Back in the good old days in Buffalo last winter, the
overachieving Sabres shocked the NHL by rolling to a 40-30-12
record and a Northeast Division title. So how did the folks in
upstate New York celebrate? Consider what Team Dysfunction has
done in the past few months:
--Fired general manager John Muckler, the league's executive of
--Allowed Ted Nolan, the NHL's coach of the year, whose contract
had expired, to leave after goalie Dominik Hasek said his
departure would be better for Buffalo.
--Encouraged center Pat LaFontaine, the Sabres' top offensive
weapon, to retire.
--Hired a new general manager, Darcy Regier, who wasn't
supported by one of Buffalo's top investors, John Rigas.
Of course, this doesn't include forward Matthew Barnaby's vain
threat to run Hasek in practice over the Nolan comment, the
departure of popular defenseman Garry Galley by way of free
agency and the absence of restricted free agent Mike Peca, the
NHL's top defensive forward, who as of Monday had yet to agree
on a contract.
So what does it all mean? "We're a bunch of misfits," says Brad
May, Buffalo's rugged forward. "There've been some bad things
happening around here, but as a team on the ice, I think we're
From Hasek's weirdness--May affectionately calls him "a
different bird"--to LaFontaine's strange situation (he hadn't
been cleared by team doctors to play after suffering a
concussion last season, and on Monday the Sabres traded him to
the Rangers), Buffalo might have difficulty paying its shrink
bills, let alone playing hockey. For the Sabres to repeat last
season's head-turning run, the designated bruisers, forwards
Barnaby, May and Rob Ray, must continue their
cranium-into-the-boards style, which wears the opposition down.
Says May, "Do we have the talent of Philadelphia? No. But the
team that plays the hardest usually wins."
When that doesn't work, this team has a chance because it has
one of the NHL's best--and oddest--goaltenders. Hasek, the
league's MVP last season, is also the enigma who attacked a
newspaper reporter and who missed most of the playoffs with a
slight knee sprain. When he's on, says Regier, Hasek "is a guy
who can carry your team." When he's off, Hasek's, well, a
In Buffalo, it won't be an easy flight.
COLOR PHOTO: PAUL BERESWILL [Jaromir Jagr]
COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO [Claude Lemieux]
1. Jaromir Jagr, Penguins
2. Paul Kariya, Mighty Ducks
3. Peter Forsberg, Avalanche
1. Claude Lemieux, Avalanche
2. Matthew Barnaby, Sabres
3. Ulf Samuelsson, Rangers