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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sabres Deadline Craze

Trade deadline 2012 has come and gone, and much to the joy of Sabres fans Darcy Regier ACTUALLY made a move. Shocking I know. Despite much talk leading up to the deadline, Roy, Stafford, Miller and Boyes all ended the day with the blue and gold and we weren't able to land Nash, Hemsky or Ryan. So what did Regier manage to do?

I ended up watching the trade deadline coverage from 8 right till 4, and I got a tell you, from 8-2 it was extremely boring, it was like watching a race between paint drying and grass growing! But at 2 stuff started getting interesting, twitter started blowing up as people wanted to catch the last hour of the deadline and with Darcy Regier having not done anything to that point, Sabres fans were panicking. The clock was ticking and it looked like no major trades would happen in Buffalo, and as the analysts pointed out, Regier's asking prices were way to high. We all Knew that no one liked Darcy's players as much as Darcy. Sabres fans were getting ready to burn down First Niagra Centre as nothing had been done, and as the 3 o'clock deadline hit there were still no definitive Sabres moves to report. But due to the crazyness of deadline day, things get backed up at the NHL offices so there was still hope that something (anything) had been done. Then TSN analyst Bob MaCkenzie tweeted saying that no deal had been made for Derek Roy before the deadline, which sent the fans into a further frenzy of anger towards Darcy. Six minutes after the deadline news broke that Paul Gaustad had been traded to Nashville, this deal although not shocking, brought some grief for fans as Gaustad was a huge crowd favorite Buffalo. What was shocking was that Darcy actually got a first round pick in this years draft for the big winger. Although the Sabres attached a forth rounder it was still  steal for the Sabres. I was okay with the Gaustad trade but I was hoping for something bigger, a blockbuster deal of sorts for the Sabres. I waited another half hour and was seconds from turning off the TV, when news broke that Zack Kassian had been traded to Vancouver. My heart skipped a beat as this deal really came out of no where. No one knew Kassian was on the market (truth be told he probably wasn't). But the best part of the Kassian deal, was TSN took forever to tell us who was coming back from Vancouver. They reported that Cody Hodgson had been traded, but everyone believed it was a separate deal. Then finally they put 2 and 2 together and announced that Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani were traded for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer in two separate deals. Now this was the type of trade I was hoping would be made, as little or insignificant this deal seems it's actually a small blockbuster deal for the Sabres. It was also the biggest trade of the day.

What we got:
The Sabres got a 6-foot forward who was a first round draft pick (2008), and is tied for second in rookie scoring and 5th for rookie points. This fellow Sabres fans would be Cody Hodgson. A kid I am extremely excited to welcome to Buffalo. I have been following Hodgson since before he was drafted (I even played some shinny hockey and practiced with him). As soon as I heard how amazing he was I started following him, wanting to see where he would land. Hodgson is a natural talent, starting back from his days in minor AAA hockey were he racked up 99 points in just 59 games, he knows how to put the puck in the net and is a hard working kid. He played on both the World Junior and under 18 Canadian teams winning gold with both.  You may have heard of a couple of his teammates from those days, Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis. A couple more feathers in his cap so to speak; CHL player of the year and OHL's most outstanding player. Hodgson is having a great first NHL season  in which he already has 33 points (16 goals and 17 assists) and was named rookie of the month in January. This acquisition was amazing and Regier deserves a pat on the back for this one. Hodgson will likely be the number one center of the future that we can build a team around, he has so much upside and potential it's crazy. Imagine if the at the end of the season the Sabres were to have the Calder winner on our team, that would be awesome! Without even playing a game for the blue and gold Hodgson is already 4th in team scoring! This isn't Brad Boyes or even Daniel Briere, this is a legitimate talent whose best days are in front of him.

Sulzer appears to be a big defenceman that can help our blueline. I see this move more as Regier not needing a player but more a complimentary deal in that Gragnani has much more upside than Sulzer. Since the Sabres were able to steal the Canucks prized Hodgson away, I think Regier evened it out with Sulzer. He was drafted back in 2003 in the third round by the Nashville Predators, he's played 74 games with 3 NHL teams (Predators, Panthers and Canucks). As much as I hate bagging on a player, there is really nothing about this guy that says anything more than career call-up, maybe change in scenery will give him a spark but there's no guarantee the Sabres will keep him in the bigs. An interesting note is that the Sabres now have easily the most German nationals in their organization.

In another amazing deal pulled off by Regier he managed to get a first round draft pick for Paul Gaustad!
We now have their first round pick in the upcoming 2012 draft, I'm not a huge fan of draft picks as they don't always work out, but a first-rounder for Gaustad I'll take it! This gives us 4 of the first 44 picks in the 2012 draft. Not too bad, not too bad at all.

What we lost:
Fan favorite Paul Gaustad. I never personally understood all the hype around Gaustad. When he first came up he was a tough gritty player but he has turned into a face off and penalty kill specialist that doesn't really contribute much on the scoreboard. In 7 seasons in Buffalo he's failed to score more than 12 goals or move up from the 3rd line. I'm okay seeing him go and was absolutely shocked we managed a first round pick for him.

Zach Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani, this deal hurts me a bit more as I really liked Kassian and I thought he would have a bright future in Buffalo. But he's an UNPROVEN winger where as Hodgson has been able to prove himself in the NHL. We may have lost grit with Kassian but frankly since his first couple of games he's really looked a bit lost on the ice. We also got smaller but more talented. However, with players like Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb very close to being ready for the show, losing Kassian is worth the gamble. One thing that concerns me is this mostly proves that we're leaning toward a rebuild as we've almost eliminated ourselves from the playoffs this season.
I'm also ok with that because the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, not make the playoffs and as I've said before the current roster did not have what it takes to win it all.

What these trades mean:
These trades mean we're looking ahead to the future, let's face it although it's possible the chances of squeaking into the postseason are slim at best, which is why I believe they traded Gaustad. He would have been a great asset in the post season with his face-off skills and toughness. Right now this team is healthy (or healthier), Miller is playing like Miller again, lines are starting to gel (hands off Ruff!) and this team is playing the kind of hockey everyone expected them to play 62 games ago. We're 5-3-2 in our last 10 games and are battling hard each game, giving themselves a chance to skate away with the two points. I see the moves made at the deadline as a minor rebuild, getting rid of an unproven prospect and a gritty veteran in return for picks and a gem from Vancouver. With the addition of Cody Hodgson and a healthy team next season we are going to be better, and be right back in the playoff hunt and be closer to the cup. Not to overlook the fact we now have 2 first round picks and 2 second round picks for the 2012 draft, these picks can be used to draft prospects OR bundled to bring bigger fish to the Sabres. Imagine sending a couple of picks and a player to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan or Los Angeles for Dustin Brown! This summer could be another active one for Mr. Pegulia's wallet, hopefully Darcy will keep the contracts within reason. We have now filled the void at center and it's now looking like a pretty fantastic center lineup (Roy, Ennis, Hodgson). Darcy Regier pulled a rabbit out of somewhere on Monday with these deals, and likely saved his job until next season. We are building toward a cup, and to be honest I could see us winning one in the next few seasons!

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