Memo to Terry Pegula, Kim Pegula and Russ Brandon: If you dare to increase ticket prices after this clown show of a hockey season, prepare for fan (and media) wrath unlike anything you've ever seen.
The players in your locker room insist they care. It's lip service. Constantly pulling no-shows at the start of games in front of their soon-to-be former season ticket-holders is a funny way of showing it. Even your rookie general manager - who certainly bears heavy responsibility for this disaster - has clearly moved past his breaking point.
KeyBank Center was deathly quiet and the Sabres were slowly plodding down the ice, fumbling the puck all the way, late in the second period Saturday afternoon.
Just then, GM Jason Botterill made a long-overdue statement on behalf of the paying customers. The denizens atop the 300 level and the residents of the press box heard a yell. Then the box shook with the slam of a door. It was the mild-mannered GM, vacating his suite and heading down the hall to blow off some steam.
Oddly enough, the score was only 2-0 at that point but the Sabres were already non-competitive. A couple of a minutes later, at the end of Pee Wee-style barrage of three goals on three shots against Robin Lehner, the Sabres were in a 4-0 hole and another matinee with a house of full of kids was down the tubes. Lehner got so little help at times in the 40 minutes he played, he should have taken his stick and gloves and gone home.
The message to Botterill from this view: Blow it up, Jason. All of it.
Coach Phil Housley is less than impressive at times but I'm still firing 10 or 12 players before I think about changing coaches. There are too many guys in this dressing room too happy to have their money.
Don't let the third period fool you. It's easy to play when you're down 4-0. There's no pressure. The Los Angeles Kings were already intrigued by the aroma of the postgame wings that filled their dressing room.
So no stat sheet that shows a 4-2 final score, a 36-35 margin in shots on goal or a 62-61 edge in shots at goal (all for the visitors) should be misconstrued to make anyone think the Sabres gave a quality effort in this game.
Afterward, Jason Pominville was ashen-faced trying to explain things and you felt for the guy. He has to be thinking, "Chris Drury and Daniel Briere never would have put up with this."
It sure looks like this room has Evander Kane Syndrome, the chief symptom being a player skating aimlessly around the ice waiting for his cell phone to buzz with his new destination. But No. 9 - who has three goals since Christmas - is far from the only one suffering from the malady.
Pominville was trying to convince himself that's not the case here.
"I hope not," he said. "We still have games to play, areas we want to improve and build on. Everyone is probably on edge a little bit but this is 2 1/2 hours where you get away from everything and go out there and play and work hard. You can't be sitting here thinking and waiting for something to happen. If you are, you're not in the right business."
Marco Scandella is one of the few guys in that dressing room that truly cares what's going on. You can tell he's astonished at times - because this is the only season he's been here. Nothing new to most of us.
"We should be ready to play every night, especially in our building," Scandella said. "We need to find a way. They were playing playoff-type hockey and we're going to have to step up next game and figure out what we need to do in this dressing room."
And about players just hanging on waiting for the deadline?
"I have nothing to say about that," said Scandella.
Frankly, that says a lot.
Scandella scored the Sabres' first goal 30 seconds into the third period and punctuated it oddly with a Lambeau Leap into the corner glass. He said he was just trying to get some life into his team. Maybe. Of course, he said in his next breath "we're a good team in here" and thus his credibility for the rest of the interview was shot.
It meant nothing but the Sabres did play well in the third period. No one would give up if Housley or Botterill or some player went nuts behind the doors to engender some professional pride. What little anyone in Blue and Gold has anymore.
"If you fight your whole life to get to this level, you'll get to see it," Lehner said matter of factly to reporters about the scene. "But you guys do not."
Whatever. Folks in this town see enough of these guys as it is. Too much, as a matter of fact. At least the media gets paid to watch. The fans, meanwhile, have to endure the Pegulas, Brandon and these players robbing them of their hard-earned dollars for yet another year.
Don't just bang on a door, Jason. Blow this sorry group up.
Story topics: Jason Botterill