Funny how today ended up being about yesterday. About 10 months ago, to be exact.
Buffalo had just won one of the most thrilling games in NHL history when Chris Drury's OT winner clinched a 7-6 decision over the Ottawa Senators in Game One, Round Two.
And while the Sabres would end the series in five games, one of the most lasting effects of the playoffs happened in the first minute of Game Two. Ottawa's Peter Schaefer demolished Tim Connolly, who made the mistake of cutting through the ice with his head down. Connolly hasn't played since, suffering the second concussion of his Sabres career.
It seemed Connolly would make a miracle comeback in the new year, but a stress fracture has kept him off the ice. That was Feb. 13. He was projected to return to practice 7-10 days later. But Darcy Regier and company still believe. So much so that everything swirling around today's Trade Deadline rested on the fact that their rising star would return before the end of the season, and this meant that regardless of future injuries or acquisitions, Regier had to free up cap room. In comes second round draft pick, out goes Marty Biron. Simple as that.
This all started with Gary Bettman telling Darcy Regier that Connolly had to come back by the end of the regular season or he was ineligible for the first round of the playoffs. And with Daniel Paille eating up cap money while on injured reserve and not being able to send back to Rochester, Paille's money was greater than the money freed by putting Paul Gaustad on LTIR.
' "Based on all the medical [reports] we have, all the other players will return by the end of the season," Regier said. "If you went and bought different players, even though you could fill with their money, the [injured] players would be ineligible to come back. ...
"The league is suggesting that they're going to have some remedy to that whole process, but nobody knows what that is yet," Regier said. "It did come up last year, but it didn't become a factor because a lot more teams are at the cap this year. While it came up, it was a minor issue compared to where it is now, and it certainly didn't come up with us." ...
"The league's position is they're going to be very vigilant in respect to anyone being injured," Regier said." (TBN)
I just hope Regier and Co. are right. A healthy, or even semi-healthy, Connolly is worth more than any of the players that were acquired today. He's a difference maker, a magical center who fits Buffalo's style like a glove.
Regier was on WGR 550 post-trades, and the most important thing that I heard was that management didn't only look at the numbers on the statsheets when making trades. He said that while they set out to get results on the ice, a lot of that comes from inside the room. With a chemistry so strong in Buffalo, you can only hope that the new guys don't rock the sailing ship.
Regier also addressed what he believed was a "hole" that existed between the seventh and eighth defenseman on the Sabres' depth chart by grabbing Washington's Timo Helbling and Nashville's Mikko Lehtonen. While this might not have been the toughness I had been looking for, it does go to address the defensive parade to the IR that Buffalo incurred last spring.
SICK? SICK!: So word on WGR 550 is that Danny Briere is sick. I'll say it Mike, "REALLY?" Are you kidding me? Good time to get the flu, buddy. With no time to call up another American, and Danius Zubrus not around yet, it looks like Derek Roy will be centering our number one line. Followed by Clarke MacArthur's banging second line. And I'm going to stop there. Maybe Darcy should have sought out some depth at forward...
JEALOUS: Ryan Smyth on the Island? So jealous! Every time I hear his name I see him limping off to the dressing room with his teeth scattered on the ice. If this guy's picture isn't next to heart or soul in the dictionary, I'm not sure who's is. He's a kingpin to any playoff run, and he automatically makes the Islanders dangerous in the first round.