The hockey talk first: A lot of people seem to be a little disappointed but while it's not a great trade, I don't think it's a terrible one either. There are a few factors you have to keep in mind. One, I think GMs maybe finally learned a lesson after so many of last year's rentals were a bust and came into this season willing to give up less for them. (Yes, of course they learn a lesson right as it would have benefited Buffalo.) Two, a huge part of the league is still in the playoff hunt so while teams want to pick up pieces, they don't want to give up a lot of roster players for them. And three, everyone knew Buffalo needed to move Campbell or risk losing him from nothing.
Those things considered, I think we did okay. We got a kid who, while inconsistent up to this point, is definitely talented, has size, uses his size, and is still young and cheap. He has a nice accent, I love the way he pronounces "Pominville," and people call him "Big Bear." What's not to like? And while San Jose's first round pick is not likely to be high, I think the first round is supposed to be fairly deep this year (I might be making that up) and Rochester is getting fairly thin so any pick is a good pick, especially a first rounder.
Now that the madness is over - I'm ignoring all the "WAY TO GO DARCY YOU SUCK AND NO ONE SHOULD BE CHEERING FOR THIS TEAM EVER AGAIN" crazies - I find myself feeling both happy and sad. Happy because now that I know the Sabres aren't going to give Soupy a ridiculous contract I suddenly remember all the things I really liked about him. It's been a rough year for me and ol' Soup so I am glad about that. Sad because well... it's sad.
I don't think there's really a bad guy here. For me this is very much like the Jay McKee situation. There was such a large difference in money and/or terms between what the Sabres were offering and what others will offer that it's tough to blame Campbell for going. But what other teams will offer is so out-of-whack for what Campbell's really worth, that it's tough to blame the Sabres for not matching. If you put Campbell on an island all by himself I don't think he's worth that kind of money. If you look at him as part of a puzzle that involves a lot of different pieces and contracts, it's even more questionable.
But I'm sad because I think everyone on both sides was sincere. I think Soupy did love his time here and loved the fans and loves his teammates and respects Darcy and Lindy. I think Darcy (and Lindy) do like Soupy and do feel invested in his career and are proud of how much he's grown as a player since he was drafted. I think if they could've waved a magic wand and come to an agreement that made both sides happy, they would have and I think they're all genuinely sad that it doesn't work that way.
So here, in honor of Brian Campbell, is a portion of a post I wrote about him last summer (6/17/07) back when things weren't all crazy and riled up. Some of the sentiment has changed - you might want to strike that last line - but when I wrote it, I absolutely meant it. And I mean a lot of it still.
Why I Love Hockey #5 - Brian Campbell
I'll admit I was first drawn to Brian Campbell for a ridiculous reason - he's a red-head. But over the past few years I've found more defensible reasons to love Brian Campbell although most of them still don't really have much to do with hockey. Don't get me wrong - I do enjoy watching him play. He's quick and creative and there are times I actually mistake him for Maxim Afinogenov of all people before realizing what I thought was a 61 is actually a 51. It's been fun watching him really begin to put things together over the past couple of seaons, just as fans in Buffalo - and probably more than a few people within the organization - were beginning to think he was never going to stick at the NHL level.
But that's all secondary. I really just like Brian Campbell the person. In a league full of humble, down-to-earth guys, Brian still manages to stick out as particularly down-to-earth. I love watching him interviewed because he's very laid-back and really funny. And not funny in the desperate, trying-too-hard, overly prepared kind of way that many pro athletes are - just easily and naturally funny. I love watching him play because he looks like he's having so much fun. I adore Chris Drury and I hope he stays in Buffalo but he's so somber all the time. While it's a little unfair because I know that's just Drury's personality, he often looks like he's working in a coal mine instead of getting paid millions of dollars to play a game. Atleast once a game there's a shot of Brian on the ice or the bench with a huge "I can't believe I'm getting PAID for this" grin on his face. A fantasic, ear-to-ear, face splitting grin. I was thrilled when he made the All-Star game because there was no doubt in my mind that a) he really never did think that he'd be an All-Star starter unlike some guys who say that but don't mean it and b) he would have a blast. Miller, Vanek, Tallinder, and Lydman are on my "Cannot be traded because they're too important" list. Brian is on my "Cannot be traded because I'd miss him too darn much" list.
Soupy, I'll kinda miss you, you know? Back when I was first trying to understand hockey, you were one of the things I loved most about it and for that I'll always owe you one.