The Coronavirus Pandemic has shut the world down in so many ways since late winter. One can certainly say with confidence that this historical generational exigency was not needed to shut down the playoffs for your Buffalo Sabres.
While left to their own devices, the Queen Cities NHL team has needed zero assistance being shut down from the playoffs for nearly a decade. If anything, the adjusted “new normal” COVID 19 playoff format gave the Sabres a much better opportunity for postseason hockey. Even with the increased number of teams that qualified, the Sabres still missed the postseason and would have had done the same if the NHL season had never shut down. Just saying.
The expectations have rapidly decreased throughout the Pegula epoch. They have spent the money, but on the wrong players, executives, and coaches. As awesome as it is to see hockey finally being played, witnessing some of the teams that qualified really hit home how depressing it is to watch your favorite sports teams waste season after season.
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A guy that volunteers at the same ‘Meals on Wheels’ as I, made an interesting point this morning to the group waiting for the meals to arrive. He reminded me that this organization employed a hockey legend in Scotty Bowman as Coach and General Manager beginning in 1979. Bowman delegated himself as head coach on three different occasions attempting to get things right. He also put Roger Neilson, Jimmy Roberts, Jim Schoenfeld, and Craig Ramsay behind the bench.
Bowman was eventually fired in 1987 for not guiding the ‘Blue and Gold’ on deep playoff runs. He fired Neilson and replaced interim coach Roberts. They had winning percentages of .619 and .556 respectively. He also dismissed Schoenfeld at .500. Bowman replaced himself with a .688, .588 and .459. Craig Ramsay was the coach at the time that the team terminated the employment of most of the front office including Bowman. The team won an awful lot of hockey games, the division, and qualified for the playoffs throughout Bowman’s time as the General manager. Perhaps because the Sabres went to the playoffs in the third year of their existence Cup Final in year five there were different expectations.
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In 1979, they went out and snagged Bowman who was separating from Montreal just as he completed coaching them to four Stanley Cups in a row and his fifth overall. Prior to that, he guided the St. Louis Blues to the finals three times coming up short of Lord Stanley.
When he left Buffalo, he won another two cups with Pittsburgh, one in the front office, and one as head coach. He proceeded to take his winning ways to Detroit and guided the Red Wings to the Cup Final five times. The Red Wings finished as runner up and won it all three times. Eventually, Bowman moved on to a Senior Advisor position with the Chicago Blackhawks to work alongside his son Stan, who was the GM. They won three Stanley Cups in the Windy City. Bringing his total to 14 Cups.
He has such a resume that you don’t hear about the many trips to the finals he was part of that came up short of the championship. Most other coaches and executives proudly discuss trips to the finals reinforcing how successful they were. Bowman won so many Cups, no need exists to boast about runner-up appearances.
Times certainly have changed for the Sabres
Gone are the days of playoff expectations. With the run of incredibly bad hockey the current Sabres are on, Bowman’s first two stints as Sabres coach, as well as his first couple coaching hires, would be celebrated by Sabres fans today.
Bowman won at the highest level everywhere he went but Buffalo. Still better than the current generation. His teams made the playoffs every season in Western New York except for one. Not too shabby. Not good enough for job security. Ironically, the one city he did not go to the Cup Final with happens to be where he decided to call home, residing in East Amherst, New York. Buffalo is where he calls home.
Just not the home of any of his surplus of Lord Stanley trophies.
How did we get here? Stealing shamelessly from Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Famer Art Wander, the Tiny Tot of the Kilowatt: “Don’t Get Me Started! Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.”