Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

July 8, 2007

TIM SCHMITT: Sabres motto: Safe, safe, safe; all in

If last summer’s Logogate proved anything, it’s that we — the general Western New York hockey-and-Labatt-loving public — are not savvy in the ways of the new National Hockey League.

We’ll never buy it, we said in unison about the time of last year’s Canal Fest, only to gobble jerseys like diamond-crusted iPhones a few moons later.

Here are a few of the dichotomies we’ve ’rassled with since:

• Speed is supreme, although it’s as useful as A-Rod come playoff time, when formerly whistle-happy refs turn mute.

• Young players are a necessity, but Daniel Briere will be worth seven million smackers at 37.

• And the lockout was about small-market teams showing solidarity, keeping the growing order of business at or near a manageable level in a league that’s playoff schedule got as many promo spots on its chief U.S. television partner as the Professional Bull Riders.

OK, we’re all thoroughly confused.

All that said, Saturday’s Leading Off by Eric Duvall ended a week that can safely be described as the most turbulent and divisive in the franchise’s history with as logical an argument as I’ve heard:

The Sabres should have let Thomas Vanek go.

Sure, Buffalo’s braintrust has botched plenty in the past dozen months, from failing to add years to Briere’s contract at a decent price to Larry Quinn’s June declaration that free agents would have to follow the lead of Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff by signing lesser contracts in the name of showing “a level of commitment.”

Briere, who loved the area and genuinely wanted to stay, got 52 million commitments from the Flyers.

But the biggest gaffe could prove to be the signing of Vanek, a talented and dynamic player who’s shown a penchant for laziness and rifts with the coaching staff.

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