The Buffalo Sabres missed the playoffs for the 13th year in a row, and they have a problem with their fans.

Dear Buffalo Sabres, Where do we begin with you guys? 

Sure, we could start with a 13-year playoff drought. The longest in pro sports. Though that’s low-hanging fruit. A lot of you (somehow not all of you) have not been here for 13 years and it’s not your fault the drought has gone on this long. It is, however, your fault it continues. 

We could talk about what a lot of fans accuse you of being on the ice, which is not physical and tough enough. People would say you don’t have enough hitting, fighting, and “grind.” Honestly, though, I don’t know if that's true or not. It very well could be as there were plenty of times I personally felt like you should have put a little more jam in your gears. The thing is I know that when teams lose and fail the first thing fans go to is calling you soft on the ice. It’s predictable, but also can be true. The thing is I don’t really want to focus on that here. It’s a different area where you aren’t tough enough: between your ears. 

In my opinion, which is based on nothing more than my feelings and observations and should not be taken seriously by anyone, this Buffalo Sabres team is the mentally softest roster I have ever seen. You all are 10-ply (thanks Letterkenny) Charmin Ultra with soothing moisturizer soft. It’s embarrassing.   

And you’re full of talent and ability, that’s what makes it so much worse. 

Your inability to win more than 3 games in a row, failure to close games, and horrendous record when the opponent scores first are all signs of a soft team on the ice. That’s not even my main issue with you all. 

This season, you all seriously got mad at the fans for booing you and chanting for Don Granato to get fired. This was during a game where you were having your lunch served to you like toddlers (who’s a big boy?). In response, you decided not to do the fan salute after home wins (which were scarce) where you go to center ice and raise your sticks to the fans. Guys like Alex Tuch tried justifying it as sticking up for their coach. Your “captain” Kyle Okposo allowed it to happen. This was a terrible look that screamed disfunction. 

This stuff created a general feeling (and plenty of rumblings from insiders) that you guys have a problem with Sabres fans and how they treat you and your coach. Maybe, though, it’s a misunderstanding? After all, a couple of rumors (well, more than that actually but ones most know about) doesn’t mean there’s a problem, right? I tried to be optimistic… 

and then Tage Thompson spoke. 

After you lost to Dallas last night and were finally eliminated from playoff contention, Thompson confirmed, for me anyway, that yeah you guys have a problem with us. 

I take this as the fans got to them. 

If I'm wrong, OK. Sure. Good even! I'll keep an eye out. I'd love to be wrong about this assessment. After all, I fully admit I'm not part of the team or organization. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes, ultimately. Nor should I.

If I'm right though, let’s make something very clear: we, the fans, owe you all not a damn thing. We don’t owe you our money, loyalties, respect, or even our courtesy. Those things are earned, and you have NOT earned them. 

Your play on the ice speaks for itself. Your coach’s decisions and GM’s choices also speak volumes. You failed, and you failed early this year. None of our discontent should come as a shock if you spent 5 seconds considering the situation. By the way, your COACH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS US and needs to be fired. 

You have a problem with us? Let’s break some things down for you:

You guys play A GAME, literally. You get paid a lot more than all of us do. Good for you, by the way. Very few people can do what you do. It’s impressive and we all dreamed, at some point, of being where you are under the bright lights. However, it’s also still a game that if it were to go away tomorrow, society would continue on with literally no problems. YOU ARE LUCKY to do what you do. YOu are LUCKY to have fans that care in any way, shape, or form, about it, and make that kind of money for it. 

“Well, if it’s just a game then fans shouldn’t be so nasty.” There’s a difference: we pay you. We give up tax dollars for this “convenience.” We pay for your arena. We pay for tickets, merch, concessions… we pay for your existence. You are NOTHING without us. We are EVERYTHING to you, and you have given us nothing.  

If we boo you because you suck, take it. Or, here’s a thought: play better hockey. You can fix this, and the fan’s negativity toward you. Every credible, and even not credible, hockey mind out there believes this team has the talent and ability. Which means you underachieved. That sucks and will make people upset. Add this 13-year playoff drought and yeah… it’s bad. It means you took a year for granted. You put yourselves before winning. You were lazy, careless, nonchalant, pick an adjective. Or, you’re just all fragile. Regardless, you failed and, yes, we are mad about it and rightfully so. IT’S BEEN 13 YEARS. 

The idea that you were all like, “The fans are mean so we aren’t going to play well.” Dude… suck it up. Have some perspective. Also, WIN MORE GAMES and we won’t be “mean.”  

“We love our coach though.” There are plenty of people I have had in my life that I love deeply but can honestly look you all in the face and say they aren’t right for their job. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them. It also doesn’t mean I have to die on a hill defending them, either. There’s a difference between being a good person and being a good employee or boss. Those things don’t always come together.  Look at former Bills coach Dick Jauron. AWFUL head coach. Outstanding human being by all accounts. 

Don Granato, by all accounts, seems like a good guy. He’s a good hockey man too, but the head coach gig looks to be out of his depth. After all, he let you guys answer playoff questions while he ducked them yesterday.

 A good leader stands there and takes it. A good leader also gets results, which you all have not had. 

I don’t know if they will fire Granato. I don’t know if they’ll make cold, necessary changes. What I do know is blaming and being at odds with all of us fans is a cop-out for your failures and fragile egos. 

I hope you all gain perspective on this. I hope next year it goes great. I hope you get to experience what it’s actually like in Buffalo when the Sabres are good because it’s better than ANYWHERE ELSE in the NHL. Just remember: your failings are not our fault, they are yours. We want better and deserve it. You owe us that. 

I’ll hang up and listen. 

Pat McMahon can be heard on weekdays from 3 pm to 7 pm on Buffalo’s Real Rock, 92.9 WBUF.

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