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Regier's Time Is Now
February 8, 2009 - Matt Spielman
I've long been a supporter of professional sports owners doing whatever they want with their money. This has been especially true of B. Thomas Golisano, who rescued the Sabres out of bankruptcy and has been struggling to turn a profit off the team in the years since. Playoff gate, concession and apparel revenue is pretty much the only profit he makes off of the Sabres, so those who criticize him and say he doesn't care if the team makes the playoffs, you are wrong.
Larry Quinn and general manager Darcy Regier know Golisano's wishes, and their business and personnel decisions with regard to the Sabres reflect this. Regier's decisions to re-sign Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller and Derek Roy compare favorably to the decisions to let Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Brian Campbell leave. Allowing J.P. Dumont to walk and giving Jason Pominville a new contract are toss-ups in my mind, but I don't blame Regier one way or the other.
Given this view of Sabres management, I think now is the time to start telling them how to spend their money.
As of this writing, the Sabres are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the New York Rangers for sixth. But with Thomas Vanek's broken jaw likely to cause the all-star forward three-to-four weeks of ice time, now is time for Regier to make a move -- perferably before Wednesday night's game at HSBC Arena against the Ottawa Senators.
The defense is starting to get healthy and has been playing well as of late. Ryan Miller looks to be rounding into form as he hits the prime of his career and the role players are fitting in well, but this team can't go a long stretch without a proven goal scorer. Many people share the belief that the Sabres don't have a chance in the playoffs, so why make a move? I disagree. As I've mentioned before, Buffalo has played Boston, Montreal and New Jersey tough this season and lower seeds have succeeded in the past, so why not?
Regier hasn't spent to the cap -- I would assume because Golisano has asked him not to -- but also to allow payroll flexibility and now he has it. Players that can be moved, some with value and some without, are Maxim Afinogenov, Henrik Tallinder, Ales Kotalik, Jaroslav Spacek, Clarke MacArthur, Jochen Hecht, etc.
I feel like the defense can survive with Craig Rivet, Toni Lydman, Teppo Numminen, Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber. I'm not jumping on the trade Tim Connolly boat, because I believe that is one guy the Sabres cannot succeed without in the playoffs. Also -- and I know this is not a popular choice -- but if Connolly survives the season without another injury, I would explore bringing the dynamic center back.
Several teams are looking to move money and the Sabres have been dealt a huge blow with Vanek's injury. Now is Regier's chance to bandage the wound, please the fans, spend a little of the organizational depth and money, and in turn, help Buffalo lock up a playoff berth.
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Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek,of Austria, holds a towel over his mouth as he leaves the ice after getting hit in the face by a puck while taking on the Ottawa Senators in the first period in Ottawa on Saturday. AP photo