Buffalo - February 27, 2015 - Pretty much all of the talk surrounding the Buffalo Sabres during the 2014-15 season has been about tanking or the 2015 NHL Draft. Frankly, I don’t blame anyone for talking about those things ad nauseam.
After all, what else would one talk about? How hilariously inept they are or how much less talented they are than just about anyone else they play? How about the injuries to the actual good players that have made this already bad team that much worse on paper?
The reason it all comes back to that June draft is because that’s literally all anyone in Buffalo has had to look forward to since the puck dropped on opening night.
What about I’m about to say isn’t going to surprise anyone: Buffalo needs this. And not just the franchise, either. The city needs this.
The problem isn’t that the Sabres are bad. Teams have downswings all the time. The problem is that Buffalo has mired on the lower end of the standings – both in hockey and football as well as in the grand economic scheme of the United States – for long enough that there’s a “loser” mentality within the entire city. When things have been this bad for this long, optimism becomes harder and harder to find. Think about it this way: you’re looking for a job. Every single day, you get up with your head held high. You put on your suit, you walk out the door and you make the trek to another interview. And each interview brings a new and more painful rejection. First they just tell you they’re not interested. Then they start laughing in your face. Before you know it, interviewers are sharing your resume as a running joke and now you’re left feeling like no matter what, it’s not going to be any different.
That’s where we are with Buffalo sports. No matter what good happens, we’re always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Four straight Super Bowls sounds great until you remember that three of them were blowouts and only the first one, ending in the famous words “Wide Right”, was even close. A surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999 brought the city together. “No Goal” took the momentum out if its collective sails. Our only big-time sports memories revolve around losing, often in the most painful possible way.
And that’s why we’re rooting to land Connor McDavid.
Sure, it’s stupid to put an entire city’s hopes on the shoulders of a teenager. Sure, it could backfire spectacularly and this prized prospect that the Sabres had to play so poorly to obtain could wind up being one of the greatest busts of all time. But McDavid is the kind of player that can swing the fortunes of a franchise. How many people remember where Pittsburgh was before they landed hockey’s “Next One” in Sidney Crosby? Mounting losses, financial uncertainty and more questions than answers. But then the 18-year-old Nova Scotian stepped in and things have never been better for the Penguins. They might not win the Stanley Cup every year, but they contend. They’re relevant. They matter, not just to the city of Pittsburgh, but outside of it. That’s where McDavid could bring Buffalo.
The Sabres need to land Connor McDavid, not only to win on the ice, but to give the city something to be recognized for other than losing or a slumping work force. The Sabres need Connor McDavid to become relevant again. Above most anything he could do on the ice, that would be the greatest thing he could do for Buffalo.
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