The Buffalo Sabres did Monday what everyone knew they were determined to do virtually from the start of the season.
They traded captain Mike Foligno.
Today, and probably for the foreseeable future, the question is why?
Sabres General Manager Gerry Meehan said he traded Foligno and future considerations (believed to be a mid-round draft choice in 1991) to Toronto for forward Lou Franceschetti and defenseman Brian Curran because "the team had lost five straight and something had to be done."
Coach Rick Dudley also said something had to be done. Both men said they were sorry to see Foligno go and that he was a class individual.
Foligno also said Monday that after five straight losses and a 10-15-7 overall record, something had to be done, but he didn't think he was the reason the team was losing.
Left unsaid but not unnoticed was that both the organization and the coaches were looking for new leadership. However, no replacement captain was named and one probably won't be for several days.
There have been persistent rumors Dudley and Foligno did not see eye to eye on Dudley's methods. Both denied there was a problem, but a former Sabre at least hinted at some dissension.
"I talk to Mike on the phone all the time and I know they (the players) are not happy with the coaching situation there," said Leafs forward Kevin Maguire, a former Sabre. "Mike is just the type of guy who would address that."
Maguire's comment was cryptic and he declined to be more specific. It also should be noted Maguire left Buffalo under unhappy circumstances, during what appeared to be a personality clash with Dudley.
Foligno would not involve himself in any questions regarding a rift between himself and Dudley, but Dudley did take Foligno off the opening night roster.
Also, sources close to the team maintain it was Foligno whom Dudley contemplated taking out of the lineup during last spring's playoffs in Montreal the night Dudley made his post-game speech about not having the courage to do what he felt was right.
From opening night this season, the relationship between coach and captain appeared strained. But in recent weeks, both had nothing but good things to say about the other. Dudley singled out Foligno's effort Friday in the 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh. Earlier this season, Foligno publicly thanked Dudley for putting him on a line with Dale Hawerchuk and Rick Vaive.
In moving Foligno, the Sabres have opened the door for a change of leadership. Left unresolved is whether or not they will get it.
Dudley said he does not yet have a plan for a new captain. He added the team probably would go with three alternates tonight at Hartford (7:35, Ch. 29, WGR) and at least until he has had a chance to address the matter with the players.
"There are a lot of things that have to be said," Dudley said. "It's going to take a while to talk this out."
Mike Ramsey and Dave Andreychuk have been the alternate captains and are likely to be considered replacement candidates. Hawerchuk wore an alternate's "A" during the games Ramsey was out with a rib injury. The Sabres also might look to youth, considering players such as Pierre Turgeon or Dave Snuggerud.
It's likely the leadership won't come from the two new players. Franceschetti, 32, essentially is a role player. As they say in the business, he's hard-nosed and a character guy. Curran, 27, also is deemed a character player.
The two, both of whom are likely to be in the lineup this evening, are well traveled. This is Franceschetti's third team. He has played for Washington and the Maple Leafs. It is Curran's fourth team, having gone through Boston, the New York Islanders and Toronto.
Franceschetti broke into the league with the 1981-82 Capitals and spent eight seasons there before going to Toronto in June 1989 for a fifth-round draft choice.
Last season, he scored 21 goals and had 15 assists in 80 games for the Leafs. He was sidelined part of this season with a broken foot, but is healthy again. In 16 games with the Leafs, the 6-foot, 190-pound left winger had one goal and one assist, was a minus-2 on the plus-minus chart and totaled 30 penalty minutes.
Curran, 6-5 and 215, was the Bruins' second pick (22nd overall) in the 1982 entry draft. He had played in only four games for the Leafs this season and has no points and seven penalty minutes. He recently returned from a two-week conditioning stint in Newmarket in the American Hockey League and had been told that upon his return he either would be returned to the lineup or moved.
Curran said Monday he may not be the answer to the Sabres' problems, but that he could be a part of the solution.
"They didn't get me for my scoring, that's for sure," he said. "I'm shocked (by the trade), but I'm happy."
Said Franceschetti: "I'm having a hard time accepting this, but it will be better once I get on a Buffalo uniform. I think I can help them. Look what I did here."
Franceschetti had 127 penalty minutes for the Leafs last season and was said to be a player who sparked the team's revival with his physical style and commitment to team play.
In Foligno, the Maple Leafs get a 31-year-old right winger who played 31 games this season (4-5--9) and leaves with career marks of 324 goals, 347 assists and 671 points in 850 games and a club-record 1,450 penalty minutes. Curran and Franceschetti combined have 170 points in 758 career games.
"We didn't do this for the points," said Meehan. "It came to the point where his (Foligno's) role changed and it was unfair to keep him in a non-productive role of team captain. There had been a lot of talk about the leadership and direction of this team, and it wasn't going to go away."