It's arguable that over the last 15 years, few General Managers in the NHL, had less and accomplished more.
From the very beginning....in 1997, you got off to an unpopular start with fans and had to move on Ted Nolan. ..But you somewhat made up for it by hiring former Sabre Captain Lindy Ruff....who would go on to being a quality NHL head coach....not too shabby.
Some people will always say that In 1999 you rode to the finals with a team that was built by John Muckler and Bred by Ted Nolan. But its not unjust to give credit where it's due. Some people who say that forget that you made some key trades to help get that team to the Finals.
You traded for Jason Woolley the year before who would go on to provide some important offensive play from the blue line and even score the Game Winning Goal in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals....one of the 5 greatest goals in Sabres History in my opinion...and took a 1-0 lead. You acquired Rhett Warrener and formed a formidable shutdown pair with Jay McKee for the Sabres for years....and you also acquired Stu Barnes, and Joe Juneau....both whom helped the Sabres tremendously. Barnes was a huge help scoring 7 Goals in the playoffs and leading the team along with Dixon Ward and Curtis Brown.
It was down hill from there...... At the time, little did we know that all these Draft Picks you and Amateur Scouting Director Jim Benning and key scouts Don Luce marking were being built into the next great Sabres team that we would see in the mid 2000s post lockout..
Also at the time...I hated the Peca trade...but at least we recieved the Islanders top 2 prospects in return in Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt (Funny Always keeps fleecing the Islanders)...initally the Isles got the better of that deal though, but as much as Connolly was the teams whipping boy in the later part of the decade with the Sabres and battling injuries....he was a critical peice to the 2005 team....But unfortunatelty injuries changed him.
We acquired Danny Briere for Chris Gratton and then Chris Drury Followed. Before the ockout, I dont think anyone could have imagined what leaders these two became and how good they were. We can always bash the man for letting these two walk, but how about giving him credit for getting these guys to begin with? After all, was it his fault that the ownership was in his way for doing what he would have liked to with them....even if it was to just keep one of them. But then again...the 7-1-07 incident will always depend on who you talk to, and everyone has their own take. Me personally would like to believe that a different owner would have prevented it from happening.
At the time though, I was the only guy in town who thought " Maybe Connolly can Step into that role"? Maybe he'll take the next step.....I mean he's ready to be elite? There was no doubting Tim Connolly's skill level...Unfortunately, the injuries changed him and he just never was the same player. I even thought a young Derek Roy would step up to fill the void.....and although he put up the numbers on the stat sheet....he just didn't have the "it factor" and never elevated his game in critical situations on a consistent basis the way Briere and Drury did.
We then lost Brian Campbell, but at least you turned the Campbell deal into Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis....not to shabby eh? Although Myers isnt stellar now and Ennis is just an ok NHL forward with upside....these are two guys that at least have some value as an asset. Myers oozes ability and potential...and If you wanted to deal Tyler Myers, there's some team out there that thinks "lets get this guy here and turn him around"....looking back at Campbell...I'd rather have Campbell than Myers and Ennis but that's me....Soupie was my favorite Sabre and such a phenominal player, and Im glad he had the chance to win the Stanley Cup. Also, we cant forget the signing's of Teppo Numminen post lockout and Jaroslav Spacek....both solid acqusitions, especially Spacek who formed a great duo with Brian Campbell.
A couple years later, The Sabres Re-Surge into 4th place, and have a great defensive season. Tyler Myers Emerged....and bringing back Mike Grier helped....Losing Tallinder and Lydman were really major blows after the season at the time and set the Sabres back a little....Could you have re-signed them? Maybe? Defense is such an important position in the NHL....these guys who play D log in more minutes than anyone on the team, and they have the toughest job on the ice.....which is to Stop the opposing teams best players and sometimes play the powerplay and penalty kill and log 22-27 mins/game. Those two left a void on D and it really hasnt been filled too well since.
If you can afford to pay Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrison and Steve Montador why not these two? When you have an owner like a Golisano who is all about the $$ and a man like Quinn running the asylum....who's sole purpose is to NOT win the Cup, but to make loads of $$$.....it's a tough sell for anyone to come here and stay here.
And on the Sabres being a tough sell....by that time, Darcy Regeir and Lindy Ruff wore out their welcome here in Buffalo.
Terry Pegula dropped down from heaven and bought the team vowing to change thins and vowing to give Darcy Regeir all he needed....unfortunately for Darcy Regeir it was just too late by about 4 years. Darcy Regeir gave the Sabres an image problem in my opinion....I think that many players and people around the league couldnt belive this guy was still the General Manager here....and it's a tough sell to any player to want to come play for a team with a GM who has a poor reputation.
It's a tough sell for an Owner to talk huge about winning big, but yet have a guy as a GM who is remembered for 7-1-07 on his resume and letting the Sabres who were on the brink of becoming the NHL's powerhouse slip away. Was it his fault? No, I think you can blame a good portion of it on Quinn and Golisano for not being committed to winning and slashing the scouting budget.
So with your're new found wealth you end up with overpaying for Ville Leino, but you did get Robyn Regehr and Christian Erhoff and one year later, Regeir swings a deal for a first round bust in Zack Kassian for a good young center in Cody Hodgson.
You're last 2 moves hit hard though. I wasnt happy at first at the NHL draft when Regeir selected Rasmus Ristolanien and then Nikita Zadorov....but Darcy had the right idea here. You dont win a Stenly Cup without big minute, shutdown, Norris Trophy Calliber defenseman on your blueline, and Darcy got 2 very gifted Defenseman to add to an already talented blueline prospect pool. And fleecing the NY Islanders of Matt Mouslon and a Potential lottery pick for an expiring contract? How the hell did you do that Darcy? And on hiring Rolston as coach....People can criticize for not interviewing other canadiates, but I do legitatemly think your plan was to tank, and Rolston gave you the best chance to do so....thats purely speculation, but I can give credit for recognizing the need to blow it all up and build with top picks and take the top down approach.....Unfortunately, it was way too late....way too late.
At the end of the day, how did we get here???....Much of the Sabres plummet might not have been all because of Regeir, but the slash in the scouting budget was noticable in the NHL draft. Eventhough the Sabres kept losing guys or they kept declining through the years: Briere, Drury, Grier, Campbell, Pyatt, Tallinder, Lydman, Spacek, Numminen, Connolly, Gaustad, Roy etc....they lost guys faster than the team could replace them through the draft....And after the scouting budget was slashed in 2004, the drafts got weaker. 6 years of draft classes from 2005-2010 and you walk away with Myers ( Oozes potential, but underachiever), Ennis (good quality player), Pysyk (we'll see, looks good), Enroth ( potential here, We'll see) and Foligno (Good 3rd liner, maybe more?) and McNabb (we'll see) as your picks....which im not bashing....that's not too bad considering you're scouting budget.
Moving Forward at last, I hope we dont forget who got us all of these prospects and draft picks, but as a result we need a GM who can draft well....which is why Paul Fenton and Jim Benning (Oversaw the Sabres drafts from 1998-2004)....thats the priority is drafting well over the next 3 years.
We CANNOT walk away with EVERY first and second round player in these next two drafts being busts....the wrong hire at GM can really set this team back far.
Looking back....I think Darcy Regeir had a very difficult job here in Buffalo, a few could have done better with what he had.....he always found ways to get benefit of the doubts via cheap owners, or bankruptcies....but with Pegula, it was just too little too late.
Overall there was a lot of bad, but it was a job well done. !5 years, 4 Eastern Conference Finals and a Cup Final....and not to mention, he had this team on the brink of almost winning the Stanley Cup and being an elite team in this league.
But with this New GM coming in....I dont ever want to look back at the Regeir Years and say: "Man I miss those Days, I wish Regeir was still here, lol"....this new GM must be better and with Terry Pegula as owner, there is no reason why he can't.