Sabres GM Darcy Regier is finally of the mind-set that his group of soft-but-skilled, New-NHL core players can't compete in today's NHL.
Better late than never, I guess.
"I think what we're seeing in the game is it's shifting again to a bigger man's game," said Regier on WGR's Hockey Hotline. "I do generally think the game is getting bigger and you [need] to have people who are willing to compete and you [need] to have size in your lineup. There's a shift in that general direction over what we saw coming out of the [2004-05] lockout."
"We're headed to a very hard-working team and a very hard-working-game being," Regier continued in the interview, "I still think you need a blend. First of all you need competitors, but you need a blend of skill and you need a blend of work and the signature for us is to revolve around work."
It took Regier years to realize that the New-NHL came and went. He's been talking about "tougher to play against" for years and now he would like everyone to believe that the man who dismantled the hardest working team in hockey will rebuild a bigger version of that.
I'll believe it when I see it.
This off-season will give Sabres fans a clue as to whether Regier's really intent upon building like that or if it's lip service.
Looking back at past drafts, one must wonder if he's even capable of finding a player with those assets. When faced with a choice of skill or compete, he nearly always goes with the skill aspect:
- 1998--D Dmitri Kalinin (#18 overall) over D Robyn Regehr (#19)
- Slick forwards Artem Kryukov (#15, 2000,) Jiri Novotny (#22, 2001,) Marek Zagrapan (#13, 2005,) Joel Armia (#16, 2011) and Mikhail Grigorenko (#12, 2012.)
- Puck-moving defensemen--Henrik Tallinder (#48, 1998,) Keith Ballard (#11, 2002,) Dennis Persson, (#24, 2006) TJ Brennan (#31, 2007,) Tyler Myers (#12, 2008) and Mark Pysyk (#23, 2010) plus Brian Campbell, Doug Janik, Andrej Sekera, Drew Schiestel, and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc.
- Small, but skilled forwards--Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Tyler Ennis and Daniel Catenacci
- Big forwards and defensemen who play/played small--Ales Kotalik, Drew Stafford, Michael Funk, Mike Card, Luke Adam and Zack Kassian.
Mike Weber (#57, 2006,) Corey Tropp (#89, 2007,) Brayden McNabb (#66, 2009,) and Zemgus Girgensons (#14, 2012) are the only ones in the top 100 picks during Regier's tenure that fit the compete aspect of the equation.
Does Regier have it within him to find those types of players?
He may recognize the need for bringing in players with size, grit and compete, but based upon his history, it's doubtful.
John Scott was re-signed for another year this week.
The knock on Scott has been that, outside of his enforcer/protector role, he was not worthy of playing a regular shift.
The big guy did his job as enforcer. Regier summed it up rather nicely on GR saying, "[Scott] created a safe work environment" for the team.
What surprised the organization, though, was his ability to log fourth-line minutes without being a detriment to the team.
Coach Ron Rolston used Scott up to 10 minutes for a few games later in the year based upon the solid work the he did when he played a regular shift.
That's a good thing for Buffalo.
Scott is also good in the locker room and his goofy antics have lightened things up a bit.
With the NY Rangers down 3-0 in their playoff series with Boston, head coach John Tortorella benched C Brad Richards for tonight's do or die game at the Garden.
Richards is having a horrendous playoff with only one goal. His play has been so bad in the eyes of "Torts" that before his scratch he was relegated to fourth-line duties.
Two years ago, Richards was the premier free agent on the market and Buffalo was amongst the teams ready to pony up the cash and term to sign the former Conn Smythe winner.
The Olean-Times Herald's Bill Hoppe briefly recounts that time.
"Not surprisingly," Hoppe writes, "the Sabres, then at the height of their spending frenzy, wanted Richards. The brain trust planned to go up and meet with Richards as free agency opened."
Regier and Co. decided they didn't have a chance and turned their attention to FA Ville Leino, whom they signed to a 6 yr./$27M contract.
Safe to say that neither of those two signings have worked out all that well and Hoppe surmises that both may end up being an amnesty buyout this off-season.
It should be noted, though, that Leino may not be an amnesty buyout candidate due to his injury which caused him to miss the final 13 games of this shortened season.
Perhaps that's part of the reason why the Rags scratched Richards rather then use him on the fourth line. He's healthy and eligible for the buyout, which would remove his $6.66M cap-hit from their books.
If he is bought out, some team will be able to land a quality center at a very reasonable price.
His precipitous drop from franchise-like #1 center to healthy scratch is curious to say the least. Teams will need to decide if his skill-level is in serious decline or if there were mitigating factors like Torts and/or possibly the addition of Rick Nash.
Something's not right.
I've often felt Richards was overrated and that he was able to ride that playoff MVP for far too long and for far too much money.
But, he's not that bad, is he?
He's still a top-line center and if he's available this summer, the Sabres might want to take a look at signing him.
I don't care what this year's playoff numbers say.
Sabres back-up goaltender Jhonas Enroth is full of confidence after leading Team Sweden to the gold medal in the IIHF World Championship.
"I'm ready [to start]," he told Jon Vogl of the Buffalo News. "I've been growing a lot," he continued. "I learned a lot from this season. And last season too. My goal is to be a starter one year in the NHL."
That one full year is, presumably, to prove that he can be a full-time #1 goalie.
There seems to be a pretty good chance that he'll have that opportunity this coming season.
Ryan Miller is in the last year of his contract. The team has Enroth on the big club already, and their trade-deadline acquisition, Matt Hackett, is out of waiver options.
Speaking of Miller, if he is on the move, no one knows where he might end up.
He has a limited no-trade clause where he can list eight teams that he doesn't want to be traded to. Unfortunately for the Sabres, teams like the NY Islanders, Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers, all of whom could use a #1 goalie, are probably on his no-trade list.
There are other teams who would make for an interesting trade partner, most notably the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and possibly the Washington Capitals or the Colorado Avalanche.
This could be a defining moment for the Sabres organization.
I have no idea what Regier is thinking or what the return would be, but one would guess that he'd love to be able to use Miller as a spring-board to a top-3 pick this season--read a trade with Colorado, Florida or Tampa Bay.
It's highly doubtful that the 'Lanche, who have the #1 overall pick in the draft, would trade that for Miller or even some package from the Sabres.
Colorado has a new head coach and VP of hockey operations in Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.
Roy is a legend in Colorado after leading the team to two Stanley Cups. He was brought in by another Avalanche legend, Joe Sakic, who was also a key cog on those Cup winning teams.
Colorado and Buffalo should not be dismissed as trade partners this summer.
Miller is in a similar situation in Buffalo that Roy was in Montreal before the latter demanded a trade. The Sabres #1 goalie has been derided in Buffalo for sub-par performances over the last couple of seasons and he even gave a booing home crowd a mock-wave.
Roy was humiliated in Montreal by his coach in an 11-1 loss. After finally getting pulled by Mario Trembley he said it would be his last game in Montreal.
He was traded to Colorado, won the Cup that same season and the rest is history.
When Miller was asked about similarities between his game and Roy's he said, "It doesn't mean I want to leave, but if that's what you're getting at, the guy won two Stanley Cups. So, hey, why not?"
The guy he's talking about is now in Colorado with questionable goaltending in Semion Varlamov and one would think that he'd rather have a true #1 goalie manning the crease.
Another connection with Roy and the Sabres is that concerning Mikhail Grigorenko.
Grigorenko played under Roy for the Quebec Remparts and had a stellar season before joining the Sabres after the lockout ended.
I'd asked Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com about the possibility of Roy being highly interested in Grigorenko but Bakes said that the Russian center wasn't a good fit in the locker room after his return to junior.
Even so, it wouldn't be all that surprising if the Sabres an Avalanche hooked up. What the pieces would be is the interesting part.