Don't cry for Buffalo
There are going to be plenty of odes written about the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres in the wake of their loss on Saturday afternoon, and my guess is more than a few will speak to the now somewhat legendary tales of woe that city has had with its professional sports franchises.
But for all the legitimate tears spent on the 1991-94 Buffalo Bills, and even those Sabres teams that lost out in the finals, this year's team doesn't quite qualify as another dagger in the heart of Heartbreak City.
Not really, anyway.
Sure, the Sabres were a great team this year, one that won the President's Trophy and was a legitimate contender, but this was essentially Year 1 for Buffalo as 'the team to beat'. (And just ask Ottawa how hard wearing that moniker really is.)
Coming out of the lockout, pundits universally panned the Sabres' young line-up, and I don't recall anyone picking them to make the playoffs, let alone making a trip to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The thing is, this Sabres team essentially fell from the sky in 2005, going from last in the Northeast Division in 2003-04 to a surprise 110-point campaign, and along with that meteoric rise came somewhat unrealistic expectations. This is a team, after all, built on equal parts speed and skill, youth and inexperience, and you had to know at least a year or two of tribulations were in the cards.
In other words, that Buffalo lost in five games to a team as good as the Ottawa Senators in the conference finals is nothing the organization or its fans should hang their heads over. And while it's true that next year's edition of the Sabres won't quite look the same, not when both Daniel Briere and Chris Drury are UFAs, they will still be pretty darn good, and head into October as one of the teams to beat.
Besides, there are two reasons this club rose from the ashes of bankruptcy to become a powerhouse, and Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff aren't going anywhere. My guess is, neither are the Buffalo Sabres.
And there's nothing heartbreaking about that.