Buffalo Sabres Fans, Prepare To Suffer

Disappointed. That was my initial reaction immediately after watching the first 5 rounds of the NHL Draft on Sunday.

Back on April 29th, Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier said that in the quest for a Stanley Cup, that “It may require some suffering” from the Sabres fanbase. I guess that the optimist in me was hoping that this was merely a smokescreen, because I was certainly hoping for more from Buffalo on draft day. I had already resigned myself to knowing that the Sabres would be rebuilding, yet I was hopeful for a quicker path, rather than a lengthy one.

With excellent trading chips sitting in the likes of Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller, an inconsistenly skilled Drew Stafford, a small yet talented Tyler Ennis, a lost but still young prospect in Luke Adam, and a handful of extra defensive prospects to work with, I held hopes that Regier would do some wheeling and dealing to obtain a potential future franchise cornerstone in either Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, or Sasha Barkov. With no moves made as the Sabres came to the plate with the 8th pick, the team was in luck – Valeri Nichushkin was still on the board!

Yes, I was fully aware of the risk with taking Nichushkin. He was demanding immediate NHL minutes, or else he would shuffle off back to the KHL. With the Sabres in rebuild mode, and spots being filled by AHLers at the end of last season, this seemed like a request that Buffalo could accommodate. The potential reward with Nichushkin is very high; who wouldn’t want the next Evgeni Malkin on their team? Instead, the Sabres went up and selected Rasmus Ristolainen.

My initial shock quickly subsided when I remembered that this is DARCY REGIER that we are talking about. A man who is all about saving and preserving his own job. The safe pick was the way to go here, if you are Regier. I only became more enraged later on after Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford revealed that he offered the 5th pick to Regier for the 8th pick and Sekera. Buffalo could have had their choice of Sean Monahan, Darnell Nurse, or Elias Lindholm.

Don’t get me wrong Sabres fans. I am fine with the pick of Ristolainen. The team did great in the draft as a whole. Ristolainen could be the next Chris Pronger. Nikita Zadorov could be a bigger, meaner version of Niklas Kronwall / Darius Kasparaitis. JT Compher could be a version of Ryan Callahan. Connor Hurley and Justin Bailey are also hard-working forwards, although only about 20% of 2nd round picks ever sniff the NHL. I would have liked to see the Sabres add Zach Fucale, despite having Matt Hackett, Andrey Makarov, and Linus Ullmark in the goaltending system. Hey, its an important position.

My pain lies in the long process ahead. With the Sabres looking to build from the backend first, this looks like it will take time. Defensemen take longer to develop than forwards, most do not seem to hit their stride until around 25. We know this from watching Tyler Myers. Aside from that, most of the forwards that the Sabres just selected are just entering college, so they will not be available for 2-4 years.

With Regier looking at defense-first, and gritty forwards, I am being reminded of his former 1999 Sabres make-up, only without one of the greatest goalies of all-time backing it. Asking the fans to suffer for another 3-5 years hurts. Have we not been through enough already?

First, we were told that moneybags owner Terry Pegula would try and buy championships, and that failed. Now, we are being told to wait while the team builds through the draft instead? Is there not a happy medium? Prepare to suffer, Sabres fans, as Darcy Regier looks to do whatever it takes to extend his reign as Buffalo GM, with safe draft picks and long player developments. He was not lying back on April 29th.


Tags: Buffalo Sabres NHL Nhl Draft Sabres

  • 40plusyearsfrustration

    I will always be a Sabres fan, yet with darla running things, it will always be tempting to want to follow a real winner. A team with someone who “ACTUALLY” knows hockey. Guess we will suffer. So bad that I may even start paying attention to the NBA again. SAD!!!
    As for hockey heaven; I wish those that Pegula cried over would sack up and let him know his 2 hand picked men (black and darla) have made his team a laughing stock. I live out of state and its amazing how much others joke about the Sabres and pretty much feel most of their games against us will be wins. As the record shows.
    Alas, c’mon football season. Heck, even NASCAR seems appealing.

    • davidmuscalo

      I also live out of state and, I too, suffer from the sarcastic comments of others.

    • Andrew

      I take it that you aren’t excited about Jamie McBain?

  • davidmuscalo

    Regier’s true talent is to mesmerizing owners. He uses circumlocution better than almost anyone. He is and empty suit with a glib approach that masks his insecurity and incompetence. In Buffalo, it has worked for a decade and a half. I am resigned to supporting a mediocre team without a first class management organization. As with Dante’s Inferno, there should be a sign over each entry at First Niagara: “Those who enter, abandon all hope.”

    • Andrew

      DR definitely has some special powers when it comes to job retention, that most us mere mortals lack.

  • wolfdoctor

    “First, we were told that moneybags owner Terry Pegula would try and buy championships, and that failed.”

    Didn’t give him long did you?

    • Andrew

      I’m not the one that pulled the plug on his original idea.

      No one said that the Sabres couldn’t rebuild and retool at the same time, other than those in charge.

  • Jes


    what has darcy been thinking we have been doing since he joined the sabres? it’s been nothing but suffering. Except those 2 seasons after the lockout where he lucked out considerably with our seasons with Briere and Drury in the New NHL. He has never made the “IT” move.. But honestly previous owners were to blame for those years.
    But in al fairness Darcy has done great under new owner, Terry Pegula. The only bad thing was giving Leino that contract, and giving Myers a ridiculously front loaded contract. Other than that he brought in Grigorenko, Armia, Makarov Pysyk, McCabe, Ristolainen, Zadorov, and Kassian are all the notables that he has drafted since Pegula has taken over. Through trade he has acquired Regher, Girgensons, McBain, Compher, Hodgson, Sulzer, Larsson, Bailey, Ott, Pardy and Hackett. They lost only IMO Pominville, Roy, Butler, Gragnani, Kassian, and Gaustad.

    Probably missing a few on the losing side?
    But honestly that’s a pretty good record since Pegula has taken over. I believe owners of past have held Darcy back. But I also believe he has burned many bridges with other GM’s in the league suggesting why he rarely makes many moves.

    • Andrew

      Darcy may have made moves recently, but we will not know the outcome of most of those moves for a few years.

      He is effectively making moves that secure his job longer.

      Ever wonder why you never see a team like Detroit in “rebuild mode,” but this is already Darcy’s 3rd in his tenure?

  • Patrick Helper

    Nice post Andrew! I’m going to post it on the @tmmots (too many men on the site) twitter page! Well done.

    • Andrew

      Thanks for the kind words. The additional visibility is much appreciated!