The lack of activity by the club leaves little to write about, so, this will be a rant regarding the leader of the inactivity: Darcy Regier.
In my lifetime of being a Sabres fan, there have been a lot of highs, and a lot of lows. This, my friends, is one of the lowest points that I have ever witnessed in the history of the team. As a kid, there was the dominance of the Bruins over the Sabres for around 10 years, which finally ended with Brad May’s infamous ‘May Day’ goal. There were the tiffs surrounding GM John Muckler, Ted Nolan, and Dominik Hasek. The ‘No Goal’ loss to the Dallas Stars. The arrests during the Rigas ownership, and almost losing the team to another city. The invisible plague that overtook the defense in the 2006 playoff run. And…now.
“What’s he done wrong?” asked current owner Terry Pegula, when being questioned about current GM Darcy Regier. The proper question should have been, “What’s he done right?” Almost anyone, at any type of job, at any level, would not have lasted as long as Regier, when looking at his track record.
Yes, the Sabres went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999. Yet, that was not a team that was built by Regier. Yes, the Sabres were Cup contenders in 2006, but I consider that more luck than planning by Regier. Following the 2005 lockout, I find it hard to believe that Regier had predicted the ensuing league rule changes and direction, and assembled a team ahead of time built to win in those new conditions. Shortly thereafter, the team was unable to retain fan-favorites and team leaders Chris Drury and Danny Briere, and later dealt away top defenseman Brian Campbell.
The remaining ‘core’ assembled by Regier, in time, proved to be ‘soft,’ and was not very competitive in the evolving NHL atmosphere. You may be familiar with the names: Connolly, Roy, Gaustad, Vanek, Pominville, Afinogenov, Kotalik, Stafford, Hecht, MacArthur. These players had/have plenty of skill in their own right, but not necessarily much ‘battle’ in them. Regier has also never proven much in his often poor trade deadline acquisitions: Raffi Torres, Dominic Moore, Steve Bernier, Brad Boyes, Bob Corkum, Dainius Zubrus. Hard to find any fans rocking any jerseys with those names at First Niagara Center.
Of course, Regier has always had excuses in his tenure. Certain owners not willing to spend enough money, trade markets being weak, unforeseen injury bugs – run of the mill excuses. Sorry, but other GM’s deal with all of the same issues, and either fair well, or are told farewell.
Please excuse me if I am in the minority here, but I am VERY confused on the direction of the Buffalo Sabres. First, moneybags owner Terry Pegula buys the team, cries at his press conference and promises Stanley Cups, indicates that money is no option, and embarks on a number of moves to prove his word. The team goes out of its way to convince Robyn Regehr to waive a no-trade clause. The team goes out of its way to sign Christian Ehrhoff to a long-term deal. The team signs Ville Leino to a hefty contract. The team signs Tyler Myers to a long-term, expensive contract. The team makes substantial cosmetic upgrades to the locker room, and other amenities, in order to create and environment that would supposedly entice other league “stars” to want to come and play for Buffalo. In the midst of all this, Pegula is anointed a savior, and the fan-base, myself included, becomes ecstatic.
Only two and a half years later, and the team is a mess. Despite creating a new environment to allure star players, the Sabres own top star players, Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, hint at wanting to leave. Regehr is gone. Leino has rarely been in the lineup. Myers has been a rollercoaster. The team, at this point, seems hell-bent on creating a future roster through the draft, and avoiding making any quality acquistions and fielding a competitive roster. Fans were treated to a team half-full of AHL players at the end of last season.
If the new direction is a rebuild, why are Vanek and Miller still here? The time to trade them was before, or at, the draft. They lose trade value every day, especially in regards to Miller. Teams who needed a new goalie made their moves at the draft, or at the Free Agent Frenzy. If the direction is to retool the team, why did Regier not sign anyone during the frenzy?
If you are an optimist, than you can praise the Sabres recent draft all you want. For every Alexander Ovechkin drafted, there is an Alexandre Daigle. For every Thomas Vanek drafted, there is a Marek Zagrapan. We will not know the results of Regier’s draft for a few years. You may be excited about Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, and JT Compher now, but it was not that long ago that we were excited about the likes of Zagrapan, Luke Adam, TJ Brennan, Dennis Persson, Drew Schiestel, Zack Kassian, and Brayden McNabb.
Unless the team is, in fact, NOT attempting to be competitive in 2013-14, there is no reason why Regier hasn’t made a move towards free agents such as Damien Brunner, Peter Mueller, or Mikhail Grabovski. Not that I necessarily want any of these players on the roster, but it would be nice to know that Darcy Regier is alive, thinking, and in action. The current Sabres make-up is not going to be competitive, and it would not hurt to take a one-year flier on any of those guys.
Also, it is disparaging that potential future-star of the Sabres, Cody Hodgson, is still not re-signed. Do something Darcy. Show us that you are alive. The season ticket holders may be renewing their seats at a high percentage, but I do not want to go to games half-full of their other teams fans at every game again, once they resell the tickets to rival fans.