Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Had Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray not brought in a number of veterans on July 1, the team would clearly be the youngest in the league. As it stands right now, only three teams have a younger roster than Buffalo's average of 26.6 yr. old--Columbus (26.2,) Edmonton (26.2) and Winnipeg (26.4.)
Defenseman Josh Gorges, who just hit the big 3-0 on August 14th, came to Buffalo along with Brian Gionta (35 yrs. old,) Cody McCormick, (31,) Matt Moulson (30,) and Andrej Meszaros (28) on July 1st. It's a group of aged, character veterans brought in to mentor a large group of up and coming youngins.
Unlike the other four vets who signed with Buffalo as free agents, Gorges was acquired via a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs sent him to the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres for a 2016 second round draft pick. On a quick note, the pick that the Sabres used to acquire Gorges was one they received from Minnesota at the trade deadline for Moulson.
Hearing that he was on the block was somewhat of a shock for Gorges. He was logging second-pairing minutes for the Habs and was anchoring the PK. And as a respected presence both on and off the ice who had just completed the second year of a recently inked 6yr./$23.4M contract, getting traded was probably the farthest thing on his mind.
"It was shocking because of the things that were going on there were great, the team was succeeding, we had a great playoff run," he said recently via Warren Henderson, Kelowna Cap News. "You never expect to be traded but you always know that there's a chance. You hope it never does happen to you, especially when you're in the right situation like I was in Montreal.
"But we understand it's part of the business, you move on and make the best of it. Now I'll go to Buffalo and do everything I can to help that team be successful."
That he ended up with the Sabres was great for Buffalo.
Gorges is a left-handed defensive defenseman and will skate right into the top pairing with fellow Kelowna Rockets alum, Tyler Myers. It's a situation that will inherently benefit Myers as he will be able to continue playing the offensively aggressive game he played under head coach Ted Nolan last year. And he'll be able to do that knowing that Gorges will have his back.
Gorges is a heart and soul player whom fellow hockeybuzz blogger Eric Engels calls "a motivator." He says will "set an example both on and off the ice and will hold everyone in the room accountable." Engles also sees Gorges' contributions to the Sabres as helping lift them out of the basement.
In addition to those contributions, for Buffalo fans who've been feeling like the bastard child of the redheaded step-child lately, probably the greatest thing about the Gorges trade is that he shunned archrival Toronto to go to the Sabres.
Gorges had a limited no-trade clause. His agent, Kevin Epp, came to him on Draft weekend saying that Montreal GM Marc Bergevin was asking him to waive his no-trade clause to go to Toronto. The Leafs were not originally on his list of 15 teams that he would accept a trade to and Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette, wrote after the deal with Buffalo that "no amount of discussion with [Bergevin] would make him bend, even as he added a couple more teams to his list — including the Sabres."
To Toronto, the self-proclaimed, "center of the hockey universe," this was an epic snub made supremely incredulous by Gorges picking lowly Sabres over the Leafs.
The Toronto Star's Steve Simmons wadded up his undergarments, and with a huff and puff wrote, "[Gorges] made that decision of supposedly sound mind, or so we are informed. He selected living in Buffalo and playing for quite possibly the worst team in the NHL over living in Toronto and playing in the so-called centre of the hockey universe.
"He chose the armpit of America over one of the world’s great cities, current traffic and politics aside."
It was a hockey coup for Buffalo and had the fan base doin' an Irish jig. (Can't wait to see what he writes if (maybe when?) Sabres owner Terry Pegula wins the bid for the Buffalo Bills over the Toronto group headed by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tannenbaum.)
With the Bills it's neither here nor there at this point, but I do hear rumors that a Cheektowaga band is in the process of recording (Dancing On) The Maple Leaf Polka and Roll Out the Barrels (Of Pegula Cash.)
All dancing aside, the most important thing for the Sabres is that Gorges wanted to come to Buffalo and is ready to spend at least the next four seasons in the Blue and Gold.
As previously mentioned, he comes into a situation where he'll be on the top-pairing with a young talent in Myers. The team itself is coming off of an incredibly dismal last place finish and is ready to claw it's way upward. The Sabres are a very young team with oodles of talent in the waiting in the wings and a management philosophy of slowly introducing said talent into the NHL over the course of the next few seasons.
And for Gorges personally, he comes to the Buffalo area with a friend and confidant in Gionta who helped ease his mind.
Gionta had been talking with the Sabres' Murray about signing in Buffalo and had talked to Gorges about it. Gionta is from the Rochester area and would offer valuable insight as to a suitable locale for Gorges and his wife Maggie who was pregnant with their first child at the time of the trade.
"That’s always the side part of hockey, there’s your life,” told the Kelowna Daily Courier. “Hockey is one thing and I love the game of hockey and I’m so passionate about playing the game and doing what I can to help win a Stanley Cup, but at the end of the day, I have a family to support. I have to look after my wife and my kid, and that’s most important to me."
Gorges is not looking back except to pay respect to the team that he grew with. "Montreal is always going to be a special place for me," he told Henderson. "I never really got my chance to be a player until I came to Montreal. A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of experiences there…I loved my time there. It will always be a special place no matter what happens."
But his focus is on his future in Buffalo, "We're a young team, a team with a lot of upside, a lot of potential," he said of the Sabres. "Once we make that work, put the work boots on and play as a team, I think we have a lot of potential. I'm excited about it."
So are we.
Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Matt Moulson/C, Tyler Ennis/RW, Drew Stafford
RHD, Tyler Myers/LHD, Josh Gorges