Darcy Regier admits the Sabres have made mistakes. Buffalo’s prior blueprints for Stanley Cup glory featured inaccurate outlines.
“We have tried some things,” Regier said Monday. “Some things have worked better than others. Some things have not worked very well.”
This time, the Sabres insist they have a winning plan. Once again, they will have Regier implement it.
Sabres President Ted Black confirmed Monday that Regier will remain as general manager next season, his 17th in Buffalo.
Regier is confident he’s the right man for the job despite a record that includes playoff absences for two straight years, four of six and seven of 11.
“I recognize that you can look at the performance of the team, and it doesn’t reflect it,” Regier said in First Niagara Center. “The reality of it is if I didn’t have the confidence that I in the general manager’s position, along with the people I work with, could accomplish building a Stanley Cup winner, I wouldn’t be here.
“I don’t take any of this for granted in any way. I’m extremely grateful.”
As Regier sat next to Black during a season-ending news conference that was high on drama but low on information, the GM said no decision has been made regarding a permanent coach. Ron Rolston has held the interim title since replacing Lindy Ruff in February.
“He and I will sit down over the next week, maybe couple of weeks, re-evaluate the season and have discussions about our relationship going forward,” Regier said. “I would add that I think he did a very good job under trying circumstances. But again, we’ll address that down the road.”
Regier also had no insight regarding the futures of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. The franchise cornerstones have strongly hinted they are ready to move on.
“It may involve both of them being here, it may involve one of them being here, it may involve none of them being here,” Regier said. “I can only tell you that obviously they are upper-echelon, top-level players and can certainly be a part of a Stanley Cup team. We don’t know what the marketplace is going to make available.”
A trade to watch for involves amnesty buyout candidates. Each team can get salary cap relief by buying out two players over the next two summers, and the Sabres may use owner Terry Pegula’s wealth on other teams’ unwanted players for a draft pick or prospect.
“You can acquire a player and buy him out if somebody wants to pay you enough to do that, some other currency other than the dollars,” Regier said. “Whether it happens or not, it’s one of the options.”
Regier’s definitive plan involves rebuilding through the draft, which mirrors Black’s recent comments. To get top draft picks the team will have to finish near the bottom of the NHL.
“If there was another alternative and if there is another alternative, we will do everything we can to find it,” Regier said. “Short of that alternative, then it may well require some patience, but the payout is what it’s about.
“We have gone with more determination in a very distinct direction, which is about the Stanley Cup. So I feel good about it. I love the opportunity. I understand what we’re talking about here. I understand our fan base, and I would like to think that people will give up some suffering in order to win a Stanley Cup. I’m willing to do it. I believe our fan base is willing to do it. We certainly don’t want to extend it for a long period of time. We want to make it as short as possible, and that’s the goal.”
The Sabres’ new vision for winning their first Cup came about as a collective effort, Regier said. Pegula helped form and endorse it.
“It may require some suffering,” Regier said. “… It’s a shift because generally in the National Hockey League, how you keep your job, how you keep fans happy is by getting in the playoffs, by playing a round. It’s not the happiest, it’s not the saddest, but it’s a level. It’s an acceptable level. It’s an acceptable standard around the league. It’s just not the standard here – and I recognize I’m saying that in light of two missed playoffs.”
Regier’s emphasis on the draft comes after failed attempts to contend through free agency and trades. The Sabres will select eighth after not winning the draft lottery Monday night — Colorado won it, bumping Florida to second. His draft history has been spotty – only 10 of the 22 first- and second-round picks between 2000 and 2009 have made NHL contributions – but Black feels the GM has the tools to finish the job.
“Our scouting staff has doubled or more than doubled since Terry took over the team,” Black said. “Now we have to be right.”