While 24 NHL teams aim to return to play, the Buffalo Sabres will not. Despite seeing a league-leading playoff drought extend to nine consecutive seasons, the Sabres confirmed that GM Jason Botterill will be back. This all translates to deeply frustrating times for Sabres fans — not to mention star Jack Eichel.
And both Eichel and those Sabres fans made some waves with the way they aired their grievances.
Eichel and other Sabres are “fed up with losing”
Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen, and other Sabres vented during recent days. In Eichel’s case, he admitted that he’s “fed up with losing.” When you listen to Eichel, you can hear that mixture of fatigue and anger.
Eichel carries a lot of the burden as the Sabres’ biggest star. Yet, as much as Eichel’s suffered through five years of failures, Rasmus Ristolainen absorbed even more over seven. Rumors circulated that Ristolainen wanted out last summer, and he only (kind of) calmed things down later on.
Maybe that sets the stage for some eyebrow-raising comments? Ristolainen told reporters that he realizes that if someone gets traded, he might be the first to go. The defenseman also acknowledged how comments about building toward the future must make everyone sound like a broken record.
No doubt, missing the postseason in such an embarrassing way has to sting Sabres players like Eichel and Ristolainen. The angst also makes it more awkward for Botterill to try to say all the right things.
With cap space opening up and huge needs still lingering, this is a huge offseason for the Sabres. It also could be a long one in a more literal way, if the 2020-21 season starts in, say, December. Clearly, plenty of Sabres players won’t be feeling very patient if the team suffers through another stretch of setbacks.
Fans share discontent — sometimes creatively
It’s clear — and it’s been clear for a while — that Sabres fans are out of patience, too. (Remember Duane?)
Sabres fan Jill Thompson put the team “up for sale” on Craigslist. While the listing was not very surprisingly removed, Thompson shared a screenshot of it on Twitter:
Thompson wrote this in the listing:
For Sale: NHL Hockey Franchise
Team: Buffalo Sabres
*Lost team with diehard fanbase looking for wealthy owner who actually understands hockey*
Organization on the cheap. Could be flipped. Major structural damage but few core pieces still in tact.
-Franchise must stay in current city and is ineligible for relocation.
-Immediate family (i.e. wife) is not eligible for internal position within the organization
-Must provide “team puppy”
Not crazy about the “immediate family” barb personally, but otherwise? Pretty good. Really, all 31 NHL teams should have at least one puppy.
Thompson explained the listing to the Buffalo News, and capturing the mood of many Sabres fans in the process:
“When I post about the Sabres on Twitter, it’s sadly in a negative light and that is because I am upset for the level of disrespect/lack of accountability/neglect of everything down to the smallest details that we are shown from the owners,” Thompson wrote to the Buffalo News. “As one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports, we deserve better.”
With serious questions lingering regarding goaltending, defense, and forward depth, the Sabres have a long way to go to turn things around. And they might not have a ton of time to win back fans like Thompson.
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.