Sabres and their fans perpetually looking ahead to "next year"

Despite Saturday's 6-1 blowout against the Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres have once again fallen short of playoff standings, marking the end of another disappointing season.Their 10th place finish out of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference left the Sabres two positions away from any possibility of a first-time Stanley Cup. Disappointed fans are used to the feeling of a short season: the Sabres have failed to make playoff standings for two years in a row - five seasons out of the past seven.So what does this hockey town do with the upcoming six dry months? Something Sabres followers have learned to do well - look forward to next season.They could blame this recent failure on any number of excuses: Ryan Miller's late-season injury, young players whose potential has yet to be revealed, shootout games that were valiantly fought but lost.But blaming their drop in standings on the loss of stars Chris Drury and Daniel Briere is the strategy they used last season. In all reality, this team needs no excuses, just a complete revamp to spark the motivation they lost after the 2007 President's Trophy.Rumors have arisen regarding the firing of general manager Darcy Reigier and head coach Lindy Ruff, but are they where the accusations should fall entirely?Some fans suggest starting at the top, blaming team owner Tom Golisano and minority owner Larry Quinn. But they're not in the ice; they didn't let the puck slip.Maxim Afinogenov has been with the Sabres since 1997 and has slowly been contributing less and less, putting only six goals on Buffalo's season total. Even captain Craig Rivet seemed a disappointment after the hype surrounding his acquisition. And anyone who has seen the "Odd Jobs" YouTube video knows that even bruiser Andrew Peters thinks his spot on the team is a joke.Whatever changes the Sabres decide to make during their lengthy postseason, one thing is for sure: the changes need to be drastic. There is no excuse for falling from the No. 1 spot in the '07 season to not even making playoffs the following two years. The Sabres are the only team to ever have done that. In fact, the past two President's Trophy winners ended up taking the Stanley Cup the following year.Players need to be dropped, management positions need to be reevaluated. They need things to be just as they were in pre-2007. Hell, at this point, Buffalo could even blame it on the voice of Harry Neale.

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