Steve Bernier lived out of the same suitcase for like two weeks after he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres. And that’s after living out of said suitcase for a week-and-a-half before getting traded. I’m not making excuses for the guy, but after his stellar debut, he had to deal with some stuff that a lot of people probably still aren’t privy to.
We can talk about the Sabres becoming cut-throat businessmen who can over-spend and bend the established rules in order to get the players they want. But they’re not going to pull the green box cutter out of the drawer. This is the other side of the coin: The new ownership group has stated publicly several times that they want to treat every member of the organization like family.
That means you can’t flip off players and send them packing as soon as you’ve used up their services. In the grand scheme of things, the players are assets and commodities. Traded goods that have particular costs and values. If anything, the organization was more cut-throat under Tom Golisano (see: Tim Kennedy Buy-Out, pg. 237). However, the players aren’t heartless robots.
Shaone Morrisonn is a victim of circumstance. I know it’s tough to feel sorry for a guy set to earn $2.075 million this year, but he came to Buffalo to play hockey in Buffalo. Now, he’s the first name on everyone’s lips when it comes to which player has got to go.
And it does make sense to finger Morrisonn as the odd man out. Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr are the new guys; they’re not going anywhere. Regehr already had to move his family once this summer. Tyler Myers is as close to an Untouchable as the Sabres have had in a long time. With Myers, it’s a matter of when, not if, a new contract is agreed upon.
Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber both signed new multi-year deals this off-season. Jordan Leopold was very productive last season and has a history of playing with Regehr. Marc-Andre Gragnani still isn’t signed, but he was the Sabres best defenseman not named “Tyler” against the Flyers. That’s seven.
As Dave Davis points out, depth is good. Depth with NHL-ready players is better. Not having enough quality defensemen in the system was the biggest criticism against General Manager Darcy Regier following the 2006 playoff run.
A player like Morrisonn, however, expects to contribute in the National Hockey League. He didn’t sign with the Sabres to play in Portland or Rochester. He signed to be a regular in Buffalo. I highly doubt he’s got the same mindset of someone like Jeff Finger, who’s cashed in and now accepts whatever fate comes his way.
It’s not Morrisonn’s fault that the Sabres’ economic situation changed so dramatically. He expected to be a top six defenseman on a team that couldn’t afford to take a run at a Christian Ehrhoff.
Morrisonn’s first season wasn’t very memorable. It was tough to get a true read on him. He played in 62 games and only racked up five points. because he battled some injuries. He missed eight games in late December after taking a nasty hit behind the net in the home game against Columbus.
He only played in one playoff game, missing the other six with an upper body injury. Those kind of unfortunate events are all it takes for fans to turn the page on a player.
Morrisonn is still pretty much an unknown in these parts. He’s not a homegrown talent and he makes a pretty decent buck. He under-performed and now he may not get a shot at all this season. When looking for ways to get under the salary cap, waiving or trading Morrisonn (and doing the same to a guy like Ales Kotalik up top) is an easy way to get below that league-imposed number. If anything, players in their situation make a GM for a Day column very easy to write.
I don’t want to simply assume that Morrisonn isn’t going to be on the team in the fall, although that seems to be the logical move. He’s still under contract and I don’t think his talents would be best served in the minors.
If anything, no matter where he plays next season, I hope he kicks ass and doesn’t give young players or newly acquired guys a chance to leap frog him on the depth chart. Because he’s a person and not strictly numbers and dollars, and because the Sabres care about that now, they can’t just banish him from their sight.
The Sabres signed Morrisonn to a two-year deal for a reason. We may never find out why.