Some reading to take care of first: Campbell won’t negotiate with Sabres until after season.
Sound familiar? It should, as you could substitute Brian Campbell’s name with Jay McKee, Danny Briere, or Chris Drury’s. Let’s take a look at Larry Quinn’s resume in his two stints as Buffalo Sabres managing partner:
- Mishandled a feud between top GM John Muckler, beloved coach Ted Nolan and all-star goalie Dominik Hasek, running the first two out of town and alienating the third before losing him for next to nothing (all apologies to miscreant Slava Kozlov, the lone compensation we got from the Red Wings for Hasek).
- Served as lapdog to corrupt Rigas ownership group; perpetuating myth that owner John Rigas would actually “give (the Sabres) the tools to succeed.” Mercifully for the fans, he was booted along with the Rigases.
- Lost top defenseman and locker room leader Jay McKee to free agency because they didn’t think he was worth negotiating seriously with during the 2005-06 season.
- Forward Mike Grier, the Sabres’ other leader during that season, leaves town, seemingly with hard feelings toward Sabres management.
- J.P. Dumont, while not exactly an all-star but a force on the power play, is essentially thrown away to make room for up and coming forwards (read: cheap) from Rochester.
- Fails to lock up Danny Briere to a long-term deal before salary arbitration, in which the $5 million deal Briere got all but ensured an even larger contract after the 06-07 season. Add insult to injury by adhering to an inexplicable front office policy of not negotiating with free-agents-to-be during the regular season, and Briere was well on his way out the door to cash in on an insanely lucrative free agent deal with Philadelphia.
- Chris Drury, seeing the (lack of) respect that is paid to the team’s leaders, decides he’s had enough of that treatment and heads out of town for New York, for a huge contract. A contract that far exceeded the relatively paltry sum he would’ve stayed with the Sabres for.
- If you’ve read this site with any regularity, you can insert my many diatribes against the team’s horrendous new uniforms here.
- Quinn’s spearheading a waterfront plan with a big box retailer as its centerpiece on the prime area near downtown. Hmm, who wouldn’t want a crass, Wal-Mart-like structure occupying what could be the city’s crown jewel?
- That terrible haircut.
- Negotiations with defenseman (and emotional leader) Brian Campbell break off, with Campbell saying, “I’m done talking about it with the team until the end of the year.” Rumor has it that his agent floated a 5-year, $25 million dollar offer a few weeks back, which the team promptly turned down. That 5-year deal will be a relative pittance compared to what Campbell will make on the open market after the season. But, foresight’s never been the Sabres front office’s strong suit.
So, where does that leave us? The team’s heart and soul has essentially been ripped out in two successive off-seasons. They break the bank on an underachieving forward who has all the confidence of a kitten (Vanek), whilst letting Drury and Briere go for nothing in return. Larry Quinn’s dismissive, patronizing interviews over the last several months, urging fans to be “patient” and to “have faith,” become all the more aggravating in light of today’s news.
I’m done with Quinn in this town; I’m done with this team until something changes. Why invest the emotional energy I’ve poured out on this team over the past…decade plus? Why support a team that thinks “success” means selling a lot of crappy jerseys and doing barely enough to field a competitive hockey team? Remember, that 2005-06 Sabres team came out of nowhere–it was a team no one expected to do anything at all that year. It’s not as if Quinn and company had finally put together a powerhouse to take the league by storm. That team succeeded in spite of all expectations, and in spite of any action from the front office by and large.
All the fervor with which the fan base has supported this team over the past couple of seasons is slowly but surely waning–the front office has used up any goodwill capital with their (in)action over the last two offseasons. What might’ve been a Stanley Cup-winning team in 2006, had they been healthy (mere minutes from a win in Game 7 of the conference finals, if you remember) has essentially been gutted. I can’t take it anymore and am waving a wistful farewell to this team if Campbell heads out of town. (Do I dare even mention that goalie Ryan Miller’s free agency is just around the corner?) Wake me up when Larry Quinn has crossed the border out of Erie County for good.