Monday, January 21, 2013

Darcy Regier had himself a pretty good weekend

On Saturday, Terry Pegula announced that the Sabres and GM Darcy Regier had reached an agreement on a contract extension.

According to Pegula they'd "had this agreement for quite some time."

Nothing could rile the fan base more than the timing of it. It was announced during a presser on Saturday the day before the season opener as the team apologized for its part in the lockout.

Most look at the Sabres as a failure under Regier.They're are coming off of a non-playoff season, their third in the last five years and sixth in the last ten, while not getting out of the first round since 2007.

Some troubling aspects of the last five seasons under Regier include a lack of identity for the team, lack of intestinal fortitude and a group of players who've been considered easy to play against.

Probably the most troubling issue for many fans is Regier being joined at the hip with Head Coach Lindy Ruff. He has said time and again that as long as he's the GM of the team, his coach will be Ruff.

So why would Pegula want to keep his GM?

One would think it was because of Regier's performance in the roughly two years since Pegula took the reigns of the team.

During that time the Sabres have made the playoff once and missed once. Not bad. They lost in the first round to the Flyers in seven games after a mad dash to the playoffs in 2010/11 and made an ill-fated run last year last year after going through a troubling year.

But most importantly, Regier seems to be getting the job done in fashioning a team that the Pegula and Co. seem to want.

Regier has pulled off a series of trades that, it would seem, ultimately convinced Pegula that he is his guy.

He traded for defenseman Robyn Regehr at the 2011 draft and traded for the rights to Christian Ehrhoff that same off-season. Both, especially Ehrhoff, were players coveted by the organization.

Regier also traded for C, Cody Hodgson in a move that bolstered their roster for the 2012 season yet did not mortgage the future. At the same trade deadline he was somehow able to land a first round pick for fourth-line center, Paul Gaustad.

He also traded much-maligned, "core" player Derek Roy for gritty Steve Ott and depth defenseman, Adam Pardy last off-season.

With four picks in the 2012 draft (the additional second-rounder coming in the Regehr trade) the team was able to draft two highly touted prospects--C, Mikhail Grigorenko and C, Zemgus Girgensons.

In a very shrewd move, the Sabres used their own second-round pick in the draft coupled with the pick they received in the Gaustad trade (#21-overall, Nashville) to move up to #14 (Calgary's pick) and draft Girgensons. Post-draft reviews of the 2012 draft for the Sabres had many looking at Grigorenko and Girgensons as eventually their top-two centers for years to come. In addition, that same draft produced the captain of the gold medal-winning US Junior squad this year--D, Jake McCabe (#44 overall)

In Pegula's eyes, based upon the work done since he took over the team, Regier is someone who is indeed "talented."

During the presser, Pegula said that he approached Regier concerning the extension. He seems to like working with Regier, saying that "we have great communication in the hockey department, no egos, everyone's pulling in the same direction and it's a very good situation." He also mentioned "the creativity, looking for players--drafting, free agents or whatever" in addressing what goes on "behind the curtains."

The "painting" that Pegula says he and his hockey department are working on was on display Sunday in the 2013 season opener. Two of Regier's acquisitions contributed to their 5-2 win over Philly as both Ott and Hodgson scored for the team and both were named stars of the game--Ott #2, an Hodgson #3.

In addition, 2012 first-round draft pick Grigorenko was on the team in his first NHL game. The 18 yr. old is said to be on a five-game tryout, but there's a chance he sticks with the club.

Regier, like every other GM, is at the beck and call of his owner. It's his job to craft a team in the image of his owner. He did that under former boss Tom Golisano's philosophies and he's doing it again.

The Sabres, and the work that Regier did during the previous regimes, does not exist in the eyes of Pegula. Regier's tenure as his GM for him began February 22, 2011 when Pegula took over the team.

It's still too early to tell what will transpire over the course of this season, but Regier couldn't ask for a better weekend to kick off the 2013 season.


Some notes on the game yesterday:

--I've never heard, nor ever plan on hearing again, the words "Thomas Vanek" and "burst of speed" in the same sentence. After Vanek hit the blueline for a semi-breakaway, one of the commentators used that phrase. Maybe it was because the whole leauge isn't up to speed and the Flyers were on a back-to-back but a "burst of speed" from Vanek?

--The Sabres "toughness" still looks eerily familiar to past seasons. Flyer Scott Hartnell ran Jason Pominville from behind and, once again, no one on the ice came to his defense. One shouldn't expect Vanek or Hodgson to come to the defense of a teammate, but Tyler Myers was on the ice and he wussed out. Didn't he say he wanted to be tougher this season?

--Steve Ott skated with a purpose every second of every shift--bent over, legs pumping, always moving forward. Tyler Ennis skates that way. So does Marcus Foligno. The rest? They could should take some notes.

--Jason Pominville is the best all-around player on the team.

--Jochen Hecht will be extremely useful in his fourth-line center role, and, except as a temporary fill-in on a higher line, he needs to stay right there.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (l) caught
a punch for the Sabres Drew Stafford
in a 2008 preseason game
at Columbus
 --When Drew Stafford dropped the gloves with Hartnell in defense of his teammate, it wasn't the first time he's done that. Ottawa punk Chris Neil elbowed Chris Drury with a cheap shot back in 2007 and Stafford immediately came to his defense. Staff isn't the greatest pugilist, but he can fight--he bloodied Ole-Kristian Tollefsen a few years back in a preseason game vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. And in his fight with Hartnell, he showed he could take a punch and remain on his skates. His locker, by the way, is next to noted NHL heavyweight, John Scott.

--Defenseman Robyn Regehr had a rough game. He got called for a couple of tripping penalties and got turned around once. But he also had a couple of good breakups on Philly scoring chances. The jury's still out on whether the veteran defenseman has lost a step, may be in serious decline or is simply an old heavy-Chevy that will take a little while to warm up.

--Mikhail Grigorenko got his first taste of NHL action and played a simple game. He looked real good in his own end, positioning himself very well on most occasions. On offense his highlight was drawing a penalty on a drive to the net. Tonight's game vs. Toronto should give everyone a better idea as to whether his stay will be longer than five games.

--The Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Staffod line looked rusty, yet you could see it's only a matter time before they start clicking.

--None of the defensmen on the Sabres really stood out in a positive way. They all looked shaky, which makes it even more amazing that the team came out with a 5-2 win.

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