Last Friday Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail wrote an article about the NHL player escrow checks and other CBA details. A mildly interesting subject but that's not what caught my attention. Embedded within the article's second page resides a snippet chronicling the Sabres disappointing season. It is here that Duhatschek falls into a trap of his own making; the strawman.
For those unfamiliar, a strawman is a logical fallacy where a misrepresentation is presented and argued against because it is easier to strike down then the real thing. After a thorough run through of the discouraging season several Sabres are having, Duhatschek introduces the Rangers as a "rosterial" exemplar. Duhatschek describes the Rangers as operating "with judicious free-agent buys (Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik) supplemented by a whole lot of homegrown talent (just about everybody else on their NHL roster)".
By advertising the Rangers as a mostly home-grown team Duhatschek is, in effect, saying the Sabres are not. It takes only a look at the respective rosters to notice the shortcomings in this assertion. Only 7 players of the 21 on the Rangers' current active roster were drafted by the club; 33.3%. Three non-Ranger draft picks have seen time with the Connecticut Whale; that puts the percentage of players who have seen time with the Rangers' AHL club at 47.6. The Sabres on the other hand have an impressive 14 players of 23 on their current active roster who were drafted by the club; 60.9%. This does not even include Tyler Ennis, Brayden McNabb, or Corey Tropp who are all Sabres draft picks and have all seen time with the Sabres this year. To be fair that 60.9% also doesn't include San Jose Sharks draft pick Christian Erhoff who is currently inactive, but if it were not for the rash of injuries, undrafted Matt Ellis wouldn't be included either.
The strawman isn't the only problem with Duhatschek take. What a world of difference context makes. Just last year I doubt Duhatschek would be calling Gaborik a "judicious" signing. For the 2010/11 season Gaborik was paid $7.5M (that's also his cap-hit) for 22 goals and 48 pints; a 20-goal drop-off from his previous season's output. Let's not forget Derek Boogaard who was given a 4-year, $6.5M contract in the summer of 2010. That's not to say that the Rangers haven't committed to developing from within. Glenn Sather's renewed attention to the draft is to be commended, but if he learned its importance from anyone, it would be Darcy Regier and the Sabres and credit should be given accordingly. But why should a journalist do that? The Sabres' recent struggle is nuanced and difficult to understand, let alone explain. Characterizing the Sabres as one-dimensional free agent lovers who spent unwisely is easy.