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Trade Deadline Aftermath: An Analysis of Regier’s Tenure as Sabres GM

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Although he refused to say it verbally, Darcy Regier is in the process of rebuilding the Buffalo Sabres, as was evident during the weeks leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline.

The Sabres traded Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues and Robyn Regehr to the Los Angeles Kings, both for draft picks. He then sent captain Jason Pominville and a fourth-round draft pick to Minnesota for two prospects and two draft picks. While Regier said that he wasn’t keen on moving the captain, he also said the deal was too good to pass up. The Sabres are getting younger, and whether Sabres fans want to believe it or not, Regier may be just the guy Buffalo wants for the job.

A look back at Regier’s work shows glimpses of brilliancy and not a whole lot of misfires. Way back in 1999, Regier engineered a slew of moves, that helped the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup Finals. He traded Mathew Barnaby to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Stu Barnes, who would become a key meber of the team. Regier wasn’t finished there, as he traded Mike Wilson to Florida for Rhett Warner and a fifth-round pick, which turned into Ryan Miller. Alexi Tezikov was shipped to Washington for Joe Juneau and a third-round pick, and Regier managed to get a second-round pick from Dallas for Derek Plante.

The following year, Regier acquired Doug Gilmore and JP Dumont for Michael Grosek, while shipping Wayne Primeau, Brian Holzinger and Cory Sarich to Tampa Bay for Chris Gratton and a second-round pick that the Sabres used to draft Derek Roy. While the acquisition of Gratton for the assets he gave up may look like a head scratcher, he would become a pawn in a brilliant trade a few years later. In 2003, Regier sent Gratton to Phoenix for Danny Briere, who would become a fan favorite during Buffalo’s run to back-to-back conference finals trips.

Regier was also responsible for getting a second-rounder for Mika Noronen which they used to draft Jhonas Enroth. He acquired a first-round pick, which the Sabres used to draft Tyler Ennis, and Steve Bernier for Brian Campbell, and he turned Ales Kotalik into a second-round pick, which was immediately traded for the services of Dominic Moore.

More recently, Regier proved to still have some magic left in him. He traded grinder Zach Kassian for Cody Hodgson, which wasn’t a very popular move with fans right away. This season, Hodgson has proved to live up to every ounce of potential in a Sabres sweater. He also was able to send Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver for Alexander Sulzer, not to mention the fact that he turned Paul Gaustad into a first-round pick.

The fact is, Regier has been able to put the pieces into place, but never really had the support of an owner to keep assets once they blossomed completely. The Sabres were unable to resign Briere or Chris Drury after the 2006-2007 season, and the Campbell trade was also a result in ownership’s unwillingness to open the wallet. Yes, it appears that the Sabres may have to take a step back to restructure the foundation of the team. But if Regier can continue to draft the way he has, he will have the support of Terry Pegula to resign the players they would have lost in the past, assuming they would want to remain in Buffalo.

Buffalo is currently in a rebuilding stage, and it is going to take some time to get the team back to a contender. But once the Sabres build a new, younger core, the Sabres could become a very dangerous team and could have the ability to stay that way for a very long time.

 

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