With the anticipated passing of the scepter, er sword, whatever, from TommyG to Terry Pegula, Sabres fans are licking their chops at the prospect of ditching our itinerant king for one that will give a flying you know what about the affairs of state at the foot of Washington Street. Thanks for the save, Tom, now please, get out of the way.
Rumor and speculation are burning in spite of the barrier of silence that both official sides have put up around the process. Sabres fans, weary of the rule of TommyG's governors these past 7+ years, are imagining Pegula doing a stink eye evaluation of Larry Quinn, Darcy Regier, and even Lindy Ruff. Ruff is loved in this town, but he has been part of this mess the past few seasons and deserves some scrutiny here as well.
So, in that spirit, I'm playing the role of the efficiency consultant Bobs here. And the question posed above is the main one. LQ- I'm not even going to bother with you. You made some nice marketing decisions (tiered pricing), some egregious ones (slug), and by reports you are going to be bought out. Best of luck, don't let the door hit you on the way out...
So, Darcy. What would ya say ya do here?
A GM is responsible for the roster of his team, right? I'll save the year by year run-down- suffice to say that Darcy has built up one main MO in his history in Buffalo: Think small: Make small moves that can pay off on a budget, look for B+ opportunities with C-level investment.
Darcy's history is a mixed bag- tweaking a team into a 1999 cup run, scrambling to rebuild after alienating his two stars (if you want to call Peca that) during that run, surprising everyone with a cohesive, potent team after the lockout for two years before... yes, scrambling to rebuild after botching negotiations with two stars from that successful team... to the current situation, which I'll call the treadmill of mediocrity.
Frankly, Darcy has never recovered from Dreiergate (which was incidental to Vanek's contract), and GMs have been fired for considerably less. Take for instance GM Dale Tallon, who three years after finishing last in his divisions was nearing the apex of building a championship squad in Chicago. Tallon was fired essentially for one medium-bad goalie signing and a clerical error that cost the team $4mm.
Darcy's comedy of errors the summer of 2007 left the team with a glaring weakness down the middle, a shocked and angry fan base, a 23-year-old goal scorer who was going to be paid like a franchise cornerstone for the next 7 years, and a growing perception that the Sabres were weak, clueless and disrespectful of their players and fans. Compare those two post-lockout resumes at face value and predict who should be given a second chance there... no, I'll wait.
And the second chance goes to Darcy... ok, whatever, what has he done with it? Bear in mind that, fresh as that dreadful day was, it was three years ago (as much time as Tallon went from Cabrini Green to Oprah's penthouse in Chicago). Regier has taken that squad left for dead for the 2007 season and fought like a sleepy badger to maintain it. He lost two centers, after goal the most important position on any squad, and the team has never recovered.
So again, Darcy, what would ya say...ya do here?
A GM is responsible for managing the roster finances of a team and fielding a competitive squad within the limits of the salary cap or, for small market teams, the close to it internal salary cap set by management. Right? Darcy’s resume here? A couple good moves accompanied by MAJOR blunders.
Miller and Roy
- good players you knew were going to be good players that were signed to contracts you could build around. Nice job there Darcy.
- Tim is currently the 31st highest-paid center in the league. Last season, he finished 22nd in the league in terms of scoring for his position. Last year, you got value for Tim Connolly, Darcy. But do you think that's where the evaluation should end- after he's robbed you blind for 4 years? Connolly was earning an average $3mm +/- salary into the 2009 offseason having played 26 games in the prior three years and got a raise. A 30% raise. Why? Because we needed centers
. Does it count as having a center if he doesn't play the actual games, or when he does, looks about as interested as an adult at Disney on Ice? The results were so mediocre last year that when Boston walked right through the center of this team in the playoffs, even YOU were pissed at Connolly until it was time to account for your lack of action this summer. Oops.
- Pommer has surpassed 30 goals once in his career- two years prior to when you signed him to a contract that currently makes him the 5th highest paid player at his position by cap hit (average) – through 2013/14. 5th highest in the LEAGUE Darcy. And what do you have to show for it? 12th in points at his position last year, 13th the year before that. Doan, a franchise captain at the 13th position for salary in the league, makes nearly a million dollars less per year. Alfredsson, another franchise Captain and the 12th highest paid, makes around $500k less. These guys ranked 6th and 5th, respectively, at their position in points last year. Ouch.
- League rank salary at his position? 5th. Points ranking last year? 13th. Pominville all over again? Worse. Why? First because his cap hit is $1.5 million higher, second because his contract is for longer, and third because of how that contract went down. Darcy reacted to his Drieregate blunder in 2007, determined to demonstrate he wasn't cheap by getting bent over the barrel and used by the GM in Edmonton. This was precipitated by our master negotiation team declaring publicly that they would match any offer thrown TommyV’s way. Then, once they blew it with Driere and Kevin Lowe (who has since also been fired, bear in mind) came knocking with a shocker of a contract offer, Darcy determined losing two lead centers was no cause for a rebuild and passed up lottery picks for the middling production described above. Oops.
So what’s left? What would ya say...ya do here?
A GM also guides the future development of the franchise through the draft, right? Ok… so this is where it gets complicated, and I’m commending you if you’re still reading this… but the short recap is Darcy found some great players late in the draft, meanwhile blowing the majority of his first round selections. For every Brian Campbell in the 6th round there was also a Mika Noronen in the first (Darcy’s 1st ever 1st round pick). Darcy gathered the following with his first rounders:
1997: Mika Noronen (21st overall)
–71 games played in the NHL.
1998: Dimitri Kalinin (18th overall)
–addition by subtraction move to not resign him in 2008.
1999: Barrett Heisten (20th overall)
–10 games played in the NHL.
2000: Atem Kryukov (15th overall)
2001: Jiri Novotny (22nd overall)
–Best NHL season- 22 points as a part timer with the Blue Jackets.
2002: Keith Ballard (11th overall)
–Projected for the 2nd round, quoted as surprised he was picked that high- part of the trade that eventually resulted in Drury being a Sabre.
2003: Thomas Vanek (5th overall)
–It’s the 5th pick, Darcy, but good player. Still, check two paragraphs above before you bust out the confetti and champale.
2004: Drew Stafford (13th overall)
–Still waiting on Staff. Power forward potential with a punter’s intensity. Was it really 6 years ago we drafted him?!
2005: Marek Zagrapan (13th overall)
– I see what you were doing here- big guy, soft hands, mean streak- ultimately too dumb and stubborn 0 games NHL experience (including a stretch where Hecht was playing Center for you.)
2006: Dennis Persson (24th overall)
– looks like he might play in the NHL some day, after scaring the pants off of the scouting department.
–No first rounder, sent to Washington for Danius Zubrus.
2008: Tyler Myers (12th overall) (followed by Ennis):
2009: Zach Kassian (13th overall):
–Ditto to 2008, some attitude issues but could be great.
2010: Mark Pysyk (23rd overall):
–Jury’s out, not what people were expecting.
To my counting, that’s 4 years the 1st pick panned out for us. Darcy has done well finding good value in later rounds in those years, but that’s less than a 33% success rate for a team that’s supposed to be all about building from within.
Maybe I can write your resume for you to Pegula? Here’s hoping I have…