Terry Pegula's beloved investment can once again fall into 30th place in the NHL overall standing tonight but it's not likely to happen. To pass the Sabres, the Columbus Blue Jackets** would need to get two points in Chicago, which has opened the season with a league-record run of 17 straight games with a point from the start of the year (14-0-3).
(**You know things are hitting rock bottom when you're in the same category as the Jackets, a woebegone franchise that has won exactly zero playoff games since it was born in 2000).
Still, the Sabres are already dead last in the East and 29th in the NHL. And nobody thought that's where they would be closing in on the halfway mark of the shortened season.
Another low point was Saturday's 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders. And while the owner stays silent -- even after firing coach Lindy Ruff -- at least one member of the Pegula family is talking about the mess at One Seymour H. Knox III Plaza.
The fans need to hear from Terry Pegula. (AP Photo)
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.
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.
After making the customary apology to fans virtually every NHL owner has made this week in the wake of the lockout, Sabres owner Terry Pegula dropped a surprise on reporters at the start of his 22-minute news conference today in the Lexus Club at First Niagara Center: He has agreed to a contract extension with General Manager Darcy Regier.
Regier, who took over the club in the summer of 1997, signed what's believed to be a two-year extension in the fall of 2010 and it's not completely clear how long this extension will run. The Sabres do not release contract terms but Regier's original deal was not expiring after this season anyway.
"Both sides are happy with the arrangement," Pegula said. "And we look forward to continuing to work with Darcy into the future. The timing of this decision was not today. We've been talking about this. We had this agreement for quite some time. I approached him. Darcy is a talented guy. ... We work very well together and we're looking forward to the future."
Said Regier: "I am very grateful and honored to be able to continue in this capacity working with this ownership."
In other notes from the press conference:
---Pegula on the lockout: "It's good to be back. I can tell you as an organization, the Sabres are very glad to be playing hockey again. We apologize to the whole hockey fan base, the media, our sponsors and our supporters for the hardship we may have put people through but sometimes things happen that you don't plan for in life."
---Pegula he talked often to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during the lockout and said he felt it was necessary to help struggling small market teams. Pegula said he did not push for a quick resolution: "I'm a new owner so I'm not about to say, 'OK, here's what we're going to do, guys."
---Pegula said the Sabres' goal remains to win the Stanley Cup and he's been heartened by watching Boston and Los Angeles end droughts in the 40-year range by winning it the last two years.
---Regier said the team has already had organizational talks about the contracts of stars Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek -- all of which expire after next season.
---Pegula on this year's club: "I think our team is a lot different than the team I inherited when I bought it. It's got a new imprint on it, a new mark. It looks like a good hockey team."
---Pegula used the term "totally inaccurate" when asked about numerous reports in Pennsylvania he paid $1.3 million to augment the salary of Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien and keep him in Happy Valley so he wouldn't jump to the NFL.
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.