I've been a fairly die-hard Sabres fan for the past 5 or 6 years. Each season I can count the games I miss on my fingers and even then I'm typically glued to my phone refreshing the score. The playoff run in 2007 was probably what really hooked me on the sport and this team but another major piece of it was Paul Gaustad.
His style was something I came to respect. He might not have been the most talented player on the ice but he was the hardest worker out there. That's something to admire and look up to, mold yourself after, not only on the ice but in all aspects of life.
I can't find myself liking a player like Ovechkin or Crosby. Players who have amazing natural talent but, as a result, don't put in that all out work as often as they probably should. I shake my head when I see Ovechkin camped on the blue line waiting for a break-away, no matter how pretty it may look once he does get it. Give me a player that will give it their all to get the job done any day. As a result I find myself rooting for players more like Gerbe, Ennis, McCormick...the ones that work hard and give it their all over Vanek, Roy, and Pominville. Not that those players don't work hard but it's just different, watch some Sabres' games and you'll see what I mean.
With that said this trade deadline was a bit tough for me as my personal like for a player almost over-shadowed my desire for this team to get better, if not this year then in the future. I knew they needed to clear cap space and I knew that Gaustad was a clear candidate for it. I kept telling myself that they need his grit and physicalness over Roy or Boyes. I kept checking the stories, the live blogs, Twitter, and the trade trackers yesterday...not getting much actual work done in the process. I didn't care who they moved as long as it wasn't Gaustad even if it might not have made the most sense.
3:00 rolled around and there was no solid news yet. I was a bit puzzled as to why they didn't move anyone but I just chalked it up to Darcy being Darcy. I refreshed the TSN trade tracker one more time and my heart sank. The Goose was now a Predator. My favorite player was no longer on my favorite team. Should to buy center ice to get the Predator games now? Now I have to get a new jersey, but who is "deserving" of that? Did he really just go for a draft pick? Was that the only trade they were going to make? I honestly just sat there, punched in the gut, staring at my monitor.
Now a non-sports fan would probably laugh at that but I feel the majority of the people reading this have felt the same at some point in their lives as a sports fan. It might not have been over a player but we've all gotten that punch in the gut before. Sometimes early in game 7 against Philly last year when we knew it wasn't possible to win it. The year before against Boston. We always know there's a greater chance of it coming than not but it doesn't make the feeling any less deflating. In this situation, I can't even tell myself there's always next year.
Now that I've had a day to digest what happened I'm thinking a bit clearer and a bit less selfishly. I don't totally agree with the hit to the teams physical side but I do like the fact we now have a scoring center in Hodgson. I think he can find his place on this team and clearly has the capability to be the all-star scoring center we've been waiting for. Losing Kassian wasn't ideal as it makes this team even weaker but we all know Lindy and management prefers goals over brawn. And Gragnani, I never really thought he was a major asset to this team even though he was +10 on the season. Take the sting of losing Gaustad away and I like the moves. It prepares the team for the future adding more young talent that has a chance to explode into something that will give us a year without that gut punch, finally.
So, I'll hang up my Gaustad jersey in the corner of the closet, maybe wear it the next time he visits the First Niagara Center to show my support along with a loud "GOOOOOOOOOOSE". Then I'll pick out a new jersey after careful consideration and over-analyzing of every player left on the team. I'll root for the Preds this year and probably into the future (unless they're playing the Sabres of course). And who knows, maybe Gaustad will get to lift that cup before his old team. In my mind he is more than deserving of it.