The NHL lockout of the 2004-2005 season was rough for most teams. For the Buffalo Sabres, it was a chance for the future of their franchise to play and grow together in the minor leagues.
You know how the rest of this story goes, so we'll just run the highlights. A magical playoff run in 2006 cut short by injury, a dominant season followed by more playoff struggle in 2007, and then, it happened. The day which will live in infamy, when the Sabres lost both You-Know-Who and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, and replaced them with a collection of young players quickly dubbed "The Core."
Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad, and Derek Roy were all signed to new deals before the 2008 season or shortly thereafter, and were expected to be the new leaders that would get the blue and gold back to the promised land that was tasted so briefly with #48 and #23.
Four years, a new owner, and two first-round playoff exits later, GM Darcy Regier finally decided that it was time to move on from The Core he so lovingly assembled and committed to. Paul Gaustad was traded earlier in the year, but the consensus was that as a fourth line player, his departure didn't resonate with the same feeling that would come with trading someone more talented. Plus, we all kinda liked him.
It wasn't until the trade of Derek Roy today that Sabres fans can finally put the disappointment of 2008-2012 to rest, and look ahead to a new chapter of Sabres hockey.
Derek Roy was traded to the Dallas Stars late today for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Ott represents that which Roy is not - his trademark attributes are words like toughness, grit, relentlessness, and agitatior. He can contribute offensively, but that's not why he was brought in; he fits the recent mold of making the team tougher to play against - something that Regier said was his offseason goal, and something that Sabres fans have been clamoring for ever since the non-response to what we'll gently refer to as "The Lucic Incident" that marked the beginning of a downward spiral for a once-promising season. Ott's dogged and pinballing presence on the ice will change how other teams think about and play the Sabres, and will add to the growing roster of players in Buffalo with both talent and sandpaper.
Roy, who had clearly fallen out of favor with both the GM and publicly spoke out against head coach Lindy Ruff at the end of the season, doesn't share many of Ott's attributes on the ice, but you can't say that he wasn't productive. For many years, Roy was the offensive kingpin that made the Sabres top line churn. He played big minutes in all types of situations, and even served as an assistant captain this season. For him to be traded marks not only a philosophical change for the organization, but a clear and resounding passing of the torch at the center position to players named Hodgson, Ennis, and possibly Grigorenko.
Derek Roy played a big role within a group of players that was good, but never great. Regier is taking the gamble that adding toughness and giving the keys to a new crop of young, promising centers will allow/encourage/inspire the rest of that disappointing group to heights they never achieved on their own. It will be many months before we know whether or not that gamble will pay off, but for now, we can say that the Sabres have turned the page to a new chapter in their organizational philosophy.