Rule #1: Success Breeds Success
This seems to be a rule that Sabres GM Darcy Regier has forgotten. For the past two seasons, Regier has failed to recognize that veteran leadership is so crucial to the success of a hockey team. The Sabres are a prime example of this. While the Sabres may have a very talented core, without leadership, they'll always underachieve. Leaders rarely just "spring up"; Success breeds success. This team needs more veteran leaders to show these young kids the way.
Character and leadership is a difficult thing to put a price tag on, but its crucial if you want a playoff contending team. Case in point: Bill Guerin on the Pens. As soon as Guerin arrived in Pittsburgh, his presence was undeniable. He took on the role of a de facto captain. Every time he was on the ice for the Pens, you could see how calm and collective he was. He made the plays that needed to be made on the ice, and I can only imagine how much his presence was felt in the locker room.
This is one of the biggest reasons I lauded Darcy for signing Craig Rivet, and greatly advocate bringing in players such as Mike Knuble and Jay McKee in this years free agency market. Those are two prime examples of veteran leaders. No, they do not have razzle dazzle skill, but neither did Sabres Co-Captain Chris Drury. Unfortunately for the Sabres, both Knuble and McKee have already signed with other teams.
It's the work ethic and their effect on the players around them that make leaders so important to an organization. During their stints in Buffalo, Jay McKee and Chris Drury were model leaders, ones that proved indispensable. Jay McKee had the whole defensive corp diving to block shots. Chris Drury had the boys hitting the gym after every practice, opening their eyes as to just how hard you need to train if you want to win. These are leaders.
If Darcy fails to bring some character into this organization via a trade or FA signing, I fear the entire core of the team will be forever stained. It's true that success breeds success, but it's also true that failure breeds further failure. If our players miss the playoffs again, they wiil lose confidence, forever diminishing their capability, and an entire generation of players will be damaged. These young players will not suddenly just "transform", become accountable, lead the way and start winning. They need to be shown the way.
Hopefully Darcy realizes this and is prepared to make a run at a leader that can turn these boys into men.
On a side note...Anyone see L.A. traded for Ryan Smyth? Now that's a very interesting trade. L.A. is in a similar position to the Sabres; a very talented young offensive core that has failed to achieve success. We'll see what kind of affects he has on the young boys in L.A. What do you think? Leave me a comment.
James Top Shelf