Culture Is King
You hear successful business leaders laud it all the time. There have been countless books written on the subject. It is the key to long term sustainable success. Culture. Culture is king. Sean McDermott wasn't kidding when, shortly after arriving in Buffalo, he talked about the importance of culture and how winning has more to do with culture than it does with talent. Although, it doesn't hurt to have both.
Culture + Talent = Success
Culture + Talent + Longevity = Championships
That's the formula. The championship formula. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat. In sports, if you happen to be lucky enough to get that one, singular generational talent, a la Tom Brady or Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan then your team will excel regardless. Jack Eichel is a great hockey player but he is not nor will he ever be in a GOAT conversation.
Without a GOAT player, the formula above is the path to playoff success. When McDermott first arrived in Buffalo, he preached about the importance of culture and building a team with players of a certain character. Many scoffed. My interpretation of his persistent sermonizing was merely that he wanted players who weren't going to cause distractions on or off the field.
I'd like to think I was half right but in reality, I missed the mark. McDermott was looking for honest to goodness selfless team players. If you listen to the Bills' players speak, "playing for each other" is their mantra, and they mean it. Team unity. The Buffalo Bills have become a synergy of true believers.
That didn't happen over night. It isn't a side effect of winning. In 2019, when the offense was struggling, that same mantra was a constant theme. In 2018, when they missed the playoffs with a 6-10 record, you consistently heard that message from the players.
They work hard for each other. They care about each other. That comes from the top and the fans can feel it. Do you feel that with the Sabres? I sure don't. They haven't had a good culture since the final days of the Roy-Vanek-Pominville/Stafford line.
To make up for the deficit in culture, a team will continue to turn over players and coaches. The leadership in Buffalo, the Pegulas included, seems to be hoping to find that perfect chemistry like they did with the Bills. I'm sure they enjoy the credit they get for hiring the right football people but frankly, I think it was more a case of the stars aligning than the wisdom of ownership.
Kevyn Adams doesn't quite have the polish of Brandon Beane. As of right now though, I'm hopeful he grows into the same humble confidence you see with Beane. Adams' next task is probably going to be hiring a new coach. I'd like to recommend he brings on Bruce Boudreau, asap. A good coach can quickly turn a team around.
As far as the current coach goes, given the fiascos that are the Jeff Skinner situation, the Eichel injury explanation, and the nonexistent five on five game, Krueger's days are numbered. As you've heard me say before, when you come to the realization that you don't have the right guy, best to waste no time in parting ways with him.
I know, I know. Another coaching change is a really bitter pill to swallow. The Bills did it for two decades. Ten coaches in twenty seasons. It sucks, right? However, it's a lot better than trying to do another entire rebuild or even worse, staying with a loser and hoping he somehow becomes a winner. It's best that Buffalo makes the change now and slots in a coach with some significant NHL experience.
Boudreau, by the way, if memory serves me correctly, has coached twelve or maybe thirteen full seasons and only missed the playoffs twice when with the same team for the entire season. You can google it yourself and fact check me but if I'm not dead on I know I'm very close.
Culture is what this team is missing. It's the missing ingredient. You don't hear the players talking about playing for each other and when you do it's as if they're saying it's something that needs to start happening. Why isn't it happening? Why are they not playing for each other? Eichel has referenced it. Dahlin said it in his most recent post game interview. Come on, coach. Even the players know what the problem is. If Ralph can't create a culture where the boys want to play for each other, then what good is he?
I had high hopes for this team this year. There's no excuse for the level of incompetence we're too often seeing. Even when missing their star player, there is just no excuse for not scoring any goals in six periods of play. None. Earlier this season we played a New Jersey team that was missing a significant portion of their lineup, including their captain and their red hot starting goaltender. They throttled the Sabres in that game. Then they won their next two games immediately after coming off the covid layoff, unlike the Sabres. No excuses. It is no longer acceptable to grasp onto their momentary flashes of excellence and say, "if they can just do more of that!" It never materializes and that, my friends, is a culture issue. It's time for a change and when it happens, embrace it.
By the way, I know why some people prefer Ranch over Blue Cheese on their wings even though Blue Cheese is clearly better. Blue Cheese Dressing and Blue Cheese Dip, while made from the same ingredients, have a different mix. When people outside of Buffalo try wings at their local watering hole, they are served up with a side of the dressing. Blue Cheese Dressing on wings is not good. By comparison, Ranch is better. So, when folks come to Buffalo, they've already conditioned themselves to enjoy Ranch with their wings. Hence the basis for the debate. Nonetheless, there is no denying that Blue Cheese Dip on wings is way better than Ranch and people deserve to know the truth. Spread the word. Sabres are in New York City tonight for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop against the Rangers.