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So I was eating dinner in the press room Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and a longtime colleague from one of Canada's big publications sat down across from me.

“Came to see some playoff hockey?”

“Yep. Not seeing any in my town.”

“What a town you got. Who ever thought 1999 would be the high point for Buffalo sports?”

Eh.

I just went for another forkful of macaroni and cheese. Not much I could say.

In '99, of course, the Sabres got to Game Six of the Stanley Cup final and the Bills had their last playoff team. Save for a couple Sabres seasons, our two pro teams have carried us mostly into a black hole since.

And they do it in utterly bizarre, changing-the-narrative-as-we-go fashions. It happened again Monday, when the Bills suddenly announced that Buddy Nix was taking the exit-stage left everyone expected him to take after the draft, even though team president Russ Brandon said just three weeks ago that Nix ain't going nowhere but staying in the GM office “and will be for a long time.”

(OK, so Brandon didn't say Nix “ain't going nowhere.” Couldn't resist. Sorry).

The Bills didn't name a replacement, even though the entire football world assumes Doug Whaley is taking over. Brandon was adamant it was “Buddy's day” and the focus was not going on to his replacement. Guess the Bills wanted to relive the drafting of Torell Troup or that 16-32 record the last three years.

The Bills tweeted the announcement of Nix's departure by saying he will “tradition to Special Assistant.” Nice malaprop there since they've found it basically impossible to “transition” to a winning team and the only tradition they've built is becoming the most irrelevant franchise in the league.

Brandon then said he wasn't going to document the new plan for a GM “anytime in the very near future.” The way things sound in Orchard Park, you might want to pencil the Whaley presser into your planner for, oh, about Wednesday.

But let's not be too harsh on the Bills. They're not trying to tell you they started rebuilding 15 months ago by trading Paul Gaustad, like the charade Darcy Regier is pulling. Never mind the fact Regier's rebuilding plan included throwing money last summer at Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shane Doan.

There are parts of the Bills' plan you at least have some shreds of respect for. Nix said he needed to draft a franchise quarterback as part of his legacy before he departed. We'll see how things go with EJ Manuel but at least the pick was finally made.

The Bills have transitioned (there's that word again) away from the train wreck that was Chan Gailey eschewing 50-yard field goals and Dave Wannstedt's defense not stopping anybody.

That's good too. No one really knows how Doug Marrone & Co. will do but they'll be a fresh look.

That's a start. Brandon met the irrelevance factor head-on in January when he took the reins from Ralph Wilson and admitted the brand is damaged. That was refreshingly honest.

And now that Nix is gone, the Bills won't be tempted to rekindle the man-crush on Shawne Merriman that had the odd feel of the one going on with Jochen Hecht downtown. Another plus.

So it's good there's lots of fresh looks coming in 2013, which has exploded as a major transition year in Buffalo sports — and not just for the Bills and Sabres.

Gailey, Lindy Ruff and UB's Reggie Witherspoon have all been fired. Nix stepped down. Joe Mihalich left Niagara and so many key players are following him out the door you wonder if the last one left has to turn off the Gallagher Center lights for poor new coach Chris Casey.

There was an NHL lockout that aggravated fans — and then the season started to aggravate them more. You wonder what changes are coming with the Bandits, who were the only team in their league to miss the playoffs.

Dadgummit, Buddy. Look what you're leaving behind.



email: mharrington@buffnews.com