While watching tonight's game, I found myself thinking about Chris Drury for the first time in a long time. This time last season, I was so tired of hearing about him that I was ready to put my fist through someone's face. I was tired of hearing about how the Sabres were lost and defeated without him, I was tired of hearing about how management screwed everything up, I was tired of debates about whether fans should or shouldn't boo him upon his return to HSBC. Drury, Drury, Drury. In the end, he decided to leave even though the Sabres offered him equal money. The idea that he'd been screwed beyond belief annoyed me to no end. He wasn't in Buffalo because he chose not to be in Buffalo. I was thrilled that he was underachieving in NYC and glad when his team finally lost out in the playoffs.
This season, with a little distance, the anger is gone. I wouldn't go as far as to say fondness has set in - I haven't really given the guy much thought until now - but tonight I did feel a little bit of wistfulness. A couple of months ago I wrote about how Jay McKee leaving Buffalo really made me sad because he was such a perfect fit for Buffalo. The Sabres were never quite the same after he left and he's never been quite the same since he left. Both parties suffered from the separation. I'm beginning to think the same thing about Chris Drury. For all the talk about how much the Sabres miss him, I think it's time to wonder how much he misses the Sabres. Like Jay, he just seemed a perfect fit with the team around him. Like Jay, he hasn't played at the same level he played at in Buffalo since leaving. I think maybe he needed a bunch of young, impressionable teammates who were willing to let someone else take on the leadership to be Captain Chris Drury, the Captainiest Captain of all Captains. I think he needed to be surrounded by skill players so he could relax and be Mr. Intangibles. He gave the other Sabres what they needed, the other Sabres gave him what he needed. They all fit. There's no way, short of a Stanley Cup, he's going to live up to that contract in NYC. Showing up on a new team with that kind of expectations is a killer. If he'd signed that deal in Buffalo, I think Buffalo would've been much more forgiving if he didn't produce because we were already attached to him, we already thought of him as our captain, the heart of our team. He wasn't that coming into NY and I'm not sure he's that in NY now, no matter what the C on his jersey says, not the way he was here.
I don't know, the story might not have ended as happily as I think it would have with Jay. Whereas Jay seemed very happy in Buffalo, Drury has made comments that suggest he was never very comfortable in a place where everyone on the street recognized him. I'm sure that NYC makes it a lot more possible for a very private man to live a more anonymous life. And the further we get from those two post lock-out seasons the more I think they were just really special seasons that we were lucky to have as fleeting as they now seem. But still... I do wonder sometimes what could've been.
More on the game at some point tomorrow.