Players are skating, and NHL training camps are within sniffing distance. So we are warming up our emotional engines to conjure all the irrational excitement, hatred and other strongly worded feelings that accompany an eight-month devotion to watching men making billions playing a game.
This is part of a quick game of considering our rivals, with love (er, envy), and hate.
Hate: No Steve Ott, No John Scott, No Patrick Kaleta (who is, as of now, still banished to Rochester). Who's left to hate? Hulking million-dollar man-child Tyler Myers? Chris Stewart, who might be the quietest two-time 100 PIM guy in the league? Seriously. With only six fights last season, Stewart must have racked up a ton of tripping or interference calls to get into triple digits.
Envy: Ah, the early days of a franchise rebuild. When undermotivated veterans are jettisoned, draft picks are hoarded, every kid looks like a superstar and the future is wide open. Cherish this time, Sabres fans. Before you know it, years will pass and that sleeper pick from Moose Jaw you saw as the next Chris Drury is working at your local Starbucks and talking about that one time he fought Zenon Konopka in preseason.
Joking aside, the Sabres might be set up better than any full rebuild in recent memory. Their prospect pool was already pretty flush with intriguing talent like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko and Rasmus Ristolainen, plus they picked Sam Reinhart this year and have as "good" as shot as anyone of winning this year's Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
If we go with hate/envy previews again, we might soon hate and envy how quickly Buffalo turned things around.
And you? Which (current) Sabre do you hate most, and which one do you think is an alright guy? I can think of at least one candidate that should still get some love from the readership here.