The NHL’s prize at the end of its playoffs is considered by many the toughest to win. The Stanley Cup is the most coveted trophy in all of sports. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lord Stanley’s cup is the oldest trophy competed for by pro athletes in North America. The Cup was donated in 1892 and was presented to the championship hockey club of the Dominion of Canada. The first team ever awarded the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in 1893. Since 1910, when the National Hockey Association took possession of the Stanley Cup, the trophy has been symbol of professional hockey. Since1926 only NHL teams have competed for The Stanley Cup.
The Montreal Canadiens have won a record 23 Stanley Cups since the formation of the NHL, with Toronto a distant second at 13. The Habs also won consecutive championships (5) between 1956 and 1960. One team to never hoist the Cup because of playoff triumph is the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have been to the Stanley Cup finals only twice in the team’s history, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers, also known as the Broad Street Bullies, in 1975, only the Sabres 5th year of existence, and again losing to the Dallas Stars in 1999 off of the infamous Brett Hull foot in the crease.
The Sabres have operated as a small market team but have had a great fan following and the label of “Hockey Heaven” has been attached to them via the team’s website. The team has had to overcome some big time challenges in their history when then owner John Rigas was indicted and convicted of fraud and tax evasion while owning cable company Adelphia. ABC News let him tell his side of the story but obviously the Sabres would not be under his control anymore.This caused the team to eventually be bought by Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex, who saw two great runs to the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back years and a President’s Trophy for best regular season record. Then Mr. Golisano sold the Buffalo Sabres to fellow billionaire Terry Pegula in February 2011 for $189 million. Since February 22, 2011 the main reason of existence for the Sabres has been to win a Stanley Cup. The Sabres currently sit in 30th place in the standings, which is dead last.
The past couple season have been different than past seasons, there hasn’t been a few tweaks done to the roster or this has been just a down year, this is what it looks like when a team loses its identity and gets lost in the shuffle. Long time coach Lindy Ruff, and long time GM Darcy Regier are gone. Lindy Ruff was fired in February 2013 during the season and Darcy Regier was fired in November of 2013. The Sabres replaced Lindy Ruff with Ron Rolston who had his interim tag removed when he was hired as head coach after the Sabres finished the regular season last season only to be fired along with Darcy Regier in November. Terry Pegula then created the position of President of Hockey Operations and hired former Sabre great Pat LaFontaine to fill that position. LaFontaine’s first hire was interim coach Ted Nolan, who coached the Sabres from 1995-1997. Nolan’s presence brought toughness and accountability back to the Sabres despite being last place there is more of a spark with the team that hasn’t been there in the past two seasons. Pat LaFontaine hired Tim Murray as GM in January to oversee this rebuild and get the Sabres back on the path to achieve their Stanley Cup goal. Not even three months into the Murray reign, President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine resigned.
There are many theories as to why LaFontaine resigned, I think it was over the monumental trade Murray executed with the St. Louis Blues and sending franchise goaltender Ryan Miller, and captain Steve Ott to St. Louis for 3 players and draft picks. I’m sure Ted Nolan’s future has something to do with his departure but that we may never know for sure. What we do know is that this Sabres team needed to make the Miller trade happen and get what they could, and they sold high. Everyone on the roster is an option to trade and having a great eye for talent and a team builder like Tim Murray making these decisions is great for the long term success of the Sabres. But there needs to be more unity in the organization, it just seems as if Terry Pegula is a super-fan running the team, hiring guys for nostalgia sake.
This rebuild period for the Sabres will last longer than 2 seasons and the first crucial decision Tim Murray made was trading a fan favorite and essentially the franchise in Ryan Miller, the next decision is to decide if Ted Nolan is the guy that will coach this team. The most important hire a GM can make is his head coach and Ted Nolan was dropped in Murray’s lap and you can’t force a guy like Murray into a corner with a guy that he doesn’t even know to lead this effort in bringing a Cup to western New York.
The road is going to be long and it will take time, but Sabres fans are loyal and will support this team knowing that it is going in the right direction but the key is to trust the people in charge and as Buffalo sports fans our trust almost always gets misplaced in situations like this.