That there are problems within the Sabres organization is obvious to anyone even remotely familiar with Buffalo’s NHL team. Little in the way of good news has come out of the organization this year, but the possibility for improvement was made at least possible Thursday when owners Terry and Kim Pegula fired the team’s underperforming general manager and coach. That’s a start.
It’s been a steep learning curve for the Pegulas, who bought the club in 2011 and once seemed loath to make such decisions. The couple is passionate about Buffalo and clearly wants to bring a Stanley Cup to the city, but while they had the money to purchase the team, via Pegula’s tremendous success in the natural gas business, they are not experienced in building a championship sports team. And so, for the sixth consecutive year, the Sabres missed the playoffs.
It’s frustrating for Sabres fans, who remain devoted to the team, as it must also surely be for the Pegulas. They had high hopes when they bought the team and, as of today, they seem little closer to their goal than they were then. It should be as clear to them as it is to their fans that something is wrong with the approach.
The good news, though, is that in dismissing General Manager Tim Murray and Coach Dan Bylsma, the Pegulas have made progress possible. Murray and Bylsma don't deserve all the blame, but a change had to be made.
The Pegulas acted decisively on Thursday, and that’s a start. Equally important now is how they follow up. Who will they hire to replace Murray and Bylsma? Or will they step back from managerial roles and hire a professional to run the team, vesting in him the decisions regarding a general manager and coach? Some of those questions may be answered this morning, when Terry Pegula is scheduled to discuss the firings.
As unhappy as this year has been, with the team winning just 40 percent of its games, fans always believe in the possibility of next year. It is now up to the Pegulas to give the fans something to hold on to as they wait for October and the start of another season.