(Someone emailed me to ask about the title of the previous post. Occasionally I get sucked into the comment threads on Sabres Edge - you might come across a remark or two from me on the last few posts if you look really hard - and for a while every time I made some kind of pro-management comment, I was accused of being related to Darcy Regier. I think I've been his daughter, his granddaughter, and his niece. Uncle Darcy and me, we're like this. Okay, "we're like this" doesn't quite work when you can't see my fingers, but trust me, they are crossed.)
So first let me say my piece about Brooks Orpik. I will not argue that 3.75 a year seems like a perfectly fine deal considering the market. If he had signed that deal with Toronto or San Jose or Tampa, I might be a little upset. Yeah, the prices are steep these days but eventually you have to bite the bullet and spend something. But the fact that he signed that deal with the Penguins really makes me feel that it's a hometown discount. For all the talk about Orpik being a local kid, the only team he really should have any loyalty to is Pittsburgh. They drafted him, they brought him up to the NHL. He knows their management, their coaches, and their players. People can piss and moan about Darcy Regier not matching 3.75 or bumping it up to 4 but I don't think it matters. Even if Regier - or any GM not named Ray Shero - matched, Orpik doesn't take it. If he went somewhere else, it was going to be for more money. I doubt those rumors of 5 million were completely fabricated. Is this my opinion based on an assumption? Well, yeah, sure it is. Do I know at what price Regier bowed out of the Orpik sweepstakes? No. Being related to Darcy only goes so far. But the point is, neither do you. Sometimes players just don't want to go certain places. Signing a player is not as simple as handing the player the biggest offer and saying, "Training camp starts in September," and that's what I find the most annoying about all the griping about the Sabres - or any - front office. If putting together a Stanley Cup winning team was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Here's the thing. If you tell me I can have a GM who's overly deliberate and cautious OR I can have a GM who acts without thinking and makes the splashy play, well, I'm taking the cautious guy. He'll probably make mistakes too, but I think his mistakes are going to be less dramatic and more easily fixed.
I think in the past two years, the Sabres have made two large mistakes. One, they weren't able to keep Chris Drury or Daniel Briere. (Note the "or." I think keeping both of them would've meant sacrificing one of the younger kids somewhere along the way.) Two, they didn't replace Jay McKee's more physical presence in the defensive corp. But you know what? Even with those two mistakes - again, pretty big ones - the Sabres are a pretty good team. They finished the season with 90 points. They only missed the playoffs by 4 points. They missed the fourth seed by 8 points. And that was with inconsistent play from the goaltender (who was bad even before the end of the season when he was gassed) and the top defensive pairing. Better play from the three of them alone probably means a spot in the playoffs. The Sabres are young - younger than the much regaled Blackhawks and Caps - and a very large portion of their offensive output came from players under 25, most of whom are either locked up or are being talked with this off-season so that should hold for the next few years. Despite three big losses and a slowness to fix those losses, the Sabres are still a team that just needs some tweaking. In my opinion.
I'll take that over the Rangers just as an example. After free-spending last off-season, they now have $33 million wrapped up in five players (one very good goalie, two good but not great offensive defensemen, and two second line centers neither of whom make a habit of scoring a lot of goals) for four years. Outside of Henrik Lundqvist I wouldn't say that's necessarily a great group to be building around and it doesn't leave a lot of flexibility for other moves particularly in mid-season. I don't know. We'll see but I like what we have better.
And we could always be the Maple Leafs who have blown so much money and handed out so many no-trade clauses that they're buying out people left and right and begging players to agree to be traded. Not only are they re-building from the ground up, they're still looking for a plot of land to build on.
And hey, the season? It doesn't start tomorrow. There's still plenty of time to swing a trade and do some tinkering with the line-up.
But what do I know? I'm just a lazy, easy to please fan who enjoys mediocrity, is related to the GM, and probably works in the Sabres PR department.