Attention players: Leaving the Sabres can be hazardous to your future
The trade deadline is approaching, and for Buffalo Sabres fans that means ... um, it means a whole lot of nothing.
Darcy Regier is a lot like me playing poker: not really sure what he's doing so he always makes the conservative move, then losing whatever he throws into the pile anyway.
I'm at peace with that, probably because I'm so accustomed to it. I'm one of these guys who has difficulty looking at the upside of any trade. I'm too busy worried about whether the Sabres will trade the next Ray Sheppard, Tom Barrasso, Alex Mogilny, or Pierre Turgeon away. But I shouldn't worry too much, though, considerig that the Buffalo Curse typically follows players out of the Niagara Frontier and waltzes into their new dressing room.
It's funny how, during Regier's reign, players who had productive seasons with Buffalo fade into disappointment and obscurity with their new teams, whether in the wake of a trade or free-agent jettisoning. Sure, there are exceptions, like Dominik Hasek, J. P. Dumont and Maxim Afinogenov, but they've been few and far in between.
Here's a list of the Top 10 guys who would've been better off sticking around (God, am I a good second-guesser or what? Everyone has a gift, and that's mine):
1. Chris Drury. The heart and soul of some fabulously beloved teams in 2005 to 2007, Drury turned down $5 million in Buffalo to play for that same amount in New York City. Whoopsy! Rangers fans' have never shied away from voicing their hatred for him, and he's underachieved with his equally underachieving Blueshirts teammates since Day One. The Rangers would've dealt him long ago if they could find anyone willing to pay $5 million a season for an aging second-line pivot who scores twenty goals and forty-five points a season. Which brings us to ...
2. Mike Peca. Peca earned his ticket out of town by demanding $4.5 million to $5 million a season (at least those were the rumored figures) during that ugly holdout in 1999-2000. "Intangibles" or not, one could argue he wasn't even worth the reported $3.5 million Buffalo was offering, and after a solid season or two with the Islanders, he never regained the intensity or scoring touch he enjoyed with the Sabres. He disappointed on Long Island, Edmonton, Toronto and Columbus before calling it a career a few months ago. He has only his agent and himself to blame for playing hardball and derailing his once-promising career. His legacy with Sabres fans? You guessed it: those absolute cornball supermarket ads with his wife.
3. Daniel Briere. Injury riddled and out of place, Briere's $7 million on the books is a heavy, clumsy piece of kryptonite around Flyers GM Paul Holmgren's neck. The Flyers were positive he'd be a consistent thirty-five-to-forty-goal guy for Philadephia, but three years later he isn't even among the team's most effective players. It doesn't seem to matter whether he's in or out of the lineup on a team that'll be lucky to reach the playoffs. You've got to hand it to Regier for balking at the foolish amount of green Briere and Drury were seeking in the summer of 2007. Everyone in hockey circles ridiculed him for those losses, but maybe he knew something they didn't.
4. Brian Campbell. His ridiculous $8 million cap hit is the high-pitched ringing that's causing Chicago's salary cap headaches, and the chief reason the Blackhawks will soon have to dismantle a promising young lineup. If he helps bring a Cup to the Windy City maybe it will be worthwhile, but if Hawks brass could have dealt their third-best blueliner by now, they'd have long since done so. (See: Drury, Chris; Briere, Daniel.) Drury, Briere and Campbell have quickly become the Crystal Pepsi of their new teams: overprized fizz that's costing their employers millions.
5. Ales Kotalik. The big left winger with the booming shot never seemed to reach his full potential in Buffalo, but at least he was somewhat productive. In stops in Edmonton, New York he's been an unmitigated disaster, and it's not going to change in Calgary. Geez, did Daryl Sutter lose a high-stakes Texas Hold 'Em game with Brian Burke and Glen Sather?
6. Michal Grosek. Yes, I know—I'm reaching deep into the obscurity bag here. But Grosek was a pretty solid power forward for several campaigns, scoring some huge playoff goals and adding scoring and sandpaper to the lineup. He was dealt to the Hawks in 2000 for Doug Gilmour and Dumont, and then wound up skating listessly and ineffectively for the Rangers and Bruins afterward. I'm assuming he's a stickboy in the Czech B-League now, talking trash to players skating by the bench and teaching young players how to take shifts off.
7. Miroslav Satan. Your eyes weren't playing tricks on you—that was Miro himself in the Bruins lineup in their 2-1 loss to Buffalo January 29, not backchecking or forechecking, and pretty much perfecting the Invisible Man act he's patented since being traded to Long Island in 2004. Satan was all the offense the Sabres had at one point in the late nineties, but oh my, do those days seem far in the rear-view now.
8. Erik Rasmussen. Rasmussen's abject failure to materialize stings because Regier whizzed away a seventh-overall pick in 1996 (seventeen slots ahead of Briere, forty-nine ahead of Zdeno Chara) to draft the big centerman, who was dealt away after some semiproductive years in Western New York and his career predictably fizzled in New Jersey and L.A. Rasmussen had all the tools to succeed in the NHL except for one gigantic flaw: his hands were composed of dried concrete. If the '96 draft was the hockey version of Waterworld, think of Rasmussen as Dennis Hopper's character.
9. Curtis Brown. I liked Brown, a truly nice guy who looked like he could've been a great second-line anchor capable of twenty goals and fifty points a season, and for a few years he actually did fulfill some of that potential. But in a span of a few months in the late nineties, he got three things: married, the flu, and born-again, and his career nosedived in short order. He became a trusty, worker bee fourth-line guy in San Jose and Chicago, but wasn't he destined for greater things? He's now little more than an interesting bit of Bufalo sports history: he had a Bills doppelganger, running back Curtis Brown (look it up, kids).
10. Jason Dawe. Dawe scored prolificly for Buffalo in stretches of the mid-nineties before losing all of his scoring touch, going from "Dawe-some!" to "D'oh!" at a truly dizzying pace. I'm not quite sure whatever happened to Dawe, whose NHL days fizzled big-time after stints with the Rangers and Isles, the apparent dustbins of once-promising ex-Sabres' careers.
Honorable mention (drumroll not only unnecessary, but discouraged): Whatever happened to ... Derek Plante? (Remember his clinching overtime goal against Ottawa in the '97 quarterfinals?) Taylor Pyatt? (Let's call him Rasmussen 2.0.) Vaclav Varada? (How about Grosek 2.0?) Mika Noronen? (AHL all-star goalie, NHL third-string benchwarmer.) And as a final low blow, two never-to-be Sabres, Mike Zigomanis and Barrett Heisten. Remember how local hockey pundits raked Regier over the coals for failing to lock up these two can't-miss future stalwarts?
I'm starting to feel sorry for current Sabres who might become ex-Sabres soon. Apparently, it's a dangerous plank to walk.