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Back in the Saddle

So I get back from my Las Vegas/Grand Canyon vacation to find two major developments on the Buffalo sporting landscape: Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff are still here, and Jason Peters is not.

You'd think the typical Buffalo sports fan would wish that the opposite were true. But as Allen Wilson pointed out, there has been very little outrage about the Bills' decision to trade Peters to the Eagles. It's not altogether surprising, though. A lot of Bills fans had developed an antipathy for Peters, who wanted to be paid as the top left tackle in the NFL and hurt his team by holding out of training camp last season.

It's the typical reaction among Bills fans. When a player demands to be paid the big money, he becomes the embodiment of all that is evil. It's a lot easier, I suppose, than blaming management for allowing an elite athlete to get away by failing to pay market value. The player is dismissed as greedy and duplicitous, and fans nod their heads in disgust.

It reminds me of what happened with Chris Drury. The Sabres failed to anticipate a shifting marketplace and let the soul of the team get away. And once he was out there door, a lot of Sabres fans were happy to trash Drury, accusing him of being greedy and misleading the team. He became the villain. To a lesser extent, the same thing happened with Daniel Briere and Brian Campbell. And going back further, with Michael Peca.

Peters had three years left on his contract when he held out a year ago. I can understand how fans would be resentful. But the bottom line is, another talented Buffalo player is gone and people don't seem all that upset about it. How does this make the Bills a better team? They have piles of money to spend. Why not pay Peters, who is acknowledged as one of the top left tackles in the sport?

Meanwhile, it's status quo with the Sabres. Larry Quinn did his thorough, top-to-bottom evaluation and decided to stay the course with Regier and Ruff. What else did you expect? What Tom Golisano needs is a respected veteran hockey guy, someone to tell him what he needs to hear -- not what he wants to hear. Regier is the guy who turned the Sabres into a soft team that doesn't show up every night and isn't physically tough to play against. If Quinn felt there was something essentially wrong with the roster, he should have booted the guy who put it together. And if his successor wanted to fire Ruff, so be it.

I think they've all gotten far too comfortable over at the Arena. Maybe that's what happens when you have an absentee owner who invests too much power in a non-hockey guy. Quinn did his evaluation and he pointed at the players. Apparently, they're the only problem.

At some point, it's also about the guys picking the players. The Bills miss the playoffs every year. Ralph Wilson whines about a lack of talent. But the same two personnel men, Tom Modrak and John Guy, remain in control. The Sabres miss the playoffs two years in a row and Regier stays in power as the GM. I guess it doesn't matter if you leave for a week or a year. In Buffalo, it's status quo. Same as it ever was.



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