The Sabres currently hold two picks in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, and three in the second round. Five selections of the first 60 players is a good haul for any franchise, and vital to the rebuilding process. Problem is that in the NHL Draft it's about quality, and not quantity. Regier's drafted here for 16 years. Just how's he done?
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier is going to get the opportunity to draft at the top of this year’s draft. It’s likely the Sabres pick at #2 or #3, with #1 being only a 25% chance for the worst team in the league thanks to the lottery.
I know what you’re saying:
“How can we trust Darcy to make those high picks?”
“Can he draft anyone right?”
“Who has he drafted that’s turned into a great goal scorer?”
“Vanek was 5th! No other first rounder has developed into a great player under DR!”’
These are all fine points and you can argue them if you’d like. Regier is staying on as GM of the Sabres, and we should probably accept it. I have, and that’s why I often point that AUTO-DRAFT could field a successful team given the opportunity.
Let’s take a look at Darcy’s drafts from 1997-2010. By year, I’ll list for you the players that were notable in the first round each year. Year by year, I’ll list the players the Sabres did not have a chance to draft (unless they moved up which Regier often talks about as very difficult), and then the players that they passed on (who were still taken in the first round) because they took someone else.
You make your judgements from there.
1997 - Selected Mika Noronen 21st
Players unavailable to the Sabres:
1st rounders passed on:
1998 - Dmitri Kalinin 18th
1999 - Barret Heisten 20th
1999’s draft was horrendous.
2000 - Artem Kryukov 15th
2001 - Jiri Novotny 22nd
2002 - Keith Ballard and Dan Paille 11th and 20th
Anton Babchuk (twice)
Cam Ward (twice)
Alex Steen (twice)
2003 - Thomas Vanek 5th
2004 - Drew Stafford 13th
2005 - Marek Zagrapan 13th
Sidney Crosby (LOTTERY!!!!)
2006 - Dennis Persson 24th
Nicklas Backstrom (the center)
2007 - No Pick I’ll split down the middle from the 15th pick.
Top 15 - Patrick Kane, JVR, Kyle Turris, Sam Gagner, Jakub Voracek, Logan Couture, Brandon Sutter, Ryan McDonagh, Lars Eller, Kevin Shattenkirk.
Bottom 15 - David Perron, Max Pacioretty.
2008 - Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis 12th and 26th
2009 - Zack Kassian 13th
2010 - Mark Pysyk 23rd
Make your own conclusions. Field a team of "Unavailables" against a team of "Passed Ons". Which team do you want? This year the Sabres will get at least one of those guys that they've seldom had a sniff of. In theory that Islanders pick could help them build because it’ll likely be somewhere in the middle.
Regier has had some major misses along the way. There are consecutive years of whiffs on first round picks. Some drafts are better than others. The 2003 class brought the Sabres their best pick, but it was also the very best draft of the bunch. Every time you see the list of players that the Sabres passed on, consider the names in there that amounted to nothing.
Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Henrik Tallinder, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson, and *Insert Name Here* can also be moved. They’re trying to load the cupboard. What will it get them? Time will tell. I'd dump enough pieces to get 10 first rounders, and then trade them for two at the top. Draft picks in the NFL are like lottery tickets. In the NHL it's more like being able to pick a hand in blackjack.
More is not better.
High is better.
The proof is everywhere.
Darcy Regier's highest pick in the drat was Thomas Vanek at #5. His next highest was this past summer with Rasmus Ristolainen at 8th overall. He hasn't had any other picks in the Top 10. Regier's not been bad enough as GM to get picks high enough to be bailed out by great players that you get for free at the draft.
This isn't a defense of the GM. If you don’t have faith in him, have faith in the draft. The best players go at the top. If you’re high enough, you almost can’t miss.
It'll all turn around eventually...especially if the Islanders go in the tank.