Buffalo Sabres: Was It a Mistake to Trade Daniel Paille?
Right about now it's not hard to picture many Buffalo Sabres fans hitting their heads off of the nearest table wondering how in the world their general manager, Darcy Regier, could trade Daniel Paille.
And not only just for trading him, but trading him to the Boston Bruins of all teams.
Since Paille was sent from the 716 to the 617 four seasons ago, the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup once, the Northeast Division twice and have even knocked the Sabres out of the playoffs in the first round.
Now, to say that their success has to do with Paille directly is a bit far-fetched. He has been great during the past two rounds of this year's playoffs and has the game-winning goal in both of the Bruins' Stanley Cup Final victories, but the team's success is not on his shoulders.
What Paille has done is solidify a bottom six that could be one of the best in the NHL.
So why did the Sabres and Regier feel the need to ship him off to a division rival, especially given the time they put into developing Paille?
He was drafted 20th overall in the 2002 Entry Draft, with the Sabres using the first-round pick they obtained from the Detroit Red Wings in the Dominik Hasek trade to move up 10 slots to select the Guelph Storm product. Paille spent two more years in the OHL and represented Team Canada in the World Junior Championships both of those years.
After spending the better part of two years with Rochester of the AHL and splitting time between Buffalo and Rochester the next season, Paille was promoted to the Sabres' roster full-time in 2007-08. In his first full year, he had the best statistical season of his career, posting 35 points in 77 games, spending most of his time on the third line.
While recording a comparable season statistically in 2008-09, Paille struggled to stay consistent, posting numerous stretches without a point and a minus in the plus-minus column.
The next season, Paille was traded to the Bruins for a third-round pick, which was used on depth prospect Kevin Sundher, who likely will never see more than a bottom-six role with Rochester.
So should Sabres fans be mad that Paille never really got a fair shake as a Sabre? Yes and no.
It was pretty shocking that Regier would be as cavalier with one of his more talented young guys, even if his talent was clearly as more of a two-way, bottom-six player. Paille had the tools to be an excellent shutdown pivot and had the size and skating ability to back it up.
However, looking back at what the Sabres were facing at that time makes the move make at least some sense for those who are extremely unhappy.
Paille had been a healthy scratch for most of the beginning of the season that year, with then-coach Lindy Ruff favoring the play of a less-targeted Pat Kaleta and rookie Tim Kennedy.
Beyond that, the Sabres were flirting with the top-end of the salary cap, having just signed Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller to new deals that summer. Needing to clear some space, the Sabres saw the underperforming Paille as the easiest piece to move.
But the most important factor in all of this has been Paille's ability to play on the third and fourth lines in Boston, a team whose defensive identity is far more apparent than any post-lockout Sabres team. Paille has not come close to eclipsing the statistical levels he hit while in Buffalo, but he has flourished in his defense-first role with the Bruins.
So, while Paille is enjoying a fair amount of success this postseason, it may not be necessarily fair to say "that could be us," because, realistically, the Sabres would not have been able to get the same type of play out of Paille given the differing styles of the two teams.
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