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March 2, 2014

DUVALL: Miller's departure marks a Sabres low point

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — If LaFontaine and his hand-picked new general manager Tim Murray were at odds over the Miller situation I would be surprised. Miller’s status had to have been question No. 1 during the interview process and I can’t see LaFontaine signing off on a GM candidate whose approach to the most significant personnel situation was at odds with his own.

In the end, does it really matter why? Talking brass tacks hockey doesn’t feel right, right now.

Watching Miller’s in-game press conference, his eyes red-rimmed as he thanked the fans and expressed a genuine affection for life in Western New York, felt wrong. I stood next to the ketchup dispenser watching it with a woman, probably in her mid-60s, who also had tears in her eyes.

When Miller was finished she muttered her discontent and stomped away.

He wasn’t an ordinary player in any respect. He was uncommonly graceful, articulate and honest, sometimes to a fault. He exuded passion for the game and leadership qualities few men possess.

Miller leaving represents a low point, a bottoming out. We starved sports fans must acknowledge this is the worst the team has been, perhaps ever. They’re farther now from owner Terry Pegula’s goal of winning a Stanley Cup than they have ever been.

The games were tolerable — this team is watchable — for only one reason, the play of Ryan Miller. 

Now that reason is gone. It feels as if there exists not a single reason outside pure habit to watch them right now. Even the most passionate of fans know these games don’t matter one iota. 

The last tangible tie to the Golisano era — to Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff — is no longer a Buffalo Sabre.

It’s tough now to wax nostalgic for the Regier-Ruff days but there were some special times. The 2005-06 season was pure magic and made a new generation of fans fall in love with this game, this team.

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