Its time Mr. Pegula. I know you haven’t even hit a full year as owner of the Buffalo Sabres but its time to make your first big management change. That doesn’t mean the job of fixing your franchise will be complete. It’s the initial move that must be made in an effort to reach your stated goal of winning the Stanley Cup. You need a new General Manager with a fresh set of eyes and no ties to the players. That person will have about four weeks to figure out which parts to sell off by the trade deadline.
The roster is broken and it isn’t just injuries. Even if you put Humpty Dumpty back together again you’ll find the tam isn’t good enough. Goal scoring, playmaking, toughness, heart, leadership and character. There are a number of areas in which your team is lacking. I know you’ve only had 11 months as an owner but as a fan you must have seen what everyone else saw.
It could be you haven’t completed the five stages of grief. I went through denial a while ago. I too thought it was all about injuries and the season could be salvaged. Anger is behind me as well. I took it out on my television at home, listeners here at work and your team President and Head Coach. Being the impatient person that I am, I decided to fast track all the way to stage five, acceptance. There was no need to bargain and I’ll probably go back and get to depression in April when the playoffs begin and the Sabres will not be taking part for the third time in five years.
I’m hoping the road trip was your breaking point. You saw in person the many problems the team is having these days from goaltending to an impotent offense to a lack of compete and on some nights the inability to complete basic passes.
The 2011-2012 season is toast. I don’t care how many games are left. This team is dead in the water. Sinking to the very bottom of the Eastern Conference should be what amounts to a slap in the face or if you prefer the less violent approach, having a bucket of cold water dumped on you.
The good news is this can be fixed and one bad season doesn’t destroy your dreams. That is why you need to part ways with Darcy Regier. Your franchise isn’t one or two players away. You need a makeover and the man who put the team together should not be the man charged with taking it apart. I think Darcy is a good hockey man who wants to win as well and always takes into account what he believes are the best interests of the franchise but you need someone to make cold, hard, business decisions.
There are unrestricted free agents to be like Brad Boyes, Jochan Hecht and Paul Gaustad who will hopefully be made available as rental players. If not, the new G-M will know there’s no need to re-sign any of the three. According to capgeek.com the Sabres will have around $7 million in cap space next season so more cap room would be nice. Maybe the new G-M can find a taker for Derek Roy and his $4 million salary or Drew Stafford(4 million) or even Ville Leino(4.5 million) but with five years left on his contract that isn’t likely. Trading Ryan Miller might not be easy since his value has never been lower but that would create more than 6 million in cap space. How about moving a defenseman? Steady veteran Jordan Leopold has a 1 year left at $3 million or Andrej Sekera who is younger, slightly cheaper(2.75) and has 3 years left on his contract.
You have time to bring in someone from outside the organization to assess what players should stay and which ones should go by the February 27th trade deadline. That person can also spend the rest of the season evaluating Lindy Ruff to determine if he should remain. I like Lindy personally and I think he is a good coach but no one is irreplaceable.
As to the new G-M, the name of former Sabre Rick Dudley has been tossed around quite a bit. I think he’d be a smart move. If there’s anything to a G-M building a team in his image then who wouldn’t want a former rough and tumble guy like Dudley in charge. He has a successful front office track record from his time in Atlanta, Chicago and Tampa Bay and as an alumnus, I’m guessing he still has some Blue and Gold blood running in his veins.
If Dudley isn’t your cup of tea then look at around at the most successful organizations, starting with Detroit, and inquire about Assistant G-M’s or Personnel Director’s. This should be an attractive job. An owner committed to the pursuit of a Cup, with deep pockets, in a city that is passionate about its team and this sport. It shouldn’t take a hard sell.