Timeline: Regier era in Buffalo

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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.

Duchene trade talks quiet, but Avs will ‘listen to offers’

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To little surprise, not much is going on in the trade market. Just ask Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers did just that, and Sakic revealed that he would still consider trading the likes of Matt Duchene … although he didn’t mention him by name.

“I will be listening to offers. Right now it’s quiet on all fronts,” Sakic said. “But I’ll listen to offers on how we can get better. I’ll never name names but I’ll sit there and if something makes sense for the way we want to go, with our team, we’ll really look at that.”

Considering that it’s mid-August, it’s not too surprising that little is happening. One can imagine that several GMs are more interested in finding drinks with umbrellas in them than trying to land Duchene, at least since the Avalanche don’t seem interested in giving him up without some serious haggling.

(And, really, the Avs would be wise to pump up Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog‘s respective trade values, anyway.)

That Denver Post story features a semi-update on Nikita Zadorov. Sakic told Chambers that the two sides agreed that a two-year deal would be best, but the “numbers” aren’t there yet. He didn’t tip his hand about how big the gap was. For what it’s worth, Sakic didn’t sound too worried about the lure of the 2018 Winter Olympics swaying Zadorov to head overseas.

While a lot of the activity circles around what hasn’t happened, the Avalanche did realize that Will Butcher officially won’t sign with them, while Colorado added a college free agent (and former Maple Leafs prospect) Dominic Toninato to their own mix.

At the moment, it doesn’t seem like something big is brewing regarding Duchene and other prominent Avs, but at least Sakic isn’t slamming the door shut on such a possibility.

Logan Couture’s teeth are still sore from horrifying mouth injury

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Still jarring and gross: the image of Logan Couture‘s mouth after taking a puck to the mouth about five months ago.

Still sore: Couture’s mouth.

Yep, the San Jose Sharks star hasn’t totally gotten over that injury, which forced him to have false teeth up top and some painfully sore ones on his bottom row. NBC Sports California’s Kevin Kurz transcribed the unfortunate details Couture shared with NHL Network this week:

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth.

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

As someone who’s endured more than a few unpleasant trips to the dentist, stories like these always lead to queasiness. This classic PHT post about Keith Tkachuk’s agony always comes to mind in situations like these.

Speaking of queasy, this is footage of when things were really bad for Couture. That link is provided because some will inevitably want to look, but treat this like the other gross things on the Internet that you wish you never saw and just move on.

(Seriously, the healing process continues on this end.)

Anyway, about the only bit of good news is that Couture can still train more or less as usual. He endured that injury late in the regular season (March 25), and while he suited up for the Sharks’ first-round series, it sure seemed like both Couture and Joe Thornton were limited in those six games against the Edmonton Oilers.

As much as dental agony seems like a uniquely “hockey” problem, this situation sounds especially rough for Couture.

Sidney Crosby at 30

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Much like with Lebron James, Sidney Crosby is at the point in his career where the question is no longer “Will he be one of the all-time greats?” After back-to-back Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe wins, the discussion is shifting to where he ranks among the best of all-time.

And, like, with Lebron, there are a number of factors – including era, which is probably an even tougher nut to crack in hockey – that can twist and turn the debate.

Mere moments after Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins repeated as champs, Mike Sullivan made the case for number 87’s greatness.

” … You know, he’s arguably the best player of his generation, and he’s a guy that just knows how to win,” Sullivan said. “And so he’s done it in all different venues, whether it be the NHL and Stanley Cups to the World Cup to the Olympics. And he’s a player that — and I believe this, what separates him from others is his work ethic and his willingness to do what it takes to be the very best.”

It’s mind-blowing to consider the very real possibility that Crosby will be viewed as the best player to skate for the Penguins, edging Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, and even Mario Lemieux.

It’s also mind-blowing that he just turned 30 on Aug. 7.

When it comes to the Mario vs. Sid debate that may eventually pick up steam, Crosby has some advantages. He matched “The Magnificent One” by getting those back-to-back titles and playoff MVP nods, while he already has three Stanley Cup rings to Lemieux’s two (and four Stanley Cup Final appearances to two).

Crosby already has an iconic moment to his name. Along with Paul Henderson’s goal and “Gretzky to Lemieux,” Crosby’s golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics will endear him to Canadian hockey fans for ages.

This list of accolades is honestly dizzying:

But, again, things get tougher when you try to really drill down to Crosby vs. The Greats. Most obviously since he’s far from done right now.

Circling back to the debate that might divide Penguins fans in particular, Crosby might also edge Lemieux if you correct for our modern era, which is so tough on scoring. NHL.com’s Rob Vollman explains Crosby’s place among the most impressive runs before 30:

From this perspective, Crosby is no longer in a block of a dozen players but in more select company. He ranks third at age 30 with an era-adjusted 998 points (377 goals, 622 assists), well ahead of Lemieux, who is in fourth with 899 points (365 goals, 534 assists). Gretzky is in first with 1,479 points (495 goals, 984 assists) in 896 games, followed by Jagr with 1,018 points (414 goals, 604 assists) in 858 games. (Adding to the distinction of being in the top four with Gretzky, Jagr and Lemieux: Those are the only three players to win the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s top scorer in the 21 seasons from 1980-81 to 2000-01.)  

Interesting. (This quick document has a bit more to chew on.)

Vollman also makes the point that even the all-timers tend to stop locking down the biggest awards once they turn 30. There’s an obvious barrier in Connor McDavid (just check the Hart Trophy odds) and possibly some other bright young players, so for all we know, most of our peak memories of Crosby may already be in the past.

That said, much like Lemieux, injuries have limited some of the stats Crosby’s been able to put up.

Crosby’s concussion history could conceivably prompt him to retire agonizingly early, but what if he instead gets better luck? We’ve seen cases, such as Patrice Bergeron, in which such issues become less of a concern over time. For all we know, Crosby might defy expectations and actually play until he’s 40.

(Hey, he already emulates Jaromir Jagr in being an inanely good puck protector.)

It’s been a special run already for Crosby, who’s already a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. At this point, it’s about padding that resume.

Though, to Crosby’s credit, it’s still probably all about winning.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons: two years, $3.2M

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The Buffalo Sabres basically wrapped up their mandatory summer moves by signing RFA Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year, $3.2 million contract on Thursday.

That translates to a cap hit of $1.6M per year; the team confirmed those terms.

The 23-year-old was selected 14th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Sabres. He went two picks after the Sabres selected Mikhail Grigorenko, whose claim to fame is being part of the package that helped them nab Ryan O'Reilly. (Feel free to cringe at who went next, though hindsight seems especially convenient considering how long it takes to get to some of the whoppers.)

In Girgensons’ case, it’s still been a work in progress. His best years actually came early, particularly a sophomore season where he posted career-highs in goals (15) and points (30) despite being limited to 61 games. He enjoyed significantly higher ice time (19:05 per game) during that 2014-15, then came right back down.

If nothing else, Girgensons already has ample NHL experience, as he’s already played in 277 regular-season games.

Buffalo has about $7 million in cap space left, according to Cap Friendly, so there’s theoretically room to make more moves. Girgensons was their last remaining loose end of note, however.