Let the Sabres piggyback on the USA Hockey coverage

The US Olympic selection committee did an interesting thing providing complete access to a pair of reporters throughout their evaluation process for the 2014 Olympic Team. If you haven’t already read Scott Burnside or Kevin Allen’s breakdown of the process, I strongly recommend you do so now.

By giving the pair of decorated writers a chance to be the proverbial fly on the wall during the decision making process, USA Hockey not only provided a window into a process that most hockey fans ever dream of, but they also may have opened the door for other such ventures.

With 24/7 helping to increase exposure to the day-to-day operations of a hockey team – Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero breaking down their roster immediately springs to mind – fans began to start seeing things that they had no insight on before. With the tease at Dion Phaneuf’s contract negotiation in the most recent episode of the HBO series, I can only imagine that we’ll see a bit more in the series finale. Add the snippets of front office peeks from 24/7 and other similar programs to the all access work from Burnside and Allen and I think there is a recipe for even more interesting access to be provided by NHL franchises.

My challenge is for the Sabres and for them to allow someone in the room to cover the trade deadline in a manner similar to that of what Allen and Burnside did with USA Hockey.

So many fans pine to be a fly on the wall while their team’s GM works to improve their roster in both the short and long term and having a team – the Sabres in this case – provide access to the room would provide that window.

Of all the things that draw me to the game, the deals and negotiations are one of my favorites. To have an opportunity to sit in and hear a pair of GMs haggle on players, comparing their strengths and weaknesses wouldn’t sit far behind seeing a Stanley Cup Final live on my sports bucket list.

To clarify, this is not a plea to let me be in the room for a big decision. It’s not even about putting another member of my esteemed basement brethren in the room. There are more than enough capable writers who cover the Sabres and I’m certain that any one of them would do a tremendous job with such an assignment. In fact, the Sabres team that includes Kevin Snow and Chris Ryndak  – not to mention the phenomenal video production team at One SHK III Plaza – would serve as excellent candidates. The point is to have the Sabres grant a writer or writers access to the war room for this year’s trade deadline.

There are obviously a boatload of issues with such an idea. First off, the number of trades that would be discussed but ultimately turned down would be difficult to report on for a few reasons. First, you’re putting a finger on each and every player the Sabres were willing to deal which could easily harm the relationship between the team and players now and in the future. Second, it could throw a wrench in the works for future deals that may have materialized down the line despite not being made at the deadline for what ever reason. Much in the way that players could be alienated by being named in discussed trades, other GMs may lost interest – or swoop in to poach a similar offer – after learning of a missed transaction. Lastly, from a writers perspective, should there be any sort of restrictions placed on what could be reported on (i.e. missed trades) would limit the transparency that made the Burnside and Allen articles so awesome.

Perhaps the solution would be to skip the deadline and have a writer or two get access for free agency. Much like how Burnside and Allen were embedded with USA Hockey for a few months, whoever was tabbed to get this access could sit in for the days leading up to the opening of free agency, on UFA Day and perhaps even a few days beyond that in order to see the process taken to shape the Sabres. It would also help prevent the coverage from potentially spoiling the hand of whoever is driving the Sabres as GM (if they have one at that time).

Ideally having the writer(s) in the room for a scouting meeting or two leading up to free agency and then the first few days of free agency would make them privy to the decision-making process that will primarily include signings but may also involve some trade negotiations. Ideally the focus would be far enough away from any trade negotiations that the team wouldn’t be handcuffed in future deals due to the coverage they receive.

Clearly there are major hurdles to any such idea. The first of which is opening the door to a process that has previously been quite secretive. But if the organization steered this correctly – like I can only assume the USA Hockey coverage was – this could be a very well accepted peek at how the Sabres blueprint is being shaped.

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