Tomorrow could be a make or break trade deadline for Darcy Regier. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will determine his future with the Sabres; but if he falters at the deadline, there could be ramifications in the summer.
Buffalo’s stance for deadline day has yet to be truly determined. Even by taking three of four points this weekend, and five of six for the week, the Sabres are still clawing to gain ground in the playoff race. There have been some bright spots this season and even as of late. However, there still seems to be far too many question marks surrounding the roster.
Considering that, there should be one stance that Reiger should be taking; retooling his roster to improve the glaring weaknesses that have been revealed this season. While that is the approach that 60% of the NHL’s general managers will take, but the Sabres shouldn’t necessarily be labeled as a buyer/seller this season.
Regier’s stance should have been unwavering ever since December when his team began their slide towards the bottom of the conference. It was obvious that Buffalo needed to get tougher and better down the middle. Their secondary scoring had disappeared, but it wasn’t for lack of personnel. There are players on the roster who appear to be in need of a change of scenery and there are other players who just need to be sold for some return (see: UFAs).
With the Sabres still within shouting distance of a playoff spot, they haven’t dug themselves in as a buyer or seller, necessarily. However, Dave Pagnotta on The Fourth Period radio raised some excellent questions. He first made strong points by saying a number of teams need to realize that their roster is flawed and change is necessary. This was also pumped by Pierre LeBrun who said a handful of teams need to stop looking at the standings and start looking in the mirror. I would certainly count the Sabres among that group.
Another interesting point made by Pagnotta and Dennis Bernstein was that the Sabres shouldn’t be waiting any longer to make their call on Drew Stafford or Derek Roy. They made very cogent points that it is obviously time for change and a message needs to be sent to the locker room that a shift in attitude is necessary. It was actually a terrific show, you should get XM just for NHL Home Ice.
I’m in total agreement that the Sabres should be in a position to sell assets, or at least start the process of recycling talent to upgrade the roster. What is unfortunate is that Buffalo’s success this week will likely keep Darcy Regier from shipping off his tradeable pieces – namely Roy, Stafford and even Paul Gaustad. I expect to see a conservative approach from Regier in the hope that his team is indeed capable of finding a playoff position.
In my opinion, the Sabres should be taking the same approach to this deadline no matter where they stood in the standings. Derek Roy’s play has improved as of late, but the Sabres still lack a true number one center. Paul Gaustad is capable of bringing a tremendous return and Brad Boyes should be worthy of at least a mid-round draft pick. That doesn’t even take into consideration players like Drew Stafford who appears to be stagnating with this team; or Jordan Leopold who would also be attractive to a number of contenders.
Those names are simply one that you see or hear floated around the Sabres regarding the deadline. If these players are indeed on the market is known only by Regier and his counterparts.
The fact of the matter is that Buffalo can make a change for the better with their roster without needing to go through the proven method of failing for high draft picks. Well, they can technically do both if they fall far enough as the season draws to a close. Consider this; Buffalo could bring in players who can address the team’s weaknesses while also drafting high in June, only to turn around next season with a majority of the talent that already exists on this roster. Compare it to what the Flyers did when they drafted Van Riemsdyk and found their way to the Cup final a few years later.
If Darcy Regier can start this team on that type of track, the deadline will not be a failure. What should be understood is that the Sabres need to meet their needs without sacrificing a boatload of talent. It is the proverbial cutting off your nose to spite your face. There are assets that need to be moved – Boyes, Roy and Stafford being the most popular – and there are deficiencies on the roster that need to be addressed. Finding the right synergy is the obvious secret of the deadline. That, of course, is really no secret at all.
There is no universe where Darcy Regier can trade all of his garbage for some new shiny talent. But there is a universe where he can turn some of these players into picks, prospects and possibly rostered players. What he needs to prove is that he is capable of making such moves.
I’m not expecting Regier to pull the second-coming of the Butch Goring trade, I am expecting him to acknowledged the flaws on the roster he has created. Just because the Sabres didn’t get Jeff Carter or snag Paul Stastny doesn’t mean the deadline was a failure. What would mark this deadline as a failure would be if Regier makes no moves – or only minor ones – and lay the blame on the market not being what he expected. If the roster is practically unchanged on Monday at 3:15, there will be some serious evidence as to why Regier should be replaced.
The most important thing to remember is that the trade deadline is not the breaking point for turning this team into a contender. It is certainly a major step towards reaching that goal, but the Sabres don’t need to be magically changed into a Cup contender by 3:00. The key for tomorrow will be determining the proper direction to head.