Toeing the line during the Sabres race to the lottery

It was long understood that the Sabres weren’t going to be a very good hockey team this season. However the nosedive they went on to start the season was surprising to even the most pessimistic amongst the Buffalo fan base.

Things have begun to turn around slowly under the new regime of Pat LaFontaine, Tim Murray and Ted Nolan. Buffalo has proven to be more competitive as of late and that has led to more wins along the way. In fact, they’ve scored three or more goals in four-straight games despite coming away with just two points over that span. Funny that the goaltending had been so stellar all year until the stretch where the team finally started finding the back of the net.

Buffalo’s recent run of games has highlighted a split in how fans are looking at the 2013-14 season. Amazingly there exists a legion of Sabres fans who, from the beginning of the year, expected the team to win every game and make trades to aid in winning right now. These people likely live in a world of blissful ignorance where Ryan Miller will one day be traded for Patrick Kane. It does seem that most of the fanbase has embraced the fact that the Sabres were not built to win so much as securing a high draft pick which would help to accelerate the building process.

What’s odd is that there seem to be a faction of fans who aren’t just aware and hopeful of the race for the first pick, but they’re openly rooting for the team to lose every game in order to secure said pick.  While a lottery pick is the light at the end of this tortuous tunnel, it really isn’t necessary to root against your team, is it? Especially when finishing 30th doesn’t even guarantee that pick.

I’ll never subscribe to the theory that a fan should root against his or her team. If you’re a fan and supporter of a franchise you should always be hoping for the success of that team on and off the playing field. Although tanking the season to secure the highest odds in the draft lottery is what the ultimate goal may be, it doesn’t feel right to cheer against the Sabres. Even if you aren’t cheering for their opponents, hoping they lose in regulation each night is facsimile of that.

I’ve yet to settle in to watch a game this season hoping to see the Sabres lose. I have, however, come away from losses without remorse for the way the team has performed. I know that the team is bad and that losses will ultimately help in the long run. I’m not happy when the team loses, but I’m not mad either. It’s simply a form of acceptance. I accept that the team sucks and will not win many games and I accept that the inevitable losses will help towards the silver lining of a lottery pick.

I don’t white knuckle a third period hoping the Sabres don’t nudge their way into overtime. I also don’t get down when the team squeezes out a shootout win. This season was set for a nosedive from the start and I knew that was what was set to unfold over the following 82 games. Therefore, I’ve been able to enjoy the games (to a certain extent) without getting too high or low based on the results.

There’s no need to celebrate regulation losses and bemoan shootout wins for fear of climbing out of 30th place. It’s just such a terrible attitude to take when it comes to supporting a team and I can’t get past it. I understand the stance, I just can’t support it. Lottery picks help accelerate the building process. If your team can secure one of those players the ability to build around them can lead the organization to great success. But is it not enough to accept the failings of the team and look to the future?

A look at the standings shows a three team race for 30th and the Sabres are narrowly ahead of Edmonton for that honor. There’s a fair gap between Buffalo, Edmonton and Calgary and the next team in line (Florida) that there isn’t likely to be all that much movement between now and when the lottery is drawn. The most important thing to remember is that if the Sabres finish 30th they can pick no lower than second in the draft. But a last place finish doesn’t guarantee the first overall pick The Columbus Blue Jackets can tell you all about how that works. The Jackets, or the Oilers frozen lottery balls.

This is a bad team that’s already done a hell of a lot to ensuring their number is drawn at the lottery. It shouldn’t be too difficult to accept that and take in the rest of the season without having to openly root against any sort of success on a given night.

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