Finally some official news came down from the Sabres today with the announcement that general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff have both come to agreements with the team, Regier for two more years, Ruff for three more years with an option for a fourth year. Both men received raises and while no specific salaries were mentioned, according to Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn, Regier and Ruff both accepted less money than they likely would've gotten on the open market. Not much to add to the announcement except a big "Yahoo!" I really feel like Regier and Ruff are the best GM/head coach combo in the NHL and they've survived some crazy stuff in Buffalo including a bankruptcy that left the location and survival of the franchise in doubt for a while. Both guys have done a lot to build and grow an exciting, competitive, still young team and I'm glad they want to stick around for a few more years and see things through.
The press conference was also the first real word from the powers that be about the season (good!), the postseason (bad!), and plans moving forward. Ninety-three percent of the questions asked were about negotiatons with Chris Drury and Danny Briere and four of the remaining seven percent were about something else on the surface but really about negotiations with Chris Drury and Danny Briere. ("Can you talk to us about the team's policy about negotiating during the season? Because it really bit you in the ass with Drury and Briere, don't you think?") I was fine with most of the answers - we struggled defensively in the postseason, we're in talks with the captains, we haven't eliminated the idea of a special teams coach, we'll see what Paetsch does at training camp. Lindy did say he thinks most of our defensive problems can be addressed from within which has some people up in arms but I'm not really convinced that means management has decided not to look at bringing in outside help if they can find someone that fits. I mean, what's Lindy going to say? "Our defense really crapped out! We're definitely looking to replace a couple of these suckers :::coughkalinincough::: so Ryan doesn't have to carry our asses next season." I don't think so.
The only thing that did worry me a little bit was this response from Regier to a question about whether the team had talked to Vanek or his agent at all yet: No, I'm not a believer in operating out of fear. I've seen it take place in this business, where you have to absolutely have somebody and you pay for it. You pay for it because of some rumor. The reality is (that) there's a market value. He's a very good player. He's a very important player. There's a market value and you have to stay the course. You have to be looking at things on a longer term - not just on a short-term reaction. The other part is that I think we'll be fine with Thomas at the end of the day, I believe.
I don't know, fellas. Granted I've only been following the off-season stuff for a few years, but I've never heard so many rumors about a player potentially getting offer sheets from other teams. I'm glad we're confident that Thomas wants to be here, but why risk letting another team set his price when you have the chance to do it yourself? We all agree that he's an amazing young talent and should be a cornerstone of the team for the next few years... So sign him now! Why put yourself in a situation where you have to match a four million dollar offer when you might be able to get him to agree to less than that? I hope they're confident in the idea that the offer sheets are just rumors because if we end up dumping Vanek for a bunch of draft picks, I'm marching down to the HSBC offices and knocking some heads together. I want to be watching this kid in blue and gold for a few more years atleast. I'm not REALLY worried because I do see us matching any offer that does come down but still... In this case, I don't really like the wait and see attitude.
Why I Love Hockey #3 - The Postseason/The Stanley Cup
Ah, the NHL playoffs. No other sport's playoffs come close to touching the NHL's. We get four rounds of skilled, physical, intense competition. I love the way the playoffs are like a whole new season, the slate wiped clean. I love the 8th seed that had to scrap its way into the playoffs upsetting the 1st seed that coasted through the regular season. I love the way guys like Chris Drury get that extra shine in their eyes and that extra grit in their teeth. I love the extra effort guys seem to put out - the pounding hits, the hustling after loose pucks, the diving in front of shots. The last team standing at the end of the NHL playoffs absolutely deserves the title of champions. Even the Hurricanes. And the Stars. Okay, maybe just the Hurricanes. (I kid! Kind of!)
And then the winner is presented with the Stanley Cup, the greatest trophy in sports. I love that it's given directly to the captain and not the owner or the GM. They're important but in the end, it's all about the guys on the ice and I love that the NHL gets that. I love that every member of the team gets his moment with the Cup on the ice and during the off-season. And I love that the trophy is so rich with history and tradition that every player in the NHL has dreamt about what he's going to do with the Cup when he gets it whether it's drinking beer out of it with his childhood buddies or eating cereal or popcorn out of it with his wife and kids. Even when it's not my team doing the celebrating (hopefully that day will come very, very soon) I can't help but get a little teary-eyed and sentimental watching all those grown men skating around willy nilly looking for someone to hug, laughing and screaming and dog-piling in the middle of the ice. For a moment, they're all little boys again. Totally awesome and the best ending in sports.
Something About Me #3
If I had to watch one movie on an endless loop for the rest of my life it would probably be The Great Escape. But if I had to watch one scene from one movie on an endless loop for the rest of my life it would probably be the "Moses Supposes" number from Singin' in the Rain.