Nick Kypreos has been around the NHL for a quarter century between his playing and broadcasting careers, so you can safely assume he’s made a few connections along the way. He’s well spoken, has friends across the league and knows how to use a telephone.
Rest assured he has better things to do with his idle time than dreaming up bogus rumors about the Sabres just for kicks. He’s not going to waste precious television air time because he’s trying to make life difficult for the worst team in the league.
It doesn’t work that way.
Kypreos spoke to people who told him that Darcy Regier could be in trouble. He didn’t say it was imminent. He shared what he heard with his coworkers at Sportsnet. They determined the information was solid enough before Kypreos passed it along to viewers. It was a planned segment, not some unexpected knee-jerk reaction.
“In a perfect world, the ownership group in Buffalo would have rather have waited up until Christmas, but I’m hearing that the decision could come a lot sooner, and they ultimately will make the change,” Kypreos said. “They’re feeling the heat from the fans, that’s for sure.”
Could the information be wrong? It’s possible, but bet your life savings that the information came from someone who A) Kypreos trusts and B) would know. Otherwise, the people around him, if not his own conscience, would steer him toward one of the other 29 teams that are far more newsworthy.
And just so you know, there was talk Wednesday afternoon that the Sabres were working on a deal with Edmonton that would send Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek and possibly both to the Oilers in a package that would bring Nail Yakupov and more to Buffalo. Whether it actually happens is another story. But as it stood Wednesday, the two sides had considered, or were considering, a major swap.
People talk. The word gets around. Once it became clear to me Wednesday that the information wasn’t drummed up on some fan website or at the bar or heaven knows where else this stuff originates, I decided to share it with you. And it makes sense.
Regier has an affinity for players taken high in the draft for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. It goes back to J.P. Dumont and Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. Yakupov, 20, selected with the first pick overall in 2012, is an easy sell to a guy like Regier.
Regier also has a very good relationship with Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson. I’ve been told numerous times over the years that they consider each other among their best friends. Maury Gare, Danny’s brother and the Oilers’ top scout, lives in Western New York and is quite familiar with the Sabres.
The Oilers are desperate for goaltending and view Yakupov as an expendable young player. They already have a collection of young forwards, and progress with him has been slow. Losing him is worth the risk. The Sabres are rebuilding with youth and need forwards.
Miller is in the final year of his contract. The Oilers wouldn’t make the deal unless they could convince him to sign a contract extension. Edmonton is a great hockey town. The Oilers are on the rise. They could be a goaltender away from getting back into contention.
The Oilers are a team in the West, perhaps the only one, looking for a goalie. It would allow Miller to be closer to his wife. He would be in Southern California more often. It would make travel easier for her during the season than it has been in Buffalo.
Vanek would bring them less in return based on the possibility he would not play in Edmonton beyond this season. Buffalo has less leverage with signs pointing to him signing with Minnesota after this season. His family and friends in Minnesota have made his arrival next season sound like a formality.
How do I know? People talk. Word gets around.
The point is that people have been talking about Regier for some time. You know my opinion on him. It comes from watching the Sabres for years. It’s also based on information from various people in the league. Many are astonished that he’s lasted this long.
It’s not much different inside the organization, where for years there has been a growing sentiment that he should be given the heave-ho. Are the same people who speak to me also speaking to Kypreos? It’s very unlikely. There’s a greater chance he’s getting his information from sources who are independent from mine.
Frankly, I don’t know if Regier is in trouble. The timing doesn’t make sense to me. If they were going to fire him, they should have made the move in May after seeing him spend more money on a team in reverse. Or they would have fired him when Terry Pegula bought the team, when people in his inner circle suggested he make a change.
The Sabres wasted little time hitting the radio and shooting down Kypreos’ report, of course. The natural reaction for many was to brush it aside as another vicious rumor among thousands about the NHL. It certainly wouldn’t be the first inaccuracy.
But you should know several Sabres employees, who still work there, insisted in 2009 that reports of Pegula purchasing the team were bogus. One member of management had the audacity to tell me to stop getting my information from popcorn vendors. A few months later, Pegula bought the franchise.
Regardless, I learned a few years ago to stop listening to what the Sabres say and watch what they do. I’ve made the mistake of listening to the hierarchy in the past and been burned. I’ve come to ignore their message, allowing the results to speak for them.
Pegula insisted that Lindy Ruff “ain’t going nowhere” and ended up firing him last year. Top adviser Ken Sawyer referred to Regier as “a genius.” They blamed injuries for missing the playoffs one season not realizing other teams had more and finished higher. After a while, their nonsense becomes noise.
And then there’s Regier.
Did you know that at least one member of the previous coaching staff was in stitches upon hearing Regier say he started planning the rebuilding process when Paul Gaustad was traded? Now, I’m not at liberty to say which coach because then the Sabres would know where it came from. I’ll give you three guesses.
People talk. Word gets around.
For a good decade, Regier talked about the importance of having young players earn their way into the league and making sure they rode the AHL’s buses. They would be more prepared for, and more appreciative of, the NHL.
It’s one reason players like Jason Pominville and Brian Campbell developed into good two-way players. They were allowed to make mistakes in the minors, and they continued to improve after adjusting to playing with the big boys.
Regier has since made a terrible U-turn or become a hypocrite. His roster is loaded with kids who are either rookies who jumped straight to the NHL or young players who didn’t spend enough time in the minors. Looking at their record and seeing players regress, it shows.
I’ll give Regier credit for this much: He was honest, forthright and accurate when he warned fans they would suffer. Now, it’s a matter of their pain threshold and whether the Sabres come to their senses.
It can’t get much worse.
Fans are calling for Regier’s job and chanting during home games. Television ratings are falling. Interest is waning. People with credibility are talking, and word is getting around. It’s how Kypreos and others concluded that Regier was on the hot seat.
It made sense.