Terry Pegula says he talks to Darcy Regier more than his own wife. The chats have convinced the Buffalo Sabres’ owner he has the right general manager despite a playoff history that suggests otherwise.
“When you look at the history, even with the Sabres, what’s he done wrong?” Pegula said Tuesday during an appearance on the Sabres’ radio show. “Help me out here. I’m going to ask the question. You gonna talk about some of the past deals. Maybe someone was holding the painter’s hand while he was doing the painting.
“He is a very qualified person. I don’t want to talk about prior ownership. I have a different management style, and Darcy has a chance to flourish under our management style. I’m giving him, I believe, more latitude in the way we operate the team with less financial restrictions.”
The Regier-built Sabres have missed the postseason two straight years under Pegula’s ownership. Buffalo has sat out the playoffs four of the last six seasons and seven of 11 with Regier in charge of the roster.
“I’m going to do things my way, and one of the things that I like about what I see is there’s a very capable person there, a lot of knowledge under Al Arbour, very knowledgeable person,” Pegula said. “I built a pretty good company for my life, and one of my main areas in life is you start with a good person, good people, and you work from there. Darcy is in that category.”
Regier is set to oversee his 17th NHL Draft and free agency period. It could be a tumultuous offseason as goaltender Ryan Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek have made it known they’d be accepting of trades as they head into the final year of their contracts.
Pegula, appearing on “Sabres Hockey Hotline” on WGR-AM 550, made it sound as if the players’ desire to relocate will be a driving factor in all decisions.
“I can tell the fans I’m concerned, too,” said Pegula, who has turned down numerous interview requests by The Buffalo News. “Yes, we want them here. They have a say in that decision. What that decision is, no one’s been re-signed yet, so we’re still working. … Don’t forget, they’re part of that decision.”
Failed contract talks have taught Pegula what has long been known around Sabreland: Buffalo has a recruiting problem.
“When you go after a free agent, the Buffalo Sabres go after a free agent, I get a kick out of some comments, ‘Why didn’t they get this guy? Why didn’t they get that guy?” Pegula said. “Does anyone ever think that maybe that other person has a say in the decision? And maybe he didn’t or doesn’t want to come to Buffalo. You can’t force people to do things.
“I can tell you that every free agent, major, some of the minor ones that have come down the pipe the last couple of years, we’ve been heavily involved with them. … As far as I know we set the standard and won the war, but they made the decision and I think last year’s market was a pretty good example of that. Why don’t we get this guy? Well, guess what, he’s got a brain in his head, and he makes a decision based on where he wants to go. Players have a lot to do these days in the way you take your team.”
The free agency failures – both in missed signings and bad contracts like Ville Leino’s six-year, $27 million deal – have forced the Sabres to adopt a “build through the draft” philosophy.
“You have a course of action you’re taking, and it gets changed,” Pegula said. “It changes when certain players when you don’t win the bid on them, they don’t come to your organization, they go somewhere else. You just revise your plans and shift in another direction.”
Pegula hinted that his arrival as owner in February 2011 hasn’t been universally accepted.
“I think if you probably talk to other owners around the league, they might think that I may spend too much money,” Pegula said. “You may hear that or whatever, but that’s my style. … You might talk to some of the other owners around the league, and they’ll tell you, ‘Who’s this new owner? What is he, crazy? Why did you give this guy money or that guy?’ Hey, it’s my decision. It was something I wanted to do.”