Tonawanda News — Along with celebrating our nation's independence last week brought us another holiday of sorts, at least for me.
But unlike the fireworks, hot dogs, multiple pasta salads and general revelry that comes every July 4, my other holiday passed with absolutely no fanfare here in Western New York.
The NHL free agency period began officially on Friday and our dear hometown Buffalo Sabres marked the occasion by ... well, they didn't really mark the occasion at all.
As other teams in our division — which now includes Detroit, Tampa and Florida in addition to familiar foes in Montreal, Toronto, Boston and Ottawa — added players to bolster what has become perhaps the toughest division under the NHL's new alignment, the Sabres did nothing.
It's a far cry from just two years ago when a cash-flush franchise went on a spending spree, bringing in big-name free agents and tossing around contract extensions for players already on the team with reckless abandon.
But these are new times at the F'N Center. The Sabres are "rebuilding" — which is sports parlance for intentionally sucking for several seasons in an effort to rebuild through young players who eventually, we hope, will be better than the older players on the team who presently suck.
Let me say I have absolutely zero faith the Sabres will be good enough to suck. That is to say, I think they'll suck and losing.
General manager Darcy Regier, the driver of the bus that's gone into the ditch, still has ownership's confidence to steer us out of the ditch.
I'd much prefer the Sabres to throw him under the bus. Lindy Ruff got that treatment instead.
I mean, they're going to lose a lot. Like, really a lot. Given all but two teams in their division were in the playoffs last year the Sabres might win 25 or 30 games. That would put them in the running for being the worst team in the entire NHL. Certainly close to it.
As a season ticket holder this infuriates me. We pay a lot of money for these seats and set aside considerable time and effort to go to games. It'd be nice if the team at least pretended they were going to try to contend.
But they've been pretenders for so long that pretending to contend had become laughable. The players on the team, at least the vast majority, are despised by fans. I can't even bring myself to type Drew Staffffffffffor — nope, can't do it — without my hands trembling in frustration.
Tyler Myers, once the franchise cornerstone, looks like a giraffe on skates. He has all the tenacity of your average kindergartner.
Their only two decent players, Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, want to leave and likely won't resign here when their contracts expire after this season. Miller has already sold his house. I'm not actually making that up. Our star goaltender, who is under contract for another season, doesn't even have a place to live in town anymore. That's how much he wants out.
So we're left with a raft of kids who have seen little or no NHL playing time and a thin veteran core with one skate out the door, most of which fans would just as soon boo off the ice most nights anyway.
Normally when I write these screeds about Buffalo sports there's some hopeful twist at the end — the sad sack Buffalo optimism that keeps us coming back for more.
Not this time.
I'm keeping my season tickets (my share of them, anyway) purely as an investment. The only reason I don't quit entirely is the team will have to be good again eventually, right? And then they'll be worth something more than the right to buy an overpriced beer in which to cry while I watch the league's most inept power play let in yet another short-handed goal.
As Regier so memorably put it after the season, fans will be willing to suffer if it means building a contender.
From this fan, a response: Nope, I'm not. Build a winner and do it now. And fire Darcy, for heaven's sake. He's the idiot who got us into this mess in the first place.Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.