Monday, June 11, 2007

In The End, It's ALL About Drury vs. Briere Even Though I'm Really Tired of the Whole Thing

All right, let's cut to the chase. We all know THE question in Buffalo this off-season comes down to this: Should we or should we not keep Teppo Numminen? Most say no. He's old and rapidly getting older. He definitely lost a step this season. In the Ottawa series it was particularly noticeable as he was regularly getting beat to the puck. I agree with all of that. But I have a soft spot for Old Man Numminen. He's steady and dependable. He still plays pretty sound defensive hockey. I don't think it's any coincedence that a couple of our younger defense have really matured and steadied while playing alongside him. That said, Teppo makes a lot of money - over 2 million - and he really needs to play fewer minutes because the wear on his body is becoming noticeable. There's also only so long Nathan Paetsch can be stuck as the 7th defensemen. But if he'll take a pay cut - and that's a big if since I don't know how badly Teppo wants to come back much less back to Buffalo - and he's willing to play less time, even taking the occasional night off, I'd love to see him in blue and gold again next season. And if Teppo decides to retire, I'd love to see him behind the bench. He's clearly had a positive influence on the youngsters and I'm curious to see if that translates to a talent for coaching.

What's that? Chris Drury and Daniel Briere? Oh, are they free agents too? Well, here's the deal. I'm really tired of talking about both guys. I'm tired of all the rumors - the Drurys want to live on the west coast! Chris's wife hates Buffalo! Danny's family is staying here no matter what happens! Chris and Danny got into a fistfight over contract issues! I'm tired of examining every word either guy says or doesn't say for hidden meaning. What does Danny mean when he says he wants a "fair" deal? Why is Chris being so quiet? (Seriously, why is Chris Drury being so quiet? Is this a trick question, people?) I'm barely exaggerating when I say that every single thread on every single Sabres message board for the last year (at least) has found a way to devolve into Chris vs. Danny. Wake me up when they're actually signed and until then, leave me alone.

Okay, fine. If we only keep one guy, I hope it's Chris. Danny is a superstar for sure, but I think his offensive game is more easily replaced - "easily" being a relative term here - from within the organization than Chris's very solid 2-way play. We have a plethora of fast, skilled offensive forwards and not so many defensive forwards. And that isn't even going into Chris's no bullshit, no excuses leadership. I think he's absolutely one of the best captains in the NHL. Intangibles can be touchy when it comes to contracts - they don't always translate to wins after all - but I really feel like Chris is the heart of the team and has been since he set foot in Buffalo. I like Danny very much and I won't be disappointed if he stays. But I really don't want to lose Chris.

If we keep Chris AND Danny and have to dump salary elsewhere, I'm okay with that as long as we're not risking the futures of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek in Buffalo. They're the untouchables as far as I'm concerned with Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman being the most valuable players on the backend.

Speaking of Vanek, while he's an RFA, he could be one of the more interesting situations of the off-season since there are rumors that a few teams are going to give him an offer sheet. I'm not overly concerned since I really see management matching anything any offer he's likely to get. He's a baby who just completed his second year in the NHL. There was so much improvement between last season and this season that Vanek's potential is very exciting to think about. I'm hoping Darcy Regier and Co. find a way to lock him up before July 1 instead of letting other teams set the price for him.

Buffalo's only other RFA of note is Derek Roy but there doesn't seem to be as much hubbub about him. That's fine and dandy with me. Despite his craptacular postseason - and that's probably an understatement - Derek had a very solid regular season and has the making to be a very strong 2-way forward and penalty killer. His game is different enough for our other young forwards that he has a little extra value to the team, in my opinion atleast. A little maturity would be nice - tripping yourself isn't a penalty, D - but I think he's a keeper.

Buffalo's other UFAs:

Ty Conklin: Sure, whatever. I wouldn't mind Ty staying, I wouldn't mind Ty going. If Ryan goes down we're probably screwed no matter who's behind him.

Adam Mair: Mair is one of the few big, physical guys on the current roster and while it can be frustrating watching him shank shot after shot, he always plays hard and he's always willing to throw his body around. Considering that he'll come pretty cheap even with a raise, I'm all for bringing him back. Plus he loves Buffalo and has said he wants to come back and will be easy to get back no matter what his agent says. We Buffalonians aren't used to people saying nice things about us so we're pretty easy in that regard.

Dainius Zubrus: I loved what we got from Zubrus before he got hurt in the playoffs. Loved it. He really brought something different to the team - a big body who was strong along the boards and tough with the puck. But I think every fan has had that experience where they fall in love with a player while he's playing for a contract and then find out he's not really that player all the time. Do you ignore years of "Zubrus doesn't play hard every night" because of what you saw for 30 or so games from a guy who was trying to earn some hefty dough? Tough call. If we can get him for a decent price, I think we should consider it because the Sabres definitely need a little more size and a little more grit. Someone needs to be around to knock the hell out of Jagr, you know?

All in all, it should be an interesting off-season in Sabresland. There are so many different ways management could take the team and I'm really interested to see where they go.


Meg said...

I'm all for resigning Numminen, in part because I think it's a mistake to expect Paetsch to fill his minutes. I know he's not the player he once was, but in terms of matchups, Numminen played much harder minutes than Paetsch all season (and harder minutes than Campbell and Spacek for much of the season as well) and I don't think that's something that should be ignored. Everyone says that there's only so long that Paetsch can be stuck as a 7th defenseman, but honestly I'm not all that bothered by that until such a time as he proves himself to be better than one of the defensemen ahead of him on the depth chart. And really, if Paetsch was all that, why was he sitting in the ECF while Kalinin played 2 minutes in game 5? It seems clear that Ruff didn't feel it would be wise to use him as a replacement for one of the underperfoming defensemen and I do think that's indicative of something.

I don't know...I wouldn't be upset if Paetsch was the 6th defenseman next year, but I wouldn't be much fussed if he remained the 7th either.

lizzieb said...

I'm all about resigning Teppo if he wants to come back. I've heard/read that he wants to finish his career as a Sabre and I have no problem with that. As you said, he's certainly lost a step due to age, but I think he's a great voice of experience and does a great job of bringing the younger guys along. I do agree that he'll have to take a pay cut and sit some more, but I'm sure he's expecting that.

The Danny/Drury thing is out of control. I know there's nothing else to write about right now, but I can't take anymore. I'd love to see them both stay, but I'd rather see Chris if we can only keep one. All of your reasons make sense but I also just feel a deeper emotional attachment to Chris, particularly after the playoffs. He just works his butt off all the time and seems like a stand up kind of guy. In a town like Buffalo which values hard work, humility and perseverance, Chris is just a better fit than Danny. Not that I'd be upset if Danny stays, but I'd be heartbroken to lose Chris. Not to mention my lucky jersey is #23.

How about the UFA that's really on everyone's mind, the gentle giant Andrew Peters? I know many people think there's no place on the team for him, but I personally love him. True, he's not a great skater and his skills are not top level - there's a reason he makes under $500,000. On the other hand, I've been to many morning skates this season and have seen a huge improvement in his play. His work ethic is very strong, he's key in the dressing room and Chris Neil is still owed a beat down. If he can continue to improve over the summer, I think it's worth giving Petey a one year deal.

Margee said...

All the trade rumors keep talking like Drury and Briere are already gone. I keep seeing them in every off-season report on TSN's website. But I honestly would not be surprised if Regier (if he gets signed) signs them both. I think both guys want to win a Cup more than anything, and Buffalo still has a really good chance of doing that.

Schnookie said...

Considering I wanted to gouge my eyes out last year over the Patrik Elias talk in the media void that is Devils coverage, I can't imagine how dreadful living through the Drury/Briere crap is in the heart of the storm up in Buffalo. You have my deepest, heartfelt sympathy. (And if it comes down to choosing one over the other, the obvious choice is Drury. He's proven exactly what he is over the course of his career, while Briere's impressive numbers this season were classic "contract year" stats.) Furthermore, the Vanek situation seems a lot more rife with tension and intrigue than the two captains, because nothing gets the blood pumping and the outrage flowing quite like another team signing your RFA to an offer sheet.

Heather B. said...

meg, I agree. Teppo was also one of our most regular penalty killers which I don't believe Paetsch has much - if any - experience with, atleast on the NHL level.

lizzie, I'll admit I'm very eh on Peters. I think it's pretty pointless to have a guy on the roster who doesn't see a second of time during the postseason and I think Gaustad and Mair can take care of the enforcing as well as Peters. But he's cheap and he does seem to be popular in the room so I'm okay with him staying. I think management has to be careful about moving around the necessary pieces without decimating what seems to be a pretty close knit core group.

margee, at this point I'll be a little surprised if we keep both captains unless they put their heads together and agree to take less than they'd get on the open market in order to stay together. If we have to pay them both 7 million, I think Regier lets one walk because during the life of their contract a lot of important guys - including Ryan Miller - will be due for new contracts and hefty raises. But I'll eat my hat and everyone else's if they're both gone. The only way that happens is if neither of them really wants to stay. And rumors are that Regier and Ruff both have deals worked out and an announcement on them will come in the next couple of days.

schnookie, the unfortunate thing about the Briere/Drury situation is that it's really turned into people pitting them against each other. They're boosting their argument to keep one by trashing the other. That's unfortunate not to mention ridiculous considering how important they've both been to the team and the community during their time here. Danny in particular is getting hit pretty hard from some folks.

Kate said...

Heather, the Briere/Drury thing is totally stressing me out, and I completely agree that it is sad how much of Buffalo is acting like Danny is completely expendable. Even though Drury seems like the guy we should sign, Briere has been a lot more vocal about wanting to stay and be a part of our community. At the very least, we should be gracious towards Briere who has been nothing but an awesome Buffalonian.

I can't wait for this whole issue to be resolved so we can either celebrate or begin the emotional recovery.

Paige said...

Meg: I agree with you, except I wouldn't be surprised if Numminen decides to retire. Although Paetsch has the potential, it's not their yet.

And Drury vs. Briere? Well, I'm thanking god I'm not in Regier's position. I would prefer Drury, because I think he wants it more than nearly anyone in the league, and is also willing to work his butt off for it. Briere is amazing, and I'll be sobbing if he leaves, but I am preparing myself for the possibility.

Right now, if it were up to me, I would sign Drury and see if I could possibly sign Zubrus for less money than Briere. He's doing really well with our team, and we need another player who is tough, and can still put a few in the net.

Now I can just wait, and pray, for the decision. And I'm trying to still keep my mind open that Briere would still like to stay in Buffalo, and might cut us some slack.

Also, I'm worried over Vanek. He is our highest scorer, and STILL has potential to become even better.

Oh, and Peter's; well, I never really liked him anyway. I always got really annoyed that he really didn't do anything but fight, and I think Gaustad and Mair could give us enough of an edge in that category.