I hate Briere and Drury.
No, not the post-free agency hatred that everyone had when they didn’t sign with Buffalo, or the hatred everyone had when they scored against the Sabres. Not even that ex-lover’s “I hate them because I still want to love them!” hatred. I hate what the mere presence of these two hockey players does to everyone.
It’s an easy equation: the Sabres are out of the playoffs but Drury and/or Briere are still in it. They do the things they have always done, fans wax poetic about the past and before you know it we’re talking about the possibility of the two players coming back to Buffalo. It happened during the Olympics with Drury and it’s starting to happen again with Briere in the Conference Finals with the Flyers.
I understand exactly what happens, but it creates an impossible situation for everyone involved. With the Sabres out of the playoffs it’s easy to get envious of what other teams have. Be it grit, goal scoring talent or all those intangibles that we love to talk about, it’s all things the Sabres seem to lack. In fact, the last time we really saw those intangibles we had… Drury and Briere.
And so on and so on. Suddenly we look at those contracts and try to justify them on the Sabres, or even just talk about what went wrong three summers ago or what Darcy should have done and… is anyone getting tired of this whole game? I know I am. Why do we keep forgetting what really happened?
In their decision to “go for it” and spend to the cap that season, they determined that they could sign either Drury or Briere. So they picked one. They lowballed Danny Briere with a small offer just before free agency to make it look like they tried to go after him. Briere knew he was getting max money from a handful of teams and flatly rejected the offer.
From there the dye was cast. The choice was obviously Drury. It was always Drury. That was who they picked, and who they decided to go after. We knew this on June 31 and we should still know this today. The error the Sabres made that summer was that they decided to pursue a player who picked another team. That was their mistake, not their inability to sign both players, but rather that they picked a player that didn’t pick them.
That’s all. They had nothing to do with the offer sheet Edmonton tossed at Thomas Vanek, and they weren’t going to go out and get Ryan Smyth that summer, either. Their mistake was in picking Chris Drury without knowing for sure who he was picking. Three years of history makes us forget this choice, but it’s important to remember.
So no, when I see Briere score goals for the Flyers I don’t get mad he isn’t on the Sabres. What will “fix” the Sabres is not getting back Briere or Drury. We don’t need those players at those prices, especially not players that are three years older. We never could have had them at those prices in the first place, remember?
What the Sabres need, what they have always needed, is to somehow get back the qualities that Briere and Drury have brought to the team at a better rate. They don’t need Briere and Drury themselves, but rather the characteristics that those two players had for much cheaper. Whether in the draft, in free agency or on the trading block, the Sabres need to find the parts of Briere and Drury that are in the hundreds of other hockey players in the league.
Finding those parts elsewhere is obviously no small task. It’s something they have yet to figure out, but if you ask me it is much more important than luring Chris Drury and his massive contract back to the Nickel City. As a fanbase we have fallen in love with two hockey players, but in reality we have fallen in love with the type of player they are.
We don’t need Danny Briere, we need someone who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. We don’t need Chris Drury, we need the impact player that inspires teammates to beat them to the arena and make an impact on the ice. We don’t need players, we need archetypes, and the sooner we get over the names on the back the better.
Danny Briere is not walking through that door, but the best we can hope for is someone who fits the profile. That’s the best we can do, and if you ask me it’s much closer to the real solution than getting back the real McCoy.