Building a winner takes more than just top picks

As the final two weeks tick away until the Sabres make the first pick in the Tim Murray era, Tyler and I decided to team up to offer an all-encompassing analysis of how the most recent Cup winning teams were constructed. We started with the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins and went straight through this year’s Kings and Rangers rosters.

We found a number of different trends and traits on each of these teams. One trait they all shared was the possession of at least one high pick (fifth or higher) who was either drafted by the team or became a priority acquisition at one point or another. However, just as important as these players were to their respective teams, proper acquisitions via trades or free agency served as an equally important trait for each and every one of these teams.

Anze Kopitar: picked 11th overall in 2005.

Our goal was to offer a comprehensive analysis of each of these teams to illustrate exactly where the Sabres still need to improve their roster outside of simply winning the Draft Lottery.

 

Chris: The current state of the Sabres has inspired a lot of debate regarding rebuilding and the best course of action to take. One particularly incendiary stance taken by Jeremy White is that it doesn’t matter who your GM is so long as you’re picking at the top of the draft. While I’m sure his point was that anyone can pick first since you’re likely to land a surefire stud with a top-three selection, the comment has turned into a rallying cry both for White and his critics.

I know we both disagree with his premise given that hockey teams are comprised of 23 players, not one or two. Without giving away the entire argument in two paragraphs, I feel it’s important for anyone to understand that shaping a championship team takes a hell of a lot more than simply picking first a few times. It’s a perfect storm of drafting, trades, free agent signings and cap management. Comparing the state of the Sabres to other teams who have enjoyed a turnaround after picking high – Colorado comes to mind as a great example – it’s safe to say that Aaron Ekblad or one of the Sams aren’t going to turn things around by themselves, no?

Tyler: Whoever Tim Murray opts to take at 2nd overall at the end of the month will not come in, put the team on his back, and carry them to a top three finish (and automatic playoff spot) in the Atlantic Division. I’d venture to say that even if Murray were to acquire another top five pick in June (as Mike Harrington believes they should) they still would find themselves outside of the playoff picture. That is not an indictment of the skill of any of the top prospects, but of the current roster. The Sabres have a multitude of holes to fill, and while one or two of Bennett, Reinhart, or Ekblad would no doubt but the team on the right track there’s still a long way to go. Continue reading

Regier manuvers for the future with deadline deals

Darcy Regier wouldn’t say it outright in his press conference, but he maneuvered the trade deadline like a general manager leading a rebuild.

Regier’s moves netted the Sabres eleven total picks over the first two rounds of the next three drafts. Eleven picks. That includes two first round and two second round picks this year, a first and three seconds next year and a first and two seconds in 2015. In addition, Regier acquired a pair of prospects in his haul from the Jason Pominville trade.

Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr probably weren’t going to be part of the team’s plans for 2013-14 as the season began to spiral out of control. Regier got the maximum return that he could for each player and pulled the trigger. Given that second round picks are valuable commodities, he did a good job in netting a trio of the picks for his two pending free agents.

While the Pominville trade was somewhat expected, the magnitude of the deal may not have been. Two picks (first in 2013, second in 2014) and two NHL-ready prospects for the former captain is a solid haul and specifically the type of trade that is relatively foreign when you look at the moves typically made by Regier.

While the Sabres haven’t been in full sell mode for some time, Regier has also never had to deal with shipping out such a valuable commodity. The closest you could come would be getting Steve Bernier and a first for Brian Campbell, but even that pales in comparison.

Regier had to go into sell mode, there is no denying the position that he was in. There is a good chance that a majority of Sabres fans want Regier gone and they aren’t off base in that desire. He probably isn’t the man to complete the process of the rebuild but that doesn’t mean he didn’t take the right step forward with the moves he made.  Of course, there is no guarantee that he will survive long enough to take the next step in this process. Continue reading