see green in other places.
Of course as I previously stated we lost Drury in free agency anyway. Briere too. As much as I like Briere I remember how stressed out he left me while watching that playoff run in 2007. He had no heart. He had no passion for anything but the pending riches of free agency. Sure if you look at his stats he was top 10 scoring for that seasons extra session, but it is a case of stats not telling the whole story. There is no notation of the giveaways, not going into corners, getting bullied off the puck in the numbers. I remember though and if I were to forget my brother Rob would certainly make sure to remind me. Briere made him that sick, if not worse.
Still the Sabres were able to retain Thomas Vanek when the Edmonton Oilers put a 7 year 49 million dollar deal on the table for the unrestricted free agent. The Sabres had to pony up at that point. They didn’t only have egg on their face after losing Briere and Drury, the bird that dropped the egg shit on them. For PR’s sake as much as anything they matched the offer.
Fast forward past my break from the team to now- Darth Bettman’s lockout. There seems to be a consensus that a reduced salary cap is a definite. This gives the Sabres a potential out on some buyers remorse contracts (*cough* Leino *cough*) that polluted land purchased. I heard Paul Hamilton on WGR making the case for an amnesty year. I can’t imagine him making such a case back in 2004-2005. My memory seems to feel it was almost the opposite as a point of view.
So it goes I suppose. I follow the Winnipeg Jets fairly closely. I plan on being fluid and have no allegiance to any team though, I am a fan of the game more than anything now. A great game, but a niche sport. The Napoleon of the NHL is gambling the future of a game that just got back a TV contract that allowed every post season game to be available to a National American TV audience (I believe for the first time). He is gambling that he can do better. I wish he would put his dice away.