It's Sunday morning and you spent all of last night basking in drink after drink. You were the life of the party, from what you remember anyway, and even that's a blur - almost seems like a lifetime ago. You're still gaining your senses this morning and you have a horrible feeling in the gut of your stomach. You don't want to do a THING today.
Now you know what the Sabres felt like after their ecstasy-driven, almost-too-good-to-be-true ascension to the top of the National Hockey League in 2006-2007. They were awarded the President's Trophy. They were the best of the best, on top. They wobbled/stumbled/(enter your own synonym) through the playoffs, still high on their tremendous regular season accomplishments, and they were dealt an untimely ending to a glorious ride by the Ottawa Senators. Yep, that's when they passed out.
Thing is....it all seemed like a blur, a lifetime ago, when Drury-Briere were on their merry way and suddenly the Sabres weren't the "cool thing" in the NHL anymore. That's how 07-08 started. They stumbled out of the gate, losing 6-2 in their home opener to the Islanders, who they dispatched of 4 games to the 1 in the playoffs just a few months earlier.
Then there was a new distraction thrown into the mix. No longer the life of the party, the cream of the crop in the NHL, this Buffalo team turned to drugs. Hey, just try to follow me a second, will you? Haha. I have a point here. The Brian Campbell distraction. Talk about a cancer for a team. It lingered with them all season long. Their drug problem and continued drinking addiction let to problems on and off the ice, injuries, and let's just say a looong year. Even when they rid themselves of Soupy, finally removing that huge elephant in the locker room that the media flocked to after every game, and began purging themselves of the demons of the past, it was too late. They were too far behind in the hunt. And a valiant effort in the final weeks of the season fell 3 points short of a playoff berth.
Guess what? No more excuses. The core of the team has been signed, sealed and delivered for the next 4-5-6 years thanks to Sabres management over the offseason. This Buffalo team has been working out all summer, and best of all, they've been sober. No more problems, no more addictions. Just a TEAM again. A TEAM.
The Drury/Briere hangover is finally over with. It's 08-09 now. The Sabres can get back on their rightful footing, with sky-high morale, and march into the season in better condition, and with better feelings, than have been felt for a long, long time. It's all about picking up where they left off because they finished last year great. Teppo Numminen, in his one game, helped the Sabres turn aside the playoff-bound Bruins in Beantown. He made a world of a difference to the team because he was gone all year to that point. He's the type of guy, and veteran leader, that keeps the team OUT OF DRUGS, AWAY FROM THE BOOZE, and focused on the prize...that ultimate prize: The Stanley Cup.
This team is ready. Vanek finally started to play his game at the end of last year and is turning into a real fine leader; Pommer brought the team to new heights as Captain (I hope he's Captain again this year, he makes a great one); et al. Enter Rivet, enter Numminen, enter Lalime, and let's fast forward to a new year.
The Drury/Briere days are FINALLY OVER. It's a new team now, with a new storyline. A new core, a new era, a new age. Back to what we've loved all along, Sabres nation. Buffalo Sabres hockey.