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The date was July 3, 2003.
The Buffalo Sabres had recently placed the finishing touches on another disappointing season, one in which they would finish dead last in the Northeast for the second straight year.
It was the beginning of a summer pegged as a “rebuilding year,” and, much like this one, there wasn’t much to look forward to, coming off a franchise-worst 72-point season while overcoming bankruptcy and inching dangerously close to an impending relocation.
At that point, fans could only be thankful there would still be hockey played at the foot of Washington Street the following season -- something that had been in serious doubt for some time.
Months earlier, three days before Tom Golisano’s purchase of the Sabres was announced, general manager Darcy Regier had already made one mid-season move that indicated the focus was on the future when he traded veteran center Chris Gratton to Phoenix for a smallish but promising 25-year-old Danny Briere at the trade deadline in March.
What came next would alter the course of the floundering franchise for the next decade.
On this particular day, July 3, Regier executed another bold transaction -- perhaps his boldest in 17 years as GM -- flipping a few spare parts to Calgary for Chris Drury.
Drury, at 26, had been the Calder Trophy winner in 1999 and already featured a Stanley Cup on his resume from his time in Colorado. Both players carried tremendous upside, and, while neither were acquisitions thought to immediately impact much at the time, it was a refreshing change to a pitiful roster.
The trades turned out to impact Buffalo hockey for the next decade, and maybe forever. Briere and Drury almost single handedly incited a hockey renaissance in Buffalo, rejuvenating a drained fan base with memories that will last a lifetime.
It’s easy to draw parallels to then and now. Maybe too easy. Of course, hockey’s existence in Buffalo isn’t in doubt like it was in 2003. But, for the first time since those early-2000 seasons, serious questions exist about the Sabres’ on-ice future.
Serious questions exist about Regier, too -- the man who orchestrated those magical post-lockout rosters, but the same man who seems to have lost his touch when it comes to constructing a contender.
For as much flak as media and Sabres fans alike sling toward Regier (and deservedly so), the Drury and Briere deals were both premier displays of hockey acumen.
Each required a certain level of astuteness to identify the emerging talent and the creativity to acquire said talent at a discounted rate. They’re the type of transactions you see consistently from the league’s top GMs, but not from Regier any longer.
Regier had an opportunity this past year to carry out the latest example of a potentially franchise-altering trade, the kind that could inject new life into the again-bitter fan base much like the Drury and Briere deals once did. Then Bobby Ryan was traded from Anaheim to Ottawa in a three-player swap on Friday.
The Sabres, of course, had been connected to Ryan through reports and rumors since the 2012 trade deadline. The price, once said to be anything from Ryan Miller to Derek Roy and the like, had obviously changed since then.
Somewhere along the line, for reasons unknown to anyone outside that front office, it appears Regier fell out of touch with the negotiations, all the while allowing a division rival to swoop in and acquire the potential star power forward at a very reasonable price.
The Senators stole Ryan for a pair of top prospects -- Stefan Noesen, a 2011 first-rounder, and Jakob Silfverberg, the 39th overall pick in 2009 -- and their first rounder next year. Both Noesen and Silfverberg come with limited NHL experience and offer nice upside, but were an easy price to pay for Ryan's services over the next decade.
You would think the Sabres could have more than adequately accommodated those demands, especially if Regier had the sense to get a deal done where it involved one of the team’s first-rounders in this year’s draft. I'm not going to play matchmaker, but any of Tyler Ennis, Joel Armia, Johan Larsson, etc. would seem to be equal to or better trade chips than what Ottawa surrendered.
It’s the latest and probably most profound example of Regier’s decline, a swing and miss that will likely haunt Regier and the Sabres at least five times per season until this front office changes over.
Admittedly, there is likely more than meets the eye to this that I have not yet alluded to.
Maybe Regier was heavily involved, and the Ducks simply felt the Sens offered the better package. Maybe the Sabres were never as involved as we once thought. Maybe Ryan simply wasn’t in Regier’s rebuilding plans.
But why shouldn’t he have been?
At 26, just over 10 years after Regier's defining deals for Drury and Briere, Ryan could have been as much a part of a rebuild as any prospect in the Sabres’ system. Like to former co-captains, he offers proven talent with immediate results, not the wait-and-see baggage that comes with an 18-year-old second rounder.
Would the team have been good right away? Probably not. But, perhaps in the same mold of the Sabres from 2005-07, it certainly could have expedited the process.
I’m in a strange place right now. The Sabres’ draft class last week gives plenty of reason to be excited, but we’ve been here before. How can we really justify maintaining patience with Regier until these kids develop into what their potential holds, if -- and it’s a big IF -- that even happens.
Time and time again other teams prove it doesn’t take years to rebuild a franchise into a competitor while Regier seems to insist on moving at a snails pace. Maybe it doesn’t work out for Dallas and Tyler Seguin or Ottawa, which essentially traded Daniel Alfredsson for Ryan.
At least they’re taking the risks. After all, isn’t that what the league’s best GMs do? Waiting on Regier to rediscover himself has proven to be a frustrating process, to say the least.
Who knows how many more Chris Drurys and Danny Brieres we might miss out on along the way.
I have to completely agree with you... the lack of acquiring Bobby Ryan and watching him go to Ottawa for a reasonable price has been the most difficult thing to swallow (for me) as a fan of the Sabres this offseason. As you mentioned, his age is not an issue (but rather a strength) for a rebuilding team... and it would have given Ryan an opportunity to shine out of the shadows of Getzlaf and Perry (and Selanne, although he is no longer anything close to the player he once was). I was disappointed in the Sabres not selecting Nichushkin and I've been frustrated with the lack of trade movement involving Miller and, to a lesser degree, Vanek. All-in-all, nothing has been harder to accept than the fact I have to watch Bobby Ryan light us up now for no less than the next 2 seasons (before his contract expires). All I'm left to hope for now is that Patrick Kane will see the Sabres turn a corner in the next 2 years and decide to make it his personal mission to return home as a free agent and bring us our first Cup... right now, that seems very far-fetched. If our young talent proves it has the upside as projected, maybe 2 years from now it will be a little more realistic to think of Kane coming home.
@djc1877 I can't imagine Chicago ever allowing Kane to walk, especially after the postseason he just had. Maybe I'll be wrong and it will pay off waiting for these prospects to work out, but there's no past evidence to expect they will. I think you sum up the overall point very well -- these are frustrating times, indeed.
@Brandon Schlager @djc1877 Kane turned down a long term deal (10 years?) to sign a shorter deal (5 years?). It goes without saying... he grew up a diehard Sabres fan, mentioned Buffalo in an interview 5 minutes after scoring a Cup clinching goal, and probably has some intention of retiring a Sabre. One can assume him opting for a shorter deal hints that he was keeping an open mind about coming back to play for the home team... but that was a couple years ago, when it wasn't Hockey Hell in Buffalo yet. Now it is.
I don't think any young, accomplished, star-level athlete who just won 2 championships with a team that could win more... is going to even remotely think about coming to one of, if not THE, laughing stock of the league. He's no Danny Briere (a greedy little punk who left a President's Trophy #1 team for a dead-last #30 team for money). I was actually hoping the Hawks returned to their pre-2010 suckitude ways so that it aided the process of Kane coming back to Buffalo, but it didn't happen. They are a potential dynasty, they are on top of the world... and we're in the sewer. Regier is committed to a making a fan base that has already waited 43 years, wait some more. And not only that, but go through a humiliating punching bag process.
Every team in our division got better, not to mention we now have a celebrated championship franchise and tough western conference team in our division: the mighty Red Wings. We're f**ked. Their entitled and arrogant fans have a grudge against us for trying to take their "Hockeytown" moniker years ago, and they are going to make life a living hell for us on every discussion thread online and in the stands at every game. The only chance we stand is if the Sabres outplay the Red Wings, but we'll see the opposite. We're screwed. Kane is not going to come play for the Sabres and waste the best years of his career at the bottom of the northeast division.
My bad for being an a$$hole. Wasn't intentional.
I think you missed what I was saying, Briere didn't have a choice but to leave. Quinn refused to left Buffalo / Darcy give him a contract. So, your comparison is inaccurate. It lessens the strength of your point. No emotion involved.
You can call him a greedy little bastard all you want. Just setting the record straight.
I do agree that Kane may be interested in moving, but not with the mess Darcy made. (Just like you said)
Finally, if you review your response, you became emotional and it showed. I understand you felt I was being an A$$hole, I get it. I wasn't trying to be that way. My bad.
@HeathAnderson @GregAntilla Like it or not, you came off as a complete a$$hole by nitpicking literally one sentence out of 3 paragraphs. It bothered you (emotion) and then you call me out over emotion and follow it up with name calling. Don't act so innocent.
Regarding your question, that's apples and oranges. If I had a choice between a company that paid more, and a company that paid less but gave me a shot at being president, I would pick the later. That's the difference. Nobody would have even bet any money that the Flyers were going to go from literally the dead last 30th place team all the way back to the Conference Finals in 1 year. The Sabres looked like they could be on their way to at least another Conference Finals appearance, while the Flyers were the laughing stock of the league. To willingly go to the Flyers for "the most money" instead of staying with a team that had a shot at a championship shows that he cared more about a payday than getting his name on the Stanley Cup. There have been players on numerous occasions who have taken pay cuts to remain with a contender. Briere was not one of them. Hossa is, oddly enough, the opposite and it cost him at least one Cup, but that's a freak example.
But we digress again, this thread is about Patrick Kane.
Why is it that every one I have heard of posting on this blog gets jumped for posting anything?
Did you want me write how much I agreed with everything else you said? I didn't think you need the pat on the back.
I didn't disregard or disagree with anything else you wrote so there was no need to comment on it. I had no comment on what you said about Kane BTW. Because I AGREED with you.
I am allowed to post on whatever part I see fit.
I was merely pointing out you may have made an erroneous statement. One that paints a poor picture of the player.
Let me ask you this, If you applied for a job, would you try and go to the company that paid you the least or get the most money you could?
@HeathAnderson @GregAntilla @Brandon Schlager @djc1877 Talk about "emotion", you're a hypocrite. First you ignore an entire 3 paragraph post about Patrick Kane because you zeroed in on a brief comment within it that got your panties in a twist. Then you get pissy that I pointed out you failed to respond to my post and upped that with name calling and telling me I shouldn't post. Who is emotional? Like I said, you're a hypocrite.
No I don't disagree with 99% of your post. I disagree with the comment:
"He's no Danny Briere (a greedy little punk who left a President's Trophy #1 team for a dead-last #30 team for money)."
Because he had no choice but to leave. It had nothing to do with the money. Just trying to help you keep your facts straight.
And if you can't handle people disagreeing with you, you shouldn't post. So suck it up, buttercup.
And the simple fact of the matter is, he left the #1 team to go to the #30 team. Clearly indicates a priority on money rather than getting enshrined on the Stanley Cup. But I digress, that was not the topic of my post. Try to keep up next time...
I think you are mistaken regarding the leaving of Danny B.
In a recent interview on WGR, it was reported that Larry Quinn was mad at Briere for a comment he made on the radio regarding a contract offer and instructed Darcy to not offer him another contract. He was quoted as indicating Danny will never play in Buffalo as long as he is president.
So, don't jump on Danny B before you are positive about what happened and not just guessing and making an emotional response.
It is you who have missed the point: Terry Pegula said skilled players do not want to come to Buffalo. Regier has been rebuffed numerous times trying. I ask you why would Bobby Ryan come to Buffalo when he has the opportunity to play on a team that will make the playoffs and me even get into the finals? The point is no free agents of any value will come to Buffalo so Regier has no choice but to build through the draft or through trades.
@David M Please show me where Terry Pegula is quoted saying anything even close to what you've just stated. You do understand that Ryan was traded, correct? He didn't exactly have a say in where he wound up. He did not have a no-trade clause, and therefore could have been traded to the worst team in the NHL and dealt with it until his contract is up. You continue to prove my point for me. It's not about only building through the draft, or only via free agency, or only through whatever, as you and various others seem to believe. Rebuilding, or any building at all, is about acquiring the right blend of talent and players through whatever means necessary. A trade for Bobby Ryan would have fit that bill. That is my point. You don't have to agree.
Darcy Regier realized the roster he drafted and acquired was not Stanley Cup contending material So he trades away a bunch of veteran guys, drafts a new crop of young talent. Then he thinks the team needs some veteran leadership so he brings back guys in Sulzer and Tallinder that were previously cast off. And we are supposed to believe THIS time it will work? His brain is a hamster wheel.
Regier likely wouldn't give up his 2014 1st given that he expects the team to suffer and it could be a top 3 to 5 pick.
I don't blame him for that.
And no, the Ducks had no interest in Vanek or Miller.
They needed to cut payroll to re-sign Selanne. Selanne is their Vanek and they have their duo in goal.
Bottom line, the Sabres are in a different place than the Sens and that is why they didn't pull this deal off.
@JimBobv2 He wouldn't have had to trade the 2014 first rounder if he had acquired Bobby Ryan when he should have, before the 2013 draft. Could have easily offered No. 16 overall. Yes, the Sabres and Sens are in different places, but it didn't have to be that way. The Sabres have more than enough resources to acquire a player like Ryan if the price is right, which it was. It's about taking advantage of key opportunities. It's not every day Bobby Ryans hit the trade market, and Regier missed his chance.
I doubt the Ducks trade Ryan merely for the 16th pick.
They got a '14 1st, plus a young NHL winger with upside, plus a prospect.
They'd likely want Armia and maybe a guy like Luke Adam on top of the 16th pick to move Ryan.
I can see why Regier would rather have the 16th pick and Armia than Ryan given the direction the team is going in.
Having Ryan this season hurts the suffering effort.
@Brandon Schlager The tough part for me to believe is that Regier could get Ryan to believe in his direction when it appears that Vanek and Miller have checked out and don't believe that Regier can get the ship righted in short order.
And they are homegrown guys as opposed to someone that they just traded for....
Just add this to the stuff that Pegula is overlooking about Regier....
@JimBobv2 Solid point. I think more goes into it, though, than whether or not it's a winning team. If Ryan felt confident in the direction of the club, I don't see why he couldn't be convinced to re-sign. I'm sure that is how Regier is thinking, and that's what is most troublesome. I can't get behind tanking for the next few years just for a shot at some prospect who may or may not be good. Not my style. In any event, all this banter is meaningless, since he now plays hockey in Ottawa.
@Brandon Schlager It all depends on how quickly the Sabres want to turn things around.
Ryan is a UFA in two years. It is a gamble to acquire him now when the team is bottoming out. Can they turn it around fast enough to get him to sign an extension in twelve months?
If not, they are in the same boat as they are with Vanek today, most likely.
I don't see the Sabres turning it around that fast.
You would need to have a completely different GM (one that is waaaaay more aggressive than Regier) building the team for a Bobby Ryan deal to make sense right now.
I have a feeling that Regier wants this team to really stink the next two years and he's hoping to get Connor McDavid in the 2015 Draft.
But, we shall see....
@JimBobv2 Never said they would only have to give up a first rounder. As I stated in the article, package a pair of any of the Sabres' influx of top prospects, and you've got an offer equal to or greater than what the Sens gave, with plenty of solid prospects left over. I would make that deal in a heartbeat. Sabres fans treat prospects like gold until they flame out in the NHL. It's a repetitive cycle with Regier. All pieces are expendable to get better. I don't think a trade for Ryan hurts the rebuilding effort whatsoever. It helps it. He's 26. Agree to disagree.
You are missing the whole point of the re-build. I think Terry said it in a rather low key manner when he stated that the reason the Sabres haven't picked up any of the high profile free agents is that they don't want to come to Buffalo. Accordingly, Regier is concentrating on re-building from the draft and any trades he might be able to make. I seems that he is having problems getting talent for Miller and Vanek. Right now, it seems that we are going to have suffer through a long and embarrassing season with the players we have and the young draftees. I think Regier has lost the respect and trust of the other GMs in the NHL thereby preventing him from doing and effective job. I have little hope that we will have a competitive team for at least five years unless Regier and Black are replaced.
@David M exactly man thank you. your like the few people in this sabres fan base that understand what a rebuild is. so frustrating. see these so called "fans" moan and cry that Regier didn't sign Clarkson or Horton or trade for Ryan don't know what they are talking about. If you want it done right you have to build through the draft. And Regier is doing that. Now all that remains is getting rid of Miller and Vanek for some good upcoming pieces that we could add to our arsenal so we can contend in the near future. Trading and signing for big free agents hardly ever works nowadays. Just look at Toronto of the early 2000's and NY Rangers.
@Jammerz @David M If you think I don't understand the concept of rebuilding, you didn't read -- or comprehend -- the entire point that was relayed here. The point of this article wasn't to say, "The Sabres are fine. They don't have to rebuild," it was that there was a huge opportunity missed in losing out on Bobby Ryan. No one is moaning and crying because the Sabres didn't waste gobs of money on overvalued free agents; I'm saying a key opportunity was missed to acquire a potential star at excellent value instead of waiting aimlessly on Regier to stumble across one in a draft, which is exactly how the core of the 2005-07 teams were built. You can't possibly think that's the wrong way to go about doing it. Look around the league. No team with this amount of resources takes five-plus years to rebuild. It doesn't have to happen that way. That was the point.
Great article! I'd been wanting the Sabres to make a move for Bobby Ryan ever since the rumors came out, and when he went to Ottawa of all teams, I freaked out.