By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Darcy Regier is one of the most unflappable hockey executives I've ever been around, regardless of what kind of job you think he has done and is doing as the Sabres general manager. He is certainly aware of criticism from the media and fans during his long tenure in Buffalo, but never seems to react to it even when confronted by the very people who want him fired yesterday if not sooner.
This is not to say some of the criticism isn't valid. Then again, you can't be a pro sports executive for any length of time without being at the business end of some bombastic barbs.
Regier and the Sabres went into the NHL trade deadline with many needs and very little ammunition. And yet, when the smoke had cleared, the Sabres found themselves with a speedy, skilled 22-year old center who was a 10th overall draft pick and is now having a stellar rookie season, and an extra first round draft pick in 2012 for a 30-year old center who has yet to score his first playoff goal.
To say sending Paul Gaustad to Nashville for a first round pick - and yes the Predators also get a 4th rounder from Buffalo - is nothing short of a steal is an understatement. No knock on the Goose, who has size and toughness the Sabres can use, but finding guys like him isn't nearly as difficult as finding talented young centers who have the potential to become NHL stars.
Many hockey fans and media types in Vancouver were stunned that the Canucks would part with young Cody Hodgson, even though they are strong and deep up the middle. The Canucks are still reeling from their loss to the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals and they obviously think Zack Kassian can give them an extra layer of toughness they lacked against the B's. They also think defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani can help them offensively, and they may be right on both counts. But make no mistake, the word from those close to the Sabres is that they were quite unhappy with Kassian's work ethic in Rochester and Grangnani's negative attitude and were not unhappy to see them go.
Throw in steady 27-year old defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who represented Germany in both the World Championships and Olympics, and the Sabres have just made their organization better. They feel young Braydon McNabb and Marcus Foligno among others are ready to step in next season to provide the toughness they will miss with the departure of Kassian.
Yes, the Sabres still have Derek Roy and Drew Stafford in Buffalo, and these two have had to bear the criticism of the Sabres current predicament of needing a miracle finish just to MAKE the playoffs, but there was just no market for either player. We don't know if Stafford was shopped, but Regier mentioned that Roy's salary - roughly $4 million per season - was a turnoff factor.
Regier also was determined not to make a move just to make a move, and his habit of only making trades he feels are one-sided isn't always a positive, but in this case both Roy and Stafford are showing signs of coming out of their season long funks. The Sabres will have plenty of time in the off season to reassess the futures of these and other players on the roster, and they still may not be a part of Buffalo's future.
Adding Hodgson to the group of Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis may not seem like an impressive situation now, but all three of these players are about the age most NFL players are raw rookies. Their upside is something to build on.
Forget all the speculation, by the way, of dealing Ryan Miller. Its becoming quite obvious Miller was bothered by a couple concussions a lot more than he was bothered by a coast to coast marriage with a Hollywood actress. Miller is the real deal at the toughest and most important position and anybody who can come up with a better goaltending prospect is welcome to make a suggestion.
Regier is not off the hook by any means, because his off season acquisitions of Ville Leino, Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff simply haven't worked out, at least not yet anyway although all three are showing signs the deal may someday look a little better.
But you have to give him this one. Then we'll take another look a year from now, but the bottom line is, Regier is going to be around at least that long no matter what anybody outside the organization thinks.