This Sabres script has been written before and the story, for me , is getting very old. Since 1997 the Sabres have made the playoffs or just missed them 12 out of 13 years. And I, for one, don‘t want them to win more then 10 games over the next 2 months. It in no way helps them to just miss the playoffs a 5th year. In fact, losing the rest of our games gives us a greater chance to win the draft lottery, which would allow the Sabres to pick first overall for the first time since 1987(That year they drafter PierreTurgeon who eventually turned into Pat LaFontaine). Sabre’s fans need to embrace the fact that building a perennial power takes great personnel moves, great drafts, and a few years of bottoming out. Bottoming out would allow us to get that top end talent previous cup winners have gotten. But first, let me stick up for Darcy Regier.
While doing my research for this article I became more and more impressed with Darcy Regier’s capabilities. Darcy should be commended for the things this team has accomplished since 1997. In fact, we should all remember that Darcey Regier, utilizing a small market team’s budget, (before Mr. Pegula Purchased the team), was able to find, and develop, such talents as Brian Campbell (6th round) ,Maxim Afinogenov (3rd round), Henrik Tallinder (2ndround), Aleš Kotalík (6th round), Ryan Miller (5th round) , Paul Gaustad (7th round), Derek Roy (2nd round), Jason Pominville (2nd round), Andrej Sekera (3rd round), Patrick Kalets (6th round), Thomas Vanek (5th over all), Tyler Myers (12th overall), Tyler Enis(26th overall). Jhonas Enroth and Mike Weber (2nd round), Brayden McNabb (3rd round), Luke Adam (2nd round), and Nathen Gerbe (5th round).
Darcy Regier should also be given credit for trading for players like Chris Drury for (Rhett Warrener), Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt for (Mike Pecca), Daniel Brière and a 3rd round pick that turned into Andre Sekera for (Chris Gratton), and Jean-Pierre Dumont, Doug Gilmour and a draft pick for (Michal Grosek). These trades all worked in the Sabre’s favor and he gave up very little, in most cases, for these players.
Now Darcy Regier has made some mistakes . He has stuck with his core players too long, his team hasn’t won a playoff series in over five years, and he made the wrong choice when it came down to Danny Brier and Chris Drury. But Darcy does need to be commended for his ability to put a competitive product on the ice with limited resources. Since he has taken over the Sabres have been to the playoffs 8 out of 13 years, made the conference finals 4 times and the Stanley Cup finals once, with no cup wins. Lets compare that to 7 of the cup winners since 1997.
Pittsburgh Penguins have been to the playoffs 9 times in that same span, 3 conference finals, 2 Stanley Cup finals, and 1 Stanley Cup win
Chicago Black Hawks have been there 4 times, 1 conference final, 1 Stanley Cup appearance, and 1 Stanley Cup win
Colorado Avalanche have been there an amazing 11 times with 5 conference final appearances, 1 Stanley Cup appearance with 1 win
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been there 5 times with two conference final appearances, 1 Stanley Cup final appearance and 1 Stanley Cup win
The Carolina Hurricanes have been there 5 times, the conference finals 3 times, the Stanley Cup Finals 2 times and have won 1 Stanley cup
The Anaheim Ducks have been there 7 times, the conference finals 3 times, the Stanley Cup finals 2 times and have won 1 Stanley cup
The Boston Bruins have been there 9 times, the conference finals once, the Stanley Cup finals once and they have 1 Stanley Cup win
Besides making the playoffs 8 of those years the Sabres have had 4 competitive years where they barely missed them by an average of 3 points (this average is minus the 2002-2003 season where the Sabres drafted Thomas Vanek). Because of this the Sabre’s average draft position in the first round has been around 18. There other 15 picks, besides Vanek, were 21 Mika Noronen, 18 Dmitri Kalinin, 20 Barrett Heisten, 15 Artem Kryukov, 22 Jiri Novotny, 11 Keith Ballard, 20 Daniel Paille, 13 Drew Stafford, 13 Marec Zagrapan, 24 Dennis Pearson, 12 Tyler Myers, 26 Tyler Ennis, 13 Zack Kasian, 23 Mark Pysyk, 16 Joel Armia. Some of these picks are still young, and could become great players as they get older like Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers, Zack Kassian, and Tyler Enis. The rest are non contributors to this team. Let’s compare that to the teams mentioned above who won the cup.
The Boston Bruins have had 7 top ten picks in that time including #1 pick Joe Thornton who, in 2005, then turned into (Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart). Sergei Samsononv 8th overall who eventually turned into Milan Lucic. Number 5 pick Phil Kessel who was traded and then turned into turned to players Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and Dougie Hamilton.
The Chicago Black Hawks Have had 6 top ten Picks including # 9 pick in 2001 Tummo Rutoo who was traded for Andrew Ladd, #3 pick in 2004 Skille who then was traded for Michael Frolik, #7 pick in 2005 Cam Barker who was traded for Kim Johnson and Nick Leddy, #3 pick in 2006 Jon Toews their captain and Stanley cup MVP, and the first overall pick in 2007 Patrick Kane who scored the game winning goal to win the cup.
The Pitssburgh Penguins have had 5 top 5 picks since that time.. 2002 #5 pick Ryan Whitney who turned into Chris Kunitz 2003 first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury, 2004 2nd overall pick Evgeni Malkin, First overall pick Sidney Crosby, and 2006 2 overall pick Jordan Staal. Enough said about this stacked team.
The Carolina Hurricanes have had 4 picks in the top ten (five if you include Chris Pronger Picked 2nd over all by Hartford in 1993) Pronger’s eventual trade turned into captain Rod Brindamour. However, after 1997 they drafted, #2 pick in 200 3 Eric Staal who led them in points during their cup win, #4 pick in 2004 Andrew Ladd, #3 pick in 2005 Jack Johnson who turned into Tim Gleason (who just signed a 16 million dollar contract with the hurricanes), and Jeff Skinner (7th overall) in 2010 who was rookie of the year that same year.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have had 7 top ten picks including #7 overall pick in 1997 Paul Mara which turned into Stanley cup winning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, #1 overall pick, and captain of the Lightning, Vincent Lecalvier, # 3 0verall draft pick in 2001 Alexander Svitov who turned into Daryl Sydor. 2008 #1 overall draft pick Steven Stamkos, 2nd overall draft pick Victor Hedman in 2009, and 2010 6th overall draft pick Brett Connolly.
The Anaheim Ducks have had 7 top ten picks since 1995. ( I realize this is two yeas before Darcy began his career with the Sabres but the two picks prior to 1997 helped the ducks immensely) They drafted Chad Kilger 4th overall in 1995 and he eventually turned into Teemu Selane, They drafted Ruslan Salei 9th overall in 1996 and he became the Ducks all time leader in games played on defense, Vitaly Vishnevskiy 5th overall in 1998, Stanislav Chistov 5th overall in 2001, Joffery Lupol 7th overll in 2002 and Ladislav Šmíd 9th overall in 2004 (Both Smid and Lupol eventually turned into Chris Pronger), and Bobby Ryan 2nd overall in 2005.
The Colorado Avalanche have had 8 top ten picks since 1989 (Again I realize this is years before Darcy took over for the Sabres but it helps prove a point) From 1989-1991 they had 3 #1 picks in a row that included Owen Nolan in 1989, Matt Sundin in 1990, and Eric Lindros in 1991. Lindros of course , as most of us know, turned into a treasure trove of draft picks and players including Peter Forsberg, as well as Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, a 1st round selection (Jocelyn Thibault) in 1993, a 1st round selection (later traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, later traded to the Washington Capitals—Nolan Baumgartner) in 1994, and $15,000,000 cash. However after 1997 they received only 1 top ten pick which was 3rd overall matt Duchene in 2008.
I hope you’re understanding what I am saying Sabre’s Fans. We should all begin to hope that the Sabres continue to stay at the bottom so we can start to build a younger , more talented team. It is my estimation that it will take between 2-3 poor years in order to get the necessary pieces a team needs to win in the NHL. Now, I know what most of you are thinking, that no team should lose on purpose, and that there are teams like Detroit who don’t need high draft picks, and teams like Columbus that miss use their high draft picks every year. You’re probably also thinking that if Darcy was truly great he would have hit on those first round picks even if they weren’t in the top ten. These are all valid points, but I truly believe that elite NHL talent comes from the top of the draft. You’re getting a high end commodity without having to trade away other assets to get them, and I believe a general manager like Darcy can find great players in the top end of the first round. I mean if you’re in the top five all you need to do is throw a dart at your draft board and your bound to find a super star. Just look at the top five picks from 2003-2007.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury 2 Eric Staal 3 Nathan Horton 4 Nikolai Zherdev 5 Thomas Vanek
1.Alexander Ovechkin 2 Evgeni Malkin 3. Cam Barker 4. Andrew Ladd 5. Blake Wheeler
1. Sidney Crosby 2 Bobby Ryan 3 Jack Johnson 4 Benoit Pouliot 5 Carey Price
1 Erik Johnson 2 Jordan Staal 3 Jonathan Toews4 Nicklas Bäckström 5 Phil Kessel
1 Patrick Kane 2 James van Riemsdyk 3 Kyle Turris 4 Thomas Hickey 5 Karl Alzner
I would say that with picks like this you have a great chance of building a championship team. Being competitive is nice, But winning a Stanley Cup would be better.