Sabres GM Darcy Regier made it perfectly clear during his brief news conference Monday night at the First Niagara Center after trading Derek Roy to the Dallas Stars.
Regier said the team needed to "move the needle" toward becoming a more physical and tough team to play against. They say they did so by bringing veteran winger Steve Ott back from Dallas as the key component of that trade.
You're not going to get much of an argument from me.
Monday night at 11:00 we decided to cue up the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller and run it at the open of the sportscast. To me it was the signature moment of the season with the lack of response from the Sabres underscoring the lack of toughness on this roster.
You'd probably be right to suggest that clip has been overplayed, but ask yourself this question. What forward on the Sabres roster would intimidate NHL defensemen and dictate physically on the forecheck on a consistent basis. Marcus Foligno has shown flashes, but in an overall sense I think you get my point.
The Sabres hope that Ott can do that. He's a nine year veteran who finished fourth in the NHL with 274 hits this past season. The Sabres clearly are in need of more grit, and when you combine the trade for Ott with Sunday's signing of 6'8" free agent tough guy John Scott, you can see what the Sabres are trying to do.
They also picked up defenseman Adam Pardy as part of the Roy trade to give them more depth, size, and flexibility on the blue line.
In my view, the trade of Roy was long overdue. While certainly talented, I thought he was a square peg in a round hole in terms of how he fit in Lindy Ruff's system and his willingness to execute it. There was obvious friction between Roy and Ruff. Roy was part of an era of Sabres success post lockout when the game was far more open and officials were cracking down on obstruction. But the game as changed to a more physical style, and the teams that are winning cups have adapted.
That's why I think the trade for Ott was a good move. The Sabres still have issues at center despite what they did in the draft, and trading Roy away certainly adds to that issue. Regier says they're far from done making moves, and will look to add size up the middle, likely through a trade once the UFA market sorts itself out.
I don't think there's any question they still have work to do in improving the team, but trading Roy for Ott is a step in the right direction, and more importantly illustrates a much needed shift in thinking at the top of the organization.