Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The hockey media's curious love affair with Chris Drury

What, exactly, has Chris Drury done to cause so much of the hockey media elite to swoon like high school girls over their prom dates? Do we all love former Little League stars that much? Has the mainstream media's obsession with "clutch" scoring bubbled over into insanity?

The funny thing is that Puck Daddy's absurd Marleau for Drury fake trade proposal wasn't even the original reason this post came to mind. Here's what actually stuck in my craw (from John Buccigross's mailbag last week):

Dear John,

Do you think the Buffalo Sabres will ever win a Stanley Cup? If so, what's it going to take?


Personally, I don't like the mix of personalities on the Sabres' roster right now. Perhaps some players will mature quickly into serious and committed professionals and give the rest of the team a lift. The Sabres give off the vibe of a boorish frat party at times. Buffalo gave a lot of money to Jason Pominville and Derek Roy. Pominville's contract goes to $5.3 million next season! He had 20 goals in 2008-09. He has to score 35 to 45 at that cap number. These high-paid, young players have to be the most committed and mature players on the team along with Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. That's how they will make the leap to an upper 90-point team.

What they lost in Daniel Briere and Chris Drury was so much leadership and direction. The young players have not stepped up to fill the void. They also are not tough enough. They need more tough players or they need to have their current players play tougher. Ryan Miller seems like a consummate professional and his injury really did hurt the Sabres. I've written in this space for much of the season that Buffalo would be a great market for Jay Bouwmeester; a small, passionate hockey market. Plus, the Sabres need help on the blue line.

So, by Bucci's standards Pominville is an albatross. Then what does that make "hockey god" Drury?

It's stunning that Buccigross (who I generally like, although his Mike Myers/music referencing/lazy Hakan Loob humor is getting repetitive enough to be its own drinking game) follows the Pominville bashing by mentioning Drury and Briere, aka the guys who signed the worst contracts of the post-lockout era.

C'mon, Bucci, that's like deriding fake breasts and then making a segue to Pam Anderson's run on Baywatch.

With all this in mind, let's take a look at what Drury (god) and Pominville (CANCER!!!111) have done since Drury signed his Rangers-killing contract:

Chris Drury

OK!! OK!! We GET it! He was in the Little League World Series! Uggggh.

2007-08 season: (82 GP: 25 goals, 33 assists for 58 points, -3 rating, 7 GWG)
2007-08 playoffs (10 GP: 3 goals, 3 assists for 6 points, +3 rating, 1 GWG)
2008-09 season: (81 GP: 22 goals, 34 assists for 56 points, -8 rating, 2 GWG)
2008-09 playoffs (6 GP: 1 goal, 0 assists for 1 point, -5 rating, 1 GWG)
Overall: 51 goals, 70 assists for 121 points in 179 games or about $117,000 per point ($14.2 million cap hit for two seasons).

Stereotypical Mainstream ... "Expert" response: B-B-BUT HE'S GOT A FUCKTON OF INTANGIBLES!!!

Jason Pominville

2007-08 season: (82 GP: 27 goals, 53 assists for 80 points, +16 rating, 1 GWG)
No playoffs
2008-09 season: (82 GP: 20 goals, 46 assists for 66 points, -4 rating, 2 GWG)
No playoffs

Overall: 47 goals, 99 assists for 146 points in 164 games. Even though he hasn't started his supposedly misguided next contract yet, he would be receiving a little more than $36,000 per point if he scored at that two-season pace under his next contract.

Stereotypical Mainstream ... "Expert" response: B-B-BUT HE NEVER STOMPS AROUND THE LOCKER ROOM AFTER A LOSS!!! No "Any Given Sunday" speeches. You can't put a price on that (spits while screaming)!

They both signed ludicrous deals, but only Briere is PhotoShopped as a pregnant woman.

OK, there's no doubt that Bucci likes Drury personally. Maybe at some point, Bucci was doing post-champagne interviews when the Colorado Avalanche won a Cup and they simultaneously made a tired Mike Myers joke ... locked eyes ... and it was hockey love forever. But, c'mon Bucci, Pominville is producing more points in less games for less money than Drury. Derek Roy also produced 151 points in the last two seasons, so you cannot really get much wiggle room there either.

The funny thing about the Sabres is that they are damned by the correct decision they made to allow Daniel Briere and Chris Drury to go. Both players have been roundly panned for having contracts that were very optimistic regarding the two of them continuing to be successful into their mid-to-late 30's.

No one hesitates to butcher Briere and it's easy to see why. But it boggles my mind that hockey media members aren't comparing Drury's contract to the all-time worst ones.

Sorry, everyone, but Drury's contract might just be "Yashin bad."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Drury is a bad player. No doubt, the guy has an uncanny knack for scoring pivotal goals, he's a very good faceoff guy and plays with plenty of heart. It just seems amazing that a nice complimentary player can get this sort of obscene praise.

He started off as an over-qualified depth player who had great success because opposing teams had to worry about Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, then he floundered in Calgary. His best run might have been in Buffalo, but that team worked so well because they had a seemingly un-ending group of forwards who could score by committee. He didn't have to be "the man" so he thrived.

Now he's in New York, a team rendered completely dependent on Henrik Lundqvist since they put their superstar money in solid/second line/awful players like Wade Redden, Scott Gomez and Michal Rosival. This team will have a second round ceiling for the rest of Drury's stay, barring miraculous goaltending from Lundqvist.

Let's cut the crap. Drury is the second coming of Bobby Holik - a nice enough player who can fill a role but somehow became worthy of a GIGANTIC contract in MSG land. (To be fair, though, he at least doesn't look like a neanderthal.)

So, I give up. You tell me. What makes Drury so good? How far can intangibles and likeability take one person? Maybe there's something I'm missing ... something only an "expert" can see.


jamestobrien said...

I know this week sort of turned into "New York Rangers hate week" but this needed to be said, dammit.

Scotty Hockey said...

Couple things, you Ranger hater:
1. The worst contract of this era is hands down Wade Redden's.

2. Bucci loves Drury because Dru was a BU boy.

3. Your comparison of Dru to Holik may be the most spot-on analysis I've seen of the Rangers in a while.

and 4. You are going to regret all of this Blueshirt bashing when the Sedins head to New York in a ridiculous deal for Scott Gomez, Nik Zherdev and a draft pick.

jamestobrien said...

Hahaha, believe it or not, I'm a Penguins fan :). That might explain the Rangers hate (I actually kind of liked the Rangers for most of Jagr's time there) because my childhood pain was expressed in that Rangers post-goal song. That song used to really depress me as a kid.

Oddly enough, I get a weird feeling the Sedins will get signed by some awful team like the Islanders. But that's another post entirely.

Vance said...

I would fellate Drury for his clutch goals throughout 05-07.

Not really.


Joe said...

Bucci said when Drury signed that contract that it was a bad contract, iirc. He likes Drury, just not at 7M/year. And he's right about Buffalo givng up on them. Both have said they were trying to get deals done and would've signed for less. I think Briere actually threw out a number of about 5M/year that he was looking to sign for. They could've had at least one and maybe both of them for 5M/year or so each. For Briere, that's probably an ok deal. Not great, but probably ok. Drury, it might be ok on a shorter term, or if you extend the term, lower the yearly number. It was totally doable, and both players said they wanted to make it work and stay in Buffalo.

The problem as I recall was that Buffalo was just plain being stupid. They tried to play some sort of hardball and make these guys accept way lower contracts than that, after refusing to negotiate with them until right before the trade deadline. They decided to walk instead of being bullied. Buffalo fans rightfully got pissed at their management.

jamestobrien said...

I faintly recall the Sabres situation being that they went after one of the two more aggressively, so the other went into sad panda mode and refused to re-sign. Your memory might be correct on that one, Joe.

It still seems surprising that Bucci would bash Pominville and Roy when JP hasn't even had a chance to fall short of his contract. Is 40 goals really the ONLY way of living up to $5 million contract considering that Pominville is one year removed from an 80 point season (aka far and away better, points wise, than anything Drury's produced?).

I guess I'd feel better if Bucci brought out some REAL example of "frat behavior." How about some scandalous photos or DUI records or something? Otherwise it reeks of pot-calling-the-kettle-blackitude.

(Better stop now before I wreck the English language even more.)

Joe said...

I faintly recall the Sabres situation being that they went after one of the two more aggressively, so the other went into sad panda mode and refused to re-sign. Your memory might be correct on that one, Joe.I'm a little busy right this moment, so I won't take time to look it up, but the way I remember it was that around February-ish of that year, Briere and Drury both made some noise publicly about wanting to resign. The Sabres management said something about they didn't want to discuss contracts till after the season, or maybe that it was a team policy, or some other kind of similarly stupid thing. So they let things ride as it was, and Briere and Drury both had strong post seasons. Season ends, and they both bring up how they want to stay in Buffalo. Buffalo just ignores them for quite a while, like they're not important, and then only bothers with them the week before UFA starts. That might've included some sort of joke-offer on Buffalo's part too. I believe both of them just stood up and said "you know, you've made your feeling clear, see ya".

I've always been a big proponent of keeping your guys happy by making them feel important, and doing so often lowers their price as well, because people appreciate when they're in a good working environment. Successful teams often make it a point to get contract extensions done well in advance, which makes these guys feel important, because of how aggressively their own team is pursuing them. Briere had never really been very popular in the NHL until he got to Buffalo, and seems like a good-head-on-his-shoulders kinda guy. It would've definitely meant something to him if Buffalo management came to him and said "Hey Danny, we really like you here, and we want you to stay for a long time." He was totally keepable, but instead, Buffalo tried to play hardball, and they completely blew it.

jamestobrien said...

Yeah, it does seem like Buffalo was caught with their pants down a bit, I'll give you that for sure.

I've said it once already, but I think that it would be nice if the Flyers pulled an Avery and let Briere go back to Buffalo on waivers. It's not going to happen (would be waaaaay to expensive for Philly) but it would make "a lot of things right."

Vance said...

Buffalo made the choice to try to keep Drury, which spurned Briere. He was immediately off to join his boy Biron in Philly after that. Once "Boyhood Dream" Rangers offered the same contract to Drury that the Sabres did, he was gone.

You're right, if they would've negotiated early (like they've consequently done with Pommer, Roy, and Miller) they very well might still have 2 of 3 of Campbell, Drury, and Briere.

jamestobrien said...

You're right, if they would've negotiated early (like they've consequently done with Pommer, Roy, and Miller) they very well might still have 2 of 3 of Campbell, Drury, and Briere.I think I might have to put together a Buffalo Sabres cap outlook at this point, because their situation is one of the most interesting in the NHL.

It begs the question: would the Sabres really have been better off with ANY of those three? Yes, it's mainly from a contract standpoint: all three of their deals are scary from a term and cap hit/salary perspective.

There's NO WAY I'd pay either of those three that much money. Especially since the Sabres aren't exactly a "rich" franchise ... (although they sure as hell can move some merchandise).

Joe said...

It begs the question: would the Sabres really have been better off with ANY of those three? Yes, it's mainly from a contract standpoint: all three of their deals are scary from a term and cap hit/salary perspective.Yeah, but the thing is, that's not the question. The question is, would the Sabres have been better off to have worked hard to resign those guys early and a little cheaply.

I just found a discussion on Sabre Rattling about how the Buffalo News was reporting that the Sabres nearly had Drury's name on a 4 year 5.25M extension, but that the Sabres dropped the ball on it somewhere along the line. Now that's a much more interesting hypothetical, than wondering if Drury with his NYR contract would've been a good fit in Buffalo. Most of what I'm finding seems to confirm that Briere was gone, in large part because he was miffed about being viewed as replaceable. Not as sure on what the deal with Campbell was.

jamestobrien said...

You know, I've really started to wonder what would be "good value" in that $4 to $5.5 million price range. I might look into that a bit, too.

You're right that Buffalo is a cautionary tale about waiting too long to re-sign players. I wonder if the Sabres simply weren't convinced that Drury and Briere were franchise players until the playoff runs they had. From what I remember, Campbell might have been asking for more than the Sabres could stomach and it was a lot like the Jay Bouwmeester situation in Florida (except with an opposite trade deadline result).

To be fair to Buffalo, everything I've heard about the franchise (except merchandising sales) points to the team having a really weak budget. Maybe the team was hesitant to sign Drury and Briere - even at lower price points - because they are both in their 30's. Maybe Buffalo decided to only give those big deals to younger players.

Perhaps those early post-lockout Sabres teams simply adhered to an unsustainable model: a team full of second line-type forwards?

jamestobrien said...

The Sabres follies really point to how well oiled a machine those Red Wings really are. Unfortunately ;)

AmyB said...

I think that my favorite part of this is that the pregnant pic of Briere is called "sh0ez".

jamestobrien said...

Also funny: I didn't even name that file. (I think it was originally on Pensblog)

Good eye, Amy.