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Rebuilding the confidence of Sabres fans

A trade for future success deserves less fraught front office

Emotions and confusion stirred this weekend. The Buffalo Sabres traded goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott, and shortly thereafter President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine resigned.

Fans' emotions were justified - the confusion is unacceptable.

The Sabres, continuing to press forward in their rebuild of the troubled team, traded mainstays Ott and Miller to the St. Louis Blues for draft picks and three players. LaFontaine, reportedly interested in extending Miller's contract which was set to end after this year, revolted by resigning from his (recently conjured) position.

Ott and Miller, particularly the latter, have been sources of pride for the Sabres and their fans. Anyone who has followed this team and knows the impact they have made surely feels strongly about the trade.

But nostalgia aside, the trade will be good for a team looking to rebuild.

Many believe Ott wants to return to the Sabres after this season. The 33-year-old Miller had only one year left in his contract anyway, making the trade far from unexpected. And despite LaFontaine's desire to extend the contract, with the Sabres building for the future, they need a young player to build the new team around.

A war chest of early draft picks and younger players is necessary for success four or five years down the line. Miller, as great of a player as he is, is simply too old to build the new Sabres around, and trading him has earned the team the potential to acquire much-needed young talent.

Beyond considerations for the team, the move to the Blues will give the deserving Miller a realistic shot at the Stanley Cup, one he would simply not have with the Sabres. Fans should applaud the trade for the opportunity it will provide the Buffalo favorite.

And with 23 saves in his debut game, the star netminder is already beginning to lead his new team to victories.

The draft picks and new players will undoubtedly prove essential in leading this beleaguered team forward into the future, but as it stands, front office disarray is overshadowing the future.

LaFontaine's resignation, owner Terry Pegula's endemic absence and coach Ted Nolan's persistent "interim" label all contribute to the confusion plaguing the team and its fans. Until these problems are ironed out and the public is reassured about the stability of the team's leadership, morale will remain stubbornly low.

Fans deserve the confidence that comes from efficient and transparent leadership, particularly in a time of flux.

Some of the issues surrounding LaFontaine's departure are certainly his own doing, but the move left murky waters that remain to be cleared. Fans only have the speculation of commentators to rely upon regarding the reasons behind his abrupt departure.

To exacerbate the situation, little has been cleared up. Fans have been told LaFontaine did not quit and was not fired. Confusion is just about the only response to so cryptic a message.

There is never a good time for front office discord and dysfunction, but during a time of such monumental shift, it's especially problematic.

What fans need now - after the difficult years leading up to this rebuild and before a period that will require years of patience - is reassurance, not doubt and bewilderment with dysfunctional leadership.


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