Sabres GM Darcy Regier was on WGR yesterday evening filling some time during the dog days of summer.
It's been a pretty slow off-season, with the Sabres making two moves, signing big John Scott and trading center Derek Roy to Dallas for LW Steve Ott and D Adam Pardy, the latter actually being more of a significant move than one would think.
But the "big" thing going on right now for the team is their development camp. The annual gathering of youngins kicked off at HSBC Arena on Monday and will go through Thursday night.
Of significance in that area was the fact that it was moved from Niagara University and the fact that there will be a $10 admission for the blue and gold scrimmage on Thursday night.
Also of note is that the youngins have been getting an early moring wake up call by a group of Navy SEALS, who were putting them through their own workout designed to train these kids "from the neck up."
All of this subject matter could probably take up the whole 20 minute segment on Mike Schopp and the Bulldog. Maybe if Bulldog was in studio instead of on vacation, the focus of the following interview may have remained upon the specifics of what the team was doing at this moment, and not what seemed to be Schoppsie's thoughts and/or personal agenda(s.)
Although they did spend time on the youngins, there was not enough talk on the other subject because the host needed to talk about certain things, most notably his ill-conceived notion that, because free agent Alexander Semin has similar numbers to Sabres LW Thomas Vanek, Semin should garner serious consideration for the Sabres who are in need of scoring.
Another misguided notion is that because Brad Boyes gave a back-hand to Head Coach Lindy Ruff upon his leaving Buffalo, there is dissension in the locker room with Ruff and his methods being the root problem. Schoppsie has been on this kick for years now and seems to want him out the door.
So Regier is on the phone with Schoppsie, having earlier finished watching the youngins at camp, making and/or taking phone calls from other GM's and doing whatever GM's do at this time of year.
While listening to the interview, I couldn't help but think that there was a lot behind what he was saying while answering questions from the host.
So, this is my interpretation of what Regier really meant:
Schopp--"You've got the rookies in, who stands out?"
Regier--"Oh, I think the "rookies" is a fairly diverse group because it takes into account third-year pros and young guys who were drafted this year so it was a pretty good mix."
***What Regier really meant--Come on, Mike, "rookies?" Sh!t. OK. I'll explain. Sigh!
Schopp--"Thank you for expanding on that 'cause I keep calling it rookies. On [Mikhail] Grigorenko or any of the guys in the second group, right now watching them this week, are you thinking about this NHL season with that in mind? Are there things about Grigorenko, say, that you are looking for to better get a feel for, make a call on whether or not you think he'll be on the team?"
Regier--"You get a little further down the road on the reads on these players with this group. I mentioned [Joel] Armia, a year makes a big difference, they're more comfortable, more mature physically, more mature mentally. And so you kind of trend it. It's impossible not to think about your hockey club this fall.
***What Regier really meant--Ummmm...really? Mike? Of course we're seeing how this all fits in. Ugggh. Let me explain. We have players--youngin's--that we have in the organization. It's a process. We follow their progress and project where they'll fit in the organization. Do I want Grigorenko to come in and start the season with the Sabres? What team wouldn't want that from their first round selection? But, should you stock up on Grigorekno rookie cards? I can't say at this point.
Schopp--"Surely the vast majority of fans listening are wondering just where things stand with the off season be it free agents or trades. I might like to ask you about the Roy trade, it certainly was a big deal, but what does the future look like what can you tell us about how much more work you have to do?"
Regier--"Well I'm still speaking to teams about players. That's a process that's been moving slowly and it's very uncertain. I'll continue to do that as weighed against 'What's the price of making a move?' whether it's a player that might be available. There's very few free agents left out there on the marketplace that we're interested in."
***What Regier really said--I wish you'd ask me about Roy. Medialand has been pining for one of "the core" to be moved. Roy was always at the top of the list. How come you didn't ask me about that trade?
Schopp--"Can you tell us Darcy if Shane Doan is one of those players that you've reached out to?"
Regier--"I have reached out to his agent. That much I'm prepared to say. That's gonna play out with respect to the Phoenix situation, with respect to a lot of interest from a lot of other teams and it will come down to ultimately what Doan wants to do for him and his family."
***What Regier really said--Yeah, we're talking to teams. I appreciate you not wasting my time bringing up Bobby Ryan and/or Rick Nash and/or Paul Stastny. Wouldn't be able to say anything. And, yeah, I talked to Doan's agent. There's a lot of teams interested in him and we're probably way down the list and it'll cost a small fortune to bring him in. But, we're trying. Gee, Mike, bring up the Roy trade, will ya?
Schopp--"Well, there's dollars, of course, and we all know in every sport, any year, dollars are the biggest factor for any free agent. How is it going with trying to represent Buffalo as a destination? Do you feel you're on the right side of that, so to speak"
Regier--"I am. We are. It has changed and it's a lot better. I think especially over the last year, the recognition of our new ownership and what Terry [Pegula] is prepared to do with this hockey club and with the community, there's a much greater awareness in the marketplace. But we also see a lot of other factors coming into play.
***What Regier really meant--(Regier perks up) Awesome question, now i get the chance to do some PR work, which I really like...Uh, oh. What's next? That was a bit too easy. Hmmmm.
Schopp--"I know better than to ask you about Rick Nash, but I'd like to use him for a question. He reportedly had a list of teams and Buffalo's not on it. My attitude is, not that I really want him, but when I hear a list of teams that has all the teams around us, and not us, that's when I get--kinda how I was like with women a long time ago--that's when I get interested. Does that put you off at all, like what's wrong with us?"
Regier--(laughs) "I veiw it in the light that they don't know our community well enough. we have to figure out a way to help them get to know our community and not only our community, but our team, our ownership, our management, our coaching, our players. And once they understand that, Buffalo will be on their list."
***What Regier really meant--Yeah. How come we never get the "hottie?" Or are even noticed by her. I just don't understand. We're good guys, we've got all this stuff, and now as a team, we're rich. I just don't understand why they're not interested in us. We're just as good as anyone else. Wait a second. You really don't want Rick Nash as a hockey player?
Schopp--"Darcy, what about Alexander Semin, I've been talking a lot about him today, could you tell us if you have interest in him?"
Regier--"I have not spoken with his agent and at this time we have not shown interest in him."
***What Regier really meant--Hold it. Hold it. Where in the hell did that come from? Semin? Mike, you're not interested in Nash, but you're talking about Semin? Really? I really can't recall anyone "talking a lot about him." Hell, we talked about Ilya Kovalchuk a while back, but never talked "a lot about him."
Schopp--"OK. I'm working off of this idea that there's a bias against him because of him being Russian. It's something we've talked about a lot this off season. Can you speak at all about just how much credibility there is in the idea that there's an issue with Russian players. What's the real truth right now in the league with Russian players and their reputation?"
Regier--"No. I think to the extent that there is an aversion towards Russian players, it's largely based upon, what I often call 'the flight syndrome.' From the fear that they're going to go back to the KHL and if you're going to lose a great asset. We have a history of having great Russian players. I don't think the Alex Semin situation, with respect to us, isn't about him being Russian."
Schopp--"I must ask you, though, what is the reason against pursuing him?"
Regier--(chuckles) "Well. It's other issues. He obviously has tremendous skill and ability. I'm not going to get into it on this call, but there are reasons we're not interested"
***What Regier really meant--Semin? (snicker, snicker) Really? Haven't you been paying attention? Had you asked me about the Roy for [Steve] Ott trade, or if you'd read about it, you'd have your answer. Semin to Buffalo? In a word....uhhhhhhhhh...no. We're not interested, and it seems as if the entire league is not inerested. Why do you want to push it? Are we shunning Semin because he's Russian? Umm...no, we've had pretty good success with Russian-born players. Your idea is being shot down not because of the Russian factor, but because he's not a good fit for the type of team we're building. Is this a question the fans want answered? I don't think so. I think most fans would balk at Semin talk. Why you wanna press the issue? We're not interested in him. We just traded Roy so that the team, as a whole, is tougher to play against. It's not just about stats. Get it through your head, Semin in Buffalo is not a good idea no matter how much you, Mike, may think it is.
Schopp--"How 'bout this, Darcy? Two things I've been talking about that I'd like to get your reaction to. One is, the conversation has been a lot about Lindy Ruff since the off season because of comments made by players or implications made by players. Derek Roy and public criticism, Thomas Vanek says, 'Ahhh, I'm used to it,' Brad Boyes wants coaches who will say hello to him as he arrives at work. Are you concerned at all about Ruff's image?
Regier--"We have an expression around here, when things go wrong, or don't go the way you want them to, you have to blame somebody. And I think there are few people more convenient to blame then head coaches. Most recently I saw an article in the Detroit paper about [a] free agent that didn't come to Detroit. And the writer asked Ken Holland who's the General Manager in Detroit if it was because Mike Babcock was too tough on the guys. Ken acknowledged that he had heard that. And I say that because I think there's a lot more of that now. I think the coaches take the brunt of it. I think it's unfair. And in this case I think it's unfair as well. Lindy is an elite coach and continues to get better. I think the expectations put on the club and individuals, the performance of the team and the individuals unfortunately reflects criticism."
***What Regier really meant--From what I've gathered, it's a subject you keep bringing up. It's your conversation, one you force feed to your listeners. Why do you think Ruff is an institution around here? To bring him down? He's a coach. And a damn good one. He's coach I like. A coach the owner likes. He's here, for now. Geezus, at least Bucky had the balls to come out and say that the team should move on from Ruff. If you think Lindy is the problem and think that he's a determent to team chemistry and ultimately a determent to winning, say so. But to answer your question. Some players are big wussies. They don't look at themselves for failures, they're always looking to blame someone else and the easiest guy to blame is the coach. Hell, even in Detroit that happens. Fact is, in Buffalo two of those type players are no longer on the team. Homie ain't playin' that anymore.
Schopp--"I'm just playing that out one step further. I might agree with you to, but at the same time, at a certain point, if that is the direction of the league I would think that at some point you'd have to face it. And I'm assuming you'd have to agree with that, although you might not agree with every trend in the league, but when they happen you gotta think about them."
Regier--"When things go well, I'll give you an example, when you win, there are way fewer bumps and bruises and way fewer players in the medical room then there are when you lose. If you're winning, players are much less likely to complain, coaches are less likely, general managers are less likely than if you lose. So part of it really does come from a season with high expectations and we came up short."
***What Regier really meant--Look, Mike if you want to call it a trend, fine. Whatever floats your boat. Ultimately it's up to the players. If you've noticed over the past few years, and I'll take the blame for it, everything's hunky dory when we're winning and things are easy. When we're losing, some of our players don't seem to take responsibility and start whining, although I'm surprised it took so long with some of them. It's the type of team I built with the types of players that made up our "core." When the going got tough on the ice, they left. Well, we made sure a couple of those players are no longer on the team. I mean, we traded Derek Roy for Steve Ott, two totally different players. For goddsakes, what do you want, Mike? Oh, that's right. You want Ruff gone, in so many words. By the way, I don't know who put that, "Darcy Regier on players being critical of Ruff and more" title for access to this interview, but that smacks of you and your mission.
Schopp--"The second one of these things that I've been talking a lot about, I think, with due respect, the way that the Sabres have changed, and that the image of the Sabres has changed, I like most fans, almost all fans, I'm sure, am appreciative and impressed. But I think, as I've said many times, there is still yet to be a signature move toward having the Stanley Cup as our sole reason for existence here. I think, in sports, when that's your mantra, at some point you trade futures for a guy in the present that can go win for you. Am I wrong with that? Does that hold water?
Regier--"I think it's part of what you need to consider and work on and I can tell you we are considering it and are working on it. But if I look at the most recent Stanley Cup champions, I think in terms of [Anze] Kopitar and Dustin Brown and to your point [Mike] Richards and [Jeff] Carter on the second line and [Drew] Doughty on defense is a draft [pick]...my point is Kopitar and Brown are draft picks, Doughty's a draft pick, Jonathan Quick's a draft pick. They did add with Carter and Richards, but in large part their go-to guys came to them via the draft. It's still going to be about drafting and developing your players and then adding to them and if it happens to be a signature player that gets you over, great, but it might be a Richards and Carter. I can tell you we're doing the work to do that. To the extent it hasn't happened it isn't due to lack of effort, the efforts will continue."
***What Regier really meant--The NY Yankees, who you are familiar with, have assets that they've drafted and continue to draft. If they cannot get what they need on the open market, they trade assets. But their cupboard is filled with talent. Many of their core is signed long-term so they're bringing in pieces. The Los Angeles Kings spent years near the bottom of the league and built their team through the draft. They acquired enough young talent to able to move a few of them for pieces like Richards and Carter. Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jack Johnson are all real good youngin's. But they were traded because the Kings already had a large, homegrown talent pool that they built with. Sekera, Adam and Ellis are not that attractive, ya dig? And the talent pool isn't as deep, save for our defensemen. You also need to look at the Richards/Carter thing as not so much the trade for a superstar(s) but a trade for players that will fill the void. You also need to find a team with a player that will fill the void and is willing to make a deal. Right now we have assets (but not as much as we'd like) and we have needs. We're looking into strengthening the team, but other things must fall into place. Y'all are fixated upon superstars as saviors, a "damsel in distress" syndrome that permeates the entire Buffalo fan base because of the lack of a championship. We're building and piecing things together and we're not gonna mortgage anything for a player that's not markedly more promising than what we already have. So hold on to your horses. Ummm...Do you want to hear about the Roy for Ott trade?