#5 – Paul Gaustad
Paul Gaustad was a nice late round pick by the Sabres, going in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL Draft. Gaustad then spent 3 full seasons with the Rochester Americans before making the Sabres roster full-time in the 2005-2006 season. Similar to other players on my list, expectations for Gaustad were probably much higher than they should have been.
At 6’5, 215 pounds, many fans expected Gaustad to use his body and size to punish opponents, whether it be from checks or fights. Although he did partake in these actions, it never felt frequent enough; oftentimes, these aspects of Gaustad felt forced.
To his credit, he did become one of the most prolific face-off artists in hockey, winning draws forehanded, backhanded, even with the butt of the stick. For the most part, Gaustad was a positive member of the team, and reliable in most of his roles. He did enough for the team to earn a nickname, “Goose,” and his own catchphrase from legendary play-caller Rick Jeanneret.
Unfortunately, the events following the Milan Lucic steam-rolling of Ryan Miller last season cooked the Goose’s image with fans and media (and possibly the Sabres). Being the only “tough guy” on the ice during the incident, Gaustad did not react to the play, and in a later game, half-heartedly took on Lucic in a mediocre fight. In February, Gaustad was shuffled off to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 1st round draft pick. A very nice exchange for a 4th-line player.