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The Sabres Observer

The Diversionary Brilliance Of Ted Black

One of my favorite hockey quotes ever came from former Sabres goalie Martin Biron, who was asked what he was thinking when tough guy Andrew Peters stepped in for him to fight Ray Emery during the legendary Sabres -- Senators brawl of 2007

Biron’s answer: “I kind of got stood up on the dance floor.”

Sabres general manager Darcy Regier could’ve used the same line Monday after his boss equal valiantly and even embarrassingly took one for the team at the season-ending press conference.

As Regier braced for the smoldering fire to which his feet were about to be placed, Sabres President Ted Black stepped in and threw buckets of ice water on the hot coals.

Black has in the past referred to himself as a “recovering lawyer.”  Based on the manipulative defensive tactics he used in shielding Regier like a client on trial, apparently the rehabilitation is at best a work in progress.

While Regier was anticipating having to explain the epic mishandling of prized rookie Mikhail Grigorenko, Black was mischievously playing dumb responding to questions regarding the insensitive timing of a season ticket price hike.

As the embattled GM was re-introducing Sabres diehards to the concept of fan suffering, Black was baiting reporters with quips about the hilarity of gas well jokes and the omnipresence of Terry Pegula.

The Sabres president was Regier’s protector, strategically and verbally channeling his inner enforcer.  He was the meek bodyguard trying desperately to stare down the big bullies.  He somehow fended off a few journalists and reporters who metaphorically wanted to Lucic the GM into next week.

I’m not suggesting that Black knew things at the presser would get so out of control, but let’s just say he had an agenda.  The man knew what he was doing.

As a matter of fact, he did it so well that the pressure of feeling the entire weight of the disenchanted community being applied through the verbal tongue-lashing of a few reporters almost got to him.  Who knows -- maybe, during the spirited exchange, he wondered what he had gotten himself into.  He began to look weak on camera, and in the name of damage control even submitted an uncomfortable apology afterwards.

If you really want to venture into conspiracy theory territory, ask yourself why Sabres PR director Mike Gilbert continued to allow the verbal sparring to drag on, almost as if he knew Black would have waved him off like Matthew Barnaby to a referee if Gilbert had stepped in to cool things down.

Black extraordinarily deflected criticism from a man who, in running this team, has been flying by the seat of his pants for at least the past 14 months.

Think about it.  Trading Paul Gaustad started a rebuild.  A few months later, the plan changed to offering $226M to Shane Doan, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.  When that didn’t work and the team lost 11 of its first 17 games, the plan changed to firing the coach to motivate the team for a run to the playoffs.  When that didn’t work, the plan reverted to rebuilding by trading top guys like Jason Pominville for prospects and picks.

When you’re bouncing around between three different plans, do you really have any?

For their part, the media that were involved in the dramatics adequately did their jobs by asking questions that fans wanted answered.  But their failure, perhaps aside from their mean-spirited disposition, was directing a disproportionate amount of their vitriol in the wrong direction.

Black didn’t fail to acquire an impact scorer, anoint Marcus Foligno as a top-six forward, keep Drew Stafford languishing here for another year, or bring back Jochen Hecht.  Hockey decisions aren’t his thing.  So he was forced to speak for the absent owner, the true overseer of the GM’s work.

Sure, Pegula wasn’t there, but Regier was.  And it was amazing to see how unscathed he came from this, at one point seemingly almost in disbelief saying “This is great.”

It was great for him, because Black took his lawyer training and put it on turbo.  He played games with the media, trying to play them like a fiddle, consequently making himself look bad in the process, for the good of the hockey operations department.

Now, as this Sabres roster awaits further gutting down to its foundation, many of us are too busy arguing about the role of the media, and researching the meaning of growth metrics and flat corporate management structures, to even notice.

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  Tags: "buffalo+sabres+press+conference", "darcy+regier", "ted+black"


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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.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]