Sizing Up Trade Day
“Sell! Sell!” Not exactly the way things turned out
As the three o’clock hour and the NHL trading deadline drew nigh this past Monday, observers watching for news of any moves from the Buffalo Sabres began to go into panic mode. Would this team let the moment come and go and do nothing? For two months now, the mantra “Do something, Darcy” has been drilled across Sabres Nation as the team’s fortunes have floundered, to the point where they even fell to dead last in the Eastern Conference standings, albeit for just one day.
Then right on deadline, and right afterwards, two blockbuster moves were announced. Long-time Sabre Paul Gaustad would be departing for the Nashville Predators in exchange for a first-round draft choice; the Sabres also surrender a fourth-round pick in 2013. Minutes later, we learned that Zack Kassian and Marc Andre Gragnani would be traded to the Vancouver Canucks, bringing young center Cody Hodgson and journeyman defenseman Alexander Sulzer to Buffalo.
The good news?
The Sabres pick up a blue-chip player who can emerge as their true second-line center. Hodgson was actually drafted a couple spots ahead of Tyler Myers, and some speculate that the Sabres might have chosen Hodgson had he been available that year. Incredibly, Hodgson is a candidate for rookie of the year, despite playing on the third line in heavily stocked Vancouver. He has one more year remaining on his entry level contract, which will pay him $787,000 next season.
Gaustad goes to Nashville, with his contract expiring July 1. While Gaustad’s size, physical presence, and ability to win faceoffs make him a valuable commodity for the Predators’ possible Cup run, he also has not scored a single playoff goal in 38 games with the Sabres. Not one. Buffalo gets their first-round pick in this year’s amateur draft, meaning, unless something changes, that the team will make four selections among the first 45 picks come June.
Now the bad news.
The Sabres have already been criticized for being too soft, not physical enough, not tough enough. The Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller back in November, and the lack of team response, is viewed by many as the seminal moment of the season, the night that the Sabres’ fortunes turned. Now exiting the side door are arguably two of Buffalo’s meanest players, Gaustad, for his sheer size, and Kassian, who was actually counseled and disciplined in his junior days for his violent tendencies. Enforcers are a dime a dozen in this league, but for now the burden of toughness will have to be shouldered by Patrick Kaleta and Cody McCormick.
Many fans were also hoping to see the last of Derek Roy and Drew Stafford, who have been millstones around the team’s neck this season, although Roy was playing better in the days leading to the trade deadline. For now these two players, and their combined $8.5 million is salaries, remain as Sabres.
Two other high-priced players are also nearing the end of their contracts: the oft-concussed Jochen Hecht, and Brad Boyes, who, apart from his shootout prowess, has been a major disappointment. Questions remain whether either or both of these men will remain Sabres once the season ends.
How this all plays out in the final quarter of the season—whether the team finishes strong, if they climb the hill and actually snag that eighth and final playoff spot, and how the new guy gels with the team—remains to be seen—will go a long way in determining whether, by draft day in June and free agent day July 1, general manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff will still be calling the shots.
• ASI Signage, an architectural signage design firm, has recognized the Buffalo Sabres for 2011 “Best Overall” award for its remake of the team’s dressing room complex. The Sabres have created a veritable museum in and around the locker room, including a Hall of Fame Wall, a retired numbers wall immediately abutting the path the players take to get to the ice, and a puck history wall recounting accomplishments from each decade. It’s a shame most fans don’t get to see these amazing displays up close and personal. They are truly inspiring.
• Bravo to the Buffalo Bandits for putting on a wonderful event at last weekend’s National Lacrosse League All Star Game. A well attended Fan Fest in the concourses provided much of the pregame fun, and more than 13,000 fans got to watch an entertaining contest won by the West All Stars, despite terrific performances by Luke Wiles, John Tavares, and goalie Mike Thompson of the Bandits. That being said, this production received little notice beyond Buffalo’s borders—national telecasts were via the league’s website and internet-based ESPN3. Media covering the event consisted mostly of the Buffalo News beat writer, Artvoice, a few internet sites, and local bloggers. Despite over two decades of existence, this league has miles to go to attain recognition as a mainstream sport.blog comments powered by Disqus
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