Ryan Miller made his thoughts about the Buffalo Sabres trading Paul Gaustad crystal clear on Tuesday. The star goaltender was upset his close friend and one of the team's best leaders was dealt to the Nashville Predators for a first-round pick.
Professional athletes speaking their minds has become increasingly rare in recent years because they fear the backlash, so when a player does make pointed comments it becomes a big story. In this case, it shows a disconnect between Sabres management and the players.
John Vogl of the Buffalo News passed along some of Miller's thoughts. Here's one snippet:
“Like I've said, we don't make those decisions. That's more proof because if I had any more influence Paul would still be here. I appreciate the way he plays. He's been one of my best friends for a long time there. Obviously, that's going to continue, but it was nice to have him as a teammate and have those other intangibles.”
The Sabres have failed to live up to sky-high expectations this season after spending big money in free agency. When one of the team's prominent players starts talking about a lack of influence, it's obviously going to raise some flags.
Buffalo's roster has featured a bunch of homegrown players in recent seasons, but the team hasn't been able to get over the playoff hump. So the front office, under a three-year Stanley Cup mandate from owner Terry Pegula, has been trying to infuse outside talent to reach that goal.
It didn't really hit home for the players until Gaustad, one of those guys who has been in the organization for a long time, was sent packing that things are changing. And clearly Miller isn't a big fan of the new direction.
What makes it worse for everybody involved is that the trade was actually a good one by general manager Darcy Regier. Getting a high draft pick for a third-line center like Gaustad, who is an impending free agent, was an unexpected treat.
So if Miller is willing to sound off about a move that will help the franchise, what happens when Regier makes a trade that isn't as savvy? It could get ugly.
In reality, the core Buffalo had in place simply wasn't good enough to reach Pegula's ultimate goal, so changes were necessary. That means longtime contributors like Gaustad are going to be expendable, whether Miller likes it or not.
In the business of sports, it isn't wise to get overly attached to a friend, because they could easily be on a new roster tomorrow. Especially if a team is willing to pay a hefty price to get them.
The days of Sabres management being content to break even with most of the same faces leading the way are over. Gaustad is the first of a couple changes likely on the way before next season starts, so Miller had better be prepared.
And, if he does have concerns, keeping them behind closed doors is still the best option, even if he gets applauded for his honesty.
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