Darcy said it. Get ready to suffer. Like Sabres fans haven't suffered yet. Like Brett Hull's "no goal " in '99 didn't make us suffer. Like letting Briere and Drury walk for nothing didn't make us suffer. Or how about all those missed playoffs and a team that is quite the mess? With that in mind, it's scary when your GM tells you it's time to suffer. What, it's gonna get worse!?
I guess most of us have found a way to accept that we are in rebuilding mode (again!) and that it might get worse before it gets better. However, I for one refuse to accept the Penguins/Oilers route to getting better by tanking and ending up picking first in the draft. While a good system for evening things out, it's a fundamentally crappy system that rewards losers, and tanking it on purpose is nothing but cheating in my book. You play to win. Every year, every game, every shift. That's the point of sports and if you don't want to play it that way, don't play at all.
I think we did good in the draft, and although I wanted Nichushkin as our first pick at #8, I think the draft on a whole showed that there is a plan behind it. Building from the backend. Getting tougher, putting together a blue collar team that once again becomes a group that may not be flashy but damn hard to beat. That's the Bruins route, and while I know I'm obligated to loath the Bruins for being, well, the Bruins, I respect what they've done and admire their blue collar style. Maybe part of why we loath them is because they are what we want to be?
So anyway. I honestly don't think we need to take the "suffer" route. I think there are players out there to be added to this team that will make it interesting. No, we're not going to be a contender this year, but if we want to be a contender a couple of years from now, I think we need to start adding. Just rookies isn't gonna cut it. We need some vets to lead the way. We need players to shelter our rookies so we don't burn them before they reach their potential. So here's what I'm thinking.
Briere is the name on everyones lips. Some can't wait to get him back, others say the past is the past. I agree with both. The past is the past, and please bring Briere back! Why? Because he still has a bit left in the tank. He is not done yet. And because he would be great as a teacher and shelter for our youngsters. I'd even slap the C on his chest. And let's not ignore the nostalgia. I think it would be a good thing for the fans, but I actually think it would serve Briere's game well too. Imagine skating out in blue and gold again, six years later, in a sold out FN Centre that loves you? If that doesn't bring your game back, nothing will.
Furthermore, I think we should go after Horton, really hard. If it takes the kind of silly overpayment we threw at Leino, do it. While Briere would be a transition player, Horton is the kind of player I'd want to tie up long term as a key player to build the future contender on. He's got everything we need up front - a knack for scoring goals, a will to go to the net, a bit of sandpaper to his game. Basically everything that Drew Stafford is not.
A lot of people want to trade Vanek and Miller. While I understand why, I disagree. If the return is good enough, I'd deal Miller, but Vanek would take such overpayment that it's not gonna happen. If I'm the GM, that is. But since Darcy seems as much in love with his players as I am, chances are he sees it the same way. Vanek says he doesn't want to be part of a long rebuild. Add Briere and Horton and it's not a long rebuild. He gets his Captain Clutch back and a cornerstone in Horton. That ought to make him re-signing.
Imagine a top line of Hodgson, Horton and Vanek. Imagine a second clutch line of something like Briere, Leino and Ott, where Ott takes the role of Hartnell as Briere and Leino revisit their glory days as Flyers. And imagine a third line of easy minutes for Foligno, Flynn and Ennis. Doesn't look all that bad, does it? And there's still Grigorenko, Larsson, Porter, Gerbe, Kaleta and others to throw in that mix. Mentally I've traded Stafford already but if he bounces back, that's another factor.
I'm not saying it's easy. There are other teams that got the same players on their radar. And the thing is, our team has got some big holes in it right now and a couple of top six forwards need to be added to get back on track. But I think it needs to be done. Otherwise we're in a position where we force feed top minutes to players who aren't ready for it. That doesn't benefit us short term, and I doubt it benefits us long term either. Add a couple of top six forwards and suddenly we've got a lot of options in our lineup.
So come on now Darcy. You've got years of experience and a pile of money. Use it!