LGS - After I wrote a column last week pondering the firing of Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier (Maybe it's time to let Regier go), I've received quite a response from readers here at LetsGoSabres.com. Some agreed with me while others suggested that Owner Tom Golisano and Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn were to blame.
I even was likened by one reader to Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News. And no, that wasn't a compliment (at least from the reader's angle).
Let me first say that Darcy Regier doesn't carry all the blame for this. In reading the aforementioned Gleason's column today, it was mentioned again how Quinn was approached with a deal from Chris Drury last year that the Sabres didn't accept. That is proof that Quinn shares in the blame, at least with the Drury negotiations, as Regier does - possibly more.
My approach was from a "real world" perspective though. In sports, you won't see the owner getting fired and you won't see a Larry Quinn-type getting fired often. It happens, but keep in mind that it was Golisano who brought Quinn back to this team and it was the founding family of the Sabres, the Knox family, who brought Quinn in to begin with. So Quinn has respect here, whether fans like it or not.
The general manager and the coach, like with all major professional sports, are responsible for the hockey department. The GM usually finds the talent, drafts the talent and signs players to contracts. The coach, in turn, grooms them into NHL players.
Lindy Ruff has fulfilled his end of the bargain and to an extent, Regier has fulfilled his.
The problems I have with Regier aren't new. The same reader who compared me to Gleason claimed I was just trying to find scapegoats at a time when the Sabres were struggling. I can honestly say that I wasn't looking for scapegoats and I'm still not. The issues I have with Regier aren't a few weeks old, or even a few years old. In fact, they go back several years into the days when Dominik Hasek manned the nets for the Sabres.
Take Michael Peca. I'm sure some Sabres fans have their opinions about him, but I thought he was a gritty player who was needed on this team. He was a leader on the ice, which earned him the "C." But because of a contract squabble, he was sent packing.
Then, this offseason, Peca expressed his desire to return to the Sabres. That speaks volumes about how much he loved this city and how much he loved played here. But apparently it was a one-way street. Darcy Regier, the same one who was responsible for sending Peca packing, didn't want any part of Peca: Part Deux.
Here's the only caveat I can provide to those of you who have e-mailed me saying that I should be blaming Quinn, Golisano, or both: Regier has been here for the last decade. Quinn, who is in his second go-around with the Sabres, left when the Knox family sold the team to the Rigas clan. Golisano has been the owner of the team since 2003. Also, if I do remember correctly, a lot of Sabres fans were calling for Regier and Ruff to be fired when Golisano took over.
Thus, due to Regier's long stay here with the Sabres, he has been involved in many deals. The Peca ordeal happened on Regier's watch. While he does take his orders from men like Quinn and Golisano on finances, it's Regier's job to do the negotiating and to work on deals with players. Case in point: Brian Campbell.
Remember that it was Regier, not Quinn or Golisano, who came forward and expressed his disappointment with Campbell's decision to cut off talks. That's because it was Regier doing the negotiating and the talking, just like it was Regier who able to lock Jochen Hecht down into a long-term deal.
While it's easy to point at the losses of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, that's really icing on the cake here. This has been a consistent practice for Regier during his tenure. No talks during the season and then wait until the offseason to make deals. By then, it's usually too late.
But on the subject of Briere and Drury, common sense suggests we could keep one of them with a long-term deal of $6 million or $7 million a year and still stay under our salary cap. It's hard to pick, but either one you choose, you have your captain. You have your leader. You have the face of your team.
But Regier didn't do that. And while Quinn and Golisano I'm sure had some type of role in it (i.e. Quinn's role in the Drury talks), it was Regier who will take the blame for the free agent failures in Buffalo. No one said that it was fair. But that's how it's going to be.
LGS SIDE NOTES
- Some people are thinking that play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret is taking a vacation to see what it would feel like to be retired. I'm not so sure. I remember when Harry Neale joined the broadcast team and Neale expressed hope that Jeanneret would stay as long as Neale stayed. That is definitely possible, but keep in mind that Rick is getting up there in age. He might want to spend some time with his family.
- I couldn't be more impressed with the play of Derek Roy and Daniel Paille. Roy provided an immediate spark when he scored three goals an added an assist in the 10-1 trouncing of the Atlanta Thrashers. Paille has been a model of consistency. His 10 goals are good for seventh on the team, but it's his plus/minus rating that shows his value. Paille's +11 rating leads the team.
- Looking around the league and hearing what other teams are seeking, I'm wondering what the Sabres would get in return for Maxim Afinogenov. It's clear that Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy are more effective with Drew Stafford on the right wing and Afinogenov, while healthy, was off his game. Maybe a fresh start in a new city would do him so good. And maybe, we could get something of value for him.
- The aforementioned Paille also holds another important place on the stat sheet. Paille is 5th in the NHL in shooting percentage, scoring on 19.6 percent of his shots.
- Despite the recent slump, Ryan Miller still is holding on to a career-best 2.53 goals against average (GAA).
- On an NHL note, Evgeni Malkin was chosen to replace Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Sidney Crosby in the All-Star lineup on Sunday. One notable addition to the All-Star was Scott Niedermayer. Niedermayer has only played in 17 games after pondering retirement from hockey.