By Mike Harrington
(2:20 p.m update Wednesday: The Sabres confirm Terry Pegula will do no interviews today).
I spoke to the the Sabres public relations department yesterday afternoon, following protocol by requesting an interview with owner Terry Pegula. The thinking was that Friday is the second anniversary of his opening press conference** and it might be nice to get his thoughts about where the organization stands on all fronts, especially in the wake of the all-systems-go the HarborCenter project got Tuesday afternoon combnied with the struggles on the ice.
(**You remember that presser, right? "Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup" is the most-remembered line. But it also included "Lindy ain't goin' nowhere" and "To whom much is given, much is required.")
I was reminded, correctly, that Pegula has taken a step back from most interviews and that team president Ted Black is doing the bulk of the talking. Black, to his credit, is taking all the bullets every week on WGR Radio and did so again last week during an 18-minute interview at Buffalonews.com.
In the wake of last night's fiasco against Winnipeg, my interview request is foolish. This is no time for any big picture reflection. The franchise is in complete crisis and Pegula doesn't need to do any perfunctory 10-minute phone interview with me.
He needs to stand in front of me, WGR Radio, the Olean Times Herald, every televsion camera in town and every other outlet that comes in from time to time in Western New York and Southern Ontario and explain what in the world is going on here.
The fan base is in an uproar. They feel like suckers taken for a ride on tickets, merchandise, concessions and parking. Believe me, I didn't take it lightly asking Lindy Ruff for his thoughts last night about the fan base clearly hating this team. And I chose the word intentionally. (For those of you tweeting at me that you don't hate this team, I submit that you haven't been in the building this year to hear what's become the league's most dreadful home-ice "advantage")
Ruff and Darcy Regier have far outlived their usefulness and the entire hockey world sees it. I've done seven out-of-town interviews in the last three weeks and EVERY ONE of them has asked some form of the following question: How do these two guys still have jobs?
It's a question the owner needs to answer. Today.
Ryan Miller said last night things were worse in his rookie year of 2002-03 -- when the building was half full, the former owner had one foot in jail and the league was running the bankrupt franchise. And that's probably true. But there's been no bigger disappointment than right now. A big-pocket owner has put together a team that features plenty of experienced players with a $65 million payroll. And they just plain stink.
They can't beat the Winnipeg Jets at home. Can't even show up to play an outfit as sad as they are. The Sabres are last in the Northeast Division by seven points. They are 13th in the East and 27th in the NHL. No one has more regulation losses than the Sabres. No one.
It's time for you to talk, Terry.
Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not after the season (even though no one from your organization bothered to do that after last year's failure).
Today, Terry. Your fans need to hear from you.
More than that, they deserve to hear from you.