Can the Buffalo Sabres fire Darcy Regier?

regierIn professional sports, when a team isn’t winning, usually there’s changes. On the roster, on the bench, in the front office. Things need to change.

As the Buffalo Sabres continue to struggle, and on the heels of the franchise firing their longtime and beloved coach, general manager Darcy Regier remains in charge.

Fans everywhere want him out, with some holding that opinion for longer than others. (Just ask the dude who yells for it five times at every home game) There’s more than enough reason to validate his removal.

During Regier’s tenure, he has retooled and rebuilt the roster multiple times. There’s been stretches of stagnation and some times of great success. As much as he’s to blame for the team’s current state, he also gets credit for building the post-lockout teams that were among the best in franchise history. He didn’t inherit those, he built them. And it took a few years of struggling to get the group that should’ve gotten them a Stanley Cup.

But that’s the past, and right now, this team sucks. It has a lot of solid pieces, and the whole is definitely less than the sum of the parts. This isn’t underachieving. This is not being good enough.

In that tenure, though, there’s never been the commitment and pressure to win, and win now, that the Buffalo Sabres currently claim. Are they serious? Just ask Lindy. If they’re willing to can the coach, they’d certainly be willing to do the same with the general manager.

But, you ask, what are they waiting for?

Do yourself a favor. Take a look around the staff listings on other NHL teams’ websites. Then look at the Sabres. [UPDATE: Maybe the site isn't updated. See next update.] Notice anything? Don’t see many assistants or advisors in the hockey department do you?

Darcy Regier is in full control of the ship right now. He is the general manager of both the Sabres and Rochester Americans. He does not have an assistant general manager. [UPDATE: According to the Sabres media guide, he does now. Kevin Devine is listed as Assistant GM. The remainder of this remains fairly valid.] He runs the show. And for the time being he’s going to have to. The organization is in no position to replace him, because, in all honesty, they can’t really replace him right now. There’s no one in line that can step in and get them through the offseason. [UPDATE: See? Still makes sense.]

If the Sabres decide to relieve Regier of his position, would fans want them to just hire anybody? No. Would the organization, whose reason for existence is to win the Stanley Cup, do that regardless of the fans opinion? No. If you make that move, you make it right.

Making that move means the team is revamping their hockey department. Terry Pegula has made it clear he’s ready to spend whatever money is necessary to bring in the best possible candidates, so there’s no debate about the ability to bring in top hockey people. They would need to hire multiple people to fill out the roles Regier is currently covering. The problem is simply… when?

Right now, as the team sits in 29th place in the NHL, and ready for a makeover, there is a mere three weeks until the trade deadline. Massive changes can be made in a very short period of time, and you’re not going to cut loose your GM and replace him with a top talent who can accurately assess his team and the market in three weeks. So we can all agree that it’s not happening now.

And since you’re looking at a high draft pick, you’ve got to prepare for that, and you want your decision maker at the combine in late May. So can you make a change before then? Well, half the teams in the playoffs are still going to be playing by then, so no one on remaining teams would be an option. And you want someone from a remaining (ergo, successful) team to run yours, right? We want winners, right? So you wait until after the playoffs to talk to the best people.

The last potential day of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs? June 28.

The date of the 2013 NHL Draft? June 30.

So we’re now at least going through the draft with Regier still in charge, not ready to risk rocking the boat at a crucial time in the team’s future. And you know, the next day is July 1, so he’s gonna go free agent shopping.

regier2

All of a sudden, here we are, in July, with Darcy Regier still running the Buffalo Sabres.

For Darcy, it’s an enormous opportunity. With the assumedly infallible coach sent packing last month, you know there’s nothing to say the GM can’t go too. And he knows that. But he also probably realizes that he’s going to have a chance to save his job.

With, at minimum, three months at his disposal, and a team that literally can’t get much worse, he will have the opportunity to make enough positive changes to keep his position. With a few slick moves at the trade deadline, a good draft and maybe a key signing or three in free agency, the team really could get a massive makeover before they can even really discuss booting him. If he succeeds at that, and there’s legitimate optimism come the first week of July that the team can compete again, or at least show the potential to do so, why would they fire him?

It’s real easy to yell “Fire Regier” and point to how bad this team is performing without really considering what they’re supposed to do logistically when they fire him. The next few months are crucial to his future in Buffalo.

And before you write this off as just delaying the inevitable, just take a history lesson instead.

In 2002-2003, the Sabres suffered their worst season in decades, pretty much as bad as the current one. While mired in turmoil off the ice, more importantly, on the ice, there was much of the same ineptitude we see out of the current team. Firing the GM wasn’t really on option at the time, as at this point in the year that season, the league was still owning the team. As new ownership took over, they retained him.

Between the second week of March and the first week of July 2003, Regier traded captain Stu Barnes, underachieving center Chris Gratton and fan favorite Rob Ray, all in separate deals, acquiring prospects and draft picks and some guy named Daniel Briere. He used his high first round pick and took Minnesota forward Thomas Vanek 5th overall. Then, three days into free agency, he dealt an associate captain in Rhett Warrener and a top prospect for Chris Drury.

All that happened in a timeframe already discussed as inevitable. That doesn’t guarantee he’s going to do it again. But he was capable of doing it before, and he’ll at least have a shot to do it again. If he wants to stick around, he’s got no choice.

So, is he gonna get fired? No.

At least not yet.

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Posted on March 11, 2013, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. After reading your article I must agree. I am left offended by your evidence, but I can’t dispute a word of it. Unfortunately.

  2. I agree… great article. Well written, insightful. You hit both the highs & lows of Regier, whereas most articles tend to focus only on the writer’s tinted memory. It’s nice to get a full review of the last decade.

  3. if you are correct Pegs has a public relations disaster on the stove for next year.
    Imagine this kind of lackadaisical , they’ll pay me anyway performance spread out over 82 games!!

  4. Too much control not good to give anyone, especially Darcy – squandered Terry’s purse for beginning no-name talent, can’t pick talent -has had the GM helm too long – any auditor will tell you that(kick backs?, conflict of interest on trades ?)

  1. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Blog Beat – Monday, March 11, 2013.

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