What a great time of year to be a Sabres fan and in particular what a great time of THIS year to be a Sabres fan. A couple weeks ago WGR’s Bulldog had a good comparison of the feel Sabres’ fans lived with in the ’06 and ’07 playoffs. ’06 was a fresh start for Buffalo fans with little to no expectations so with every win it seemed to gain steam and build this notion that the Sabres could and WOULD continue to win. Suffice to say, we all know what happened, but in my lifetime what a time to be a Sabres fan and it goes along with winning to say that was a great time. However, in ’07 the Sabres reached the same level of the playoffs (conference finals), but had a much, much different feel to it. The feeling started against the Islanders and ballooned against the Rangers for me. If not for the Drury dramatics in Game 5 who would know how that played out. That whole ’07 playoff run felt like a train on a path for disaster. Maybe it’s the Buffalo fan in my but the pit of my stomach was nervousness and excitement in ’06 and fear and anxiety in ’07. It didn’t have the right feel.
That brings us to last year compared to this year. I realize that the Sabres have yet to clinch a playoff spot and I’m going to tailor my comments to how this year feels compared to last. Last year was the first time that this group of young players (Vanek, Roy, etc.) led a run of their own and ran through the regular season in extremely respectable fashion. Everyone questioned their wherewithal heading into the playoffs though. Could Vanek be the star player needed to carry the team? How would Myers hold up in his first playoffs? Could Miller build off his Olympic performance to take this team on a run or would he run out of gas? On and on the questions of whether or not this team would fail surfaced. This year, the main question seems to be: Why not?
I’m not sitting here saying the Sabres should be expected to make a deep Stanley Cup playoff run, but why couldn’t they? It’s a rhetorical question because we could dissect each and every aspect of their game and use it as a reason as to why they won’t. The fact of the matter is that this team has the feel of the ’06 run. No, I’m not comparing the teams even the slightest. What I am saying is that as a fan this is by far and away the most I have enjoyed watching the Sabres since that team. Why? Expectations.
Lately, I have started to believe more and more that life is all about having and setting realistic expectations. This goes out the window with my sports alter ego though. As a sports fan you are destined to believe ‘this is our year’. That’s why every training camp the Bills are going to turn the corner and make the playoffs or that sitting here right now I think Syracuse is going to win the 2012 National Championship or come July 1st after a couple of Sabres moves they’ll become a dynasty. As sports fans we don’t like to temper our enthusiasm. We don’t like the Jerry Sullivans and Bucky Gleasons and Sal Maioranas of the world poo-pooing every positive aspect a fan can take in a team’s performance. However, this year at Christmas we all had sufficient reason to sacrifice the season with Roy’s injury and the team’s place in the standings. So even though they’ve played great since the start of 2011 and Terry Pegula’s entrance as the new team owner has revitalized the fan base all while being on the cusp of the playoffs is great, it still all feels surreal. This is why sports are great and why being a fan of sports is even better.
Regardless of how the rest of the 2010-2011 season plays out, since the trade deadline has epitomized why I love being a fan. And as a fan I’m starting to ask the question, why not this year?
Follow me on Twitter: @brianbund