The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 05/13/11 at 10:18 AM ET
The inaugural offseason of the art of the possible is under way. And while Sabres owner Terry Pegula and President Ted Black continue to dazzle this town with their fan friendly attitude and media accessibility, much of the fate of what their public image will look like down the road will soon be out of their own hands.
Six weeks from today, we’ll begin to see to what level things have changed with Darcy Regier and his hockey department in Buffalo - for real. That’s when Minnesota will host the NHL draft, an event that over the years has produced some deals that altered the fortunes of a few franchises. And by deals I’m not talking about drafting Sidney Crosby.
For a team with a buyers mindset like Buffalo, and with a weak unrestricted free agent market in play the following Friday, it wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if the Sabres will be up to something. The new regime has been talking about “aiming high” and going for it, and Black reiterated as such on local radio yesterday. Given the cap situation of some other teams, the draft should present some real opportunities.
With all due respect to this past trade deadline that came and went shortly after the New Boss had just gotten his keys to the car, a financially less restrained Regier will soon have his first big chance under new ownership to prove that he’s up to the challenge. And you have to figure, despite his drafting success in recent years, that the pressure will be on him in a big way.
If you want to take Black’s catch phrase to heart, consider that teams on past draft days have transformed the art of the possible into trading for players early into or near the peak of their careers with names like Chris Pronger, Roberto Luongo, Mike Cammalleri, Todd Bertuzzi, Joffrey Lupul, Alex Tanguay, Pavol Demitra, Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask.
The Sabres have a few players of their own, Jordan Leopold and Patrick Lalime, who’ve been involved in draft day deals. One of the biggest trades in Sabres history, the blockbuster that sent Alexander Mogilny out of town and saw the arrival of a young feisty center named Michael Peca, was actually a draft day gem concocted by John Muckler.
Pegula is in a happy place in the hearts of Sabres fans and media for the foreseeable future. But if you don’t think that lack of results on the ice can turn warm and fuzzy feelings into a cold snow shower of reality pretty quickly, then you haven’t been around long enough.
It’s a hard fact that applies universally to famous people, from passionate sports team owners to trendy pop stars to bright young U.S. Presidents. Regardless of how beloved and esteemed you are during your ascent to the good side of the public consciousness, eventually the honeymoon wears off.
Pegula’s wagon of success and popularity is about to be hitched to the fortunes of Regier, as the GM rolls up his sleeves trying to land the pieces required to upgrade the Sabres to Cup contender status.
It’s inconceivable that this owner will ever be taken to task for his level of passion and sincerity, but if keeping Regier on board blows up on him then you’ll see folks starting to question his competence. All of the free game night programs, training room upgrades and logo-branded locker room carpets in the world won’t mean a thing if the team doesn’t end up with the horses to finish the race.
Such a scenario playing out would really be a travesty, because the triple billionaire thus far as an owner has been even better than advertised. But what transpires at the draft and over the next few months is not his domain, yet nobody in Buffalo will have more to lose in the court of public opinion.
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About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]