I'll admit up front that this post is totally half-assed. I haven't had a ton of time to think this week - summer school started up and I'm pretty sure my new class is trying to kill me - but I'm in a blogging mood. I'm not even going to make the effort to actually organize these thoughts in any way. The column quoted below is from our favorite fella, Bucky Gleason.
Rivet isn’t an elite player, but he’s an upgrade. He’s a tough, solid defenseman who can move the puck. He’ll score the odd goal, be dependable in his own zone and win a few scraps. He’s locked up at $3.5 million for each of the next three years, making him the Sabres’ highest-paid defenseman at a reasonable salary... He’s a quality player, a character guy, one this town will appreciate. Good for the Sabres, good for their fans, good work by Regier... They didn’t even bother to offer hometown defenseman Brooks Orpik a contract. He returned to Pittsburgh with a six-year deal for $22.5 million, hardly a budget-buster. He’s making $250,000 per year more than Rivet, 33, who is better offensively but six years older. The message received there was that mediocrity remains acceptable.
I just... I don't understand. Bucky lists all the reasons that Craig Rivet was a good pick-up and a good fit for the Sabres and then concludes that management is happy with mediocrity because they didn't make an offer to Brooks Orpik. Craig Rivet is older which means he has experience being a leader on his team, something the Sabres needed that Brooks Orpik would not provide. He's also right-handed, something that the Sabres needed desperately and something that Brooks Orpik is not. (I admit I only know we need this because of Meg. She always brings it up when we discuss the defense.) He has a track record of good play that's longer than 2 months during the postseason, something that Brooks Orpik does not have. He eats minutes, something the Sabres are missing without Brian Campbell and something that Brooks Orpik does not do. He also plays on the powerplay and the penalty kill, both things that - guess what! - Brooks Orpik does not do very often. (I can't tell you how shocked I was when I saw how little special teams time Orpik gets. What the heck good is a stay-at-home defenseman who doesn't kill penalties?) But passing on the player who doesn't do as much and hasn't done what he does do well for that long and instead going with the player who's proven he can consistently play at the same level over the course of an entire season and meets a lot of the team's needs is settling for mediocrity?
News alert: The Sabres have a poor reputation among players. It has become increasingly evident that the only way to get quality veterans into Buffalo is to force them here through trades. It’s an unpleasant way to survive.
News alert: This is not actually a news alert since we hear it every off-season.
I'm willing to accept that some of the team's trouble is based on its history for watching its money closely. They don't spend a lot of money and players want to get paid, yo. But I don't think you can underestimate the fact that people think Buffalo blows. Seriously. No one I know in Alabama has ever set foot in Buffalo but when they found out I was moving there I got all kinds of strangely critical, disbelieving comments unlike I've ever heard about anywhere else. Patrick Lalime said straight out that he wasn't sure about Buffalo because there doesn't seem to be much to it and to opposing players there isn't. If all you ever saw was the area around HSBC would you be impressed with Buffalo? Buffalo is one of those places you have to live in and let the city settle around you so it doesn't surprise me that free agents aren't inspired by it whereas guys who come up in the system or get traded here usually end up loving it, sometimes enough to move back when their playing careers are done. I find it very encouraging that all of the Rochester kids who came up together seem to want to stay put. And all the former players who Lalime spoke to (Marty Biron, JP Dumont, and some guy I'm forgetting) said Buffalo was a good place to live and play. Wow, our reputation rears its ugly head once again!
Also didn't we just say that the Sabres didn't even make an offer to Brooks Orpik? Did they make any competitive offers to any free agents? Is it rejection if you're not actually asking the other party to join you in the first place?
GM Dale Tallon admitted he overpaid Campbell at $56.8 million over eight years, but he also delivered a strong message that the Blackhawks were headed in the right direction.
Fundamental difference of a opinion. I'm not impressed by GMs who overpay a player much less publicly admit that they overpaid a player. What message does that send exactly? Maybe when I see hard proof that high payrolls equal winning teams I'll be impressed by a move like that but since the Red Wings had the 18th ranked payroll last season while the Maple Leafs had the 9th, I'll go on believing you can't buy a winning record and you can't buy a Stanley Cup.
Thing is, it’s difficult to see where the Sabres are going.
Well. Let me see if I can help you out, Buck. See, last season the Sabres had a really, really good offense. Their numbers were thrown off some by the fact that they tended to score in bunches but they did score and there's some reason to believe that those scorers will improve since most of them are still pretty young. They struggled more on the defensive side of things and the whole team seemed to skate around like a chicken with its head cut off when things weren't going well which suggested they were lacking in leadership and heart. Last but not least, the goalie started a lot more games than he ever had before and more than someone of his body type can probably handle so he was pretty wiped out by the end of the season.
To solve some of those problems, the Sabres signed a new back-up goalie - one who started in the neighborhood of 30 games last season and won a little more than half - and they also signed a veteran defenseman who isn't afraid to drop the gloves. I like to call that "progress." In addition, they've started talks with their starting goalie, one of their best young wings, and a pretty valuable UFA. Again, "progress."
Yet since the lockout the Red Wings have won three straight division titles and one Stanley Cup, seven straight division titles and four Cups in the last 11 years. Players practically climb over one another to play in Motown.
Yeah, Detroit is amazing. I whole-heartedly agree. Let's ignore the fact that they mostly built their team the the same way the Sabres did - drafting good talent and trying to keep them around - though definitely more successfully and just say, way to tilt the argument to your side by comparing Buffalo to one of the very best run franchises in all of pro sports. Just about everyone in every sport fails in that comparison. I think not living up to the Red Wings still puts Buffalo in pretty decent company.
All right. I'm going to bed.