When coach Lindy Ruff was fired this season, Buffalo Sabres fans anticipated a clean sweep of the managerial team that’s led the franchise to the precipice of a rebuild.
In other words, many expected general manager Darcy Regier to follow Ruff out to the Buffalo pasture.
Not so fast: Sabres team president Ted Black announced on Monday that Regier would return as the team’s general manager, leading Buffalo down a rocky path towards the Stanley Cup contender owner Terry Pegula promised would be the franchise’s only objective.
Regier has been the GM in Buffalo since Summer 1997, surviving different ownership regimes and disappointing seasons like the one just completed, which saw Buffalo finish 12th in the East with 48 points in 48 games.
“It’s not about the playoffs. It’s about the Stanley Cup,” said Regier at his postseason press conference on Monday.
Did Regier earn another chance at the trade deadline?
The Sabres signaled their rebuild at the deadline, with a few deals that included the departure of team captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild. It was a strong deadline for Regier: He snagged two good prospects for Pominville, and acquired four second-round picks and a first overall at the deadline.
It’s all part of a larger vision for the team, he said.
“The vision started last season at the trade deadline. We began moving in the direction of having to acquire more top players,” said Regier. “This is about building for the Stanley Cup. Not a playoff run.”
He cited the Los Angeles Kings as an example of a team that drafted talented players and then flipped them for essential pieces in their championship run: Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter, Brayden Schenn for Mike Richards, for example.
“You could go to the bottom of the League for five years and hope you land on a Crosby or a Malkin,” he said, or the franchise can find something “in between” tanking and rebuilding on the fly.
“It probably needs an understanding from our fan base that what Terry is asking of us [is] to try a lot of things. He is in search of creating a Stanley Cup champion. It may require some suffering,” said Regier.
Some of that suffering is seeing beloved players move on. Both goalie Ryan Miller and winger Thomas Vanek have one year left on their contracts. Regier said both he and Pegula have talked with their star players about the future.
“They’re both under contract for one more season. They are aware this is about the Stanley Cup,” he said. “Nothing has been decided.”
That said, Regier mentioned he wanted to see what “the marketplace will make available” this offseason, and that the Sabres didn’t know if either would sign another contract with Buffalo.
If they do, it’ll apparently be Regier that offers it. Because, almost inexplicably, Darcy Regier has survived another Buffalo Sabres calamity to remain its general manger.