Thanks for joining us for another installment of Bar Stool Debates, where Joe and Brandon go back and forth on the hottest topics hovering around the Buffalo sports scene. Recently, without much hockey news hitting the wires besides the squabble between the owners and NHLPA, the sign Shane Doan debate has rekindled its flame after it was reported the Sabres in fact have offered the 17-year vet a four-year contract worth $30 million. On one hand, Doan’s regarded by many as one of the best team leaders in the NHL and would provide an obvious boost to many of the Sabres’ weakest areas. On the other, he’ll turn 36 by the time the 2012-13 season begins and no one knows for certain how much he has left in the tank. So is he the right fit for the Sabres?
To join in on the conversation you can follow Brandon (@b_schlag) and Joe (@JoeBuffaloWins) on Twitter or take to the comment section and give us your take on whether or not signing Shane Doan is a smart decision for the Sabres. For now, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Brandon: So, a lot has been made about this whole Shane Doan saga around the league over the past few months, especially in Buffalo. This summer has been weird, hasn’t it? Certainly not what we as Sabres fans expected heading in, that’s for sure. At least, I expected the team to have a slightly different appearance at this point in the offseason. I guess we can blame the CBA conundrum for that. Since the beginning of summer it was Bobby Ryan palooza. Now it’s all about the Shane Doan debate. It’s the end of August and the Sabres have neither. I think, from everything I’ve read and heard, that Buffalo seems to be pretty divided on the best move for the Sabres. Since John Buccigross and Jeremy Roenick dropped the atomic bomb confirming the Sabres were in fact the team which offered Doan big money (ironically, Bucky dropped the same tidbit a few weeks earlier, but his was merely a grenade, apparently), the whole debate is heated all over again. There’s good arguments to be made both for and against signing Doan, and I understand our opinions differ here, so this should be one for the books.
Joe: Well, TBN actually broke the news three weeks ago, but no one decided to read Bucky’s column, but that’s another story. Let me say a few things. I’m not trying to start a debate in a Talk show/Skip Bayless way by taking up a side that no one agrees with. Truthfully, I’m shocked at how many fans don’t want Doan. Only people who wouldn’t mind him here are the Bulldog, that guy everyone hates at Trending Buffalo and me. Here’s why everyone hates him.
First off, Ville Leino has ruined free agency for the Sabres. Last year, no one gave a crap about how much the Sabres were going to spend, but because he sucked, everyone is scared shitless. “Nooooooooooo. We can’t have another Leino.” He’s ruined free agency and I blame him.
Secondly, Im so sick and tired of hearing about the cap. Everyone is going crazy because the NHL may be heading for a lockout. People, chill. We are still like 2 months away from the lockout happening as the regular season doesn’t start until October. Let’s not act like the people did before Y2K when we thought the end of the world was coming and our porn..er..our internet would be destroyed. We don’t have to become survivalists right now when it comes to this. Fehr and Bettman are just posturing when it comes to negotiating. So, chill with the cap going down to 50-million or whatever.
Third, let’s just say Doan doesn’t work out, how many teams like the Flyers and Rangers, have signed guys to huge deals and they didn’t get anything out of them? Gomez, Drury, Redden, Carter. There’s a ton. Did their teams implode? Did they die? No. They traded or just got rid of dead weight and found other players. Stop trying to be accountants. Teams overspend. It has been the norm since the 70s in all four sports. I think because Darcy and Larry Quinn used to bad mouth every team that spent money back in the day, has trickled down to our fan base. We act like fricken stock brokers. Sometimes, I think Sabres fans are to savvy for their own good and because of that, they out-think themselves. Get used to having an owner who spends a lot. Name me the last contract another team signed a player to that we didn’t go ape shit about? Seriously, every year at this time, my Twitter feed goes nuts about salaries. Does Buffalo hate rich people or something? Never changes. It’s not my money. Pegula can buy people out and say fuck it as well. Enough!
Brandon: Alright, yes. See, there are valid points there, which makes this debate so intriguing to me. I don’t know if it’s right to compare Doan to Leino. Both are completely different players and the situations are definitely not similar. Leino should be the last thing making Sabres fans nervous about Doan, but I suppose that doesn’t mean it isn’t the reason.
Here’s how I see it, and I don’t think it has anything to do with being scared off by the money, or whatever. Overall, I just don’t think Doan is as good as everyone makes him out to be. Certainly not $7.5 million good, or even $6 million good or $5 million good. I mean, that’s free agency. Any free agent ever has always been blown way out of proportion, whether it’s Brad Richards or Jason Arnott or Doan.
I think Buffalo in general puts too much emphasis on players like Doan. We fall in love with the big, gritty, hard-working players, because that’s what we’re all about. But really, that’s all Doan is. He’s a glorified enforcer mistaken for the star the Sabres are lacking. Does he bring leadership? Yes. Does he bring toughness? Absolutely. But the Sabres need a star, man. Four or five years ago, I’d bet most casual Sabres fans had no idea who Doan was. That’s because he’s not a game-changer. He never has been and he never will be.
I want to make it clear that I don’t hate Doan, because it sounds like I do. As a player, I like him a lot. And yes, you’re right. Free agency isn’t about being skimpy with money. Free agency, in any sport, is all about overpaying. You overpay to add without subtraction. But you also have to do so intelligently, and throwing money at any “big” name who makes his way to free agency isn’t a smart business plan. Sometimes, it’s not so easy to erase these mistakes. And you can’t be so sure about the cap. If the owners get even a little of what they want out of this CBA, the salary cap is going to go down. That’s a fact.
And if you sign Doan to that deal, it’s a 35-and-over contract, which means you’re stuck with him all four years, regardless if he’s helping the team or not. He could call it quits after this season and the Sabres are stuck with a $7.5 million cap hit with no Doan. It’s just not a smart move. So why do it in the first place if it’s not smart? Look, the bottom line for me is I just don’t think Doan is the right piece for the Sabres. Could the team benefit from a player like Doan in the locker room? Probably. But he’s 36 in October, and you don’t sign a 36-year-old player better known for his intangibles than his scoring presence unless you think this is the Sabres’ year to compete. And I still think they’re at least another season away from that.
Joe: You make a good point on the grit part. Buffalo fans love that sort of player. You are also correct that Doan isn’t a game changer. He’s a role player on your second line. However, and here’s the meat and potatoes of this for me, I hate the Sabres right now. I’m so bored with them. I’ve hated this offseason. So, they got Ott? Great. But they still have the same guys and I think they are an eighth seed as it stands. What I’m saying is I need something exciting. Prospects, Sabres plaza, Kevin Sylvester, and Fake Darcy aren’t doing it for me. They need to do something to excite me. This would excite me. I will also say this: The Sabres have gotten more physical this summer, right? Well, keep going in that direction. Boston won with a bunch of tough guys who could check you into oblivion. They did it because they had a bunch of those guys. Not just one. Get this guy here and I think you become a physical team that wont be pushed around. No one is going to give us a center it seems like. So instead of trying to find an offensive guy, just keep building your team as a defensive styled squad with guys who are tough to play against. How about a line of Foligno-Ott-Doan? That’s a fierce, tough line. You see? I’d rather talk about how he could fit instead of the constant crap about money.
Brandon: Well, Boston won the Cup because every player on that roster bought into that system and fit the mold perfectly. They were tough, they could hit, but a lot of people overlook the fact that they scored goals. They didn’t have that one star to score them all, but everyone on that team was capable of chipping in, and they played lights-out defense. But yeah, I know what you’re saying. I admit that Doan is obviously a very intriguing option to add to this Sabres team. But you conceded he’s “a role player on your second line.” That’s the meat and potatoes of my argument. You don’t sign a role player to a $7.5 million contract, and if your second line is consisted of role players, your team is in trouble.
I definitely see where you come from with the “shot in the ass” point, though. We could use a little excitement in First Niagara Center this season. I think this might be one of those times where we as Sabres fans just need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and relax. Ya know, sometimes it pays to be patient in sports. Whether you have faith or not, Darcy Regier has some sort of plan for this team in that head of his. I don’t know what it is, and neither do you or anyone else outside that office. I know a lot of people are in the same spot as you are with the Sabres, but I think change will come in time. That doesn’t make it smart to toss a ton of money at Doan. We could talk the crap out of his intangibles, but we’re still talking about a guy who hasn’t scored more than 22 goals and 55 points in three seasons.
You’re right, we’re not going to get a center. Ennis and Hodgson are our guys now, and Regier has made that pretty clear. But the money could be better spent. I’m not scared of spending money. I’m all for spending money, as long as it’s on the right guy. And, like I said, I just don’t think Doan is the right guy. Not at his age, not at this point in his career and not for the price it’s going to take to lure him away from Phoenix and Los Angeles and bring him to Buffalo. I mean, we’re all probably wasting our breath on this topic anyway. I think, right now, there’s probably something like a 5 percent chance Doan comes here. Although, money talks. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how loyal your are to your team or how against Doan is uprooting his family. Thirty-million bucks is $30 million bucks. I just don’t know, man. I wouldn’t be furious if tomorrow I woke up and Doan was a Sabre, but I sure as hell would be pretty damn worried about the state of this team in another season or two.
Joe: You mention the scoring numbers, but keep in mind Doan hasn’t exactly played with great linemates. Radim Vrbata had a nice year, but we are talking about Vrbata. I thought the guy was dead. Ryan “let’s blow up Buffalo when we come flying in” Whitney is OK. Doan has 11 seasons of 50 points or more, but since 2006, only five times has a ‘Yotes player scored 50 points or more whose name wasn’t Shane Doan. Not exactly great forwards, right? I think Stafford, Vanek and Pommer are probably better offensively then those guys, right? He may actually be better here. Also, with the salary, who’s to say the Sabres decide NOT to front-load the contract like they did with Ehrhoff? Maybe they pay Doan 10-million for his 1st year and then the cap hit is like 4-5 million for the next three years or so.
Brandon: I suppose. I’ve had this debate with dozens of people over the past few months. My mind has been up, down and sideways trying to figure it all out, and the one thing that it always comes back to is this: If the Sabres give Doan $30 million over the next four years, does that make them that much better? With Doan, are the Sabres a serious contender? They had better be, because they sure won’t have much cap space afterward to make many more improvements that will help the team win before Doan’s time as a good player is up and he recedes into the shadows of the fourth line. And I just think that even with the addition of Doan there is still something to be desired on this team, and no one really knows for sure how he would fit in. We could speculate all we want, and say he’d command the locker room and lead the Sabres to the Cup or whatever. But the thing is none of us know how he’d fit in to the puzzle, and there’s too many more ifs than there are sure things here for me to justify forking over that kind of money.
Joe: There’s the money again. Who cares! The Sabres’ goal to exist is to win the cup, right? You need guys who are going to help you win. Does Doan make the team better? Yes. Does he make them a cup team? No. But if you add Doan and maybe Darcy can actually have foresight to make another move, maybe we’ll be alright. If the team can’t make one big move, then make 2-3 other moves. Move some guys. I think we are too wrapped up in the money. For crap sakes, we used to always bitch about how the Sabres didnt spend enough money in the past. Now that they are and fans hate it. We can’t win.
Brandon: Well, and that’s the loophole to the anti-Doan argument, is whether or not signing Shane Doan is all part of the big picture. You’re right, this could very well be the first in a series of moves. Maybe the Sabres sign Doan, and make a trade or two, and voila, there’s Darcy’s big picture. I guess the one thing we can all agree on is that none of us know what’s going on inside that dark, twisted mind of Darcy Regier.
Joe: Yeah, I mean it is like 10 percent chance he signs here. I think for me the craziest thing is how almost everyone doesn’t want him here for that cost. It is pretty unison. I understand why they wouldn’t do it, but to me, I just wanna be entertained. I wanna feel like things are different on the ice. Let me ask you, what do you think of the organization for offering this much money for Doan? I mean, how many times did we hear from Darcy during the Golisano years how much he thought these kind of deals were reckless. I mean is Darcy a puppet of Pegula?
Brandon: Well, this is all certainly unprecedented in Buffalo. Forever the argument against Darcy (mostly from the columns of Bucky Gleason) has been that the owner has very little to do with how a GM functions, but if Regier somehow manages to mold a Cup winner through Pegula, this would prove to be a case study for the opposition. I was talking to a buddy of mine earlier today about this whole thing. Like you, he’s all for ignoring the price tag and bringing Doan in. He said something along the lines of, “Isn’t this crazy, having a team willing to spend literally anything to outbid everyone else for a player they covet.” Yeah, it is beyond crazy. Ever since the day we were born, we as Buffalo sports fans have known nothing but the bottom line. We’ve always envisioned the team that would finally win Buffalo a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup as a team which mirrors the city’s hard-working, underdog image. It’s weird that now our Stanley Cup hopes lie with a franchise which can simply out-bit just about anyone at will if they want it badly enough. This is uncharted territory, and none of us have any idea what to make of it. In a way, it’s pretty cool. But say if the Sabres were to win the Cup after more or less purchasing their way to it reminiscent of the Rangers or Flyers. Does it then take away some of the luster from “winning it the hard way” — the way we all thought we’d have to do it for so long? So, yeah, these are obviously still encouraging times, whether Doan sports a Sabres jersey or not.
Joe: I just want to be entertained. That’s all. Like I said, I’m bored with this team. Hell, I wish they would do what the Red Sox did Friday and just give away half their team. In closing for me, I’d be fine with Doan. Do I get the bad? Yes. But I think he can give you two good years and we can worry about him falling apart in two years. I still think the cap will go up and I’m not worried about the news going around with the possible lockout. This won’t be Y2K with this, I assure you.
Brandon: Yeah, I get all that. I can’t knock anyone for just wanting to see something different with this team. It’s been too long, and things get stale really fast. There are worse things in the world than blowing up a ninth-seeded team in an attempt to try something new. But, my closing point is this: Even with all that said, I still sit on the opposite side of the spectrum from you. Yes, I get the potential perks of bringing Doan in, but when it’s all boiled down, the risks far outweigh the rewards, and I seem to be a little more content with the team as presently constructed than you are. Could he sign here and give the Sabres two good years? Sure. I mean, could I wind up in bed with Megan Fox? In theory. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I don’t think those two years will be enough to bring the Cup here, and that’s the only way I sign Doan to this crazy deal — if I think it will bring me a Stanley Cup. It’s easy to say let’s do it now and worry about it later, but what if two years from now we’re still Cup-less and Doan calls it a career. And it’s that premise that scares me away from the whole thing. Like I said, I’m totally able to see things from your vantage point, but I feel much more comfortable from where I’m standing. There are too many other options that make more sense at this point in time to risk anything good the Sabres might have in three years.