Darcy Regier:

Weathering The Storm

What in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened against the Pittsburgh Penguins? How can a team completely fall apart like that? We’re not going to make the playoffs with a team like this! We should trade Miller, Stafford and Roy, fire Regier and Ruff, burn the city to the ground and start over from scratch!

Ok, I’m overdoing it a bit. But it’s still pretty chaotic with all the injuries. Heck, even Thomas Vanek didn’t practice on Monday, sending tendrils of fear all through Sabres Nation. It’s been bad, and many are calling for heads to roll, for players to be traded, for Ruff to be fired… and worse. Wow.

A big part of the problem may be that we have a lot of history and buildup with the current team. Expectations were high even before Terry Pegula bought the team. Then he came in raised the bar even higher and said, “We’re going to hit this mark”.

Yeah, these Sabres are all over the map with their play, but that’s to be expected when your entire team consists of the entire roster of your minor league team, minus perhaps a goalie. When Lindy Ruff was asked about getting back to consistency he responded thusly:

“I don’t think you can talk about that until you get your team back,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’re looking at a line out there of [Evgeni] Malkin and [Chris] Kunitz, and I’ve got [Zack] Kassian, [Paul] Szczechura and Luke Adam on the ice. You’re asking a lot out of the kids, and they’ve played hard for us. But we need some bodies back.” (Source – Buffalo News)

On top of the injuries, another thing that really makes it hard for us fans right now is that we don’t know what we’ve got in this team. Unlike say, the Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings, we cannot unequivocally say we’re going to make the playoffs and be a real threat to go deep and win the Stanley Cup. And unlike the Columbus Bluejackets or New York Islanders we are not totally out of it and looking just to rebuild over the next year or two. No, the Sabres are… well, a pretty talented but young team with a lot of injuries.

And sure, there are a lot of negatives going on right now that we can point to as validation for hitting the panic button. For example, Ryan Miller’s stats are horrible. He has a GAA of 3.12, good for 37th in the NHL, with a save percentage of .902 (32nd in the league.) We also let a guy named Sneep score against us in his very first NHL game! Sneep! I’m sure he has a 1st name but I’d like to pretend otherwise. Sounds like a name from some children’s book. It is, you say?

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The Sabres saw a Sneep. It lulled them to sleep. They barely even made a peep. They were in much too deep. (Dr. Seuss, I'm not.)

So with everything going crazy right now, some might point out the example of the Philadelphia Flyers who made some moves in the offseason that seemed insane at the time. But so far, trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards has turned out pretty well for them. It feels good to hit the “detonate nukes” button. (It’s such a pretty, shiny, red button.) It’s easy to place the blame on one or two guys and just get rid of them.

It’s hard to not press the button.

But I don’t think we need to do that. Nor is it time to do so … yet. Now, I’m not trying to look at things through rose-colored glasses or tell you that everything is going to be just peachy (or be preachy). I’m just saying that Ted Black and crew deserve some time before we rush into destroying things that the Sabres have taken years to build. Shouldn’t Regier and Ruff get at least one full season under the new ownership to see what they can do? Haven’t they earned that? Same goes for the players.

Like Lindy Ruff teaches, perhaps we shouldn’t get too high or too low. Maybe we should just enjoy the season as it unfolds and take the long view. We’ll have some amazing hockey and some crap games as well. As the season progresses, the Sabres will hopefully gain more chemistry and consistency.

With that should come wins and a playoff spot. And if the younger guys’ streak of nastiness can mesh with the cores scoring ability? Come playoff time they could be downright dangerous. We just need to weather this storm for a while.

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So No Richards? That’s OK.

5

Now that the Brad Richards frenzy is over, we can calmly and cooly look back at it. (I hope?)

The Sabres didn’t want to pay (or perhaps overpay depending on your opinion) the money it would’ve taken to sign Richards. They knew roughly what he would command in the market and had their backup plans.

So no Richards.

 So No Richards? Thats OK.

Do we really want Richards anyway? He already won a Cup so how hungry can he be for another? And he besmirched the Cup with a crustacean. Everyone knows the only food that should go in there is chicken wings.

A simple text and an innocuous one, it turned out. For those unfamiliar with the line, one of the princesses of the Pegula dynasty, Jessie Pegula, tweeted the words “so no richards”. The tweet was quickly deleted and @jlpegula said it was a butt tweet. Ok, sure. No one was buying it, but she did her best to cover for what could potentially have interfered with signing the biggest name free agent in this year’s market.

I for one thought it was cute and wouldn’t have really changed anything. She had inside information yet the deal wasn’t going through at that point.

But was the deal for Richards really ever going to go through at all? After the smoke cleared, another report came out that Pegula and Regier didn’t go up to Mississauga to visit Richards and his agent after all.

“We had plans to go up to Mississauga to meet with him,” Regier said. “As the day progressed and even with the number of clubs that were in line to speak with Newport Sports, we really got into a time pressure situation where we had to make a decision. We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt that it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player like him to slip by us.

It doesn’t sound like the Sabres really wanted Richards that badly after all. Actually sounds like they wanted Ville Leino more and they went for it.

 So No Richards? Thats OK.

Richards also risked taking the Cup for a ride on a jet ski. Well, actually that's pretty cool. After all, it had a life jacket on.

There are a couple things I take away from this.

One is that Richards is 31 and has concussion history. Richards had success in Tampa Bay, even winning a cup but that was with a stacked team. In the last 4 years with the Dallas Stars, his team has made the playoffs only one time, although they did make it to the 3rd round that year. Richards is called a “point a game” guy, but look at his plus-minus (click to embiggen):

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Only during one year, Tampa Bay’s Cup victory, did Richards post better than a +3. Darcy’s mamma didn’t raise no dummy. He knew the Sabres could spend their money much more effectively.

The other takeaway is this: the Sabres aren’t going to be completely honest with the public. Even in this amazing new Pegula era, we can’t expect complete transparency and honesty. They have to play games with other teams. Disinformation, confusion, misdirection… it’s the art of war and every other team is the Sabres enemy. If we can use tactics to get other teams to pay more for free agents, we’ll do it.

So the Sabres probably weren’t really even in the Richards race to begin with. Even if they were, Richards could join the growing line of expensive Rangers free agents that just haven’t panned out. He may even look a bit like (dare I say his name) Timmeh.

So no Richards?

Nope, and that’s just fine.

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Sabres’ Third Pick, Colin Jacobs: Yet Another Steal

“Oh! Someone call a cop! This guy just robbed eeEEEeeverybody!”

When Darcy Regier plucked Colin Jacobs in the 4th round, I could hear Rick Jeanneret screaming that in the back of my head.

Just like Armia and Catenacci before him, Jacobs went through a profound draft day slide. It was another no-brainer pick for Darcy and his staff. To put it into perspective: “The Hockey News” had Jacobs as their 45th overall best prospect. The venerable International Scouting Services ranked him 26th overall. The Sabres picked him with the 107th selection.

It’s not just about those numbers, either. The Dallas Morning News’ “HS Game Time” had some great things to say about this kid in an article posted back on December 26 of 2010:

Jacobs played two games for the T-Birds closing out the 2008-09 season then moved to the Seattle area for ’09-10. Playing on a young team, he collected 13 goals and 26 points in 72 games. Short of this season’s midpoint, he already has more goals and points (15 and 28). He notched his first WHL hat trick a few weeks ago, and a backhanded goal that he scored while facing away from the net is a Youtube favorite.

T-Birds coach Rob Sumner said he emphasized putting pucks on the net however possible that night.

“I guess that was a little bit of a reward for following the game plan closely,” Sumner said. “He’s had more discipline in his game this year. He’s taken a huge step in understanding the defensive aspect of the game. I think he’s going to be a physical, aggressive player, but I think there’s a time and place for that.”

Draft prognosticators tab him as a second-round pick in next summer’s NHL draft with an outside chance of going in the first round.

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The third member of the Draft Day Heist.

As for the rest of his game, well, you can find all the information you need and more by heading on over to SabresProspects.com. Perhaps the best part of Kevin Baker’s write-up there is actually where he has him placed on the Prospect Depth Chart – 3rd overall at the center position, behind only Dan Catenacci and Kevin Sundher.

At 6-2 and 204 pounds, Jacobs is that big, powerful, talented center that Sabres fans were hoping for in the 1st round.

They just had to wait an extra day, and a few more rounds.

Who says Darcy can’t draft?

Go Sabres.

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Comparing the Sabres to The Lightning

For an NHL organization to excel and win the Stanley Cup, it must start at the very top of the organization. In that, the Sabres have been pretty fortunate with ownership, aside of course from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The Sabres rarely missed the playoffs under the ownership of Seymour Knox and say what you want about Golisano, but he single-handedly kept the Sabres in Buffalo. Plus, during Golisano’s stewardship, the Sabres made it to two consecutive conference finals just after a tumultuous lockout year.

And now, we have the Pegula era.

It’s been a heartwarming start to the new era, and I think most Sabres fans would lift their caps to Terry Pegula (I just had to work a bad hat company pun in there).

To see how well (or poorly) the Sabres may do, we should look to a team that has done something similar recently. The Tampa Bay Lightning were bought last year by Jeff Vinik, who has completely overhauled the franchise, bringing in new general manager Steve Yzerman and new coach Guy Boucher.

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That looks like fun! Let's do that.

As should be the case for the Sabres, everyone in the Lightning organization has bought in to what they’re doing. From an article at NHL.com talks about the Lightning’s changes:

Any system, any role for a player starts with acceptance, and the guys in the Lightning dressing room almost sound like robots with the way they praise “Mr. Vinik” and “Mr. Yzerman” for how they laid the groundwork before the season even started.

When Boucher asks the players to tweak something or try something different, they do it. When Yzerman makes a personnel move, the players believe he has made the team better.

The Sabres seemed to buy in to Pegula right from the get-go. And the Sabres had the advantage of a smoother transition as they didn’t need to learn how to play a new system. Ruff and Regier stayed in place; probably a wise move by Pegula but time will tell.

Tampa Bay, unlike Buffalo, didn’t have a great goaltender. They picked up 41 year old Dwayne Roloson who is leading the playoffs in goals against at 2.17/game. The Sabres, of course have an all-star in Ryan Miller and a steady backup in young Jhonas Enroth.

The other thing Tampa Bay needed to complete their transformation? A veteran number 1 defenseman:

“We needed somebody that was going to be able to log a lot of minutes, have the speed to play against top lines that are fast, have the size to play against bigger lines, be able to play in the power play and the penalty kill and have leadership” Boucher said. “So if you put that down as a shopping list, that’s a pretty big shopping list.”

A big shopping list, indeed, and something the Sabres need as well. You can talk about how well the young defenseman are maturing, and they are, but it may not be happening fast enough. Will they be ready by playoff time next year? Maybe. Maybe not. Acquiring a big-time, hard-hitting, veteran blue liner  is something the Sabres will no doubt look at this offseason.

Of course you can add any players you want and if they don’t gel, you have nothing. From Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin:

“From what I’ve seen from the past few years, this year the biggest thing has been the structure of everything — the organization, the team and then the system on the ice. It has really come together this year, and all around everyone knows their role, how to act in every situation and how to play.”

Judging from the Sabres 2nd half finish, they came together as a team very well. The young core should mesh even further in the offseason. Hopefully Brad Boyes will feel more comfortable and find his role in the Sabres offense. The young guys have gotten a taste of the playoffs and by the time next spring rolls around should be prepared to do much better.

By all accounts, the Sabres seem to be pretty solid and Terry Pegula has the ship sailing in the right direction. Now it’s up to Regier to add a just a few more critical pieces.

Go Sabres. Nope can’t use that, it’s Scott’s signoff.

Let’s go Buffalo! Nah, too cheesy and doesn’t translate well to text.

Attaboy, Darcy! Umm… in  a word, no.

It’s their rink, it’s their ice, and it’s their &%$in town. But tonight we got our fans with us! Too obscure?

All hail Pegula!

You know what, I’ll just quit typing and end the post like that.

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