September 2, 2002
By RANDY SCHULTZ
It is September. Training camp begins in less than 10 days and Jason
Woolley is still a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
There were many who felt that the veteran Sabres defenseman would
have been traded before now. Woolley felt that he would be gone.
Infact, there were lots of trade rumors concerning Woolley at the
NHL's Entry Draft held in June in Toronto. But the draft, as well as
summer, has come and gone, and Woolley is still a member of the
The 2001-02 NHL campaign was a strange one for Woolley. It saw the
Toronto, Ont. native spend more time than he wanted watching games
from the press box as a healthy scratch.
By the time the season had finished Woolley had played in just 59
games, scoring eight goals and 20 assists for 28 points.
Interestingly enough, Woolley was second in scoring for defensemen on
the team, but led all defensemen in goal scoring.
Six of his goals came on the power play, which was third on the team
behind Miroslav Satan's 15 and J.P. Dumont's seven. And a power play
in Buffalo is anything but that. That makes Woolley's benchings even
So why demand a trade?
"I sat down and thought about the whole situation," said Woolley.
"During the most important stretches of the season, I was sitting in
"You've got to take that personally, I don't care what's going on.
"I felt like I could contribute to this team. I still do. I felt like
I deserved to be in situations where we needed wins and I wasn't in
the lineup. I know that when we're in pressure situations that's when
I played my best hockey.
"So all of a sudden when I'm not playing in those situations, maybe
it's time for me to move on and play somewhere's else."
There were times last season when it appeared that Woolley was in
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff's "dog house." And nobody seemed to know
When questioned about Woolley, all Ruff would say was that, "Jason
knows why he's not playing." Or Ruff would answer, "we have depth on
defense and have seven defensemen. Competition is good. Somebody is
going to sit if they're not playing well."
Sometimes that depth included call-ups from Rochester of the AHL. And
Woolley would still be a healthy scratch.
"Lindy and I have talked about it, both during and after the season,"
commented the 33 year-old Woolley. "I asked if it had to with
anything personal and he said no. He asked me the same thing and I
"I just don't understand some of the decisions that were made last
year. But obviously he's the boss.
"There really wasn't any time last year when I hung my head or
brought anyone else down with me. When I was sitting, I always
prepared myself to play.
"And when I came back I usually came back strong. That's all I can do
in my end."
Coming into this season, the Sabres have at least eight defensemen,
including Woolley, that could make the team. Besides Woolley they
include Alexei Zhitnik, James Patrick, Dmitri Kalinin, Jay McKee,
Rhett Warrener, Brian Campbell and Henrik Tallinder.
It is no hidden secret that Ruff will keep seven defensemen. That
could make somebody expendable.
With Woolley now entering his sixth season in a Buffalo uniform and
his 12th overall in the NHL, what does he expect for this season?
"I'm just trying to focus on training camp right now," answered
"It doesn't do me any good to try and figure out what's going to
happen that far ahead.
"I'm just going to deal with the situations as they come.
"But if it becomes a situation where I begin sitting a bunch of games
in-a-row and I don't know why, then it might be time for a change.
"That might be the time to raise a little bit of a stink. For now,
things have been quiet and I'm just going to work hard and prepare
for training camp.
"This is the final year of my contract. I want to have a strong
season. I'll be an unrestricted free agent next year.
"So I want to have a good training camp to make their (the coaches)
decisions a bit tougher."