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Timeline: Regier era in Buffalo

Nov 13, 2013, 4:27 PM EST

Darcy Regier AP

In June of 1997, the Buffalo Sabres hired a former journeyman defenseman named Darcy Regier as the sixth general manager in franchise history.

What followed was one of the longest relationships ever between GM and organization. Regier spent 17 seasons on the job in Buffalo and, prior to his dismissal, was the NHL’s third-longest tenured general manager.

As such, there’s plenty of history to look back on during his time in Buffalo…

1997: Regier is hired and replaces embattled GM John Muckler, who was in a feud with then-head coach and reigning Jack Adams winner Ted Nolan. Regier reportedly made Nolan a one-year offer, which Nolan rejected before leaving the organization entirely.

Regier replaced Nolan with Lindy Ruff, who would go on to coach the Sabres for 16 seasons.

’97-98: Regier made his first major trade, dealing franchise legend Pat LaFontaine to the Rangers, just prior to the start of the season. The move came after LaFontaine feuded with Buffalo’s team physicians — he felt he was OK to return from a concussion, Sabres doctors felt differently.

LaFontaine went on to score 62 points in 67 games with the Rangers before retiring after the season.

1998: John Rigas purchases the Sabres from the Knox family.

1999: Arguably Regier’s finest time in Buffalo. Led by the stalwart goaltending of Dominik Hasek, Regier made three key additions at the trade deadline — Stu Barnes, Joe Juneau, Rhett Warriner — that helped Buffalo advance to the second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

Buffalo lost in six games to Dallas, a series infamous for this goal (or, depending where you’re from, no-goal):

2000: Regier loads up at the deadline, acquiring Doug Gilmour, Chris Gratton and JP Dumont. The moves fail to pay off, though, as the Sabres are eliminated by Philly in five games in the opening round.

2000-01: Regier engages in a contentious contract squabble with captain Mike Peca, which leads to Peca sitting out the entire season. The impasse leads to Hasek questioning the club’s commitment to winning.

In June, Regier trades Peca to the Islanders and Hasek to Detroit in what marks a changing of the guard for the organization. The moves were made to reduce payroll (Hasek was dealt just before his one-year, $9 million extension kicked in) and begin a rebuild.

In the three seasons following the Hasek/Peca deals, Buffalo failed to make the playoffs.

2003: Tom Golisano purchases the team from Rigas after Rigas and was indicted on conspiracy, securities, bank and wire fraud charges. Rigas amassed $150 million in debt on the Sabres, and the financial situation handcuffed Regier from spending on and retaining free agents.

2001-04: After stockpiling picks, Regier brings in a fresh new crop of Sabres via the draft. The 2001 class yields Derek Roy and Jason Pominville; ’02 nets Keith Ballard, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman (none do much of anything for Buffalo, mind you), ’03 lands Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur; ’04 sees Buffalo obtain Drew Stafford, Andrej Sekera and Patrick Kaleta.

Regier also goes about re-establishing the team’s identity through a series of trades, most notably acquiring Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, who go on to serve as co-captains.

2005-06: The rebuild is a success as Buffalo emerges from the lockout as one of the NHL’s most dynamic teams. The Sabres win 52 games and rack up 110 points during the ’05-06 season, boasting one of the league’s best offenses featuring six 20-goal scorers.

Ryan Miller, the club’s fifth-round pick in ’99, emerges as a bonafide No. 1 and the club’s best goaltender since Hasek. The Sabres lose in the Eastern Conference final to Carolina.

2006-07: Buffalo is as good, if not better, than the year before, winning 53 games while racking up 113 points. The team finishes first in the NHL in goals for (308), Briere and Drury post career highs in points and Vanek has a breakthrough campaign, scoring 43 times.

But the Sabres once again fail to get to a Stanley Cup Final, losing in the EC finals to Ottawa.

2007-09: Things begin to crumble. Briere sign in Philly, Drury signs with the Rangers and Vanek signs a massive offer sheet with Edmonton (seven years, $50 million) forcing the Sabres to match, putting a pinch on the club’s finances.

Buffalo fails to make the playoffs in ’07-08 sand ’08-09, their first misses since the lockout.

2009-11: Miller emerges as one of the best goalies on the planet, the Vanek-Roy-Pominville trio emerges and the Sabres are a solid 40-45 win team, but they crash out of the opening playoff round in ’09-10 and ’10-11. Regier appears to hit a draft pick out of the park, though, when ’08 first-rounder Tyler Myers wins the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

2011-present: New Sabres owner Terry Pegula purchases the team from Golisano and essentially gives Regier a blank checkbook, and Regier proceeds to sign Christian Ehrhoff ($40 million), Ville Leino ($27 million) and trade for Robyn Regehr.

The moves failed to make an impact, though.

Buffalo missed the playoffs in 2011-12 and Regier began shipping out assets. Jordan Leopold, Paul Gaustad, Roy, Regehr, Sekera, Pominville and Vanek were all moved for either prospects or picks (the Sabres end up with five first-round picks from 2011-13, selecting Joel Armia, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.)

Nov. 13, 2013: Regier is relieved of his duties as Sabres GM.

  1. thedavesiknowiknow - Nov 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I can sum up the legacy of Darcy Regier as follows:

    Darcy Regier was not only the architect of the downfall of the Sabres organization- he was the guy who told all of Buffalo to set their expectations low, and not to expect any of the mistakes he made to be atoned for. His “best moves” were those he made which shipped players out in exchange for draft picks. The players he would take with those draft picks, he would later trade for more draft picks. The few “ups” the organization experienced during his tenure were entirely by accident, and in spite of Regier.

    Now that this politician has been voted out of office- Buffalo is the richest city in the NHL.

  2. elemeno89 - Nov 13, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Damn…

  3. pi2000 - Nov 13, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    One can only wonder where this franchise would be if they had let Vanek sign with Edmonton and collect the 5 first round picks. It would’ve allowed them to re-sign Briere and Campbell (Drury had his heart set on NY). Those 5 first rounders (2007-2012) would’ve been Gagner, Eberle, Paajarvi-Svensson, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. Instead they end up with Matt Moulson. Yay.

    • hockeyflow33 - Nov 13, 2013 at 5:40 PM

      That’s absolutely insane when you see what the picks turned out to be.

    • elemeno89 - Nov 13, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      Those picks turned out to be those players. Sure hindsight is 20-20, but you had no way of knowing then that those players would have happened. Remember at the time the offer sheet was made, they went to the Stanley Cup finals. Who knows, if Vanek showed up they might have ended up in a different spot in the draft. You can’t know for sure how that would have turned out.

      But turning down 5 first round picks is a lot to chew…

    • Faenz - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:38 PM

      Those first rounders would have completely changed positions. At the time Edmonton was one year removed from the Stanley Cup Finals. Those probably would have turned into mid first rounders. Also, Vanek did not get the offer sheet until AFTER they lost Drury and Briere. I remember this specifically because I was in nerves throughout the week that we were going to lose our entire offense. Most Sabres fans (me included) simply say, “they need to keep Vanek at this point”. The Sabres were the best team in the league the year before, and they had a very realistic chance at that point of repeating deep into the playoffs if the right moves were made. But again, you cannot simply go and say the Oilers would have had all those picks back to back.

  4. cambannedloinstache - Nov 13, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Really appreciate the history outline and think this should be a semi regular feature! I understand Sabres fan’s frustration (especially as a Canucks fan…) but it really seems his run wasn’t awful, especially considering the infamous Hull goal. Winning a cup is a convuluted mixture of management, players meeting expectations and LUCK. I don’t think this team has much of the latter (forever cursed by the Billls?). Maybe he should have been fired a few years earlier but keeping him that long also doesn’t seem absolutely crazy, at least to this outsider…

  5. gnrfan8804 - Nov 13, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Didnt drury and briere leave before vanek signed the offer sheet? My understanding was that they matched it to avoid letting a third person walk

    • mcguenther13 - Nov 13, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      You are correct on that sir…..both co captains were gone and Edmonton played the ace in the hole on us, fan base would have gone ballistic if we let all 3 walk, but knowing what we now know, would’ve taken those 4 first round(not 5) picks in a heartbeat…..also would not have been the players listed above because those picks would not have all been #1s overall as in Hall, Nuge, and Eberle

    • Faenz - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      Yeah exactly. They had to sign him. At that point they were the best team in the regular season the year before, and had a great chance to build off of it. They lost their two best offensive players and had to make the move. Looking back I would have taken the offer (even knowing the Sabres would not have gotten the first overall pick each year), simply because the Sabres did not get past the first round of the playoffs in any season since the signing, so it was not worth it to sign him.

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