Walking into work the morning after the NHL trade deadline, I wasn’t in the door five minutes before a fellow employee cornered me, gave me the thumbs-down signal, and then said, bluntly, “Sabres suck”.
I was puzzled.
The team hadn’t played since Saturday night, when they went toe-to-toe with the New York Rangers, the top team in the Eastern Conference. Yesterday, I thought, our hockey team’s General Manager, Darcy Regier, may have saved his patootie – and bought himself at least another year at the helm – by making a couple of very bold deals that, long term, will improve the Sabres.
“No,” he said. “They traded Zack Kassian, the only guy who played physical on the entire team”.
“C’mon, now,” I responded. “Let’s not get carried away here. He had his moments, especially early in his first recall from the AHL, but much of the time he left me wanting so much more. And to say he was the only one playing physical? Really?”
“Well, the team got significantly smaller,” my co-worker snarled.
“This season they did, yes,” I said. “But don’t forget they have 6″4″ Marcus Foligno and 6’5″ Brayden McNabb, two guys who will most likely be ready to step in next season. And let’s not take anything away from Corey Tropp, a good energy-type guy with a good, solid build. They’ll be fine. Not to mention, they’ve got the entire summer to address any other holes they see the need to fill, either through free-agency, trade or the draft”.
He was not convinced.
“But I’ve been…we’ve been…waiting for this guy for a few years now. Someone with size and skill, who isn’t afraid to drop the mitts”.
“Which we’ve only seen bits and pieces of,” I said. “His game was a bit passive in the AHL, with Rochester, and up here I’ve seen him peel off of more hits than he actually delivered.”
Not afraid to hide his obvious man-crush, the co-worker said, “But…but, I loved Zack Kassian…”
At which point I cut him off.
“No. You loved the idea of a Zack Kassian. He was, and still may be, something the Sabres lacked, yes. He was advertised as a loose cannon with uber-skilled hands and good hockey sense. A six-foot three-inch freight train who hits, fights, scores and makes plays…but, really I saw very little of that. What I saw reminded me of the second coming of Taylor Pyatt. Big, strong, skilled but…missing something. Now, that’s not to say he won’t become a top-6 player in the NHL. He’s still very young, and the Vancouver Canucks saw something in him, obviously. Enough of something that they were willing to deal a stud-in-the-making in Cody Hodgson to get Kassian”.
Right about now is when my fellow employee got silly.
“I’m telling you, he’s going to be the next Cam Neely!”
Stifling laughter and anger at the same time, I retorted, “Sacrilege!!! Bite your tongue, sinner! How can you sit there with a straight face and compare Zack Kassian to perhaps the best modern-day power forward ever?”
Now I was pissed.
“Well, I’m telling you, it’s a bad trade and the Sabres are going to regret it,” he said, shaking his head.
“We’re a fortuneteller now?,” I asked him caustically. “All you’re doing is short-changing Cody Hodgson by saying that, and that’s not fair. Hodgson’s a good player, and is only going to get better. The Sabres were sorely lacking a top-2 center and have been the entire season. The one man that many wanted to run out of town (Regier) finally goes out and acquires a center, and you’re ready to jump off a bridge because we traded away one friggin’ guy?”
“Pffft. Yeah, I thought so“.
And believe it or not, this wasn’t the only guy I had to talk down from the ledge yesterday. While I have mixed emotions on the whole trading away our “Milan Lucic“, it was a necessary move by a team desperate for help at center. You don’t get something for nothing. Let’s face it, if the Canucks would have rather had Derek Roy instead of Kassian, there would have been a riot as to who would have driven Roy to the airport. But, the trading of Kassian was a necessary evil. Regier, as much as I’ve bashed him over and over for his inactivity while this season slipped further and further away, has positioned this organization to actually do some damage this summer. They have options, and many of them. With four picks in what will most likely be the first 45 picks (two in the first round and two in the second), they can: A) stockpile some very good, young players in the prospect cupboard, B) trade away a pick(s) and/or a roster player for someone else’s roster player, or C) trade away a couple of picks to move further up in the draft.
It pains me to say this, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due. Good job, Darcy. Now, go into the summer and DO IT AGAIN.
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