If you ask passionate long time Buffalo Sabres fans to describe GM Darcy Regier in one word, you might want to avoid having young children around when doing so. Even in the midst of a great season he is considered by many fans and writers to be the problem and not the solution.
Well, if you want a good answer to such a question, like him or hate him, you could probably do much worse than this one: Survivor.
Through years of coaching, captain and franchise goaltender controversies, criminal ownership, team bankruptcies, broken fax machines, superstar departures, and various other dramas unthinkable to even the most vivid imagination - it's 13 years later - and he's STILL here.
This despite the fact that over the years he has never caved in and followed the brilliant advice coming from all of us geniuses in Sabres Nation. Bring back Ted Nolan. Pay Michael Peca whatever he wants. Heck, we're all so much smarter than him that we even know how he should run his scouting department.
It's unusual for GM's, team presidents, and owners to get a lot of positive attention when things go well. It's the nature of the sports talk universe. Players get the credit for winning and management gets the blame for losing.
We're making an exception to that philosophy today - and giving credit where credit is way overdue.
Carefully and methodically, Regier has put together a pretty darned good hockey team that is battling for the Eastern Conference lead and has folks wondering how far into May or June this season could last.
When the Montreal Canadiens were committing $90 million to Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, Regier was looking to add value by putting Steve Montador on the blue line and spending his other dollars on his long list of home grown talent. The Canadiens are now a top-heavy club with little depth and are a 50/50 pick at best to make the playoffs.
When the New York Rangers were courting Marian Gaborik with $37.5 million in their hands, Regier was pondering what bringing Mike Grier back would do to enhance the penalty kill and the chemistry of the Buffalo locker room. While Gaborik has been great for the Rangers, his cap-strapped team is 26th in the NHL in goal scoring and fighting for its playoff life.
And while we're on the subject of the Rangers, that great player Regier failed to bring back a few seasons ago, Chris Drury, might as well be the subject of a fan-funded billboard in Times Square. Blueshirt fans and media can't wish him out of Manhattan fast enough.
This season marks a fitting anniversary for Regier. It was 30 years ago that he won the "Iron Man Award" as a defenseman for the Indianapolis Checkers of the Central Hockey League.
Now he's an iron man among NHL executives, being the 3rd longest tenured active NHL GM, outlasted only by Jim Rutherford (Carolina) and Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey).
That isn't a result of listening to fans and media, or going gaga over every big name free agent that becomes available.
It's funny and ironic, really, how Regier has never been accepted in Buffalo - even when the team has been good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup. Much of it probably dates back to the circumstances under which he was hired.
But in reality he is the epitome of the Buffalo sports mentality - rooting for the underdog grinder and shunning the overpaid superstar who is about the individual and not the team.
Which reminds me, I heard a rumor that Ilya Kovalchuk might be available...