One of the first tasks confronting Black, Pegula and whoever else is cleaning up the mess that is the Buffalo Sabres is to decide Darcy Regier's fate. This is not going to be an easy decision and a solid argument can be made on either side. For the purposes of this post I'm going to attempt to evaluate Darcy in three categories - getting return on trades, drafting (which is part of Kevin Devine's responsibility as well) and free agent acquisitions.
1. Getting return on trades - Darcy might be one of the best GM's in the league at getting return on trades, and has been getting praise throughout the blogosphere for the return on the Regehr, Leopold, Pominville, Kassian and Gaustad trades. And justifiably so. At a time when the Sabres are fully in rebuilding mode, Darcy has stocked the proverbial cupboard with draft picks. Even if you go back to the trades that brought Danny Briere to Buffalo, it was a full on fleecing. There's no question that Darcy excels at this function.
2. Drafting - This is where Darcy's record is a little mixed, but again we must remember that he's sharing this function with Kevin Devine. We also must remember that most GMs have their hits and misses. But there are some troubling trends with drafting for the Sabres. I decided to focus on the first four rounds, because that's where the most talent is, and to go back to 2004:
We talked a lot about defensive depth on this team and have joked on how many defensemen Darcy takes. The problem has been that many of them have not been any good. Since 2004, only 3 of Darcy's draft picks are defensive starters - 5 if you add in Pysyk and McNabb. It's also more if you add in Butler and Brennan, both of whom are bottom pair defensemen on teams that are actually worse than the Sabres. That's not bad, but not great either. Myers, Sekera and Weber have all had their ups and downs, but none of them are dominant.
On some level, you also get what you pay for: Surprisingly, only Myers, Pysyk and Persson were drafted in the first round.4 defensemen were drafted from the QMJHL. None are on the team (though JGL still has time). Darcy has done well with the WHL (McNabb, Pysyk, Myers) for the most part (Mike Funk). Darcy has only drafted Weber and Schiestel from the OHL. Considering that that's where a lot of the league gets their defensemen, I would strongly urge Darcy to take more defensive players from the OHL. Darcy has drafted two college hockey defensemen (Butler and McCabe), two foreign defensemen (Persson and Sekera) and one high school defeseman (Fienhage).
Darcy also deserves criticism for drafting two Germans in the first four rounds. I know there are some great hockey players from Germany including Ehrhoff, but it seems to be a bit of an obsession with Darcy. He can also be criticized for drafting a player out of HS who is stuck in the ECHL (Fienhage).
Don't know how this compares to other GMs, but out of the draft picks in the first four rounds since 2004, 3 players (Southorn, Jokinen and Shipley) were never offered deals. 5 played for the Amerks/Pirates but were not resigned and / or left to go play elsewhere, including most of the foreign born players (Funk, Zagrapan, Gogulla, Schutz and Persson).
In all this points to a mixed drafting ability. There is definitely room for improvement.
3. Free Agent acquisitions - One of the areas where Darcy has been most frequently criticized. I would say his moves make sense intellectually but haven't worked out. As Ogre would say, it would be hard to argue that the process has been bad, but the results have not been great. Say what you will about Raffi Torres, but he was added for the same reason Ott was. Just didn't work out. Boyes was supposed to be a credible scoring center. Never worked out. Rivet was mostly a train wreck, but he was thought to be a rugged defender with leadership that the young core needed. Same with Regehr. From what Vanek and Miller have said, it doesn't seem like they were willing to welcome other leaders (with the possible exception of Rivet) and that Darcy tried to supply guys that would supplement the team's on the ice efforts without causing too much negativity one way or the other in the locker room. If that's the case, then you can argue that Darcy failed to make the core accountable through his personnel moves because in the locker room it was them - Vanek, Pominville, Miller, Gaustad, Roy, Connolly, etc., Ruff, and then everyone else.
Does this mean that Darcy couldn't give the team a complete makeover? That he hasn't learned some lessons? Absolutely not. But all of these factors will have to be weighed, and I wouldn't be surprised if Pegula and Black just decide to go in a different direction.
Thanks for reading and share your thoughts below.