“It’s a tough business sometimes. It effects young men.” – Darcy Regier
The best and worst parts about sports involve tears. Winning a World Series, losing in double overtime and seeing my childhood hero retire all brought the tissues out, and I’ll freely admit it. In those moments where our passion is at its peak we learn something about ourselves; both as sports fans and human beings.
The extremes are few and far between, but they are a valuable part of being a sports fan. I would be nothing if not for the crushing losses the Bills and Sabres have delivered to my developing psyche, and the ’04 and ’07 Red Sox have changed me as a fan in ways I never expected.
No one was crying when Tim Kennedy was waived and subsequently bought out, but it was an interesting swing of emotions for a lot of Sabres fans. Uncertainty, unease and, most of all, confusion led the charge and controlled the talking points as both Kennedy and Darcy Regier had their say on the matter.
Some will gladly draw their own opinions independently, but I think listening to the two sides speak is essential to getting the true story here. Much like arbitration itself, each party has a give and take on opposite ends of the spectrum, with the their true intent somewhere in between. Whether last week with money and this week with words, nothing that either side says is the exact truth, and we know that going into things.
The more I think about Kennedy and Regier in this situation, the more The System seems to creep back into the discussion. Both Darcy and Kennedy represent two distinct sides of the sports world with their comments: Darcy speaks directly about the business of hockey, while Kennedy taps into a perspective we can all relate to. That is, growing up a hockey fan. Here are the last two paragraphs of my original post:
The two sides of the sports world can coexist peacefully if they are mutually satisfied. The System is working for the business side of the Sabres, but are we as fans willing to wait for a perfect storm to get a true chance at something special? What happens upstairs and what happens on the ice are completely different, but they directly affect each other. This year’s Sabres have wasted a Vezina-worthy season in net and a Calder winner on the blueline. Is that okay if we get to see what they look like in two years?
If The System really exists, is it fair to us?
What happened here may not jive with my original post exactly, but the themes remain the same. Moving away from Kennedy may involve some numbers we aren’t familiar with, but the properties certainly are. The Sabres understand they have some assets they can’t get “value” out of in the trade market, and so they have to make tough decisions to stick to a self-imposed budget.
PR firestorms be damned, they picked Stafford and Ennis over Kennedy, MacArthur and Paille. It’s a simple cause and effect that no fan really saw coming, but it makes sense in the extended sense. Now I’m not here to argue whether it was the right thing to do or not, but simply to look at exactly what happened here.
Think about what’s happened so far this summer, and what we thought might happen the day after Buffalo bowed out of the postseason this spring. They lost both UFA defenseman and immediately signed one to replace him, then signed a gritty veteran forward to a moderate one-year contract. They took care of Kaleta’s team-elected arbitration and didn’t like the Kennedy verdict, getting rid of him to make room for Ennis/Neidermayer/et all while signing a second UFA blue liner.
It’s a bit of a remix, but that’s The System, isn’t it? Your depth becomes a group of players who cut their teeth in Portland last year, and Kennedy’s departure means a slight opening for players like Luke Adam, Paul Byron and (if he’s under contract) Zack Kassian if the roster needs a boost. Same song, different verse.
Still, there’s that “being a fan” part of all this that makes things sticky. Say what you will, but if Tim Kennedy is “Tolka Kozlov” from Saint Petersburg, Russia the initial outcry is much more subdued. But again, where Tim Kennedy is from is important here. At least he says it is. Here’s Kennedy on Monday:
“It hurts,” Kennedy said. “This is not what I envisioned for the last month of the summer before the season started. It’s tough. I hope this isn’t the end, but it doesn’t look too good right now. You grow up watching this team your whole life. I don’t even know what to say right now because I’m so shocked.”
Here it is again, the striking difference between being a fan and the business side of sports. Kennedy’s love of the hometown Sabres has always been a part of the story, from the Draft Day in 2005 when the Sabres almost immediately traded for him after being selected by Washington. Sabres fans would see his career unfold in the sports section as he played at Michigan State and had high hopes for him as he impressed in Portland.
Overvalued or not, all that is gone now, both for Kennedy and for the fans. The lines between being a fan and the business of sports are never black and white, but for Kennedy the divide is very clear now. His favorite team doesn’t want him and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s just business, and I wonder what that will mean for him as his career moves forward.
You also have to wonder how it will effect the other young men on this team when their time comes.