A Sabres Fan’s Guide to Surviving the End of the Season

There’s no question that this NHL season has been a major disappointment in Hockey Heaven. Many fans felt that the Sabres were ready and able to challenge for the Northeast Division title and have a good playoff run. Dont worry, you weren’t the only one that was fooled. The Hockey News projected Buffalo to finish 5th in the Eastern Conference, while the Official NHL 2012 Yearbook predicted that the Sabres would finish 4th. Derek Roy was cited as the team’s top fantasy player and Marc-Andre Gragnani was named the team’s “darkhorse.” Don’t let NHL analysts and Buffalo media writers tell you otherwise, we all thought that this season would end up differently. In the five stages of grief, I have definitely entered the acceptance phase. Some entered acceptance during the team’s 12 game road losing streak, some after the Lucic incident in November. To those of you that have accepted that this season is a failure and to those that are hanging on to the thinnest portions of disbelief (those still stuck in the denial stage), here are a few pointers that can aid in the regaining of your hockey sanity:

1. Losing is a positive.

The more the Sabres lose, the more likely they are to finish last in the East. The lower they finish, the higher their draft pick this Summer. Winning can only deepen the dillusion that Terry Pegula and Darcy Regier have that this team can go deep in the playoffs when in reality, they can’t even qualify for the playoffs. The Sabres have drafted 1st overall twice in franchise history, picking Gilbert Perrault and Pierre Turgeon. Not bad. Oh, and the last time they drafted in the top five, they drafted arguably the best player on the roster in Thomas Vanek. Pittsburgh and Chicago won Stanley Cups after great drafts (Crosby, Kane, Toews, Malkin, etc.).

2. The future looks bright!

Take away the vast underachievers and you have a solid foundation for the future. The team has a solid captain in the incredibly consistent Jason Pomminville (20 goals/30assists in every season since ’06-’07). Thomas Vanek puts up great goal scoring numbers with little to no help. Tyler Myers is the most coveted young defenseman in the NHL and at age 22, is just beginning to hit his stride. Teams would give up a large chunk of assets to gain the abilities of the former Calder winner. Should Ryan Miller remain in Buffalo (and I think that he will), you have one of the best netminders in the league and possibly the world. He can win games by himself and is the kind of player that you can imagine winning the Conn Smythe (MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs). Youngsters Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis are lethal together, and don’t forget about the loads of talent in Rochester, spearheaded by coveted prospects Brayden McNabb and Zack Kassian.

3. Pick a second team.

The Sabres can make you lose sleep. I am as dedicated to supporting this franchise as anyone. I “bleed” blue and gold. But sometimes, it’s nice to have a second team to root for. I have always been a major Anaheim Ducks fan (you can imagine my excitement when the Ducks and Sabres made the final four a few years back). I also like the New York Rangers, partially because my favorite player is on their roster (Martin Biron). I’ll never be as passionate as I am for the Sabres towards another team, but it makes the final stretch of the season more enjoyable. My father is a Red Wings fan as well. Go find another team to follow in addition to our beloved Sabres but always root for Buffalo first. Just don’t choose Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto.

4. Why so serious? Be optimistic!

That may sound unlikely (if not impossible), but it makes all the difference in the world. Yes, this season is a major failure, but think future. The Sabres have an owner with unlimited resources, a dedicated fanbase, and loads of potential. A few tweaks here and there, and we will be rewarded for decades of service and dedication to the Buffalo Sabres. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if that tunnel is a few more seasons away than we had originally anticipated.

Follow Josiah LeRoy on Twitter @JosiahDLeRoy