I could have written this post in mid-February at the trade deadline. I’m sure I could write it in a month-and-a-half or so, when free agency opens open and he signs a whopping contract. But with the latest batch of Brian Campbell bashing hot off the presses, I figured it was time to break my silence.
All season long, Brian Campbell has been under the proverbial microscope as much as any player in the league. I could link to dozens of posts that have criticized a Soupy giveaway, his alleged lack of composure, a quote in the media, or even his drinking habits (about a quarter of the way down the post.) There has been an incredible backlash against Campbell in the Buffalo blogosphere, and it’s something that I have a very hard time understanding.
From the end of the lockout until his trade, Campbell was a valuable part of this team. He played more minutes than anyone else. He anchored our power-play (surely it wasn’t a coincidence that the PP went to hell after he left). He was a rather personable fellow that was a fan favorite with the mainstream media and the non-blogging contingent of WNY. He stayed healthy, which was a rarity for anyone in our defense corps the last few years. Yet, he has gotten ripped apart over the past few months by several of my blogging contemporaries. It doesn’t add up.
As far as I can tell, the anti-Soupy movement started with the weeks before the deadline. The trade/contract talks obviously got to him. You could see it in his play: His production dropped, he was giving the puck away more, and he looked as if he were playing scared. You could hear it in his voice when he spoke to the media. He let non-hockey issues affect him. But is that the source of the contempt against him?
More recently, a couple of quotes from Campbell have offended some bloggers. The first one came when asked to compare the Sharks to the 05-06 Sabres of the past few years:
Back in Buffalo we had a good mix of young and veteran guys who we weren’t going to let down. I said back in Buffalo I wasn’t going to let guys down like Chris Drury, Mike Grier, Daniel Briere, or Teppo Numminen. In this locker room it’s the same thing. I have too much respect for guys like Jeremy Roenick, Joe Thornton, and again, Mike Grier.
Sorry folks, I find it pretty hard to milk something negative out of that quote. There are tons of similarities between the two teams, and Campbell correctly paid homage to the vets on both squads. It was hardly a slap on the face to anyone on the 05-06 team; They were young (Soupy included. Remember that he was enjoying his breakout year, of sorts), and those four guys were leading the way. A pretty harmless comment that should be viewed as complimentary to the Sabres, if anything. Moving on….
I’m definitely enjoying my time here. The guys in the locker room have been great. The organization has been great. I had to deal with (trade talks and upcoming free agency) all year. It kind of got annoying. It’s just fun to go out there and play hockey again.
Can’t we all agree that the trade/contract talks were annoying? Didn’t we all let out a collective sigh of relief when he finally was traded, not because we lost him, but because the whole ordeal was finally over? Again, I think that if anyone took offense from that quote, they were looking for something to pick Campbell apart for.
Brian Campbell is hardly a defensive stalwart. As a player who is widely considered an offensive defenseman, people seem to criticize every defensive misstep that he makes. He isn’t a player who is going to be matched up against the oppositions top line (although SJ seems to be experimenting with that and admittedly, it’s not going so well.) He’s a guy who will skate the puck up the ice, man the point on the power-play, and start a rush from the back end. He will step up when needed, and has a knack for setting up his teammates. There isn’t anyone on the current team or the free agent market that can replace what he brought to the team from an offensive standpoint, and that’s why the negativity toward him makes no sense to me.
No, Campbell is not going to be worth the contract he signs this summer. From a financial standpoint, he is a bit overrated. But the fact of the matter remains: Brian Campbell brought something to this team that no one else on the current roster can, and the Sabres are far worse off without him.