PEGULA’S PATH TO THE PLAYOFFS IS LITTERED WITH FIRED COACHES AND GMS  

So far, Terry and Kim Pegula have been terrible at making the playoffs but they’ve been great at firing people.

No one can say the Pegulas don’t care about winning.

They say money can’t buy happiness. I don’t know about that. But I do know money hasn’t bought the Pegulas playoff happiness for their NHL Sabres or NFL Bills.

But give them high marks for trying.

People who keep track of such things have pointed out that since the Pegulas purchased the Sabres Feb. 3, 2011, and later the Bills, they’ve fired five head coaches (another one quit), two general managers and two team presidents.

Sabres general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma got the boot Thursday.

Murray met with Pegula Wednesday in Florida and the owner obviously wasn’t buying what Murray was saying about the direction the team is taking.

I wonder if the significant improvement of the Sabres from 2014-15 (23-51-8 record, 54 points in the standings, outscored 274-161) to 2015-16 (35-36-11 record, 81 points, outscored by a far more respectable 222-201 in Bylsma’s first season as coach) inspired premature overly optimistic hopes for this season in the minds of the fans and the Pegulas.

This season’s Sabres rook a step backwards: 33-37-12; 78 points; outscored 237-201) and appeared to play uninspired hockey down the stretch.

Do any of us have a clue about what to expect from next season’s Sabres?

WHY FANS OF THE BILLS AND SABRES ARE SO THIRSTY...

These playoff droughts for the Buffalo Sabres and Bills have reached epic proportions.

I feel sorry for the Pegulas. I’m pretty sure Terry and Kim want to win at least as much as the most loyal and frustrated fans who’ve been cheering for the two teams.

But let’s review the ugly facts:

The playoff drought for the Sabres has reached six seasons. Only the Carolina Hurricanes can match that – in fact, Carolina has NHL-worst active playoff drought of eight seasons.

The Hurricanes have failed to qualify for the playoffs in 10 of the last 11 seasons since winning the Stanley Cup after the 2005-06 season. At least Carolina’s fans have some fond memories.

Here are the number of playoff appearances for the 30 current NHL teams in the last six seasons:

Six – Chicago...New York Rangers...Pittsburgh...St. Louis

Five – Anaheim...Detroit...Minnesota...San Jose...Washington

Four – Boston...Los Angeles...Montreal...Nashville...Ottawa

Three – NY Islanders...Philadelphia...Tampa Bay...Vancouver

Two – Calgary...Columbus...Dallas...Florida...Toronto

One – Arizona...Colorado...Edmonton...New Jersey...Winnipeg.

The playoff drought of the Sabres pales in comparison to the 17-year playoff drought by the NFL Bills.

Here are the number of trips to the playoffs by the 32 NFL teams from 2000 through 2016:

New England 14...Green Bay 13...Indianapolis 13...Pittsburgh 11...Seattle 11...Baltimore 10...Philadelphia 10...Denver 9...NY Giants 8...Cincinnati 7...Atlanta 6...Carolina 6...Dallas 6...Kansas City 6...Minnesota 6...New Orleans 6...NY Jets 6...San Diego 6...San Francisco 5...Tampa Bay 5...Tennessee 5...Arizona 4...Chicago 4...Houston 4...Miami 4...Oakland 4...St. Louis 4...Detroit 3...Washington 3...Jacksonville 2...Cleveland 1....Buffalo 0.

THE GREAT JOHN GRANT JR. APPARENTLY HAS PLAYED IN HIS LAST LACROSSE GAME

I don’t recall the date or the opponent, or even if the Rochester Knighthawks won that game (they usually did at the time)...but I’ll never forget the play. If you were there, you probably remember it, too.

John Grant Jr. had the ball and was closing in on the opposing goaltender. He fired high and the ball crashed into the plexiglass behind the goal, bounced at a strange angle off the plexiglass above the left sideboards and landed in the stick of an advancing Shawn Williams. Williams scored and the crowd went wild.

I thought it was the luckiest goal I’d ever seen. But after the game, Grant and Williams revealed that it was a play they often tried during practice. That made it even more amazing.

In my opinion, John Grant Jr. was the best athlete ever to wear a ROCHESTER uniform in his particular sport.

If you watched him play for the Knighthawks and Rattlers, you’ll probably agree with me or at least say he’s in the discussion. If you’re not a lacrosse fan, I’m pretty sure you’re not buying it.

Grant, 42, announced his retirement from outdoor Major League Lacrosse on Wednesday in Denver, where his family now lives. He suffered a serious concussion early this season with the indoor National Lacrosse League Colorado Mammoth. He didn’t play again.

Grant now is on the Mammoth coaching staff and also is the head coach for Valor Christian High School,  Colorado’s reigning Class 4A state champion high school lacrosse team.

Grant said he has loved lacrosse since he picked up one of his father’s sticks shortly after he no longer needed diapers. He dreaded the day he’d need to retire but is ready to spend more time with his wife and daughter and focus on his coaching career. He expects to have a knee transplant soon.

One of the all-time great offensive lacrosse players – both indoors and outdoors – Grant spent his prime pro years playing for Rochester – the indoor Knighthawks for 10 seasons and the outdoor Rattlers for five seasons. He won scoring titles, MVP awards and championships with both teams.

Grant, who admits he never ran well and relied on his hands, moves and upper-body strength to become a great scorer, was admired for his high pain threshold. He overcame several major injuries, including a blood infection to a surgically repaired knee in late 2008. At one point, amputation of a leg was considered as a life-saving measure. He sat out the 2009 indoor season and ultimately returned to near top form.

“My dream was to play at the highest level I could, for as long as I could...To be honest, I have long surpassed that and I’m extremely lucky to play as long as I did.”

The fans who watched him play were lucky, too.

UIPDATING THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

The Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night joined the Anaheim Ducks  as the three teams headed for the Stanley Cup conference semifinals.

Here’s the update on the always entertaining and unpredictable NHL plaoffs:

Through 35 games, home teams are 17-18.

Margins of victory:

1 goal – 23 games (including 13 overtime)

2 goals – 7 games

3 goals – 3 games

4 goals – 0 games

5 goals – 1 game

6 goals – 0 games

7 goals  -- 1 game.

172 goals in 35 games (4.914 goals per game)

7 shutouts.

POSSIBLE QUARTERBACK DRAFT PICKS FOR THE BILLS

ESPN college football talent guru posted new rankings of quarterbacks in next week’s NFL draft:

1—Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina)

2—Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

3—Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)

4—DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)

5—Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee)

6—Nathan Peterman (Pittsburg h)

7—Davis Webb (California)

8—Brad Kaaya (Miami)

9—C.J. Beathard (Iowa)

10—Alek Torgersen (Penn).

It would be a surprise and a disappointment if at least one the QBs listed above is not drafted by the Buffalo. The Bills are to get lucky.

WHY THIS SEASON WAS SUCH A DOWNER FOR THE SABRES AND THE AMERKS

The 2016-17 pro hockey season was particularly disappointing in Western New York because the rebuilding projects for both the NHL Buffalo Sabres and the AHL Rochester Americans took a step backwards.

Sabres

2014-15: 23-51-8 record...54 points...161 goals for...274 goals against...-113 goal differential

2015-16:  35-36-11 record...81 points...201 GF...222 GA...-21 goal differential

2016-17: 33-37-12 record...78 points...201 GF...237 GA...-36 goal differential.

Amerks

2014-15: 29-41-5-1 record...64 points...209 GF...251 GA...-42 goal differential

2015-16: 34-38-3-1...72 points...199 GF...249 GA...-50 goal differential

2016-17: 32-41-0-3...67 points...205 GF...240 GA...-35 goal differential.

HOW THE 30 NHL-AHL AFFILIATIONS FARED THIS SEASON

Each of the 30 NHL teams has a full affiliate in the AHL. Here’s how they fared this regular season:

Both NHL and AHL teams made the playoffs – 10.

Only the NHL team made the playoffs – 6.

Only the AHL team made the playoffs – 6.

Both teams failed to make the playoffs – 8 including (Buffalo Sabres/Rochester Americans).

SHORT SHOTS

For the record, I believe Brazilian soccer superstar Marta came closest to John Grant’s excellence representing a Rochester pro team during her relatively brief stint with the Flash in 2011 (and I know, the Flash played in Rochester but were based in Buffalo).

I can’t imagine a more fortuitous way for the Bills to open the 2017 NFL season than hosting the New York Jets Sunday, Sept. 10. No excuses in this spot.

A TRIBUTE TO LUKE EASTER

One of the best things about growing sort of old is that I was fortunate enough to watch the great Luke Easter hit a baseball.

Luke was my first – and remains my all-time best – baseball hero.

Why was Easter so special to me and to so many others who had the pleasure of rooting for him? Why was he a charter member of the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame? Why is a photo of his smiling face posted alongside those of Morrie Silver and Joe Altobelli on the outfield wall at Frontier Field?

Acclaimed sportswriter Joe Posnanski recently wrote a tribute to Luke that originally appeared on NBC Sports World. It was titled Happy (Luke) Easter and intended for publication on Easter Sunday.

Reading the article brought back fond memories of Luke and I learned some new things about his amazing baseball career.

If you remember Luke, or wonder why so many older people remember him so fondly, I’ll read Posnanski’s tribute on my show (Bob Matthews On Sports on News Radio WHAM 1180) tonight at 7:35 p.m. 

I hope you’ll listen and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, April 21 – Joe Pederson (25)...Rodney Stuckey (31)...Tarvaris Jackson (34)...Cadillac Williams (35)...Tony Romo (37)...Vincent Lecavalier (37)...Terry Tiffee (38)...Ed Belfour (52)...Michel Goulet (57)...Jesse Orosco (60)...Dave Meyers (64)...Steve Vickers (66). Iggy Pop (70) and Queen Elizabeth (91) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, April 22 – Kenny Stills (25)...Kevin Kiermaier (27)...DeJuan Blair (28)...Dee Gordon (29)...Marshawn Lynch (31)...Kaka (35)...Glenn Parker (51)...Jeff Hostetler (56)...Jimmy Key (56)...Terry Francona (58). Jack Nicholson (80) and Glen Campbell (81) are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, April 23 – Kyle Juszczyk (26)...Aaron Williams (27)...John Cena (40)...Jason Tyner (40)...Andruw Jones (40)..Claude Julien (57)...Joe Ferguson (67)...Re4ggie Leach (67)...Gregg Shappard (68)...Tony Esposito (74)...Gail Goodrich (74)...ex-Red Wing who survived a beaning Chico Fernandez (78). John Oliver (40) and George Lopez (56) are invited to the birtrhday party.