A somewhat quiet Thursday night was jolted awake briefly by what goes in the books as a minor-league hockey trade but the symbolism is much more than that.
It was announced at 9:35 PM that forward Justin Bailey had been sent to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchanged for forward Taylor Leier.
On the surface, this is a trade involving a player who had 20 points in 37 games (Bailey) for a player who had 19 points in 34 games (Leier).
As you begin to look a bit deeper, this marks the unfortunate end of another round of failed Sabres prospects.
If we take a few steps back though, the admission really began with the dealing of Nicholas Baptiste to the Nashville Predators, back in October.
Both Baptiste and Bailey had been given enough opportunity to prove themselves and carve roles out with the Buffalo Sabres, but both players ended up striking out.
Justin Bailey long had been the apple of the Buffalo Sabres eye. A local product who put up big numbers in junior hockey – what could go wrong?
As Bailey rolled closer to the NHL, cracks in his foundation began to show.
Most importantly, his consistency fell off and his scoring dried up.
When it comes to hanging around and making a career in the NHL, if you don’t have scoring, you better at least bring a consistent game night in and night out.
While Justin Bailey was not drafted by Jason Botterill, it became Botterill’s responsibility to turn the page on the old prospect regime.
Once led by Baptiste and Bailey, the prospect ranks are now led by C.J. Smith, Victor Olofsson and Alexander Nylander, to name a few.
The constant recycling of prospects needs to happen in a successful organization. It is most certainly a negative when second and third round draft picks consistently do not pan out. The failures of players like Baptiste and Bailey can set your franchise back, even the slightest bit.
While teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins are always rolling the next-man-up because of their drafting and developmental successes, the Buffalo Sabres are plugging in players that do not have enough power to fill the role they are being asked to fill.
With the newer development track implemented from Botterill’s time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, it at least now appears that players will be groomed for their opportunities properly.
One thing can certainly be said for players like Baptiste and now Bailey, the building of their respective foundations at the AHL level was not done properly.
The new adjustment to ensure this happens not only is the most logical way to develop prospects but it also gives the player the best chance to succeed when given an opportunity.
From the player’s perspective, it also takes some buying in. One has to trust what the team is doing. We have seen it this year with Tage Thompson.
For a stretch, Thompson was held out of the lineup but never sent to Rochester. This is something that he took in stride, as it was happening.
Ever since that benching, Thompson was able to take a step back and improve his overall game.
With every failed prospect comes the opportunity to learn what went wrong and use that to improve the next time around. It most certainly seems like the Sabres organization finally has been woken up to that idea.