Friday, January 9, 2009

On Chris Drury

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.


Erin said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Drury issue. Nicely written. Good job.

Gambler said...

Great post, Heather, and I completely agree. There was something about Buffalo that made Drury Drury, no doubt. And something about Drury that made Buffalo more Buffalo-y, if that makes any sense at all.

You know, at this point in time, feelings about this situation boil down to what you can and can't forgive. Some people can't forgive management for letting him get away. Other people can't forgive him for leaving. Me, I'm over all that, but I don't think I can forgive him for not realizing what a special thing he had here. We fans realized it, every one of us, and that's why losing him was so painful. But that summer it became clear that Drury had completely missed the point that he would never be a more special or more appreciated player than he was in this city, no matter where he went. And I don't know, maybe he left because that's not what he ultimately wanted from his career, but it's like, what more could you possibly want from a career, you know? And that's what I can't forgive him for.

Even though he knew he had to move on, McKee got that what he and Buffalo had was one-of-a-kind, and that's the difference-maker, in my opinion.

By the way, if I'm remembering the WGR postgame show correctly, Paul Hamilton was also wondering if Drury ever felt like he made a mistake leaving Buffalo (while acknowledging that he would never get an answer to that question), so I don't think we're alone in thinking about Drury this way.

Gambler said...

Oh, and I feel the need to state that I know what I said up there is all very tralalafeelingsbits, and is easily invalidated by the truths "the NHL is a business" and "sports doesn't love you back," but what's being a fan without having invalid tralalafeelingsbits, right? I just can't help feeling like we could have had a relationship with Drury that transcended all those truths, if only he'd been on board.

And since it turns out he wasn't, I reserve the right to forget about him until I feel like booing him. That's just the way it's gotta be.

(I'm going to bed now. Promise.)

Becky said...

Last night when Drury was the 3rd man in the shoot-out - those were boos, not Drus. Everyone, even people who hadn't made much noise up until then, cupped their hands and let it rip.

I think the NYR coach put Drury out there on purpose, for just that reason.

Heather B. said...

Gambler, although I didn't quite say it like that, I suppose that's what I was thinking: I wonder if Drury ever thinks he made a mistake in leaving Buffalo? I wonder if people outside of Buffalo have noticed the difference between his play here and his play in NY and think he made a mistake in leaving Buffalo?

He strikes me as the kind of guy who is genuinely more concerned with his personal life and if he and his family are allowed more privacy and are therefore happier in NYC than maybe that's enough for him. But it does make me a little sad because while he's definitely not at Jay McKee level for me personally or sentimentally, I know he could've been if he'd been around a little longer.

Which, re-reading your comment, is pretty much what you just said. I guess I agree :P

And yeah, being a fan is all about having those crazy feelings that go beyond things like money and business. Sometimes it just sucks to be the only group in the equation (management, players, journalists, fans) who really do and can think like that because in the end tralala feelings are usually at the bottom of the pile when it's decision time.

Heather B. said...

Oh, and thanks, Erin!

Becky, regardless of how I feel I'm not much of a boo-er but Drury winning that game in OT or the shootout would've been a nightmare scenario. Ugh.

Mark B said...

As the guy who had the biggest man crush on Drury while he was here and heartbroken when he left, I can say you are absolutely correct. Calgary didn't even want Chris based on the same expectations I think he is facing in NY.

No, we loved him for the intangibles that most people don't care for. Buffalo appreciates a hard working guy who lays it all out for his team.

It really is sad. With all the blame that was thrown around last summer, I think both the team and Chris need to take the hit for not making it work. Equally.

Jennifer said...

I had never given it any thought, but now that I read this post, it all makes total sense. Drury is NOT the same player he was in Buffalo and Buffalo has NOT been the same since he left.

They were a perfect fit that can never be matched.

dani said...

Sniff. I miss Jay.

Good post Heather B!

Vanek's Hair said...

I think Chris Drury missed that shoot out goal on purpose. He is so clutch that he will purposefully miss a goal in that situation so as to motivate his slumping team to get on a winning streak. The guy is absolutely amazing.

In all seriousness, I have said many times the Sabres simply chose Vanek over Drury and Briere. Incidentally, that looks like the right choice