The ice has been silent for a couple months now. The offseason football personnel moves have been made, and practices have come and gone.
The end of June brings near complete silence in the two worlds of professional sports in Buffalo, NY. In the 24/7/365 sports world that America seems to currently inhabit, this is definitely a unique time of the year!
The silence will end this weekend as the NHL Draft will take center stage. Not long after that will be the free agent “frenzy” that occurs every July. And at the end of the month, the Buffalo Bills will hold their first public practice of 2013 at St. John Fisher College, here in Rochester, NY.
But for now, the sports talk radio guys don’t have much to talk about during their sixty-eight hours every week of live programming, other than their own rumors and speculation. (It’s kinda funny, in a sad way…)
The Buffalo Sabres: Who’s Next?
The Sabres, who have missed the playoffs more than they have made them in the past five seasons or so, are “rebuilding”. Their management says it could be a painful process. (Nice vote of confidence!) But some teams have proven otherwise. A few recent Stanley Cup champs were at the bottom of the league—lower than the Sabres—just two to five seasons back. The turnaround could happen quicker than the most dire predictions predict.
The word on the street (or, rather, the internet) is that the draft on Sunday is rather deep. Like, three-rounds-of-great deep. That should be quite encouraging to Sabres fans, as the team has five picks in the first three rounds, and two star players that are very likely to be traded (for potentially more picks, as well as players). They are in a good position to really improve their team, and do so quickly.
There was talk of the team with the first overall pick being willing to make a trade, but that doesn’t look very likely; they plan to use it. And while Nathan MacKinnon seems like he’ll be a very good player (even Rick Jeanneret think so), there’s a young kid—only sixteen—who already has the signs of being “the next Sidney Crosby“.
With the draft, you never know. You really never know.
One thing we know for certain is that the Sabres will look pretty different in the 2013/2014 season. That began last year with the firing of Lindy Ruff, whom some figured to be the Sabres coach until he wanted to leave. Add to that the past two seasons of dumping core guys like Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, even Paul Gaustad… and then the potential trades of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek—this team will look different.
Hopefully they will also play “different”.
The Buffalo Bills: Retool Complete?
Speaking of “different”…
Just down the 219 in Orchard Park, NY, the Buffalo Bills have been not-so-quietly overhauling their franchise, as well. The swift changes started last December with the firing of Chan Gailey and his entire staff, and after a fairly exhaustive coaching search—even though it only lasted little more than a week—the Bills hired their new coach, Doug Marrone, and their feet have barely hit the ground since.
Last year’s QB Ryan Fitzpatrick—a four-year starter for the Bills—is gone, so are many of the players who have been around for a while here. Several veterans retired or were released, leaving a very young, very new-looking roster.
There are still some recognizable faces: CJ Spiller, Stevie Johnson, Mario Williams… but the Buffalo Bills are sporting a vastly new look, much like their Buffalo pro-sports cousins, the Sabres.
The Bills always start out with the somewhat severe handicap of playing in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s division, but things don’t look that great for them (on many levels). That leaves the Jets (Ha!) and the Dolphins, the latter having done some major retooling themselves this offseason.
So when football starts in earnest on July 28th for the Bills, there is really no telling what the new season will bring. Really. Of course, you never know what will come, but this year: new coaches, new defensive and offensive schemes, new general manager, new quarterback(s), and plenty of other new players at plenty of other positions.
These guys will be wearing the familiar uniforms of the Buffalo Bills, but in large part, they are a completely different team!
That seems to be the word for the Buffalo teams, huh?
Apple used the phrase “Think different.” in the 1980s when they were the upstart, rebel computer company—which, eventually changed the technological world, no?
The Bills and Sabres are trying hard to copy that success in their own “different” ways.
While they have both become perennial losers—indeed, laughing stocks; Bills more than Sabres—they could both be on the fast track to being perennial contenders. They actually do both have some critical pieces in place for that, and certainly these completely new casts of characters.
I know I’m ever the optimist, but this really could be interesting…
Let’s go Buffalo!
(Ahem… when everything starts up again, I mean…) 🙂