Last night the Buffalo Sabres lost to the Carolina Hurricanes, dropping Buffalo’s record to 2-5-3 in the last 10 games. The Sabres were haunted by a former player who came back and scored against his former team. Andrej Sekera not only changed the pronunciation of his last name when he went to Carolina, he also picked up his game. Sekera already has eight goals and 20 assists this season for the Hurricanes which means he will have the best season of his career the first season after he left Buffalo.
That seems to happen a lot to the Buffalo Sabres. The team will let players go and those players will become stars on other teams. Sekera is one example, but the one that will haunt the Sabres for a very long time is little center Nathan Gerbe. While he was in Buffalo, Gerbe’s best season saw him score 16 goals in one season. Gerbe already has 10 goals this season and he still has 34 games left to play.
It isn’t Gerbe’s success that should bother Sabres’ fans; it is the fact that his success could have been in Buffalo if Lindy Ruff had just known how to use Gerbe properly. When Gerbe was a Sabre, Ruff would consistently put Gerbe on the third and fourth lines with players known more for their fists than their scoring prowess. The result was Gerbe putting up extremely disappointing point totals. The Sabres and Ruff blamed it on Gerbe, and Gerbe wound up in Carolina. But the real blame should have fallen to Ruff.
While Ruff was insisting that Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy were first and second-line players, Nathan Gerbe was forced to fend for himself with linemates such as Andrew Peters and Patrick Kaleta. When Gerbe went to Carolina, the Hurricanes put him on the second-line and the results were immediate. When put on a line with players that can score goals, Gerbe suddenly blossomed. That is just another player that could have helped the Sabres to win games, but now the Sabres have to watch from a distance as that player develops into a star.
The point here is that fans in Buffalo have no real concept of just how much damage former general manager Darcy Regier and former head coach Lindy Ruff did to the Sabres’ organization. You could put together a pretty powerful hockey team with players the Sabres mismanaged and let go to other teams who are still playing today. But instead, the Sabres have to start over.
It was 16 years with Regier and Ruff, and it was 16 years of bad decisions and mismanaged talent. Fans are going to have to be patient as new general manager Tim Murray and interim head coach Ted Nolan wade through the mess and try to bring together a championship hockey team.