The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 04/04/11 at 02:08 PM ET
So I guess this is the part where we in Buffalo don’t even consider giving proper credit to the architect of it all, the man who stocked this team with promising young talent and maturing veterans with one budget-constrained hand tied behind his back.
After embracing the euphoria of last night’s ginormous 2-1 overtime win in Carolina, crossing my mind was the thought of where this Sabres team would be, both in this game and overall in the standings, without the clever maneuvering of mastermind GM Darcy Regier. It’s funny how his work gets nary a mention in this town when the team is winning.
More than half of the Carolina roster that played in last night’s game, ten players to be exact, were former 1st round draft picks. That was nearly twice as many as Buffalo, who are challenging to be one of the top six teams in the East while boasting a roster that in 2010-11 has featured a contingent of major contributors (Ryan Miller, Nathan Gerbe, Steve Montador, Chris Butler, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick) who were drafted in the 4th round or later, or in Montador’s case not at all.
Granted, every team has their share of late round hits, but not many clubs have as many of them playing as big a role and contributing to a playoff contending team the way Buffalo does.
And it’s just part of the bigger picture of how the low-key decisions of Regier have resulted in fans of the Sabres, a team left for dead in 12th place and ten points back of 8th on December 31, now staring at the Eastern Conference standings with equal parts joy and disbelief.
Not having the rubber stamp to go out and spend $17M on Sergei Gonchar last July 1, Regier cleverly sifted through the bargain bin and snagged Jordan Leopold for half the price. The Sabres have the 8th ranked power play in the league, and you’ll never guess which of those two guys has twice as many goals as the other this season.
Last summer, Regier ignored calls to purge Drew Stafford from the roster following a subpar season. That confidence was rewarded with a thirty-goal campaign and a newfound propensity for crashing the net that has become a downright nuisance for opposing goaltenders.
In December, when leading scorer Derek Roy was injured for the season with the Sabres already slumping, Regier resisted the demands of fans and media to conduct a fire sale. He vowed to hold out as long as he could and talked about “getting better from within” and not giving up. Just think of where the Sabres would be right now if he had listened to all of us.
On trade deadline day, instead of meeting Colorado’s hefty asking price and sacrificing too much of the future for puck moving defenseman John-Michael Liles, Regier instinctively decided to pull back, and when the time was right he put faith in one of his own in 2005 3rd round pick Marc-Andre Gragnani. We don’t yet know the full extent of the youngster’s upside, but early returns are very promising.
With every Sabres fan from Hamilton to Jamestown screaming at him to dump Tim Connolly for past considerations, Regier didn’t lose sight of the need for depth and experience down the middle. Connolly has 4 goals and 11 points in his past 13 games and has become an indispensable mainstay on the penalty-killing unit. While odds still have the center leaving town this summer, it looks like he’s going out in style.
It’s hard to see past the excitement of what’s ahead in the coming weeks for the Sabres, but in the back of your mind it’s fun to contemplate what Regier is capable of under the ownership of a Stanley Cup-starved owner like Terry Pegula. The deadline acquisition of Brad Boyes appears to be a prelude of things to come.
For now we’ll just enjoy the ride. But, with both hands untied leaving Regier free to do his thing, one of the first thoughts after the season will be centered around the fun of anticipating what he can come up with on July 1.
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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: email@example.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]