If you want to find a disgruntled and disenfranchised fan base, then you only need to go as far as Buffalo, New York and talk to some of the fans of the Buffalo Sabres. When team owner Terry Pegula took over the team two years ago, he promised a Stanley Cup in Buffalo in three years. Instead of developing a winning team, Pegula tried to buy one. But he soon learned that offering outrageous contracts to fringe players like Ville Leino will not win his team a championship. The Sabres have changed gears and the fans have been told that there will be “pain” to experience before a Stanley Cup win. If there is a fan base that knows about pain, it is the fan base of the Buffalo Sabres.
2013 Stanley Cup Odds: 50/1
Notable Change #1: The hiring of Ron Rolston.
When the Buffalo Sabres announced that the team was turning interim head coach Ron Rolston into the full-time head coach, there was a collective groan heard in Buffalo. The Sabres promised an extensive head coaching search that would involve every potential candidate the team could find. Instead, the team wound up hiring Rolston after only a couple of weeks of looking. The fans may not like the move, but it could be the first step towards building a winner in Buffalo. Rolston spent time coaching the Sabres’ minor league affiliate in Rochester and he has been praised over and over again for his ability to coach young players. Since the Sabres are making a move towards youth, Rolston is the perfect fit. He also has a winning record as an NHL coach, which is a good foundation to build on.
Notable Change #2: Darcy Regier retained as general manager.
One of the biggest headlines generated by the Sabres was a change that the team did not make. Despite firing long-time head coach Lindy Ruff, the team has refused to send general manager Darcy Regier packing. Instead, team owner Terry Pegula and President Ted Black have thrown their full support behind Darcy Regier. The team management feels that Regier is still able to put together a championship team as he did in 2005. The Sabres have given Regier significant financial and tactical resources to build the Stanley Cup champion in Buffalo that he has been unable to build in 16 years.
Notable Change #3: Twin Towers drafted in the first round.
In the first round of the 2013 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres chose defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with the eighth pick and defenseman Nikita Zadrov with the 16th pick. The Sabres got the 16th pick from the Minnesota Wild in the trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota. Ristolainen is 6’4” tall and Zadrov is 6’5” tall. These are the model examples of what general manager Darcy Regier means when he says the team is going to get younger and bigger. Both picks will start off in Rochester, but many fans think that both players could be on the Sabres by the midway point of the season.
Click here to get a full list of NHL futures for the 2013-14 NFL season.