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The Sabres Observer

Buzzkill In Buffalo Reveals Ongoing Problem

The two greatest young superstars to come into the league since Crosby and Ovechkin. The opening faceoff. Finally.

Despite their politically correct comments earlier in the day that it was about the teams and not the individuals, this moment was supposed to belong to both Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

But when 97 went out to take the historic draw that would begin a 15-year rivalry with 15, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma chose strategy over good theater and sent out..... Johan Larsson.

Coach should've opted for good theater. Just ask the hockey gods, who decided to have a little fun by seeing to it that the number of seconds it took for McDavid to score after that opening draw matched Larsson's uniform number.

But, hey, any small trace of fun these days at First Niagara Center is to be treasured. There hasn't really been too much of it for what now seems like an eternity, which is what happens when the star attraction is a losing team playing boring hockey.

Are you a fan of offense and a good supply of goal-scoring? You won't find that here. Enjoy the fights and brawls? Well, actually, the NHL has just about entirely extinguished that part of the game -- so can't help you there either.

Remember earlier in the week how offended we in Buffalo were when NBC Sports Network pulled an about-face and made the Crosby vs. Ovechkin matchup their national game? They aren't as dumb as we thought. I didn't watch one second of Pens-Caps but I can tell you with confidence it was a better game than whatever that was we saw in Buffalo.

Sure, McDavid (2 goals, including the OT winner) and Eichel were both great and as advertised. But from a Sabres standpoint, it was pretty much just another snoozer filled with an array of botched scoring chances and turnovers.

Things have gotten so bad here that the latest hot debate is about the quality of the game presentation. "What is up with that awful music they play?" "Why do they do the same thing on the jumbotron night after night?" "What is with that annoying host?" "Why do they even need a host?"

I'd like to throw one in, and I hope you don't think it's too crazy or irrelevant. 

When is the team going to start winning some home games?

They're successful 34% of the time (11-17-4) at FNC, which is the same and equally atrocious percentage they had last season.

One unfortunate aspect of all this is that Sabres fans are coming under fire for not being loud enough, or on some nights for not even showing up. Media types tweet pictures of empty seats while non-diehard fans, more concerned with seeing themselves on the kisscam, question Buffalo as a hockey city for not being as noisy as Chicago.

If only those newbies knew what Chicago sounded like 10 years ago.

Truth be told, this has never stopped being a hockey city. Right now it's a sleeping dog waiting for a fun team to wake it up. Nothing is more fun for a fan than winning, and nothing will change until winning finally happens. It's no different here than any other hockey town.

The Sabres are on pace to finish with 74 points. You can put on a happy face and say it's 20 points better than last season, but that's apples and oranges since management actually wants the team to win games this time around.

The natural counter to this is that the team is young, with plenty of salary cap room, and more wins will come. That's totally fine. The Sabres are recovering from a complete roster tear-down, and Eichel just got here.

But as the years pass by while we wait for a contender, don't be pointing your finger at fans for not blowing the roof off a building that looks as exciting as a cookie-cutter patio home.

Bylsma is overseeing a work in progress, which equates in part to enduring some dull losses at home. The next time he gets an opportunity to go with the flow in the theatrics department, the least he can do is avoid giving the hockey gods a chance to enjoy another comedic moment at our expense.


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As a Sabres season ticket holder for 9 years the building has grown quieter over the last 3 or so seasons. The problem is that there is little incentive to continue cheering for a bottom dwelling club. As the price of tickets go up, not to mention the exchange rate as I am Canadian, the overall value of the tickets is low. I can go on stubhub, which is affiliated with the Sabres, and purchase tickets for under season ticket value. That means as a fan I can cherry pick whatever games I want to attend with no commitment to the Sabres and often get them at a deep discount.

Finally, there is little incentive to not sell my tickets to games that feature teams such as Toronto, Montreal and popular teams as the chants are louder for the away club are louder than Buffalos’ and the opposing fans outnumber the home fans.

If you want the die hard fans to come, offer an incentive to the fans to get involved and cheer. Discounts for fans that wear a jersey, or even a free jersey with a chip in it like Tampa or Calgary. They are missing the boat.

Posted by almo8930 on 03/02/16 at 09:27 PM ET

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]