Over the past few days, the Buffalo Sabres have traded away two of their top five defensemen as well as their top-line captain, and yet, at his press conference today, Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier refused to say that the team was rebuilding.
"I’m not going to use the ‘R’ word, but it allows us to draft and develop players and build the organization," said Regier, who made arguably the biggest splash in the NHL by trading Pominville and a 2014 fourth round draft pick to Minnesota for young center Johan Larsson and goaltender Matt Hackett, as well as a 2013 first round and 2014 second round draft picks.
Larsson and Hackett are very good young prospects, and could see time on the Sabres roster as early as this year, however, both will start in the AHL at Rochester, and will go from there. Their acquisition all but removes the Sabres from playoff contention, and moves them closer to a top pick in the draft, which Regier later spoke about.
"It [the draft] really is the lifeblood of the organization, and it is the surest way to get back up and running" the GM said, clearly envisioning a future where the team would use the draft to restock a now broken foundation. He later continued, "Over the years, younger players can have a greater impact at an earlier age than they used to be able to have. In most cases, the guys at the front end of the draft can have the greatest impact...you need those star-quality players as a part of the process of winning the Stanley Cup."
With the Sabres currently sitting in 25th place in the NHL, they're certainly closer to one of those "star-quality players" Regier spoke about than they've been since drafting Thomas Vanek in 2003.
Were the Sabres to draft high and get an immediate-impact player, the rebuilding process could be greatly accelerated, especially considering most of the talent on the team is under the age of 25. Just look to Montreal, Ottawa, St. Louis, and Philadelphia as teams who've used a combination of a new coach and the right draft picks to rocket themselves from bottom-dwellers to serious Cup contenders. And remember, there's still deals that can be made at the draft and afterwards, as Steve Ott (on July 2nd) knows well.
"We still have work to do, and we'll continue that work." Said Regier earlier to Brian Duff. "Nothing can be done between now and the end of the season, but we'll pick things up after that." For Sabres fans who came in to this season with high expectations and are now facing an organizational overhaul, we're now left wondering just how much longer that work will take.