I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Going To Take It Anymore!
If you're a Sabres fan, the title of this article suggests how you should be feeling right now. I just finished watching the Buffalo Sabres sink into a black hole of despair after being down 2 goals at the end of the first period against the NY Islanders. I'm so incensed right now that I might have to stop writing lest I say something appropriately reflective of my feelings but inappropriate for general consumption.
As the title says, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. For too many years we fans have watched our team languishing in the bottom of a pit. It's time to do the right thing. It's time we get some championship caliber behavior going in Buffalo. We certainly do not have it now.
What we have now is mediocre leadership. Some might say the jury is still out on Kevyn Adams. Well that only applies to his career. Right now, at this very point in time, Kevyn Adams is as green as can be when it comes to NHL General Managers. That's not an indictment, it's just a fact. He has been a GM for a whole 11 games preceded by the most unusual off-season. This does not make him a championship caliber leader.
Another leader in the organization is Ralph Krueger. I've been in reserved support of him as the coach but after what I just saw, Krueger either needs to change or be gone. He is one of a long succession of coaches who offers lip service about systems and processes and details, etc... with nary a positive result. It's loser-speak.
You've heard of the Miracle On Ice, yes? Well just like many of you, I too lived it and loved it. It was a defining moment in my hockey life and an indelible joyous mark on my soul. I've probably seen or read every bit of media about it just to relive the thrill of that victory.
Like me, you probably know why that group of young American amateurs, mostly college hockey players who had formed as a team only five months prior, defeated the USSR's Red Army team which had beaten the NHL All-Star team 6-0 just a year before and regularly put a smackdown on NHL teams in exhibition games.
Their unlikely seizing of the 1980 Olympic gold medal had little to do with systems or processes or certain details. It was all about conditioning. Herb Brooks, their coach, worked those boys to the bone. Then, the boys outworked the men and struck gold. In the third period of that miracle game, and in every game of that Olympic season, the USA team made their opponents look like they were standing still, much like how the Sabres looked tonight. The third period is when the less talented USA team rallied to win those games and it was due to their conditioning.
While I am completely aware of the covid situation among the players and the coach, the issue of game readiness extends far beyond today's game. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. If a bunch of college players who'd only played a few games together can beat a monolith like the Red Army team, then a team as talented as the Sabres ought to be poised to make a deep playoff run should they be similarly conditioned.
I don't want to hear another word about how Krueger treats the players like men and with respect. I don't want to hear another word about his system or the process. It's all a bunch of crap. Every Sabres coach in the last eight years excretes it and it stinks. It's loser-speak. Time to get real or gtfo!
As long as I'm at it, might as well take a look a captain Jack. Obviously he is not a championship caliber leader, today. But, when it's all said and done, what will the jury say? I know what they already say about Sidney Crosby. They say things like it is very uncomfortable to be around him when the team is not doing well.
Sid holds high performance standards for himself and plays the game ferociously. As his teammate, if you are not properly conditioned or if you take shifts off or if you are poison in the lockerroom, you're gonna be hearing from Sid. Players have said that he motivates his team merely by his aura. No one wants to be in Sid's doghouse and so they give 100% night in and night out to avoid such a fate.
Michael Jordan was the same type of leader. They are intimidating but isn't about intimidation. It's about respect. These are leaders who are in hot pursuit of championship. By not being the best player you can be, you are disrespecting them and you are in the way. You should feel uncomfortable around them.
That style of leadership is what I want from Jack. Alas, I have not seen a single trace of it. Thus far, Jack's leadership style is that of an encouraging buddy. Sweet, but pro sports is combat and that style of leadership doesn't cut it on the battlefield.
I think Jack may have it in him though. His talent for the game is such that it's difficult to knock him. Yet, it takes strong leadership to become a champion, not just talent. Every team has talented players.
Ultimately, I wrote this article as a message to the coach. Stop fooling yourself Ralph, Your system isn't going to win games. While structure is important, it's players who win games. Get your players moving!
I hope he gets the message.